Vanilla Butter Free Frosting is made with coconut milk and coconut oil, and just as tasty as traditional buttercream. The vanilla frosting without butter is exceptionally creamy and perfectly flavored with vanilla. Frost your favorite cakes or cupcakes with the frosting or use it as a filling between two cookies!
When you think of frosting you may automatically think of American buttercream. At least I do. And while I love a silky buttercream (strawberry buttercream is the best!), I often find it can be too rich.
However, I’m not going to give up on a frosting that includes the blog’s namesake. Rather, I’ve come up with an alternative that is just as delicious and versatile.
First, technically speaking, there is a fundamental difference between frosting and buttercream. While both contain fat, sugar, and flavor, buttercream is truly what it implies; butter that is creamed. Whereas frosting doesn’t contain butter, and is usually made with shortening, oil, or even cream cheese.
Though, I think folks use the term buttercream interchangeably. Kind of like how some call any tissue Kleenex, or any lip balm Chap Stick.
Vanilla Frosting Recipe Made Without Butter
This recipe is dedicated to solving the riddle of how to make buttercream without butter. The vanilla frosting is made with only 5 ingredients: Coconut Milk, Coconut Oil, Powdered Sugar, Vanilla, Salt.
There are some specifics to the coconut milk and coconut oil, but nothing that is too complicated. And the details in this blog post are intended to guide you to success!
This recipe has served as the base for the different butter free frostings on the blog – like the dreamy and rich chocolate frosting, a bright strawberry frosting, and seasonal caramel frosting or peach frosting.
What Does Frosting Made Without Butter Taste Like?
Sweet vanilla frosting. But if you want a comparison of this butter free frosting and American buttercream – I find this frosting is lighter, thicker, and just as creamy. And for the texture – if you have ever tried the frosting in the little tubs from the grocery, that is the consistency of this frosting.
Fun fact – did you know that a lot of those little tubs of frosting from the grocery are also made without butter?! While that seems intriguing, they also contain a lot of extra ingredients that you certainly don’t need with this homemade frosting!
Uses For The Frosting
Well, the possibilities are just about endless. Because of the thick and creamy consistency of the frosting, it is great for frosting cakes and cupcakes. Like a classic chocolate cake or yellow birthday cake.
I also like to use it on gluten free vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes. And just like any other frosting, this one works wonders in sandwich cookies together, or amp up your favorite brownies or blondies.
Brands of coconut milk I Recommend to make butter free frosting
- Good and Gather from Target – It whips up nicely, is thick and creamy, and I successfully use it to make frosting and whipped cream. Pros: not a strong coconut flavor and contains guar gum. Cons: it can be hit or miss on how much coconut solid you get from can to can.
- Simple Truth Organic from Kroger grocery (i.e. King Soopers, City Market) – This brand has all of the same features as Good and Gather.
- Thai Kitchen from Walmart and maybe the grocery – This used to be my go-to, but it has become harder to find. It whips very light and fluffy. Pros: not a strong coconut flavor and contains guar gum. Cons: some may find the texture chalky, but I find this unnoticeable when whipped into frosting or whipped cream.
Are there Brands of Coconut Milk that you do not recommend to make butter free frosting?Yes, and I’ve outlined those below. I’ve tested all of these a few times, and have not been successful in making thick and creamy frosting.
- 365 Organic Coconut Milk from Whole Foods – It does contain guar gum, but I don’t care for the strong coconut flavor. I find the flavor off-putting when trying to make a flavored frosting.
- Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk from Whole Foods – No guar gum and it wouldn’t whip up thick and creamy. Plus, it has a pronounced coconut flavor.
- Andre Prost Unsweetened Coconut Milk from Target, Walmart, Amazon – While I’ve seen this brand at almost every store that sells groceries, I’ve yet to find a can that had any separation of coconut solids and liquid.
Let’s Talk About The Ingredients To Make Vanilla Butter Free Frosting
- Coconut Milk – Unsweetened canned coconut milk to be exact, and it should contain guar gum. The guar gum acts as a stabilizer and helps to make the frosting thick and creamy.
- Coconut Oil – Cold pressed and refined coconut oil. This coconut oil is solid and does not have a detectable coconut flavor.
- Powdered Sugar – My preference is organic powdered sugar for the quality of ingredients.
- Vanilla – A must for the vanilla flavor! You can use extract, paste, or even a vanilla bean!
- Salt – The salt balances all the flavors.
Plus, A Couple Kitchen Essentials
- Small Saucepan – To heat the coconut milk and coconut oil.
- Mixing Bowl
- Hand Mixer – I love my Breville hand mixer with whisk attachments. It has a digital display, timer, and helpful mixing light!
Helpful Information About Coconut Milk and Coconut Oil
- Refrigerate the can of coconut milk overnight – We only use the coconut solids from the can and chilling the can aids in the separation of liquid and solids in the can.
- In fact, refrigerate a couple of cans – No two cans of coconut milk are alike. Even with my favorite brand, sometimes the whole can is coconut solids, and sometimes only 1/3 of it is. I keep extra cans available in case I need to open two.
- Leftover coconut milk is great for smoothies – Chances are you will have extra coconut milk/solids in the can. Save it for your favorite smoothies, use it in creamy overnight oats, or whip it up into a flavored whipped coconut cream, like blueberry whipped cream, or cinnamon whipped cream.
- Use full fat coconut milk – We need the full fat variety to create a thick and creamy frosting.
- Canned coconut cream works too – Technically, canned coconut cream should have more coconut solids. In my experience, the difference between the milk and cream cans is negligible. But, if that is all you have at your grocery, it will work! Just make sure it contains guar gum.
- I recommend refined coconut oil – You will see refined and virgin coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil will taste like coconut. Refined goes through a little more processing to remove the coconut flavor.
- Refined coconut oil is widely available – I have seen refined coconut oil at the grocery, Target and, Amazon.
- 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.
And Tips For How To Make The Dairy Free Frosting
- 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.
Common Questions To Make vanilla Butter Free Frosting
Doubling the recipe should work fine!
In my opinion, like a creamy vanilla frosting. I find that it does not leave a greasy residue like dairy buttercream sometimes can.
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.
The frosting should easily frost 6 cupcakes, or a small 6-inch layer cake.
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.
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? Did you try refrigerating the frosting for a few minutes, and try to whip again?
This butter free frosting is not identical to dairy buttercream, and I don’t think it would make intricate designs like dairy buttercream. I find this frosting is similar to the store-bought frosting in tubs.
I find this butter free frosting to be creamier and thicker than American buttercream.
If you loved the recipe, please leave a star rating & review below! It helps me continue to provide FREE recipes. And I’d love to see your creation – tag me on Instagram @butterandblissblog and #butterandblissblog. For more small batch recipes and desserts for two, follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest!
Vanilla Butter Free Frosting
- 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.5 tablespoons unsweetened canned coconut milk or cream, full fat, 5 tablespoons cold pressed refined coconut oil
- Transfer the mix to a small mixing bowl and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature – about 10 to 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.1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 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 and salt 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.2 cups + 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 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.
- Serving Size – The recipe makes enough frosting for 6 cupcakes or a small 6-inch 2 layer cake. The recipe can easily be doubled.
- Unsweetened Canned Coconut Milk – The coconut milk should contain guar gum. It works as a stabilizer to help the frosting set. Do not use carton coconut milk.
- Full Fat Coconut Milk – Low-fat will not yield a creamy frosting.
- Coconut Cream – A can of unsweetened coconut cream will also work – as long as it contains guar gum. Note that I have found minimal differences between a can of coconut milk and cream – just price!
- Only Coconut Solids – Be sure you are using only the solids in the can. Any extra water may impact the way the frosting turns out.
- Try A Few Cans – It can be hit or miss 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 – Is solid, not liquid, and resembles a lighter shortening.
- 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.
- Allow refrigerated frosting to come to room temperature and give it a good stir before using.
- You may be tempted to keep adding powdered sugar to get the frosting to firm up. Be warned. Too much powdered sugar and the frosting will set up solid, like fudge.
- 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.
- The texture and consistency of the frosting is similar to the store-bought frosting in the small tubs.
- This frosting is great as a filling in cakes, cupcakes, or cookies. Or to simply frost cakes, cupcakes, or bars.
- 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.
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!