This delicious vegan chocolate frosting recipe uses both cocoa and melted dark chocolate for a rich flavor, thick creamy consistency, and smooth texture. I like to think of it as a hybrid between chocolate ganache frosting and chocolate buttercream, which creates the best of both worlds!

This dairy-free chocolate buttercream comes together in just a few easy steps and is perfect for frosting vegan chocolate cake, brownies, and chocolate cupcakes.

It isn't quite as sweet as American buttercream but is a little on the sweeter side, so I would recommend my vegan chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream if you prefer your frosting a little less sweet.

top down view of buttercream roses piped from chocolate frosting.Pin

What to expect from this recipe

  • Utterly delicious: An intense chocolate flavor from using two types of cocoa products as well as a little kick of espresso.
  • Perfect for piping: A smooth, fluffy consistency that holds its shape when piped, but is also soft enough to be spreadable for slathering over your favorite vegan dessert.
  • Easy to make: Can be made using a hand mixer, so no stand mixer or fancy equipment is needed!
  • Completely eggless, dairy-free, and easily adapted as gluten-free, nut-free, and coconut-free.

Ingredients you'll need

top down view of ingredients to make vegan chocolate buttercream on a vintage tray.Pin

Ingredients notes and possible substitutions

  • Vegan butter (the kind that comes in a block). Unfortunately spreadable kind from a tub will not work for this recipe as it has higher water content. 
  • Powdered sugar is the sweetener for this recipe. If you’re based in the US lookout that the brand of sugar you use is vegan, as some brands use bone char in the processing method. If the sugar is organic it will be vegan, here are some vegan brands of sugar.
  • Cocoa powder, you’ll want Dutch-processed or dark unsweetened cocoa powder for that intense flavor. Raw cacao powder can also be used but it will give a slightly more bitter chocolate flavor.
  • 70% Dark chocolate or higher cocoa content will yield the best results for this recipe. Go for good quality chocolate as the flavor will shine through in the frosting. You could also use good-quality vegan chocolate chips.
  • Plant-based milk is what forms the base of the chocolate ganache which we'll be whipping into the vegan buttercream. Depending on your personal preference you can use any non-dairy milk such as soy milk, oat milk, coconut milk, or almond milk.
  • Instant coffee or espresso powder takes the chocolate flavor of this vegan buttercream to the next level. You can use decaf if you’re avoiding coffee, but I really recommend not skipping this step!
  • Vanilla extract adds another layer of flavor to the frosting.
  • Sea salt is an optional addition to the buttercream but it helps to intensify the chocolate flavor and balance the sweetness of the frosting.

How to make vegan chocolate frosting

(Full ingredient quantities and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post)

Make the chocolate ganache

Heat the plant-based milk until simmering, but do not allow it to boil. Once heated through, add in the chopped chocolate, vanilla extract, and sea salt if you’re using it. Give the ingredients a good stir until you have a smooth ganache consistency.

Make sure you allow the chocolate ganache to cool to room temperature before adding it to the chocolate buttercream as otherwise, you'll risk ending up with a melty mess!

Whip the buttercream

Whip the vegan butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. The longer you whip the butter, the lighter the color will become. So you should end up with a creamy off-white mixture after 4-5 minutes of whisking. This also reduces the "buttery" flavor leaving a nice neutral base for your chocolate frosting.

top down view of whipped buttercream in a bowl.Pin

Flavor and sweeten the buttercream

Sift in the cocoa powder, and whisk again for a couple of minutes to combine. I recommend first using a spatula to fold through the cocoa powder before whisking to avoid a cloud of cocoa hitting your face!

Similar to the cocoa powder, the powdered sugar needs to be sifted into the bowl and thoroughly whisked into the chocolate buttercream. Once all of the sugar has been incorporated into the frosting, add in the room temperature chocolate ganache.

Add the ganache in 2-3 increments, avoiding adding it all at once so that it emulsifies gradually giving you a smooth result.

Lastly, once all of the ingredients are mixed through, continue to whip the buttercream for a couple of minutes until light and fluffy.

Storage instructions

Store your vegan chocolate frosting in the fridge. It will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Allow it to come to room temperature for a couple of hours before using it to frost your cakes.

Alternatively, you can freeze it for up to a couple of months by transferring it into a ziplock bag. Defrost in the fridge overnight before using, you may need to re-whip it before frosting.

Ways to use vegan chocolate buttercream

chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream on a lazy susan.Pin

Tips for whipping up the best vegan chocolate buttercream

  • Use good quality chocolate and cocoa powder: This will be the flavor of your vegan buttercream frosting after all.
  • Sift your dry ingredients: This removes any excess lumps from the cocoa powder and icing sugar, making it much easier to whip the frosting.
  • Use room temperature vegan butter: Make sure you take the block of butter out of the fridge for 1-2 hours before making your frosting. Cold butter is more difficult to mix and can cause your buttercream not to come together properly.
  • Make sure the ganache is at room temperature before adding it to the vegan chocolate buttercream. Adding it while warm may cause your frosting to split.

Frequently asked questions

How much frosting does this make?

For frosting layer cakes: This recipe will generously frost a 2-layer 8-inch or 9-inch cake, or a triple layer 6-inch cake. For an 8-9-inch sheet cake, I would cut the recipe by one quarter.
For frosting cupcakes: The recipe yields enough buttercream to frost 12 cupcakes generously, or lightly frost 24 cupcakes.

Should buttercream be chilled before using it for frosting?

No, use your whipped buttercream immediately. As chocolate frosting contains both butter and chocolate which hardens in the fridge, it will be difficult to use once it's chilled.

Can I substitute the sugar in this recipe?

Sort of, this recipe needs powdered sugar and will not work with a liquid sweetener. You can use powdered coconut sugar if you want to keep the buttercream refined sugar-free. Make sure it is blended down to a floury consistency in your blender/food processor first, and don’t reduce the amount of sugar used as it is needed for structure.

What is the best vegan butter to use for this recipe?

You can use any vegan brand of butter you like, just make sure you use vegan block butter for this recipe, otherwise known as butter sticks. Spreadable butter from a tub or margarine will throw off the recipe due to its higher water content.
I use flora plant butter which is nut-free, coconut-free, and gluten-free.

More vegan frosting recipes

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Vegan Chocolate Frosting

5 from 4 votes
PREP TIME: 35 mins
TOTAL TIME: 35 mins
Servings: 24
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Description

This delicious vegan chocolate frosting recipe uses both cocoa and melted dark chocolate for a rich flavor and thick creamy consistency. Perfect for piping and frosting vegan cakes and cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 250 g (8.8 oz) vegan stick butter, room temperature *see recipe notes
  • 300 g (2 ½ cups) powdered sugar, use organic if US based *see recipe notes
  • 70 g ( cups) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, or unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 120 ml (½ cup) non-dairy milk, soy, oat, almond, or coconut work well
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) vegan dark chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon (¼ teaspoon) sea salt

Instructions

  • Finely chop the chocolate and set it aside. Add the non-dairy milk to a saucepan and place it on medium heat until gently simmering, but do not boil.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, vanilla extract, and sea salt and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. Set the ganache mixture aside for 15-20 minutes to cool to room temperature.
  • Add the vegan butter to a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer if using) and whisk with an electric mixer for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  • Sift in the cocoa powder and whisk again for 1-2 minutes to combine. Then sift in the powdered sugar and whisk for another 2 minutes until it has been incorporated into the frosting.
  • Slowly add the cooled chocolate ganache to the buttercream in 3-4 increments, whisking to combine it into the buttercream each time. Once you have added all of the ganache, continue to whisk the buttercream for another 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.

Storage instructions

  • For best results, use the buttercream immediately to frost your vegan cake or cupcakes. You can store this buttercream in an airtight container in the fridge. It will harden when chilled, so before use, allow it to come to room temperature until it comes back to a creamy consistency.

Notes

  • Vegan butter: Take this out of the fridge to sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours. Make sure you use vegan block butter, otherwise known as butter sticks. Spreadable butter from a tub or margarine will throw off the recipe due to its higher water content. I use flora plant butter which is nut-free, coconut-free, and gluten-free.
  • Powdered sugar: Some US-made white sugar is not vegan, check the brand or use organic to ensure it is vegan-friendly. This recipe needs powdered sugar and will not work with a liquid sweetener. You can use powdered coconut sugar, but it must be blended down to powder in your blender/food processor first.
  • Make sure the ganache is at room temperature before adding it to the vegan chocolate buttercream. Adding it while warm may cause your frosting to split.
  • For frosting layer cakes: This recipe will generously frost a 2 layer 8-inch or 9-inch cake, or a triple layer 6-inch cake. For an 8-9-inch sheet cake, I would cut the recipe by one quarter.
  • For frosting cupcakes: The recipe yields enough buttercream to generously frost 12 cupcakes, or lightly frost 24 cupcakes.

Nutrition

Calories: 158kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 97mg | Potassium: 84mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 21IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg
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