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
4.81 stars (46 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 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
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. I saw you said it can be frozen for 3 months. I assume when taking it out that it has to be thawed and rewhipped? Please advise. Do you thaw on the counter or the refrigerator? Thank you for all you do and helping the vegan cause!

    1. I don’t find it needs to be rewhipped, but I suppose you could. The best thing to do is take it from the freezer and place in the refrigerator until no longer frozen. Then place at room temperature until it’s soft enough to spread, but not melted.

  2. Hi Nora,
    I made this delicious buttercream frosting with the vegan chocolate cupcake recipe that you also wrote. The cupcakes were quite the hit! Everyone at my cousin’s birthday party ate the ones I made and didn’t bother with the other cupcakes that other people made. Thank you for another great recipe! I’ve been using your lo-mein and Swedish meatballs recipe too.

    1. Hi Sandy. I’m thrilled to hear that your cupcakes are a hit! Thanks for your stellar review and feedback! I appreciate you using my recipes, and am glad you are loving them! Happy cooking!

  3. Hello. Wonderful recipe, thanks for sharing it! I’m wondering if this can sit out without refrigeration like regular buttercream? If not, how long can the completed cake with this vegan buttercream sit in the counter? Thanks!

    1. Yes, it can sit on the counter just like regular buttercream. It does not need to be stored in the refrigerator.

  4. This is incredibly good. I am not a baker but finding a milk and dairy free cake for my son’s birthday that wasn’t incredibly expensive proved too difficult. The icing is a little sweet for me but my kids love it and that’s who this was for. It was a very simple recipe and I didn’t need to change anything. I will be using this recipe again for sure.

    1. Hi Stephanie. Happy birthday to your son! I’m glad the frosting was loved! Thank you for sharing your great review! Happy cooking!

  5. I am not vegan, but I work with a vegan and I wanted to make some thing for the potluck that they could eat. So I made the wacky cake from the great depression era and used your buttercream. This frosting is amazing! I don’t think I’ll ever make non-vegan frosting again! I used your exact instructions and had zero problems.

  6. I just made this. First – it is really quite good. Mind you I grew up with homemade buttercream and ganache. My grandmother was virtually a professional baker and taught my mom how to cook and bake. So my one criticism of the recipe is the texture. Not the waxiness for which the recipe recommends the lengthy beating time, but the grittiness from the sugar. I’m sure it was an error on my part, but, I would love advice how to avoid it in future. Also, I might use a Meyer lemon next time for more sweetness and a smidge less tang.

    1. Hi Kim. There shouldn’t be any grittiness from the sugar, unless you did not use powdered sugar and instead used granulated. Powdered sugar doesn’t have any grittiness at all, in my opinion, so I’m not sure what’s going on there. Or maybe you’re talking about the chocolate ganache and not this buttercream frosting? But there isn’t any sugar added in that (it all comes from the chocolate chips) so I’m not sure. Anyhow, I’m glad you enjoyed the frosting and ganache anyhow, thanks!

      1. Nope no used powder sugar. The reference to ganache was simply to illustrate familiarity with the ingredients and the process. I used the ingredients exactly as outlined.

      2. My apologies. What I made was a vegan cream cheese recipe with the lemon juice and vinegar added to stand in for the flavor of the cream cheese. That recipe did not call for any milk and had 4 cups of powder sugar.

        Please delete my comments as I am on entirely the wrong page.

  7. I love this freaking recipe, but my frosting is never super frosty and whipped and I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong? It always looks like batter, yet when you pick it up it’s still quite thick and not runny. I just don’t understand why I’m not getting that thick fluffy look you always see and it drives me nuts

    1. The key is softened butter (but not at all melted and liquid), enough added milk but not too much (so add a little at a time), and whipping long enough. If it’s super thick, add a little more milk and whip again until it gets softer, fluffier and not so thick. Hope that helps!

  8. Hi!! I’m wondering if whisking this by hand is good enough? I do not have any electric equipment for mixing unfortunately. Thank you!

  9. Does soy free vegan butter make a big impact on taste? I had never tried a vegan vanilla buttercream but don’t love how my first go around was using Earth Balance soy free.

    1. The vegan butter you use has a lot to do with the taste of the frosting. I personally like Earth Balance, Melt, Country Crock and really all that I’ve tried, but Miyoko’s will by far give you the best buttery flavor.

  10. Me again lol I just want to confirm the Trader Joe’s vegan buttery spread is the correct butter as it was the only one I was able to find. What is your recommendation for a milk alternative? Do you think extra creamy oat milk will work? Also – is this recipe enough to fill and frost a three layer 6” cake and pipe flowers? Sorry for all of the questions, but I do appreciate your help! Thank you

    1. Trader Joe’s buttery spread is great to work with, but you can use any brand you like. For milk, I vary it based on what I have: soy milk, almond milk, oat milk (yes extra creamy would be perfect!). I would double the recipe for frosting and piping flowers on a three layer 6 inch cake, just to make sure you have enough. You can always freeze any leftover frosting. No problem, I’m happy to help!

  11. I just don’t know why my icing keeps getting watery once in pipping bag?!
    I follow the recipe. I use Earth Balance, Almond Milk, Vanilla and Powdered Sugar.
    While I’m mixing everything looks fine but once I’m decorating the cupcakes it’s starting to be more watery than solid.
    Why is that?

    1. It could simply be that your house is warm enough that it starts to warm up too much in the bag, especially as you handle it with your hands. To fix it, I would transfer the frosting to the piping bag, then refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before using. You could also try to make sure the butter is soft but not at all melting when you start making the frosting, and add minimal milk for a thicker frosting. Hope that helps!

    2. Mine was very runny – I used the oat based miyoko’s with only 2tbsp of creamy oat milk and at first it was super whipped and beautiful. Within about 7 minutes of me frosting the cake it was like liquid butter in the bowl. What did I do? I’ve never had this happen previously!

      1. Hi Krista. 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. Also, ensure the cake is completely cool prior to frosting.

      2. I’ve had that happen, and it just means it got too warm! It can get that way if you make it in a warm environment. If you put it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes that should fix it! If not, add another cup of powdered sugar!

  12. Hi! I haven’t made this yet, but I’m wondering if this frosting is ok to be piped/make flowers. If not, do you have any suggestions? Thank you!

        1. Yes, for sure! The added salt will affect the flavor of the frosting a little bit but it will still be good 🙂

    1. I just add a few drops at a time, mix, and continue adding until you have reached the color you desire. I add it once it’s otherwise finished, at the end.

  13. I didn’t make this yet, but all of your cakes have been the “best” and all my non vegan friends (which are all my friends) ask for the recipes.

    I have a question. For some reason, my friend likes sheet cakes rather than layer cakes. Can this cake be cooked in a glass or metal pan?

    If so, please give directions for both. And, thank you so very much for your excellent recipes. As a vegan, I so appreciate it. I offer to make all my friends’ birthday cakes so I can enjoy them as well.

    Thank you so very much,
    ~Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah, I’m so glad you have been enjoying my recipes, thank you! This comment is under my buttercream frosting recipe, so I’m wondering which cake recipe you are talking about in particular? But I believe all my double layer cakes can be easily made in a 9×13 inch pan, glass or metal will work though I prefer metal. The cakes just need to bake longer, probably around 40 minutes or longer, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Or use a larger pan for a true thin sheet cake (11×17) and bake for less time around 20 minutes. Hope that helps and I’m so glad your friends are enjoying the cakes!

  14. Dear Nora,
    I would like to do a painting on a cake. The famous starry starry night painting of Van Gogh ‘s on a cake. Would this icing work? Otherwise please recommend something that might, if you know of any. Thanks in advance.

    1. That sounds very beautiful! I’m not sure buttercream would be a good fit for a painted decoration because it’s very thick and creamy. The easy icing from my Vegan Sugar Cookies recipe might be a better fit.

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