Small Batch Recipes For Baked Goods And Desserts

Vanilla Butter-Free Buttercream Frosting

Creamy small batch Vanilla Butter-Free Buttercream Frosting that tastes just as good as its dairy counterpart!  Perfectly sweet and easy vanilla frosting that is great to use as a filling or to simply frost cakes, cupcakes, or bars.  

Butter free frosting on a spatula

RECIPE AND POST UPDATED 6/20/2020

Butter-Free Buttercream Frosting

I love receiving feedback on my recipes.  It is great to see folks making what I have created and enjoying the treats as much as I did (thank you!)  However, I am human and I will be the first to acknowledge when something needs to be refined – like this Vanilla Butter-Free Buttercream Frosting.  

I have seen a few comments on Pinterest that the original recipe was not working for some.  The issue – the frosting was not setting up, and it appeared it was behaving more like a glaze.  Now, full disclosure – I have made this recipe (old and new) more than a dozen times and it always turns out just as pictured. 

So, after some researching (and contemplating) what may have gone wrong, I have updated the recipe again.  

RECIPE UPDATESWith only 4 ingredients, there is not much to change, with the exception of the ratio of the ingredients.  

  • Use equal parts of coconut milk solids and cold-pressed coconut oil
    • The coconut milk solids come from a can of unsweetened coconut milk.  Not carton coconut milk.  This is the canned unsweetened coconut milk I use.  
    • The cold-pressed coconut oil is also solid.  Not liquid coconut oil.  This is the coconut oil I use.  
Vanilla butter-free buttercream frosting on a spatula

Frosting Made Canned Coconut Milk and Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil

Helpful tips for canned coconut milk:

  1. First – in a can of unsweetened coconut milk, the liquid separates from the solids.  We want the solids from the can. 
    • Refrigerate the can of coconut milk overnight.  This helps the liquid and separation process.  I actually keep at least 3 cans in the refrigerator at all times.
    • Use canned coconut milk that includes guar gum.  Guar gum acts as a thickener and stabilizer.  
    • If your can of coconut milk does not have coconut solids, this recipe will probably not work.  And sometimes (I speak from experience), a can may not have much, if any, coconut solid.  It could be that somewhere along the way the can was shaken and the liquid and solids never separated.  If this is the case, use that can for smoothies, and try another can.
  2. Second – you may see a few options for canned coconut milk.
    • Canned unsweetened coconut milk and canned unsweetened coconut cream.  I have tried both, and have not found a noticeable difference.  The cream version may have a bit more solids.  But, for the sake of price, I always use the milk version.  
    • There are cans of coconut milk that are sweetened.  And I mean really sweetened.  Do not use those for this recipe!  Those cans of coconut milk are best used for Pina Coladas or Coconut Cake.  

Canned Coconut Milk brands I have tested for this frosting recipe:

    1. Good & Gather – Target This is my go-to brand.  I find this brand whips up beautifully and is what I use for this frosting recipe and my Whipped Coconut Cream recipes.
      • Pros:  Includes guar gum.  The coconut solids are creamy, there is not a strong coconut flavor, and it is also my go-to when I want creamy coconut milk in baking or drinks.  
      • Cons:  It can be hit or miss on the amount of coconut solids from can to can.
    2. Thai KitchenGrocery – This used to be my go-to, but it seems harder and harder to find.  I have had great success in whipping it to a fluffy whipped cream and using it to make this frosting recipe.
      • Pros:  Includes guar gum, and there is not a strong coconut flavor.
      • Cons:  Some may find it chalky, and I have found it harder to find in my grocery.   It can be ordered on Amazon.
    3. Native Forest Organic Coconut CreamWhole Foods
      • Pros:  Includes guar gum.
      • Cons:  More pronounced coconut flavor.  I have the small cans of it in the pantry and I will use it in a pinch to make Whipped Coconut Cream.
    4. 365 Organic Coconut MilkWhole Foods
        • Pros:  Includes guar gum
        • Cons:  There is a more pronounced coconut flavor, and some may find it chalky.  I don’t care for the taste. 
    5. Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk Whole Foods, Thrive MarketFor the sake of testing, I tested this brand because it does not have guar gum.
      • Pros:  Decent separation of solids and liquids, and could work to make Whipped Coconut Cream if you don’t mind the flavor
      • Cons:  I find there is a more pronounced coconut flavor.  However, and most importantly, it did not work as expected when making this frosting.  My thought is because it does not have guar gum.  I do not recommend this one for this recipe.

Helpful tips for cold-pressed coconut oil: 

  1. The coconut oil we are using for this recipe is solidAnd just as the name implies, the oil is extracted from the coconut flesh and pressed into a solid form.
    • Do not use liquid coconut oil for this recipe.  I honestly have no idea how it would turn out, but because the liquid version goes through more processing that makes it turn to liquid, I can’t imagine it would work.
  2. I recommend refined coconut oilThis means it has gone through a little more processing to remove some of the coconut flavor.  Which makes it great for cooking and baking.
  3. I’ve seen coconut oil at both my grocery and Target  It seems to be a pretty common item and should be easy to find, and can also be purchased online.  

Tips For Making Vanilla Butter-Free Buttercream Frosting

  • Use unsweetened canned coconut milk (or cream) – I use canned coconut milk because it is less expensive than cans of coconut cream.  Carton coconut milk will not work.
  • The canned coconut milk (or cream) should have guar gum in it – Guar gum acts as a thickener and stabilizer.  If you are opposed to guar gum, you could try replacing the coconut milk and coconut oil with vegan butter.  I have not had success using ‘no guar’ coconut milk.
  • Refrigerate the can of coconut milk (or cream) overnight – This helps the coconut liquid and solids to separate. 
  • Only use the coconut solids from the can – If the can doesn’t have any or is already mixed up, try a new can.
  • You will have extra coconut milk – Use the extra for smoothies!
  • Use cold-pressed refined coconut oil – Refined because it doesn’t have a strong coconut flavor.  Cold pressed because it is solid and not processed like liquid coconut oil.
  • Store your coconut oil in your pantry – This is just good for the product as it is sensitive to temperature and can loosen in warmer environments.  
  • Do not overheat the mix when melting it together – The mix of coconut solid and coconut oil just needs to melt together.  We don’t need to overheat it.
  • Add a little powdered sugar to the mix when melting – I find a little powdered sugar gives all of the fat particles something to attach to, and not separate.
  • Allow the mix to cool to room temperature – This will give the mixture some time to start setting back up.
  • Add powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments – I have found this makes for a creamier texture.  
  • 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.  Bring it to room temp and stir/mix before using.
  • If you want to make the frosting truly vegan – I would recommend looking for organic powdered sugar.  Sometimes the process of manufacturing the powdered sugar may not be 100% vegan.  No animal product in the sugar itself, just the processing of it.
Fluffy vanilla butter free buttercream frosting in a bowl

Butter-Free Buttercream Frosting FAQ’s

Can this recipe be doubled?

I have not tested a larger batch. While I think it would be ok, I can’t say for certain how the frosting would turn out.

What does butter-free frosting taste like?

In my opinion, like a creamy vanilla frosting. I find that it does not leave a greasy residue like dairy buttercream sometimes can.

What is the texture/consistency of butter-free frosting?

At room temperature, it is thick and creamy, like store-bought frosting in a tub. When it is refrigerated, the frosting sets up firm. If you are refrigerating the frosting, I recommend letting it come to room temperature and stir/mix before using.

How many cakes or cupcakes will the frosting frost?

The frosting should easily frost 6 cupcakes, or a small 6-inch layer cake.

What brand of canned coconut milk works best?

I consistently use the store brand from Target. It always produces a creamy frosting.

Why do I have to refrigerate the can of coconut milk overnight?

This forces the separation of coconut solids and liquid. We only use the coconut solids from the can. Too much liquid in the coconut solids, and the frosting may not turn out. It is kind of like what would happen if you add too much cream (or even water) to American buttercream. It will probably result in a soupy mess.

What is the deal with guar gum?

Guar gum acts as a stabilizer and thickener. I have tested cans of coconut milk that do not have guar gum, and the frosting did not turn out.

Why do I have to melt the mixture at the beginning? Can’t I just whip all of the ingredients together?

No. Even though cold-pressed coconut oil is solid like butter, I find it doesn’t whip up smooth. Melting the coconut milk and oil creates a homogenous base for the frosting.

My frosting is still loose. What did I do wrong?

A few questions/thoughts: Did your can of coconut milk have guar gum? Was the coconut truly solid from the can, or was it soupy and loose? Did you use cold-pressed coconut oil? Was the powdered sugar added in 1/2 cup increments and mixed for at least 1 minute after each addition? Did you try refrigerating the frosting for a few minutes, and try to whip again?

Can I make pretty decorative flowers or designs with this butter-free frosting?

No. This butter-free frosting does not behave like a dairy buttercream. Think of this dairy-free frosting like the store-bought frosting in the tubs.

Is the butter-free frosting the same texture and consistency as American buttercream?

No. This butter-free buttercream will not whip up as airy as dairy buttercream. However, I find it to be creamier and thicker.

Can I use this dairy-free frosting as a filling?

Yes! I have used it as a frosting and filling on cookies.

Butter free frosting in a bowl with spatula

More Frosting Recipes

Whipped butter-free vanilla buttercream in a bowl

Vanilla Butter-Free Buttercream Frosting

A small batch of creamy Vanilla Butter-Free Buttercream Frosting that is just as good as its dairy counterpart!  Made with unsweetened canned coconut milk and cold-pressed refined coconut oil, this frosting is rich in vanilla flavor and perfectly sweet. Perfect as a filling or to simply frost cakes, cupcakes or bars.
Prep20 mins
Total20 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 Cups (approximately)
Author: Erin | Butter and Bliss

Ingredients

  • 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 confectioner’s (powdered) sugar (a naturally Vegan option – Wholesome! organic powdered sugar )
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • 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 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.

Notes

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. 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.
  3. Brand recommendations are in the Blog Post.
  4. The coconut milk (or cream) solids must be solid.  Any extra water could impact the way the frosting turns out. 
  5. 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.  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.
Keywords Butter-Free, Buttercream, Dairy-Free, Small Batch, Vanilla
Liked the recipe?Let us know how it was!


15 thoughts on “Vanilla Butter-Free Buttercream Frosting”

  • Thank you for this beautiful yummy tasty recipe!!!
    My experience went 50/50!!
    I doubled the ingredients because I needed it for a carrot cake decoration, the letting it melt and cool down took naturally much much longer, for me living in already a cold climate I probably wouldn’t have needed to keep the ingredients in the fridge that delayed the process for me. At first once my liquid mix cooled down I thought it would never ever frost, once I added the icing sugar (I kept the 2 cups qty for double of everything else and the sweetness was perfect). It frosted and it was perfect, the peaks were a little on the soft side but that’s maybe due to the fact I put a lot less icing sugar and I was so worried to cuddle the mix I stopped maybe a bit early. Now here’s where I went wrong I believe, I was worried my frosting would melt at room temp so I put it in the fridge and when I realised it would be far to hard to spread (10min later) I took it out and mixed it again…. and that’s when it curdle leaving me with a watery frosting! My own fault though, the taste was delicious but my skills messed it up 🤣 I will definitely try again on a smaller batch this time 🙏🏽 Thank you

  • Hi! I attempted to make this earlier today. The taste is great, but the texture is off. It’s a bit grainy/gritty as of all the ingredients didn’t incorporate correctly. I have reread the instructions and feel I followed them. Any tips or suggestions of what I may have done wrong? The canned coconut milk was solid and my coconut oil was solid. Any thoughts/tips would be appreciated. The taste is amazing, I just need some help getting a smooth creamy texture. 😊

    • Hi Katie – thank you for trying the recipe! A few things I can think of – perhaps the coconut oil didn’t melt all the way? It can leave little bits if not fully melted? Or, the liquid mix cooled too long before being whipped and the coconut oil started to firm up. You could try just letting it cool for 5 minutes on the counter rather than the fridge. Another thing that may be the culprit is the powdered sugar – sifting it helps get out any persistent lumps. If all that doesn’t seem to work, you could try adding a bit more powdered sugar to get it fluffy – a tablespoon at a time. Just taste it as you are whipping it up – it can get very sweet quickly. Hope some of this helps!

    • Hi Brooklyn – since I have not tested the recipe with shortening, I can’t say for certain how it would turn out. I know that there are frosting recipes that just use shortening and they turn out nice. I think Crisco may even have a recipe on the back of their container (or they used to!) Thanks for visiting the blog!

      • I was so excited to try this recipe only to be left extremely disappointed. I followed the recipe to a T… and my mix never fluffed up and instead was glossy with a ganache consistency. After the 5 minute mark on medium-high using my hand mixer, the mixture separated. I placed the bowl in the fridge hoping it would help… but the coconut oil is separating. I also added more powdered sugar and unfortunately made no difference. I hate to throw away the mixture… any ideas on what else I could use it in? Thanks 💔

        • Hi Bel – Couple things come to mind that you could try if you make the frosting again. After testing/making this frosting many times, I find unsweetened canned coconut milk that includes guar gum in the ingredients, works best. Guar gum acts as a stabilizer, which will help the frosting set. In my trials of ‘no guar gum’ coconut milk, the frosting did not turn out as expected and remained more loose than expected. If the frosting still has not set in the fridge, you could use it as a glaze on cookies, cakes, or donuts.

  • This icing is AMAZING. I am so thankful I found this!
    I am wondering if you have ever made ice cream with similar ingredients? After storing this in the fridge it tastes so similar to ice cream just wondering what you would add to shift the consistency and keep it vegan? It’s SO good I’m tempted to eat it all by itself 🤣

    • Hi Braci – I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed it! I’ve been known to eat it by the spoonful 🙂 I do have a couple of ice cream recipes that I use canned coconut milk too – Strawberry Ice Cream, and Pina Colada Ice Cream. I used honey in the ice cream, but you could swap in maple syrup to make it vegan. Thank you for visiting the blog!

  • This frosting is incredible! It’s like ganache when it’s fully set. I am so thrilled it’s the best vegan frosting I’ve come across so far! Thank you!!

    • Hi Steph – I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Every time I make it, I think I eat more by the spoonful than what goes on my cakes! 🙂 Thank you for trying the recipe and visiting the blog!

  • Seems like people need to use the Coconut Cream & start from that point from comments on Pinterest. My only question is how many cups of frosting this makes? Need to fill & cover an 8″/6 layer cake + piped decorations.

    • Hi Laurie! This is a small batch recipe and will make approx. 1 and 1/2 cups. For the size of the cake you are making, I don’t think that will be enough. You could double the recipe, just please note I have not tested doubling the recipe.

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