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!
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).
- So Delicious Coconut Milk (Original) and honey
- So Delicious Coconut Coffee Creamer (Original) and agave nectar
- 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.
And It Pulls!
For a corn-free version, try substituting the Earth Balance with homemade dairy-free and corn-free “butter!”
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