Lesson 22: Gluten Free Dessert Sauces

Learn how to plate like a professional pastry chef. Make super easy to complex gluten free dessert sauces to accompany your desserts and breakfast treats like pancakes, waffles, crepes, and more. Caramel sauces and fruit purees are usually naturally gluten free.

Caramel Sauce is made by first making caramel. You then add butter, cream (or full-fat coconut milk for dairy-free), and salt (optional). You’ll find several different versions for several different food allergies from using agave syrup to making the famous Mexican favorite, Dulce de Leche (even a chocolate version). View them all here. If you’re corn and dairy intolerant, you can make this Dairy-Free Corn-Free Caramel and thin it down with more full-fat coconut milk. (It’s our new favorite soft caramels. We found them to be addictive though. So, watch out! If not, substitute heavy cream and corn syrup for the coconut milk and brown rice syrup.

When you make caramel, you cook the sugar mixture to soft ball stage, 235 – 245°F. (It’s called soft ball stage because after a piece is dropped into cold water, you should be able to roll it into a soft ball of chewy caramel.) When making caramel sauce, you want to cook it a little less, 230°F is perfect. “Thread stage” is 230 – 234°F. After you cook the sugar mixture, you add in your hot cream (or full-fat coconut milk) and then butter (or coconut oil). (I cheat and heat both together.) It just takes longer for the caramel or sauce to cool if you don’t add the cold butter (or coconut milk) as the second to last step. The last step should be adding vanilla extract as it tends to cook out/evaporate quickly.

Because caramel sauce lasts so long (sugar is a preservative), you can store it in a covered mason jar in the refrigerator for several weeks. There are several methods of making caramel sauce. Just note that if you cook the caramel too long, you may burn it. Please invest in a candy thermometer. They can be found as low as $3.00 – $4.00.

In addition to burning the caramel, you must prevent any crystals from forming when making the caramel. They may form on the sides of the pan if you stir the sugar before it melts. To prevent this there are a few things you can do. You can use a wet pastry brush to brush any crystals away, add a teaspoon to tablespoon of corn syrup to break down the sucrose (sugar), or add a few drops of something acidic such as lemon juice, vinegar, or very small pinch of cream of tartar. I remember burning a couple of batches when I was first learning. Don’t let that stop you though. Just follow the instruction to the letter and use heavy pans. Thin pans get hot too fast. Once it reaches the desired temperature, the temperature increases before you even have a chance to add the butter or coconut oil to cool it down.

Chocolate Ganache is a favorite of many people. The recipe only calls for three ingredients: chocolate (high-quality is preferred but you can get away with standard chocolate chips from Costco or Nestlé’s), heavy cream (or full-fat coconut milk – though it becomes a little grainy in appearance), and ending with a splash of vanilla extract. When using only a small amount of cream or coconut milk, you can use chocolate ganache as a filling in pastries, cakes, cookie sandwiches, and more. However, you can think it out a bit more with addition cream/milk and create designs around a dessert saucefor plating. You can then chill it and then whip it with your mixer and serve as is or use as a frosting or filling in cakes and cupcakes. It’s often used to top ice cream sundaes.

Chocolate Sauce is easy and fast to make.There are a number of ways of making chocolate sauce. The poor man’s way was to heat water, cocoa powder, and sugar over medium heat. Nowadays, it’s become a little more sophisticated with added butter and corn syrup. I just like to add butter. However, a little brown rice syrup is a nice touch. You really don’t need a recipe for this because you can taste what you like. Begin with half cocoa powder and half sugar. Add a little water, or even cream or milk and stir until it all melts. Add a pinch of salt and splash of pure vanilla extract. Taste it? Do you want it sweeter? Add more sugar and stir until it melts. Too sweet? Add more cocoa powder and a splash of water. Then, allow the sauce to cool, as it thicken a little as it cools.

Crème Anglaiseis pastry cream without the starch or flour, (as noted in the “Did you know?” section of Lesson 7: Pastry Cream).

Sabayon is also similar to a thin pastry cream but using a little dry, sweet, or even sparkling wine. You can use the Italian version, Zabaglione, which calls for marsala wine, and switch it out for whichever wine you would like to use.

Sugar Glaze is so easy to make. Just whisk together a tiny bit of milk (or cream or coconut milk) with confectioners’/powdered sugar. Add more milk until it reaches your desired consistency. Get fancy and beat in some cream cheese, if desired. I love this as a sauce for Cinnamon Rolls.

Fruit Glaze­ is made using sugar, clear juice, and starch. Arrowroot creates a smoother, clearer glaze and is great for your digestive tract (speaking from experience). The flavor and color will depend on the juice you use. Use this sauce to glaze fruit and to top cakes, cheesecakes, and pastries. If you add a little bit of lemon juice to the glaze, it will help prevent your fruit from browning. You can also use fruit glaze as a cake or cupcake filling. You can also use ready-made preserves and heat in a small sauce. Then, thin with water.

Fruit Coulis is pureed fruit that is strained to remove any pulp or seeds. Add sugar if the fruit is not sweet enough on its own. If you use granulated sugar, you’ll need to melt it with the pureed fruit in a saucepan. Otherwise, add any liquid sweeteners directly to the strained puree. It’s that easy. Use it to top pancakes, crepes, waffles, ice cream, and other desserts, or use for plating same.


Use a squeeze bottle to draw lines, circles, or whatever you desire on dessert plates and lay cookies, crumbs, sliced fruit, or some whipped cream on the sauce or nearby. You can even spoon some chocolate sauce on a plate in about a 4-1-1/2-inch line and then dollop some runny whipped cream in three areas. Then swirl the whipped cream to create circles in the chocolate sauce. Use your imagination!


Make any of the above sauces. If you’re already experienced in one sauce, choose a recipe you’ve never made before. A real test of your skills will be to make something that you create yourself by tasting such as the chocolate sauce or thinning out chocolate ganache just right so that it doesn’t set too much once chilled. Another challenge is the fruit coulis and judge whether or not it needs a sweetener, what kind, and how much.

You can access all lessons via the links on the Syllabus page.