Is there anything more indulgent than biting down into a chocolate filled with caramel? The way the gooey, sugary sweet substance melts in the mouth, well, it’s hard to beat. Caramel is always in season, but arguably, the holidays are when it really comes into its own. The festive time of year is for sharing, celebrating, and enjoying the company of loved ones, but it’s also, arguably, a time for spoiling yourself with as many sweet treats as possible. To help you do just that, we’ve gathered all of the best caramel-y finds on the market. But first, a little bit of context: We all know it tastes delicious, but what actually is caramel? Is it usually vegan? And how do you make and use it?

What is caramel?

Caramel is made of one key ingredient: sugar. Essentially, caramel is created when sugar is heated to around 340 degrees until it is golden, in a process called caramelizing. Salted caramel is similar, the only difference is that the mixture is topped with sea salt. Caramel sauce is created by mixing the caramelized sugar with cream.

Is caramel vegan?

Because caramel is essentially just sugar, in its purest form, it is vegan. However, it is often mixed with dairy cream, butter, or milk, which is why it’s important to always check the back of store-bought caramel candy. That said, many products on the market now mix caramel with non-dairy ingredients, like coconut milk, to ensure the recipe remains vegan.

How to make caramel

There are two methods of making caramel. One is dry, which is when only the sugar is melted and cooked. The second is wet, and this is when water is also added to the mixture. The latter is easier because it is less likely to burn. It is also potentially tastier because it takes longer and the flavors have more time to develop. However, it is prone to crystallization, which can make the process a little more frustrating.


According to Nila Jones of The Tough Cookie baking blog, a few things can stop crystallization from happening, including a dirty pan.

“Sugar molecules have jagged edges and can easily hook onto each other or impurities from the pan, such as leftover spices,” she writes in a blog post. She also advises taking care when stirring, as tools with impurities can also lead to crystallization, and notes that adding corn syrup or lemon juice to the mix may also help. “Both the invert sugars (corn syrup/glucose) and the acid of the lemon juice prevent crystallization,” she adds.

How to use caramel

After you’ve perfected the caramel cooking process, what next? Well, there are a few things you can do. You could make a sauce (like this Sweet Buttery Vegan Miso Caramel), which makes a great topping for fruit salads, your favorite vegan ice cream, warm brownies, blondies, or milkshakes, and Starbucks-inspired Frappuccinos.

Caramel is also a great addition to shortbread or cookies. Millionaire bars, for example, always contain a layer of gooey golden caramel layer. And popcorn is another snack that works perfectly with a caramel coating. You could also drizzle it over pies, tarts, or even crème brûlées. The options truly are endless.

Vegan caramel treats

If you’re not in the mood to make caramel from home (when you’re learning, the process does require a lot of patience), then there are plenty of vegan caramel treats out there. Here are some of the delicious snacks, sauces, and drinks that will satisfy your caramel cravings. You’re welcome!

1-BerkleyCoracao Confections

1 Berkeley Bar by Coracao Confections

What is it? Nougat-like whipped cashew butter caramel gets a flavor boost from organic vanilla before it’s enrobed in a thick layer of dark chocolate
Caramel factor: The dreamy center makes for a Snickers-bar-style bite with a healthy, unprocessed twist
Best for: Anyone craving a healthier alternative to standard vending machine snacks
Check it out

2-DreamBigEli’s Earth

2 Dream Big Bar by Eli’s Earth

What is it? Layers of caramel, peanuts, and peanut butter dipped in a smooth and creamy rice-milk chocolate
Caramel factor: A tempting combination of crunchy, chewy, and sweet without being cloying
Best for: Peanut lovers on the prowl for a nutty sugar fix
Check it out 


3 Salted Coconut Caramel & Crushed Cashew Raw Chocolate Bark by Rawmio 

What is it? A raw chocolate bar that’s even tastier than its traditional counterparts
Caramel factor: Caramel-coated cashews mixed with vanilla beans and ground dark chocolate
Best for: Healthy eaters who want a chocolate fix with the health benefits of raw chocolate
Check it out

4-HotcakesHot Cakes

4 Totally Vegan Caramel Sauce by Hot Cakes 

What is it? Small-batch sauce made from coconut and hemp milk with a signature buttery taste
Caramel factor: Flawlessly traditional with a dreamy texture and classic golden-brown color
Best for: Recreating the old-fashioned ice cream sundae experience at home
Check it out

5-DateLadyCaramelDate Lady

5 Caramel Sauce by Date Lady 

What is it? A versatile sauce that can be drizzled on anything or enjoyed straight from the jar
Caramel factor: A robust and fruity flavor stemming from a mix of dates, caramel flavoring, and sea salt
Best for: Topping raw banana ice cream or swirled into a latte
Check it out

6-SoDeliciousSo Delicious

6 Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Ice Cream by So Delicious 

What is it? Sweet and salty, this rich frozen dessert won us over with chocolate-covered cashews and ribbons of gooey caramel
Caramel factor: Laced throughout the pint, the sweet-and-salty caramel is nice and thick
Best for: Satiating a Friday night ice cream craving
Check it out


7 Caramel Sea Salt Toasted Coconut Chips by Dang 

What is it? This gutsy combination of coconut chips and caramel makes for a crunchy, sweet, and festive snack
Caramel factor: A natural caramel flavor balances out the buttery coconut
Best for: Topping ice cream, yogurt, and even salads
Check it out 

8-Caramel.RepublicofTeaRepublic of Tea

8 Caramel Apple Red Tea by The Republic of Tea 

What is it? Sweet African rooibos serves as the base for a pleasing caffeine-free blend
Caramel factor: Smooth caramel flavor with hints of crisp apple
Best for: Late-night tea drinkers who don’t want caffeine but do want to end the day on a sweet note
Check it out 

9-CalifiaFarmsCalifia Farms

9 Salted Caramel Iced Coffee by Califia Farms 

What is it? Salty caramel with almond milk-infused coffee that is 100-percent Rainforest Alliance Certified
Caramel factor: Delicious caramel essence in a rich, coffee drink
Best for: A special treat with a boost of caffeine for the holiday season
Check it out


10Caramel Candy by JJ’s Cocomels

What is it? The OG’s in vegan caramel candy, these deliciously salty caramel chews, chocolate-covered caramel bites, and caramel toffee bark candies make the ultimate treat. 
Caramel factor? Back to the basics vegan chewy caramel candy. 
Best for: Enjoying straight from the package. 
Check it out 


11 Organic Vegan Caramel Sauce by Hum Yum 

What is it? Dairy-free, organic, and kosher caramel sauce? Yes, and it is delicious. 
Caramel factor? This smooth, vanilla-spiked sauce is delicious on everything.
Best for: Drizzled over ice cream and swirled into shakes.
Check it out


12 Coconut Salted Caramel Sauce by Nature’s Charm

What is it? A silky smooth, coconut-based, salted sauce that will make your mouth water.
Caramel factor? An elevated caramel sauce with simple ingredients.
Best for: Topping sundaes, swirled into cookie dough, or eaten straight from the jar.
Check it out

Screenshot 2022-12-22 115243@smartsweets/Instagram

13 Caramels by Smart Sweets

What is it? Creamy, dreamy low-sugar vegan caramels for more everyday snacking.
Caramel factor? Lightly sweetened, melt-in-your-mouth vegan and gluten-free sweets
Best for: Low-sugar vegan snacking
Check it out

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