Caramel Apples (Dairy-Free, AIP-friendly)

October 28, 2013 in Categories: , , by

Print Friendly

Four ingredients (including the apples).  Autoimmune protocol-friendly.  No dairy.  No refined sugar.  Amazingly delicious.  I know what you’re thinking…  it’s about time!

Three-Ingredient (Dairy-Free) Honey-Caramel Apples | The Paleo MomSomething about the season makes me think about caramel apples…. and I think it’s more than just the fact that my house is overflowing with fresh, local, organic apples.  We used to get them at a fall fair near my home when I was growing up.  The stand had caramel apples (with soft gooey caramel coating rolled in nuts) and candied apples (with that hard candy shell) and I always chose caramel.   One year my mom made caramel apples to give out at Halloween (although caramel popcorn balls were her standard)–yes, those were the days when homemade treats weren’t immediately tossed in the trashcan when kids came home from Trick-or-Treating around the neighborhood.  I have fond memories, but it’s been a donkey’s age (that’s a long while, right?) sine I last had one.

Caramel is normally made with sugar, corn syrup, butter and cream (or sweetened condensed milk), heated to hard ball stage (the fat in the mixture keeps the candy from being too solid).   Yeah, I don’t eat any of those ingredients and my youngest is super sensitive to dairy, so even using ghee was out of the question.   But, I’ve had great success with other candy-making ventures (like Marzipan and Creme Eggs) replacing sugar and corn syrup with honey and maple syrup, so with that as my starting point, I just had to play around with a dairy-substitute, fat content and candy temperature and see what I could come up with.

I actually developed a version of this recipe for The Paleo Approach Cookbook (as a sauce for my applesauce spice cake recipe), so I’ve been tinkering with my 3-ingredient caramel for quite a while (and actually, the salt is optional).  All I really had to do in order to change my AIP caramel form a sauce to a firm but sticky apple coating was adjust the temperature.

Note that many coconut milk recipes rely on the guar gum in the milk to act as an emulsifier.  I never buy coconut milk that contains guar gum and pretty much only buy Natural Value or Aroy-D.   This recipe works perfectly without the guar gum. Yay!

There are a few tricks to making candy (caramel is a type of candy/confection).  First, mix all your ingredients while still room temperature very thoroughly.  Second, use a heavy bottomed pan for even heating.  Third, heat very slowly (this should take 20-30 minutes to come to temperature and if you heat it too quickly the sugar and oil will separate).  Fourth, always use a candy thermometer.  Fifth, don’ t leave the kitchen.

It’s actually really easy to make and if you follow those tips, pretty foolproof.  I hope you enjoy these as a Halloween or fall treat this year (and many years to come!).  Happy Halloween!!!!

Yield: 8-10 apples, depending on how big they are

Three-Ingredient (Dairy-Free) Honey-Caramel Apples | The Paleo Mom


  1. Combine room temperature honey, coconut cream and salt in a medium, heavy-bottomed pan.  Whisk to thoroughly combine.  Attach candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
  2. Turn element on to medium-low.  Heat until it reaches 245F (don’t go over 248F).  No need to stir.  Around 220F, it will start to bubble… if it looks like it’s going to bubble over (it probably won’t, but it can be nerve-racking), stir it a little to pop some of the bubbles.  This should take 20-30 minutes and is pretty hands off, so be patient (but don’t leave the kitchen!).
  3. Once it reaches 245F (it’s helpful if you have a thermometer with an alarm), remove from the heat.  Let the caramel cool down to under 200F before dipping apples (I think around 180F works best for a thick coating).
  4. While you’re waiting for the caramel to cool, skewer your apples with your popsicle sticks. It doesn’t really matter which end you skewer them through (I chose from bottom to stem).  Also line a baking sheet with wax paper, parchment paper or a silicone liner and grease the paper or liner (coconut oil, palm shortening, ghee, lard, whatever…)
  5. Once the caramel is cool, dip the apples to evenly coat.  Place them on your prepared baking sheet and pop the whole thing in the fridge for the caramel to harden.
  6. I know it’s hard, but give them at least an hour, if not two or three before you peel them off the sheet.  When you peel them off the sheet, you can leave the fun little caramel lip, or you can mold it onto the top of the apples with your hands.
  7. The caramel is nice and sticky so if you want to roll your caramel apples into some chopped nuts (we thought pecans were particularly good), go ahead!

Three-Ingredient (Dairy-Free) Honey-Caramel Apples | The Paleo Mom

Variations:  You can actually make this caramel into caramel cube candies.  Poor into a lined and greased pan, cool completely, then cut into squares.  You can also substitute half or even all of the honey with maple syrup (but I think honey ends up tasting more caramely).


YES!!! Thank you! Now, I must request… would you develop for us a Twix like treat, using an almond flour cookie base in a 13 x 9 pan, layered with this caramel and topped with dark chocolate, cut into bars? And, use the least sugar possible in each layer. The sweetness can come from the caramel. You are the best!

These look GREAT! Carmel apples are one of my favorite treats, and it was not all that much fun giving them up when I made the switch to paleo about 8 months ago. I’m not that great at coming up with recipes to satisfy my sweet tooth, so thanks for helping me out!

I look forward to more desert posts.

Made these today with my kiddos and they were a HUGE hit! Anxiously awaiting your book release. You have made our transition to paleo so much easier!

How is the cream from the can different from ev coconut oil? Could I sub? Just to clarify: I am not paleo but this fits my needs of several families who have allergies and 1 who is paleo. I have enough coconut milk for 1 batch of caramel squares but I need more. I made my fist batch using the cold ice water trick and when it was finally chewy at room temp it went up to 280-285 `F at my altitude of 5000. It’s delicious!

The coconut cream I bought has guar gum (the store only had one brand and it was not either of the ones you recommended). Will the recipe not work with the guar gum? Is there a reason you avoid it? I’m so excited to try the recipe! I have two different ways I plan to use the caramel.

Guar gum can be a gut irritant for some people, and Sarah is sensitive to it. The recipe will probably work with the items you purchased. You can also order online using the links in the recipe. — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

Thank you!! Thank you!! We are on an AIP and paleo journey with our kids (7,5,& 2) right now to address health and behavior issues. It has been a lot of ups and downs, of course, but this recipe is so inspiring to focus on things we can eat, instead of what we can’t; Especially, with all of the fall yumminess approaching! Because of your work we can look forward to it, instead of dreading saying no to treats around every corner!!!!! Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

Is there a way to make this into a caramel sauce? Caramel apples are great, but I have a hard time eating apples whole due to a crown on a front tooth (always afraid I will break it biting into an apple) so I always cut apples up, and a caramel dip would be awesome.

Many of us have a much more restrictive diet than Sarah. For many, honey, maple syrup and fruit are gut irritants. I am one of those. However, I have done three elimination diets with organic birchwood xylitol and it has given my gut no distress. It is the only safe sweetener I can use. My question was not about Sarah’s take on xylitol, but rather if it would melt properly for caramel or not. Please be respectful of the fact that we all have different guts and we all react to different foods.

Thank you

Would the So Delicious Culinary Creams work for this? I haven’t tried them yet but others say it whips to a whipped cream state the same as the thick part you get when you chill a can of coconut milk.

We just made these last night – they were a HUGE hit! The kids wanted MORE, but, of course, Big Bad Mom had to talk to them about such absurd terms as “moderation”! Thank you for such a great recipe! I followed a link from Empowered Sustenance – Lauren was highlighting 3-ingredient recipes, and yours was one she featured! It’s a keeper! =)

I had some issues and hope someone can help. I measured carefully and used a heavy saucepan and a candy thermometer, but my sauce separated with an oily sheen over the caramel, and the caramel slid off the apples. Any thoughts from anyone on what might have happened? Thanks!

Hi Jasw. The tips from the post, suggest, “Heat very slowly (this should take 20-30 minutes to come to temperature and if you heat it too quickly the sugar and oil will separate).”

Considering attempting these for my son’s Halloween party at school. Can they be wrapped? If so, can I use plastic wrap or would I need something else? Thanks!!

Love love love these! Only thing is: My caramel either runs off or, when attempted cooler, doesn’t stick to the apples. Am I getting too much water from the can of coconut milk? Are the apples waxed maybe? Stupid question, can organic apples be waxed?

Would it be possible to substitute Let’s Do Organic Creamed Coconut for the milk/cream? I’ve read the box & do not find that it is “coconut cream concentrate”, but maybe I am incorrect?
Thanks! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *