A great dessert is like a great savory dish: It is well balanced in flavor, and texture, and each bite is slightly different, yet still harmonious. This Vegan Salted Caramel Pudding Parfait is a perfect dessert in that respect because it has layers of rich and decadent pudding balanced-out with fluffy whipped coconut cream; separated by layers of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, and crunchy bits of pretzels, peanuts, toasted coconut, and dark chocolate.
As much as this is a recipe, it’s more of a concept. You can go in so many directions with this sweet treat. Add different flavors to the pudding or whipped coconut cream. Use different flavors of cookies and different crispy crunchy elements in between. Try it with fruits or different syrups. The possibilities are endless, so as long as you focus on creating a balance of flavors and textures, it’s going to be great.
Here are the ingredients that I used to make my Vegan Salted Caramel Pudding Parfaits. I have listed any substitutions or alternate ingredients that you could use in case you cannot use or do not have access to certain ingredients.
- Dark brown sugar – Originally this recipe was for a butterscotch pudding, but after tasting it, it was definitely serving more of a caramel vibe than a butterscotch vibe. Either way, that taste comes from the brown sugar. The darker it is, the deeper that flavor will be. If you only have light brown sugar, or you don’t know what kind of brown sugar you have, just go with it. It’ll work and taste great.
- Full-fat coconut milk – The pudding owes its richness to the coconut milk. But if you weren’t a fan of coconut milk or you wanted to lighten things up a bit, then go ahead and use any other kind of unsweetened plant-based milk. Just increase the cornstarch to ¼ cup to help thicken things up.
- Cornstarch – The texture of this pudding comes from the cornstarch. You really can’t replace it with any other starch or flour.
- Unsweetened almond milk – The cornstarch needs a vehicle to get it into the simmering coconut milk. Use whatever unsweetened plant-based milk you’ve got, or in a pinch, you could use water.
- Vanilla extract – You’ll miss it if you don’t have it. Use your favorite form of vanilla or vanilla flavoring.
- Coconut cream – To make a delicious vegan whipped cream, you need coconut cream. It’s fairly easy to find in most supermarkets or specialty stores, but if you cannot find a can or container labeled “coconut cream”, then you can go ahead and use 2 cans of full-fat coconut milk instead. Just refrigerate the cans overnight. Separate the solid cream from the liquid, and then whip up that cream.
- Vegan confectioners sugar – Powdered sugar is necessary to make a whipped coconut cream that is not gritty. You could pulverize your own sugar, or purchase confectioners or powdered sugar. If you want to make sure that the sugar is not processed through bone char, then buy or organic, or look for “bone char free” on the label.
- Simple Truth Plant-Based Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – Sold at Kroger owned stores, this cookie dough is probably the best tasting store-bought cookie dough available. If you can’t find this brand, then look for other brands of vegan chocolate chip cookies, or just change the flavor profile of the parfaits by using Oreos or speculoos cookies instead.
- Salted pretzel sticks – One of the flavor inspirations for this dessert came from a “pizookie” that my partner Ben had eaten at BJ’s restaurant. That dessert contained a number of crunchy bits, and one of them was pretzels. Perfect for their saltiness and their crunch, use whatever shape of pretzel you can find.
- Dark chocolate bar – In the video, I actually use dark chocolate chunks from Kroger that happened to be dairy free. Use whatever dark chocolate chips or bars you can find. Just roughly chop the chocolate up into small bits so that you have a bit of variation in texture while eating the parfaits.
- Toasted coconut flakes – I didn’t have toasted coconut flakes, so I just toasted the unsweetened coconut flakes that I had in a dry pan. If you’re not a fan of coconut, leave it out. If you can find already toasted coconut, then you’re in business.
- Roasted unsalted peanuts – Though small, the peanuts add so much to this dessert. They are crunchy, and, of course, peanutty. If you can only find salted roasted peanuts, those will work as well as well.
- Hand-held or stand mixer with whipping attachments – If you don’t want to whip up the coconut cream by hand, then you’re definitely going to need a handheld or stand mixer.
- Chilled mixing bowl – Having a chilled bowl will help the coconut cream whip up easier. Just throw a bowl in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes before starting to whip.
- 4, 1 pint mason jars or 4 half-pint jars (or equivalent sized glass vessels) – I love the look of mason jars for this dessert, but it can easily be served in any other clear glass vessel. Wine glasses would be nice, or small juice glasses could be use to make smaller portions.
Vegan Salted Caramel Pudding Parfaits
The most decadent vegan dessert you will ever have! Rich, salted caramel pudding it paired with fluffy whipped coconut cream, with layers of chocolate chip cookies, pretzels, peanuts, and toasted coconut in between.
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 can (13.5 oz.) full-fat coconut milk
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk or plant milk of choice
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut cream or 2 cans full-fat coconut milk** REFRIGERATED OVERNIGHT
- ½ cup vegan confectioners or powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 6 portions Simple Truth Plant-Based Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough***
- 1 cup salted pretzel sticks, broken into small pieces
- ½ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
- 3.5 ounces vegan dark chocolate bar or chocolate chips, roughly chopped into tiny bits
- ½ cup toasted coconut flakes
- In a heavy bottom pot on medium heat, melt brown sugar until it turns to liquid, starts foaming, and darkens slightly. Begin stirring as you slowly pour in the coconut milk. It will bubble and spit, and the brown sugar will form hard clumps, but keep stirring. Bring the mixture to a simmer on medium heat and continue to stir until all the solid bits of brown sugar have dissolved. Turn the stove down to maintain a very low simmer.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix cold almond milk, vanilla extract, and cornstarch. While stirring the simmering coconut milk mixture, slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture. Continue to stir until thickened. Add salt and taste for sweetness and saltiness.
- Transfer to a heat-safe bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Add the refrigerated coconut cream to the chilled mixing bowl. Whip the coconut cream until it doubles in volume. Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Continue to whip until it has reached the desired whipped cream consistency. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Note: These trifles have the best texture if all components are prepared ahead of time, and then assembled shortly before serving. The cookies and pretzels change consistency in the parfaits (or trifle) if refrigerated for too long.
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Divide the 6 portions of dough in half so that you have 12 smaller portions. Bake the cookies on a lined cookie sheet for 10 to 11 minutes, or until just starting to brown. Remove cookies from the oven and all them to cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet. Set aside.
- Place about 2 heaping tablespoons of your Vegan Salted Caramel Pudding at the bottom of each jar. Top with broken pieces of 1 cookie. Cover with 2 heaping tablespoons of Whipped Coconut Cream. Sprinkle on about 1 to 2 teaspoons each of pretzels, peanuts, coconut, and chocolate. Repeat these layers at least 1 more time, finishing off the top with the pretzels, peanuts, coconut, and chocolate.
- If there is still a lot of room at the top, but not enough room for another round of layers, then finish off the top with another tablespoon of Vegan Salted Caramel Pudding and a small sprinkling of the crunchy ingredients. Garnish the rim of each jar with one more cookie, as you would a cocktail with a lemon slice.
- Serve immediately, or refrigerate, and serve within an hour or two.
*For a lighter pudding, use unsweetened almond, soy, or oat milk. Just increase the amount of cornstarch to 1/4 cup.
**If you cannot find coconut cream, then just use 2 cans of full-fat coconut milk. Refrigerate the cans of coconut milk, upside-down, overnight. Before whipping, open the cans from the top side. Drain off any liquid, and then whip the thick creamy portion.
***If you do not have access to this brand of cookie dough, you could use store-bought vegan or vegan friendly cookies. Oreos would be great in the recipe as well as Biscoff speculoos cookies, or Uncle Eddie’s Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies. Use your imagination, and you can’t go wrong.