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Handcrafted Dairy/Casein-Free Chewy Caramels

I am super excited about this recipe for gluten-free, dairy/casein-free caramels because I have tried it 3 times using different substitute ingredients and each one produced a buttery, chewy caramel candy…perfect for dipping apples, making homemade candy treats, you name it.

First, let me tell you how I landed on it.  I began my quest for a dairy-free caramel recipe several weeks ago by trying to find a recipe that didn’t call for sweetened condensed milk (I wanted to eliminate the added step of making a dairy-free version) and found this Caramel Apple recipe on 101 Cookbooks which called for heavy cream instead.  Sweet!  I’ve got great dairy-free options for that: MimicCreme and So Delicious Coconut Creamer.

The recipe also had a bonus: no corn syrup (how ironic is it that I was just diagnosed with a corn allergy yesterday!).  I was excited to try the recipe using honey but then quickly started pondering if agave nectar might work too.

So I made the recipe on 101 Cookbooks, but I have to tell ya, it did not work out very well for me.  Mike said the taste was great but shortly after I pulled it from the heat, it hardened within seconds and I couldn’t even get one apple covered before the caramel was too hard to spread.  I now think this was due to taking the mixture to the hard ball stage (255 – 260° F), because I found another recipe for caramels in my Better Homes and Gardens Food Gifts magazine and it said to take the mixture to the Firm Ball Stage (248°F).

So, I tried the Better Homes and Gardens recipe for homemade caramels (you can see the original recipe here), and BINGO BABY! :-D

I’ve made this recipe 3 ways (using Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks instead of real butter in each version…now I just need to find a corn-free alternative for the Earth Balance).

  1. So Delicious Coconut Milk (Original) and honey
  2. So Delicious Coconut Coffee Creamer (Original) and agave nectar
  3. MimicCreme (Unsweetened) and a 50/50 blend of honey and Lyle’s Golden Syrup (this is a thick syrup made from sugar cane, nothing else. Click here to visit the Lyle’s Golden Syrup Health and Nutrition Page for allergen FAQs).

While all of the caramels set great, the first one with all honey and So Delicious Coconut Milk had a pronounced honey flavor (according to my taste testers).  Not a problem at all, my guys loved it but I wanted a more traditional caramel flavor.  I will also say that this caramel was the softest of all 3, and it did not hold it’s shape very well after the second day (I would recommend storing it in the refrigerator if you make this version).  The color was spot on though, a beautiful golden amber.

The second batch with the So Delicious Coconut Coffee Creamer and Agave Nectar turned out rather interesting.  The caramel was slightly firmer than the first (but still fairly soft) and obviously there was no honey flavor, but the coffee creamer made the caramel a very light beige color (below photo).  I think this recipe would be great to use as a vegan center for handcrafted dairy-free chocolates, yum!

The final batch I tried with the MimicCreme and a Lyle’s Golden Syrup/honey combo was the winning ticket of all 3.  I did the half Lyle’s and half honey simply because I didn’t have enough of the Lyle’s left in my jar to equal a full cup’s worth.  The texture and color were perfect according to my husband and this is the caramel I dipped the apple in (top picture), before I poured the rest of the hot mixture into a foil-lined cake pan to set.

Handcrafted Dairy/Casein-Free Chewy Caramels

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Serves: enough caramel to dip 6 - 8 medium apples or approx. 24 caramel candies

Handcrafted Dairy/Casein-Free Chewy Caramels

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread
  • 2 1/4 cups packed Brown Sugar
  • 2 cups MimicCreme Unsweetened Vegan Cream (or your favorite dairy free milk substitute)
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1/2 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • 1 tsp. Pure Vanilla

Directions

  1. Line an 8x8x2-inch or 9x9x2-inch cake pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan.
  2. Generously butter the foil. If desired, sprinkle coarse sea salt or chopped walnuts over bottom of pan. Set pan aside.
  3. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, melt Earth Balance over low heat.
  4. Add the brown sugar, MimicCreme (or dairy-free milk), honey and Lyle's Golden syrup; mix well.
  5. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils.
  6. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
  7. Reduce heat to medium; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, until the thermometer registers 248°F, firm-ball stage (this took about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes for me to achieve). **Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil and watch temperature carefully during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking as temperature can increase quickly at the end.
  8. Remove saucepan from heat; remove thermometer.
  9. Stir in vanilla.
  10. Quickly pour mixture into prepared pan.
  11. Let stand about 2 hours or until firm. When firm, use foil to lift it out of pan.
  12. Use a buttered knife to cut into 1-inch squares. Wrap each piece in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Store at room temperature.
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It Bends!

And It Pulls!

For a corn-free version, try substituting the Earth Balance with homemade dairy-free and corn-free “butter!”  :-D



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Comments

  1. Stephanie says:

    I can't wait to try this. I hope that almond milk will work!?!

    • Hi Stephanie!

      My hunch is that is will work fine. In fact, I think I will try that on my next batch…I will have my Christmas presents done in no time at this rate, LOL! :-D

      Hugs,
      Heidi

  2. I love this! I will so be linking to your post for some of the upcoming recipes I have set for the holidays! Thank you for doing all of the hard work for us, my friend.

    And a corn allergy now?? Ugh! But maybe that could be the link to some of your remaining health issues. This could be the magic formula for you! Hugs and let me know if I can help you with anything!

    xo

    k

    • Thanks Kim!

      And ya know, that is exactly what I thought too! It was the IgE Skin Prick Test that came back a class 3, so I will be following that up with a RAST, then of course, will check the IgG etc. for other foods when I see Dr. Vikki.

      It's all becoming very clear to me, that's for sure, LOL! :-D

      • Alta says:

        Did your allergy doc tell you to do food challenges on anything that comes back with a positive on your skin prick test? This is what my allergist told me. Because I came back showing an allergy to like 15 things. Corn, ironically, was NOT on the list, but I have to limit myself, or too much gives me heartburn. But a lot of those foods I tested positive for give me no reaction when I eat them. So I'm curious what you find out!

  3. Rachel says:

    I like to use coconut oil in place of butter, do you think that would work with this?

    • Rachel,

      Great question and I have no idea because I've never used it before! If you try it before my sense of taste returns, please let me know how it works out (I do not like the taste of coconut, it always makes me think I am eating suntan lotion, so I am leery about the taste but I do like So Delicious products so here's hoping). :-)

      • Merisa says:

        I tried it and thought that the hint of coconut flavor it added to it was wonderful! If you use a lesser quality coconut oil that flavor will be weaker yet, some refined and processed coconut oils hardly even have a smell to them. But for me I loved it with the coconut flare!

  4. Adina says:

    Oh my gosh! I can't wait to try this! I miss carmel apples more than anything. I bought some vegan & gluten free carmel sauce made of hemp milk once, but it really wasn't the same. I love coconut and honey, so I'm excited to try that. Thanks for posting!

  5. Deanna says:

    They look beautiful!

    Last year I tried to make toffee several times and had it fail a bunch of times. Maybe I'll attempt some dairy free toffee this year.

  6. Heidi – you are a genius! This recipe is a keeper. I can't tell you how much I miss caramels and now I don't have to. Thanks!

  7. Jen says:

    I want to make this, so that I can make GF/DF TWIX BARS!!!!! Or Twix cookies rather, using schar shortbreads.

  8. You know Heidi, every time you find about another "issue," the rest of us somehow benefit from your learning process! Not many folks would turn something that most would view as totally difficult and then master the challenge with delectable goodies like these. You are totally awesome, my dear! I'm putting up a gifts post later today and will certainly add these. Oh, and I'm thinking we need to do a barter here … some of our bees' raw honey for a box of these caramels (I'll take mine with sea salt, please)? What do you think?

    xoxo,

    Shirley

    • Shirley,

      Ya know, if someone can benefit then it just makes it all the more sweeter for me. :-D

      Of course I will do a honey/caramel barter with you…Fleur de sel coming right up!

      I am heading to your gift post right now, your homemade vanilla extract is all I have ready for gift giving so far and I am nearly out of time…I know you gals will save me though!

      xo,

      Heidi

  9. Mindy says:

    Oh my goodness! Those pics are BEAUTIFUL! I can't wait to experiment as I love caramel but have had to abstain for 8 years since I became lactose intolerant (first sign of Celiac….who knew?).

    About coconut oil, I've used it for making a pie crust and there's no coconut flavor at all. My recipe uses quinoa and tapioca, so there's a slightly nutty, but slightly sour-creamish taste to it. I also use regular coconut milk in the pumpkin pie that I put into the crust and no hint of coconut at all.

  10. Alisa Cooks says:

    Yeah! I'm so excited that you posted this Heidi. That caramel looks absolutely perfect!!

  11. You're amazing. These looks so good I'm licking my computer screen. Your pictures are great so no comments there. You are one determined gal. Love it!

  12. kelly says:

    seriously, I think with every single post I am in awe. oh.my.goodness these look amazing!!!

  13. Casey says:

    Wow, that looks delicious! What about using Ghee instead of the Earth balance? We've been using it lately (Purity Farms brand) and it works great…

  14. Angela says:

    Ooh, creamy vegan caramel? How exciting! I am definitely going to try this with So Delicious coconut milk, creamer, and agave. I've made a dipping caramel with So Delicious coconut milk, honey dates, and raw mesquite powder that was quite good, but your cooked version looks really authentic, and I can't wait to try making it!

  15. Jessica says:

    I'm in heaven. My Sis-in-law showed me your blog and all I can say is THANK YOU! I have a 3 yo daughter who is allergic to almost everything (wheat, dairy, corn, nuts, tomatoes, potatoes, etc). We've missed eating so many "normal" things. I've found some other recipe blogs that are nice, but yours is my favorite! I'm making a huge shopping list right now and am going to be cooking away all week. Can't wait for more posts!

    • Hi Jessica,

      Thank you so much! My heart goes out to you and your daughter, I know how tough multiple food allergies can be. I used to know a child who was allergic to all but 11 foods (he also had a feeding tube) and that just killed my heart. So that is when I began trying to find new ways to use the same 11 ingredients in order to keep the excitement level up. Ironically, I am now joining the ranks of multiple food allergen moms (my 3 yo was recently diagnosed with a casein and egg allergy, and I was dx'd with a corn allergy just last week!)

      Can your daughter have cassava/manioc/tapioca/yucca (they are all the same thing)? I discovered that you can make yucca fries, mashed yucca (instead of mashed potatoes) and Arico Foods makes cassava chips that are really tasty!

      Yucca Fries: http://cook-aunaturel.blogspot.com/2008/04/yucca-
      Mashed Yucca: http://forkable.blogspot.com/2009/08/3-tips-to-ma

      I also found a tomato-free marinara sauce that is shockingly similar to tomato based marinara: http://www.adventuresofaglutenfreemom.com/2010/01… (I really should start retaking some of my old photos, LOL!)

      Maybe you can give me some corn-free tips?

      All the best,
      Heidi :-D

  16. Samantha says:

    Spectrum Palm Shortening is a good substitute in baking and only contains palm oil. I'll let you know how it works for the caramels.

  17. christine says:

    how lovely, vegan caramels, wow! I'v been vegan for about fifteen years, so can barely remember how good they tasted!!!!! But my waistline if I make them and eat them:-(

  18. Karen says:

    Hi Heidi,

    I just discovered your blog and enjoy all your recipes. I have a daughter who is wheat/milk/nut allergic.

    I've been pondering your corn free question for a few days now. Multiple allergies are so hard so you have my sympathies. What about using pure canola oil or other oil? Earth balance also makes a natural shortening that comes in sticks that appears to have no corn flavorings in it. I think Spectrum makes a shortening too.

    HTH

  19. Katie says:

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I've been thinking I should make my kids some caramels, but before this all the dairy-free recipes I'd found had tree nuts.

    My kids can have corn, but they can't have soy, so we've experimented with various butter/margarine substitutes over the years. While the palm oil shortening and the coconut oil don't work well as a butter sub to put on things (like to butter toast or noodles), they both work quite well as a butter sub in baked goods.

  20. Amy says:

    THANK you SO much! My GFCF son has been wanting Caramel covered apples for a LONG time. I wasn't aware of MimicCreme at all and I'm THRILLED!!! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!

  21. Dawn says:

    What could you use instead of the Lyle's Golden Syrup? I don't think I can purchase that around here (is it just like regular maple syrup?). Also, do you need to use a DF cream, or can you use a DF milk. This is all new to me, but it's also very exciting! Thank for sharing the recipe!!!

  22. These look beautiful. When my son's class made caramel apples, he had a plain one. I have a caramel dipping sauce, but it's not the same as caramel-coated apples. I will be making your recipe immediately. (How lucky for me that we're going apple picking on Monday!)

  23. Barbara says:

    Great idea. I too have missed caramel. I have to really limit my sugar (gluten dairy, soy, rice, corn & sugar intolerant). So I will try this with coconut sugar (low glycemic) instead of brown sugar. I also use coconut oil a lot. Thanks for helping all of us

  24. Miranda says:

    This is DELICIOUS!!! I can't have dairy or corn and this recipe works for both!!! Thank you so much can't wait to make some yummy chocolate covered carmel with it!

  25. adria says:

    I made these last night with a friend and they were wonderful! Thank you!

  26. Lolita says:

    I made these last night and clearly did something wrong. Any help would be appreciated, I’ve never made any kind of candy before. I used all Lyle’s syrup, no honey, since Heidi said she would if she had enough. Along with that I also used So Delicious Coconut creamer instead of their milk. It took 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach 248 degrees, new candy thermometer. Once it was done I poured it into the foil lined dish and left it overnight. When I pulled the foil out to cut the caramel, it was a HGUE mess! The excess butter (which was A LOT) went all over my counter and the caramels oozed everywhere, clearly too soft. I mushed them together and individually wrapped them, but made a huge mess and now all of the wrappers are very greasy. I put them in the fridge hoping it would harden them enough to enjoy. Clearly I did something, or several things wrong. Any help or ideas would be much appreciated!

  27. where can I find Lyle’s Golden Syrup?

  28. Paula @CeliacCorner says:

    I was just thinking about making caramel dipped candy apples for my boys .. glad I checked here! Thanks Heidi.

  29. BR Davis says:

    Heidi, I tried to contact you via email, but I had no luck…what is the yield of this recipe for caramel apples? And have you modified it at all (as the original post was from 2010)?

    • Heidi Kelly says:

      Hi BR! So sorry for the delayed response, I had to go out of town unexpectedly and didn’t take my laptop.

      This recipe should cover 6 – 8 medium apples, depending on how thick you coat them.

  30. RobinM61 says:

    Heidi, I know this post is almost three years old but the MimicCreme IS the almond and cashew coffee cream shown on the link? I know that they have changes some of their products a bit…has this affected this recipe at all?

Trackbacks

  1. Handcrafted Dairy/Casein-Free Chewy Caramels | CookingPlanet says:

    […] Gluten-Free Foods Vegan Foods : Handcrafted Dairy/Casein-Free Chewy Caramels […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Heidi Kelly and SunnyB, Heidi Kelly. Heidi Kelly said: Here you go: Handcrafted Dairy/Casein-Free Chewy Caramels #GF #gfcf #foodallergy #DF http://fb.me/IymbS1rm […]

  3. […] plain ones.  Maybe you want to drizzle a little honey (like the kind Shirley makes) on top or some gluten and dairy free caramel from Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom.   If you like to make your own Home Made Marshmallows try […]

  4. […] (Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom) Handcrafted Dairy and Casein-Free Caramels … check out the photos. Caramels that you can twist or  sprinkle with sea salt and cut into […]

  5. […] Salted Caramel (drizzled on bourbon bacon brownies) from Brittany Angell of Real Sustenance. Handcrafted Dairy/Casein-Free Chewy Caramels from Heidi Kelly of Adventures of a Gluten-Free […]

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