Learn how to make the best vegan buttercream frosting! It pipes perfectly, needs only 4 ingredients and tastes incredible. Makes 2 1/2 cups or enough for 24 cupcakes or a 8-9 inch layer cake.

yellow cupcakes piped with swirly frosting

A vegan buttercream frosting for all your cupcake and cake decorating needs. Just try not to eat it all by the spoonful; it’s that good! The trick is in the technique and using a quality vegan butter.

I’ve been making a version of this frosting for years but recently perfected it. I’ll teach you everything I know!

Ways to use vegan frosting

There are endless ways to use this frosting, but here are just a few ideas:

Ingredients you need

  • Vegan butter – This is probably the most important part! Make sure to use a vegan butter you like the flavor of. I think Miyoko’s is best, but recently I discovered Trader Joe’s vegan butter which is equally amazing. Other brands will work, but just know whatever butter you use will determine the flavor. It needs to be softened to room temperature, NOT melted.
  • Powdered sugar
  • Non-dairy milk – I prefer to use a creamy milk or even vegan creamer, such as soy milk, full fat oat milk, or cashew milk.
  • Vanilla extract – Use clear for a very white frosting. I usually just use pure vanilla extract.
ingredients for frosting on white marble backdrop

How to make vegan buttercream

In a large bowl (I use my stand mixer with paddle attachment), beat the softened butter until smooth.

butter in a glass bowl

Gradually add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, mixing on low then increasing to medium speed.

powdered sugar being added to butter in glass bowl

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and the vanilla. Beat on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes until well combined, fluffy and creamy. To prevent air bubbles, don’t beat on high speed and don’t use the whisk attachment.

Add a little more milk if needed. If the frosting seems runny, add additional powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached.

mixing bowl with creamy white frosting

Vegan buttercream variations

You may add vegan friendly food coloring to the frosting, or try any of the following flavor variations:

  • Peppermint – Add 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract, like in this Peppermint Mocha Cake. Yum!
  • Lemon – Add 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon lemon zest, like in my Lemon Cake recipe. Or change it to orange.
  • Chocolate – You can make this chocolate buttercream by adding 1/2 cup of sifted cocoa powder when you add the powdered sugar. Add additional milk as needed.
  • Caramel – Add 1/2 cup of vegan caramel (or salted vegan caramel). Omit the milk, only use if needed to thin.
  • Strawberry or Blueberry – Add a 1-ounce bag of freeze dried strawberries/blueberries to a blender and blend into a fine powder. Mix into the frosting. Check out my Vegan Strawberry Cake!

How to pipe frosting onto cupcakes perfectly

I used to struggle to pipe frosting into perfectly tall swirls on cupcakes, but I figured out a trick that works!

First, get out a large glass and fit your piping bag with a tip. Place the bag in the glass and fold the edges around the cup. Fill with frosting. This is the easiest way to fill a piping bag with frosting!

bag full of frosting in a glass

Place a circle of frosting in the very center of your cupcake.

piping bag placing one round bit of frosting in the center of a cupcake

Now, start on the edge and swirl frosting in a circular motion on your cupcake. You will get tall swirls that don’t sink or become uneven. Easy peasy!

swirly dollops on a cupcake, frosting bag showing how to frost

How to store vegan frosting

Make ahead – You can make the frosting up to 2 days in advance and store in the refrigerator. When ready to use, bring it to room temperature and mix well before frosting.

Freeze – It can also be frozen for up to 3 months on a freezer bag or container.

piping bag with frosting, showing finishing frosting a cupcake

More vegan frostings to love

square image of vanilla cupcakes with vegan frosting swirled on top
4.82 stars (33 ratings)

Vegan Buttercream Frosting

Learn how to make the best vegan buttercream frosting! It pipes perfectly, needs only 4 ingredients and tastes incredible. Makes 2 1/2 cups or enough for 24 cupcakes or a 8-9 inch layer cake.
Prep: 10 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 24 servings

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 cup vegan butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  • Gradually add the powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, and mix starting on low speed gradually increasing to medium, until all the powdered sugar is mixed in.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of milk and vanilla and beat on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until everything is well combined. Scrape the bowl as needed.
  • If the frosting seems too thick, you can add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. If the frosting is too thin and runny, simply add more powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Pipe onto cupcakes, spread on a cake or anywhere else you'd like. Enjoy!
  • You can make the frosting up to 2 days in advance. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use, then bring it to room temperature before using. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Notes

  1. For the best flavor, use a vegan butter that tastes good. I prefer Miyoko’s or Trader Joe’s brand vegan butter. Melt, Earth Balance and others work as well. Use sticks or blocks if you can over the tub butter.
  2. For best results, use a full fat type plant milk that is creamy. Soy, cashew, coconut or oat milk are all good options.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 114kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 62mg | Potassium: 5mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 365IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

This recipe was originally published Dec. 2018 and has been republished with new photos and a slightly different recipe, because I learned how to perfect it!

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Comments

  1. Hello, quick question. I am making your pumpkin cupcakes with maple pecan frosting (they are amazing!) And I cannot remember if I used an unsalted vegan earth balance butter sticks (the blue kind) or the soy free kind which does have salt (the pink kind) any chance you have a preference? I made them last year and everyone loved them, but bow just can’t recall if the butter needs to be unsalted or not. Thanks!

    1. I usually use salted, but I don’t have a preference. You might want to add a little more salt if using unsalted vegan butter. Thanks!

  2. This frosting is amazing! I’ve struggled to find one that turns out fluffy and smooth, this was both with the perfect flavor! I iced cupcakes and iced half plain the other half I added instant espresso powder, both absolutely delicious!

  3. Did not realize that I did not have a hand-mixer or stand mixer (college!) so I made it in a blender LOL, but it totally worked, delicious!

  4. I followed everything exactly how you said too and my frosting still won’t thicken up no matter how much powdered sugar I add

    1. It sounds like maybe your vegan butter was melted or way too soft when you started. This will make a buttercream frosting difficult to thicken up. Otherwise this is a pretty basic recipe for buttercream; make sure your butter is soft but NOT melted at all and measure everything accurately.

  5. I made this with coconut milk and added some cinnamon, it’s pretty rich but it balanced out with the pumpkin spice cookies I put it on ?
    Thanks Nora for another yummy and easy recipe!!

    1. You are welcome! I’m glad the frosting was a great addition to your cookies! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback!

  6. Hey Nora, love all your recipes but this was way too sweet for me! Next time, could I reduce the powdered sugar or would it structurally affect the frosting?

    1. You could try reducing it to 2 or 2 1/2 cups but the consistency might be too loose or taste buttery. Adding an extra half to 1 teaspoon of vanilla could also help!

  7. Hi Nora,
    All of your recipes are amazing! I made this recipe with the vanilla cake previously and found that the icing was quite soft and a bit difficult to work with. I plan on making this with vanilla cupcakes foe my son’s first birthday. I want to pipe the icing but am worried if it’s soft the form won’t hold. 
    Do you have a suggestion to make the icing more firm? 
    I use the melt sticks because my son is allergic to soy which is in the Earth Balance butter…

    1. Hi Sara. If the frosting is too soft, then that likely means it’s too warm. You can make the icing as normal and place the batch in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The cold temperatures should be nice and firm after, and much easier to pipe. It will likely become soft again as you work with it, so feel free to take breaks and let it firm up again in the fridge. I hope this helps!

  8. Hi, I want to make cupcakes with this frosting as our vegan option at our wedding. Is it possible for the frosting to be piped onto the cold cupcakes two days in advance and kept chilled, transported in a cooler ?

    1. I’m so happy to hear you’re including these in your wedding, Kit! 🙂 Yes, as long as the frosted cupcakes are kept cold, they should store well for a few days.

  9. Hi,

    How long will this frosting last on cupcakes at room temperature? I would need to leave frosted cupcakes out for several hours.

    1. I always recommend storing frosted cupcakes in the fridge just to keep the frosting firm, but they should be fine if they’re at room temperature for a few hours.

  10. I’m so excited to try this, but first I have two questions! 

    Salted or unsalted butter?

    Original, vanilla, sweetened, unsweetened milk?

    What works best?!

  11. I used this recipe today for Father’s Day. It was fantastic! I I made it in the morning and then kept it in a container in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before frosting the cake. love the consistency of the frosting and the family enjoyed it too.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you loved the frosting! I appreciate you taking time to share your great feedback!

  12. I made this buttercream up on the weekend as a trial for an upcoming cake. The buttercream itself was great but when I layered in between the gluten free vanilla vegan cake, the icing had soaked into the cake layers on the inside. I did leave it out overnight (winter here) to see how it would handle. I’m just hoping its a one off and won’t do the same this weekend after putting it in the fridge ?

    1. It sounds like the buttercream was either too thin OR you frosted the cake while it was still a bit warm. Make sure your cake is cooled completely, or it will melt into the cake and cause problems. Hope that helps!

  13. Hello – Do you think it would work to add raspberries to this? Secondly, could I sub powdered sugar for either Stevia or Date sugars?

    Thank you!

    1. You could fold finely chopped raspberries into the finished buttercream but the texture will make it harder to pipe. Also, I haven’t tested this recipe with stevia or date sugar, so I’m not sure it would work.

  14. I just made this frosting on your vegan vanilla cupcakes and we LOVED the cupcakes, but our frosting turned out a little runny. I used Melt butter as we don’t have a Trader Joe’s here and I’m allergic to the Myokos. I also haven’t been able to find Earth Balance sticks. Do you have any suggestions? My frosting looked a little separated and didn’t hold any form.

    1. Hi there! My guess is that your butter was too soft and perhaps even a bit melty when you started mixing. That’s the reason the frosting would turn out runny. Or you added too much milk, and didn’t add more powdered sugar to make up for that. Melt brand is good but I have found it gets super soft rather quickly. I think it only needs 15 minutes at room temperature before it’s ready, and definitely don’t microwave it to soften. Hope that helps!

    2. Hi Ashley, I just finished making the vanilla frosting.  I did not have a plant based milk, so I simply left it out.  The consistency was fabulous for spreading!  

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