Vegan Buttercream Frosting- sweet, fluffy, and perfectly pipe-able, this dairy free buttercream frosting is my go-to for topping cookies and cakes. It makes a mean cupcake, too.
Vegan Buttercream Frosting
I remember the moment I nailed my easy American buttercream frosting.
It was a glorious moment.
Fluffy, and hitting the perfect “sweet-but-not-too-sweet” balance, it was perfection.
Of course, then I had to figure it out all over again when our family went dairy-free. My youngest daughter doesn’t handle dairy well so our family is mostly dairy free.
We still keep cheese on hand, and I won’t ever give up on my cream cheese frosting, but most of our meals and most things I bake are dairy free (and of course 100% gluten free).
My perfect buttercream needed a dairy free makeover.
Vegan Buttercream Frosting for Piping
This is it. A perfectly pipeable vegan buttercream frosting.
I’ve played with fat to sugar ratios. I’ve played with how much milk to add, if any.
I’m pretty happy with my vegan frosting. I put it on everything.
Well, not actually everything. I’d be silly to put buttercream on, say, gluten free enchiladas.
However, I do put this vegan buttercream frosting on all my desserts.
In the mood for frosted gluten free brownies? ✔️
This vegan buttercream is the solution to all of my frosting needs.
Here are my “secrets” to making the perfect vegan buttercream frosting:
Use half vegan butter and half palm shortening.
Frosting made entirely with vegan butter tends to be oily and greasy, in my opinion. Buttercream made with all palm shortening tastes like shortening. Not good. It is also too thick, and tends to look separated if you try and add any vanilla or milk. The solution is to use half vegan butter and half palm shortening. The resulting frosting has a good balance of texture and flavor. My go-to vegan butter is Earth Balance, but I’ve also used MELT or even Smart Balance in a pinch.
Whip it. Whip it real good.
No, I’m not joking. I whip the palm shortening and vegan butter for a solid 5 minutes. You can’t easily incorporate air into your frosting after you add powdered sugar (it is too thick) so you have to do it before. After I add the powdered sugar, I whip it again for at least 3 minutes to maximize the fluffiness.
As Ina would say. I like to use vanilla paste in my frosting because it adds delightful vanilla specks. Also, vanilla paste is thickened/emulsified with xanthan gum so it helps to prevent my frosting having a separated “weeping” look. All the flavor in your frosting comes from the vanilla (since you have no butter) so it isn’t where I like to skimp.
A little dairy free milk goes a long way.
Add your dairy free milk slowly, and a little at a time. Vegan buttercream frosting can quickly separate if you add too much dairy free milk. This is because there isn’t any moisture in the palm shortening. Using half vegan butter helps with this problem, but you still want to be careful because it is less forgiving than traditional American buttercream frosting.
You don’t want to skip over the dairy free milk though, your frosting will be too thick unless it is a hot summer day (if it is a hot summer day and your frosting seems smooth enough, use your judgement and skip the dairy free milk).
Add a teaspoon of milk, and then add more ½ a teaspoon at a time until your frosting is smooth and spreadable. And add the milk after the vanilla, since that will add more moisture to your frosting.
If you accidentally add too much milk (it happens to the best of us) and your frosting is sloppy, too loose, or weeping, try adding ¼- ½ cup more of powdered sugar. This can sometimes help to absorb the extra liquid and save the day.
Can you freeze vegan frosting for later?
Yes, you can freeze your vegan frosting for later. You can also store it in the fridge. Place your frosting in an airtight container or freezer bag, and remove excess air if possible.
You can freeze your vegan buttercream for up to 3 months, or store in the fridge for up to a week.
To use your frozen vegan frosting, let it come to room temperature and then whip for a minute or two, until it is light and fluffy.
It may take a few hours for it to thaw to room temperature, so plan for that. If you try to speed up the process in the microwave you are likely to melt your frosting!
Does vegan frosting set up like a normal buttercream?
Yes, my vegan frosting sets up like a normal buttercream. It actually travels better than a frosting made with all butter because the palm shortening isn’t as temperature sensitive.
Do I need to refrigerate cake frosted with vegan buttercream?
From a food-safety perspective, you should still refrigerate anything frosted with vegan frosting. It doesn’t have butter, but the dairy free milk and vegan butter should still be refrigerated if you are storing it long-term.
Personally, if I’m frosting something and I’ll be using it within a day or two I don’t worry about refrigerating it. I haven’t had any problems.
If you are storing long term, I suggest refrigerating or freezing anything frosted with vegan buttercream.
It all comes down to a judgement call, juggling the food safety aspect vs. the convenience and texture of keeping the vegan frosting at room temperature. If refrigerated, it will harden and you will have to wait for it to come back to room temperature, which can take several hours.
Armed with my not-so-secret-anymore tips, make some vegan buttercream frosting!
- 1 cup palm shortening
- 1 cup vegan butter (I usually use Earth Balance)
- 1 (2 lbs) bag powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 1-2 tablespoons dairy-free milk
- Whip the palm shortening and vegan butter using a stand mixer or heavy duty hand-held mixer for 5 minutes. Set a timer! It should be light in color, and very fluffy.
- Add the powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat at a low speed to combine.
- Add the dairy-free milk a teaspoon at a time, while whipping, until the frosting comes together.
- If the frosting is still too thick add a little dairy free milk.
- Add a teaspoon of milk, and then add more ½ a teaspoon at a time until your frosting is smooth and spreadable. And add the milk after the vanilla, since that will add more moisture to your frosting. If you accidentally add too much milk (it happens to the best of us) and your frosting is sloppy, too loose, or weeping, try adding ¼- ½ cup more of powdered sugar. This can sometimes help to absorb the extra liquid and save the day.
- Increase the speed and whip for another 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy.
You can easily half this recipe, or even make only a quarter batch.