Easy Homemade Maple Syrup Caramel Sauce made with only 2 ingredients! This refined sugar free and vegan caramel sauce is made with pure maple syrup and coconut milk. The caramel sauce is buttery, smooth, and tastes like classic caramel. A perfect topping for ice cream, cakes, biscuits, and everything in between!
RECIPE AND POST UPDATED October 2021
Homemade Maple Syrup Caramel Sauce
Did you know that you can make caramel sauce with something other than granulated sugar? I didn’t. Until now of course. I got the idea from one of my favorite cookbooks – America’s Test Kitchen – Naturally Sweet: Bake All Your Favorites with 30% to 50% Less Sugar. When maple syrup is heated to a certain point, it will naturally caramelize and thicken.
And it’s no secret that I am a supporter of using maple syrup as a sweetener. A few of the recipes where you can find it are: the Pumpkin Spice Latte Overnight Oats, the Red Berry Chia Pudding, and even in cookies like the Almond Flour Maple Cookies. I will often reach for maple syrup as a sweetener for a few reasons:
- Flavor – It has a rich buttery flavor that I find already reminiscent of caramel in its pure form.
- Refined Sugar Free – Make no mistake, maple syrup is still a sugar. However it is not as processed and refined as granulated table sugar. And it is lower on the glycemic index, so my blood sugar won’t spike as much.
- Antioxidants and Minerals – Again, maple syrup is still a sugar! Although, it does contain a few minerals and antioxidants that granulated sugar doesn’t.
(Note – the reasons above are personal. If you are looking for alternatives due to dietary or health restrictions, please consult your own Dr.!)
Refined Sugar Free and Vegan Caramel Sauce
Now that we know maple syrup will turn to caramel, it also makes it a nice sweetener alternative if you are looking for refined sugar free sauce to top ice cream or cakes. The Maple Syrup Caramel Sauce tastes like a richer version of classic caramel.
And to keep caramel sauce on the healthier side (again, it is still sugar!), we are making it vegan by swapping the traditional butter and cream for coconut cream.
What You Need To Make Maple Syrup Caramel Sauce
With just two ingredients, you’ll have homemade caramel sauce in no time!
- Pure Maple Syrup – And I mean 100% pure maple syrup. Not pancake syrup flavored to taste like maple syrup. Pure maple syrup is more expensive than pancake syrup. Which may be expected when you are buying something that is 100% pure.
- Where to find pure maple syrup – Your grocery will (should) have pure maple syrup. It will be sitting right next to the pancake syrup. Or Amazon has great varieties of pure maple syrup that are nearly the same price (maybe a little less expensive).
- Unsweetened Canned Coconut Milk or Cream – The coconut cream acts like the butter and heavy cream would in classic caramel sauce. That said, if you are not concerned with keeping the caramel sauce vegan, swap in 1 tablespoon of butter, and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream.
- Where to find unsweetened canned coconut milk – Target has my go-to brand of canned coconut milk, but feel free to use your favorite brand and what your grocery has. Just make sure it is full-fat and unsweetened.
- Small Heavy Bottom Saucepan – I will always recommend a good saucepan to make caramel. Heating sugar (any kind) gets very hot. Having a good saucepan with a heavy bottom will ensure the heat is distributed evenly, thus cooking the caramel evenly. And while the All Clad saucepans I use and recommend are pricey, they are a worthy investment if you cook and bake a lot.
- Digital Candy Thermometer – Once you have made caramel sauce a couple times, you will just know when your caramel is heated to the right temperature. Until then, I recommend using a digital/candy thermometer to know when it is done.
- Glass Jar with Lid – Hot caramel is best stored in a glass jar. This also makes it easy to re-heat the caramel sauce.
Tips For Making Homemade Maple Syrup Caramel Sauce
- Use pure maple syrup – Not pancake syrup. I don’t even know if pancake syrup will turn to caramel …
- Double the recipe – This is one recipe that is easily doubled, or tripled if you choose!
- Use a good saucepan – I talked about this in the Cooking Equipment needed. And by all means you don’t need to spend as much as I did on my saucepan. Please just ensure you get a good heavy duty saucepan that can withstand the heat of super hot sugar.
- Cook slow – Don’t try to speed up the process by turning up the heat. Otherwise you run the risk of the maple syrup just burning. Cook over medium heat and give the maple syrup time to thicken.
- Don’t stir – You don’t need to stir the syrup as it cooks. And, too much stirring may cause sugar crystals to form which will likely crystallize the caramel.
- Use a digital/candy thermometer – There is a point where you will know when you have caramel. It will have a nutty aroma and color. But for the best success starting out, a digital thermometer will tell you when the maple syrup has turned to caramel – around 230F degrees.
- Remove from the heat once you reach caramel temperature – There is no need to overheat the caramel and we don’t want it to burn. Remove it from the heat to stir in the coconut cream.
- Cool slightly in the saucepan – Maple syrup caramel is HOT. Let’s use caution before transferring it to a jar and avoid spilling or splattering it! Nobody likes a sugar burn on their skin!
- The caramel will thicken – The caramel will seem thin at first, but it does thicken as it cools. Even more so when it is refrigerated.
Tips For Storing Maple Syrup Caramel Sauce
- Keep refrigerated – The caramel should be stored in the fridge and will keep for up to 5 to 7 days. After that, it may start to get grainy.
- Re-heating refrigerated caramel sauce – The Maple Syrup Caramel Sauce can easily be re-heated in the microwave for a few seconds.
Common Questions For Making Maple Syrup Caramel Sauce
Absolutely! The recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
Either will work. In fact, it seems that Grade B is now known as a dark, robust, Grade A. Grade A was typically sweeter, while Grade B had a more robust maple flavor. I would say as long as it is 100% pure maple syrup, it’s good – bonus if it is marked ‘dark’ or ‘robust’.
It will smell bitter and burnt, and it will likely be steaming quite a bit. Use a thermometer to avoid burning the caramel!
The maple syrup was probably cooked too long to make it hard. Additionally, sugar crystals may have gotten into the caramel, which will crystallize it. Avoid this by not stirring the syrup as it cooks. However, the hard crystallized caramel should still taste ok and you can use it to sweeten coffee or tea (like a sugar cube!).
Yes! I have used carton coconut milk, which thinned out the caramel sauce a little. Or another non-dairy milk will work. If you don’t need the caramel sauce to be vegan, use 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream.
What can I make with the leftover coconut cream?
Perhaps it wasn’t heated to the right temperature. Make sure the caramel is heated to at least 230F degrees. Additionally, if the caramel sauce is still hot from the pan, allow it to cool and it will thicken even more.
Refrigerated in a glass jar is my recommendation. The glass jar is heat proof, so it is safe to transfer the warm caramel into. Additionally, the glass jar makes it easy to re-heat.
Homemade Maple Syrup Caramel Sauce
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened canned coconut milk or cream, full fat (refrigerated at least overnight; only using the coconut cream solids from the can)
- Refrigerate the can of coconut milk overnight – We are using the coconut cream solids from the can of coconut milk. The coconut cream makes the caramel smooth and creamy and acts just like butter and cream would in classic caramel sauce. Note – You will have leftovers that you can use to make Whipped Coconut Cream or add to smoothies.
- In a small saucepan, cook the maple syrup over medium heat. Allow the syrup to lightly boil until it thickens, and is heated to 230 degrees – this can take about 10 to 15 minutes. You don't need to stir the syrup. Too much stirring may cause sugar crystals to form, which will likely crystallize your caramel sauce. Note – I recommend using a digital thermometer. The syrup will turn to caramel around 230 degrees and beyond that, it will turn to candy.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the coconut cream solids. Stir with a rubber spatula, scraping the caramel off the sides of the pan and until the milk has been fully incorporated. The caramel sauce will still be slightly thin and will thicken as it cools.
- Cool the caramel in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a glass jar for storage and serving. Cool in the jar completely at room temperature. You can either serve at this point (over ice cream!) or transfer to the fridge.
- The caramel sauce will last in a glass jar in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks. To serve, heat the caramel in the microwave for about 5 to 10 seconds.
- Serving Size – The recipe can easily be doubled.
- Coconut Cream – To keep the caramel sauce vegan, I like to use a scoop of coconut cream from a can of unsweetened coconut milk. It is thick and creamy and adds a creaminess to the caramel.
- Coconut Cream Alternatives – Coconut milk from a carton – This may thin out the caramel slightly. Or heavy cream – For a non-vegan option.
- Caramel Consistency – The caramel will thicken when it is refrigerated. To loosen it, heat in the microwave for a few seconds before serving.
about the author ...
I'm Erin and I'm all about desserts - and a little bit of butter!
I've tested, written, and photographed hundreds of recipes on my website. Here you'll find the tastiest small batch gluten free and traditional desserts - all homemade, all simple, and all for you!