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Vanilla frosting on a spatula
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5 from 3 reviews

Vanilla Butter Free Frosting

A small batch of creamy Vanilla Butter Free Frosting that is just as good as its dairy counterpart!  This dairy free frosting recipe is made with coconut milk and coconut oil. The frosting is rich in vanilla flavor and perfectly sweet. This butter free frosting is great as a filling or to simply frost cakes, cupcakes or bars.
Prep Time30 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Butter-Free, Buttercream, Dairy-Free, Small Batch, Vanilla
Servings: 2 Cups (approximately)
Author: Erin Cernich


  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened canned coconut milk or cream see recommendations in Blog Post
  • 5 tablespoons cold pressed refined coconut oil this coconut oil is solid
  • 2 cups + 1 tablespoon powdered sugar a naturally Vegan option - Wholesome! organic powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Refrigerate the can of coconut milk at least overnight. This causes the liquid and coconut solids to separate - we are only using the solids from the can. You will have extra coconut milk solids and liquid which can be used in smoothies.
  • In a small saucepan, add the coconut milk solids, solid coconut oil, and 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar. Heat over medium-low heat and stir the mix with a spatula until it has completely melted together - this should only take about 1 minute. Do not boil. The mixture will resemble a creamy soup.
  • Transfer the mix to a small mixing bowl and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature - about 10 - 15 minutes. You still want the mix to be be liquid when you add the powdered sugar. Note - You can also refrigerate it for a few minutes to speed up the cool down.
  • Add the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments at a time. Using a handheld mixer fitted with the whisk attachments, add a 1/2 cup of the powered sugar to the coconut mixture. Start at low speed to incorporate the powdered sugar and avoid having it spray everywhere. Turn up the speed to high and beat for 1 minute. At this point, the frosting will look sticky and gooey.
  • Continue to add a 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time - beating for at least 1 minute after each addition. With the final 1/2 cup, beat the frosting for an additional 2 - 3 minutes, until it is light and creamy. The frosting should be thick and creamy and resemble the store-bought frosting you buy in the small tubs at the grocery. If the frosting still looks loose, refrigerate it for about 10 minutes, then beat for a couple more minutes until it thickens. See Notes and the Blog Post for more tips and faq's that are helpful for making and troubleshooting the frosting.
  • The frosting is ready to use right away or can be refrigerated. If refrigerating, the frosting will firm even more. Allow refrigerated frosting to come to room temperature and stir/mix to fluff before frosting.


Unsweetened Canned Coconut Milk
  1. Use unsweetened canned coconut milk that includes guar gum.  The guar gum works as a stabilizer to help the frosting set.  Do not use carton coconut milk.
  2. Do not use light or lowfat coconut milk or cream.  We need the full fat variety to create a thick and creamy frosting.
  3. Unsweetened canned coconut cream will work too, as long as it has guar gum.  It separates into a solid and liquid just like canned coconut milk does, and I have not found significant differences between the two.
  4. Brand recommendations are in the Blog Post.
  5. The coconut milk (or cream) solids must be solid.  Any extra water could impact the way the frosting turns out. 
  6. It can be hit or miss sometimes on how solid the coconut milk (cream) is in the can.  If your can does not have coconut solids, you may want to save that can for another recipe and try a new one.
Cold Pressed Coconut Oil
  1. The coconut oil for this recipe is solid - not liquid.  It almost resembles a lighter shortening.  
  2. I keep my coconut oil in the pantry - away from heat and light.
Frosting Tips
  1. Refrigerating the frosting will set it even more.  You can make it ahead of time and refrigerate for up to 1 week in a sealed container.
  2. This recipe has only been tested for a small batch.  
  3. The recipe makes enough frosting for 6 cupcakes or a small 6-inch, 2 layer cake.
  4. I have piped this frosting into a simple swirl on cupcakes and as a filling in cookies.  Do not expect the frosting to work for intricate designs or flowers.
  5. The texture and consistency of the frosting is similar to the store-bought frosting in the small tubs.
  6. This frosting is great as a filling in cakes, cupcakes, or cookies.  Or to simply frost cakes, cupcakes, or bars.
  7. If you want to make the frosting truly vegan, I would recommend looking for organic powdered sugar.  Sometimes (it's hard to say), the process of manufacturing the powdered sugar may not be 100% vegan.  No animal product in the sugar itself, just the processing of it.