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Vegan Dulce de Leche Caramel Sundae with Toasted Walnuts

Vegan Dulce de Leche Caramel Sundae with Toasted Walnuts

It’s beginning to feel a lot like summer! I left the house, the other day, wearing a hoodie which I quickly shed and stashed in my car. It felt freeing to be out and about in a T-shirt and jeans. I’m not sure how long the warmer weather will last, but I’m taking full advantage, which includes indulging in my favorite food group -ice cream! Now, I know that we can eat ice cream all year long, but for me, it’s those balmy breezes that whet my appetite for the divine frozen treat.

As a kid, my preferred ice cream indulgence was a hot caramel sundae. Believe it or not, I wasn’t a huge chocolate fan. Vanilla was where it was at for me. And while my palate has matured through the years to where I adore chocolate, even preferring dark to milk, there’s still a soft spot in my heart for my favorite childhood treat.

Being vegan, I can’t just waltz into any ice cream shop and order a hot caramel sundae. Even if they offer plant-based ice cream options, plant-based caramel is never on the menu. So, I decided to get busy in my kitchen and create a plant-based version that would evoke the memories yet take it next level with little effort. Using canned sweetened condensed coconut milk made the process simple and added a depth of dulce de leche flavor to the caramel. It was silky smooth and there was no need to strain. If you’ve never made a caramel sauce this one is a good starting point. It’s delicious on ice cream, drizzled on brownies or used as a dip for fresh cut fruit and berries for a healthier option.

As far as additional toppings, roasted nuts and whipped cream are all I need. The combination of cold, unctuous ice cream with warm sticky caramel, crunchy nuts and fluffy whipped cream are taste and textural nirvana. Of course, feel free to add your favorite toppings. I offer some suggestions in the Chef’s Tips.

Now take off that winter coat and eat an ice cream sundae! Bathing suit weather is months away.

Chef’s Tips:

  • Rub a small amount of neutral oil all over the pot before adding the other ingredients to prevent sticking and sugar crystallization. Don’t use olive oil!
  • Whisk for most of the cooking process. You can let the caramel boil a bit untouched, but don’t leave the pot unattended in case it boils over or the sauce begins to burn. Watch it carefully.
  • I used salted butter to add a bit of that salty/sweet combo. It’s very subtle. Feel free to add a bit more if you want a true salted caramel sauce.
  • Other sundae toppings that would work are: Sprinkles. Chocolate Chips. Any kind of toasted nut, ie pecans, almonds, pistachios or hazelnuts. Cookie crumbles. Raw or toasted coconut shreds. Dried fruit bits such as pineapple or dates. Have fun creating.
  • Vanilla ice cream is classic. Chocolate, coconut or caramel ice creams would work well, too.
  • Nature’s Charm sweetened condensed coconut milk is available locally at Besties Vegan Paradise. Sometimes I see it at Whole Foods, Lassen’s and Sprouts. Its very easy to get online. You can also use their sweetened condensed oat milk which seems to be easier to get at Whole Foods than the coconut variety. I have pictured both varieties.
  • Craigs is a local “Born In Hollywood” vegan ice cream and their Killer Vanilla is great! Available at Sprout’s, Whole Foods, Gelson’s and Bristol Farms. Or buy your favorite brand. There are so many great plant-based ice creams, now.
  • Sweet Rose Coconut Whipped Topping is at Trader Joe’s and is everything you want in canned whipped cream! Delish! I prefer the canned variety vs. homemade for sundaes as the presentation is classic and it stays fluffy.

Vegan Dulce de Leche Caramel Sundae with Toasted Walnuts:

If you’ll be using the caramel right away, let it cool at least 5 minutes before serving.
If you have chilled the caramel sauce in the fridge, reheat the amount you want in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl. Use a piece of waxed paper to cover the dish so you don’t get splatters. It doesn’t take long to heat. Start with about 20 seconds and work in increments until heated to the desired temperature. Stir it up to heat evenly.

Okay, here’s how to put it together.

Favorite vegan ice cream. I do recommend Craig’s Killer Vanilla
Vegan Dulce de Leche Caramel Sauce (recipe follows) warmed
Toasted walnut pieces or crunchy toppings of choice
Vegan whipped cream

Line an ice cream dish with some of the warmed caramel sauce.
Scoop in desired amount of ice cream.
Top with more warmed caramel sauce
Top with a generous amount of toasted walnuts or topping of choice
Swirl a big dollop of whipped cream on top.

Vegan Dulce de Leche Caramel Sauce

Vegan Dulce de Leche Caramel Sauce:

Neutral oil such as grapeseed or canola
6.5 oz. salted vegan butter
3/4 cup packed organic brown sugar
1 can (11.25 oz.) sweetened condensed coconut milk (or sweetened condensed oat milk)
3/4 tsp vanilla paste or extract
Kosher salt, optional for a salted caramel sauce

Lightly grease the bottoms and sides of a heavy, stainless 2 quart saucepan with a small bit of oil using a paper towel. This will help prevent sticking and crystallization of the sugar.

Melt the butter and brown sugar together in the pan and bring to a boil, whisking the entire time. Keep whisking until sugar is melted.

Add the sweetened condensed milk and bring to a boil again whisking and stirring up from the bottom to prevent sticking and clumping. You can let it boil gently a bit between whisking. The entire process should take no more than about 8-10 minutes to get a rich colored caramel.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the vanilla so that it is incorporated into the caramel. Add salt to taste if desired.

If not using right away, let the caramel cool in the pan 10-15 minutes and then pour in clean, glass jar(s) with lids.

Caramel Sauce Cooling in jars

Always be careful when handling hot sugar.

Let the caramel cool completely in the jar (jars) before putting the lids on and storing in the refrigerator.

Should keep fresh for a few weeks in the fridge.

Vegan ingredients options
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Deborah Brooks
Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.

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