Gluten and Dairy-Free Baked Caramel Apples

Gluten and Dairy-Free Baked Caramel Apples

I have a special place in my heart for caramel apples. I remember having my first warm caramel apple (with the nuts sliding off because the caramel had not solidified yet) at a carnival in Michigan…pure heaven. I’ve been a sucker for warm caramel and nuts ever since. My cousin, Karen (also from Michigan) introduced this recipe to me years ago during my gluten and dairy consuming days. I became very excited when I realized it is a naturally gluten-free recipe. Now my challenge is to replace the dairy.

The first step I took was to research a vegan caramel recipe. It didn’t take long and I found this one titled, “liquid gold” at Allergy Free Alaska. BINGO…I could tell by the title that this was the one…and I was right. As you’ll see in the photo below…it literally is liquid gold. I fixed five of these baked caramel apples and they were gone almost instantly. Below, I will walk you through the recipe. These apples are simple to prepare and provide a lot of bang for the effort. People love it because it’s different and it’s a more sophisticated way to eat your warm dripping caramel apple.


a23Choosing the right type of apple for this recipe is imperative. The apple can literally turn to mush if you don’t choose the right variety (and a firm version of it). Since apple varieties differ throughout the states and are in season at different times, I suggest consulting with your trusted local apple supplier. I live in Northern California and have used both Rome and Honey Crisp for this recipe. One year the Rome variety did well but this year the Honey Crisp was better. My cousin in Michigan prefers Northern Spy apples for baking. Choose a nice sized apple and one that sits straight up (otherwise it will be a little harder to core).

cc14Speaking of coring…here is my favorite apple corer (as you many already know), OXO brand. The metal part is durable and the handle is comfortable. This is important when you are pressing hard on it while trying to core the apple.


a22Most standard corers are meant to go straight through the apple. The recipe suggests coring a “hollow” in the apple that does NOT go straight through so you are creating a little cavity to hold the cinnamon/sugar mixture and butter. I did not have luck with my trusty OXO corer. After cutting into the apple, when I pulled back on the corer, it just left the apple cylinder inside the apple. No matter what I did, it would not pull the core out so I had to push through the other side of the apple making a complete hole through the center of the apple.

a24I occasionally breeze by the clearance table at Williams-Sonoma to see if anything is calling my name. The day after my first attempt at the baked apples, this unique corer by de Buyer did just that. It is a corer designed for creating “pockets” within fruits and vegetables. The tiny blade, featured below, allows you to stop while coring and pull back to create the cavity you desire.


The tiny blade


Perfect…practically no effort

a28Check out the cavity above? You just can’t appreciate this until you’ve tried doing this with a regular corer. I practically mutilated an apple trying to do this with a standard corer. This new corer took no time at all and worked perfectly. The de Buyer corer goes into my personal “gadget hall of fame.” The real beauty about this is that it was marked down to $10…originally priced at $25! I love a bargain.

a9After I cored the apples, I gathered my ingredients and prepared to fill the apples and make the caramel sauce.

a19When filling the cored apples, it helps avoid a mess if you choose a spoon that fits perfectly into the cored out hole. Otherwise you have spillage everywhere.


The apples filled and ready for “butter”

a16To make this recipe dairy-free, I used my stand-by, Earth Balance. It is now carrageenan free!

a17I love these little scoopers. I have one in almost every size. The smaller version was perfect for applying the butter to the apple.


Ready for the cider and then the oven

a20I used R.W. Knudsen’s Cider & Spice for this recipe but you can use just plain apple juice or cider. I like the idea of the added spice and the fact that this juice has no sugar added. The cider (or juice) is poured into the bottom of the baking dish. Please note, while there are no gluten ingredients in this particular juice, I have contacted R.W. Knudsen to assure that gluten-free spices are used in this product. I have not heard back yet.


Baking in the oven at 325 degrees

While the apples were baking, I prepared the caramel sauce.

a13I used Thai Kitchen brand coconut milk only because it is what I had on hand. Any brand will do…just make sure it’s not the “lite” version. Many chefs/bloggers recommend the Native Forest brand which is a little harder to find around my house.

a21I like the fact that the caramel recipe uses coconut palm sugar instead of regular white sugar. I decided to use it for the apple filling as well. Coconut palm sugar is a low glycemic sweetener.

a12While on the subject of palm sugar, this product has nothing to do with the recipe but I just recently ran across it and am excited about it. Sam loves cinnamon toast and I like the idea of giving him coconut palm sugar instead of the white sugar used in other cinnamon sugar blends.

a11I’ve heard conflicting opinions on whether you need to use certified GF vanilla. I’m not sure who to believe so I just use vanilla with a GF certification. Keep it simple and safe. BTW…this is one my favorite brands of vanilla.


Third party GF certified!


Mixing the ingredients for the “liquid gold.” Be sure to use a heavy bottomed pan.


The sauce needs to simmer for 15 minutes. This is my favorite cooking timer. It has a rope so you can wear it around your neck and a magnet so you can stick it on the fridge.


Crushing the almonds in my handy-dandy nut crusher

I believe I originally used peanuts in this recipe but I no longer eat peanuts. They have too many issues. They are a legume which most legumes do not agree with me. They have mold issues, are a high allergen food (not good for a family full of food sensitivities) and are heavily sprayed with pesticide. If you do consume peanuts, please make sure they are organic. I used almonds for this recipe but you could use any nut that your heart desires.


The caramel sauce is ready to roll.


I served extra sauce on the side in these individual size gravy boats. Super cute!


You can store the extra sauce in a tightly sealed jar for several days


Yes, pure liquid gold!


The baked apples are done and looking yummy! The house smelled heavenly.

a2You can serve these apples two different ways. One, like you see above which has a more dramatic eye appeal but your guests have to slice the apples themselves.

Or, you can slice them and serve like you see here. Either way, they are awesome and perfect for a chilly fall evening!

Gluten and Dairy-Free Baked Caramel Apples
  • 6 large apples (choose a variety in your area that is good for baking)
  • ½ cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, GF certified
  • ⅛ - ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 scoops or chunks of Earth Balance spread (I prefer the soy-free version)
  • 1 cup apple cider (or juice)
  1. Wash and dry the apples
  2. Core the apple without going through the bottom so you create a cavity in the apple.
  3. Place the cored apples in a baking dish.
  4. Mix the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg
  5. With a small sized spoon, fill each apple cavity with the sugar mixture leaving a ¼-1/2 inch gap at the top (for the Earth Balance)
  6. Top each apple with a Earth Balance scoop or chuck.
  7. Pour the apple cider (or juice) into the bottom of the baking dish.
  8. Bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours until the apples are super tender but not mushy (timing depends on the size of the apple)
  9. Drizzle the apples with vegan caramel sauce and sprinkle with chopped nuts of your choice (or peanuts). You can serve extra caramel sauce on the side, if desired.
  10. Please note, the vegan caramel recipe is featured at the link provided above (Gluten Free Alaska).


  1. These beauties look amazing, Kim! Thank you for sharing my “Liquid Gold” recipe with your readers. I’ve shared your recipe on my FB page and now I’m off to pin it! 😉 Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Thanks for sharing, Megan. Great job on the liquid gold. It’s really amazing.

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