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Homemade Caramel Sauce

This homemade caramel sauce recipe is super easy to make. It is a versatile sauce that can be used for dipping, drizzling over ice cream, or served on top of other decadent desserts.

A jar of caramel sauce with caramel dripping down the side and a spoon sitting next to the jar.

This recipe requires only a handful of ingredients and is a friendly option for the budget-wise. It tastes amazing, it's better than store-bought, and is simple enough to whip up a batch any time you have a recipe that calls for caramel sauce.


How do you make caramel sauce from scratch?

There are two different ways to make caramel - the dry method and the wet method.

Dry caramel is made with just sugar. Dry caramel is more difficult because it tends to burn easily and the sugar clumps together. This can result in a grainy caramel.

Wet caramel is made by dissolving sugar in water then allowing it to caramelize. I  use this method because it is so much easier. The sugar caramelizes more evenly and I never end up with a grainy caramel.

And it's rumored that wet caramel has a better taste because the process takes longer. That's a plus in my book!

Homemade caramel sauce being drizzled in a tall mason jar with a light blue napkin behind it.

This is an easy no-fail recipe. While a candy thermometer is a great tool when making caramel, it is not required. But if you are inexperienced with making caramel at home, I highly suggest using one.


What are the ingredients in caramel?

This homemade caramel sauce is made with white sugar, heavy cream, butter, salt, and vanilla extract. More than likely you already have these on hand.

A small pinch of table salt is added to enhance the flavor. However, it’s not enough salt to call it salted caramel. You can barely detect it. But feel free to add a bit more salt to make it a salted caramel sauce.

Some recipes call for corn syrup but it isn't needed when using the wet caramel method.

This is my absolute favorite thick caramel sauce recipe. It's wonderful on top of so many different treats.

Drizzle it over double chocolate brownies. Use it to make salted caramel frosting. Serve it over the top of apple cinnamon scones. The possibilities are endless!

After you've mastered this recipe, you should try making this easy caramel sauce in the microwave!

Homemade caramel sauce bring drizzled over a scoop of ice cream in a white bowl.

When making caramel sauce at home, never leave its side. A lovely amber colored caramel can turn to burnt in the blink of an eye.

A candy thermometer is a great tool if you are not sure when to remove the melted sugar from the heat. Once the melted sugar registers above 330° F, pay close attention to the color.

As soon as it turns a deep amber color, remove it from the heat.

Take great care when adding the cream to the hot melted sugar! As you pour in the cream, the mixture will bubble up fiercely and release scorching hot steam.

Go slow and don’t splash yourself. Leave the hot caramel in the pot until it cools to room temperature before transferring it to a container for storage.


Questions about homemade caramel sauce

Can I sub brown sugar for granulated sugar and get same results?

You can use brown sugar if you don't have white sugar. Keep in mind, brown sugar is made with molasses so this will affect the overall flavor of your caramel sauce.

Can you tell me why you do not stir while the sugar water mixture is boiling?

Sugar crystals like to cling on to anything around them. Even though you can't see the crystals once the sugar has dissolved, they are still there. Stirring at this point will entice the crystals to hook up with surrounding crystals which will make the sauce grainy.

My sugar clumped when I added the heavy cream why?

This can happen when pouring a cold liquid into hot melty caramel. To prevent this from happening, pour the cream in very slowly and whisk continuously while you do so.

How do you thicken caramel sauce?

Caramel sauce typically thickens as it cools. If your sauce is too thin after cooling, you can simmer it on the stove. Let the sauce cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. The excess liquid will evaporate and the sauce will be thicker.

How long does homemade caramel sauce last?

Caramel sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator. It can be warmed for a few seconds before use.

It can also be frozen. Place in a freezer-safe container once it has cooled and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and warm before serving.

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Homemade caramel sauce bring drizzled over a scoop of ice cream in a white bowl.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

This homemade caramel sauce recipe is super easy to make. It is a versatile sauce that can be used for dipping, drizzling over ice cream, or served on top of other decadent desserts.

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) water
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt, optional

Instructions

  1. Add the water and sugar to a 5-cup stainless steel saucepan. (Non-stick cookware is not recommended for this recipe.) Heat over medium-high heat until it begins to boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium and insert a candy thermometer. (You don't need a thermometer, but it is a great tool for inexperienced caramel cooks.) Do not stir the sugar as it boils.
  3. As soon as the mixture reaches 330 degrees F, watch for it to turn a deep amber color and immediately remove it from the heat. Take care not to let it go too far because it will burn. Carefully and slowly pour the cream into the caramelized sugar while whisking. The caramel will bubble up and is extremely hot. Continue to whisk until all the cream has been added and is mixed in thoroughly.
  4. Whisk in the butter, vanilla, and salt (if using). Set the pot on a wire rack to cool completely before transferring to a glass container for storage.

Notes

Make sure the heavy cream isn't super cold. Let it sit out for a few minutes before you begin making the sauce.

Add a full teaspoon of salt to make salted caramel sauce.

Make ahead tip

  1. Caramel sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator. Caramel can be warmed for a few seconds before use.
  2. Caramel sauce also freezes well. Place in a freezer-safe container once it has cooled and freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and warm before serving.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 106Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 20mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 13gProtein: 0g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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Kim

Thursday 22nd of October 2020

This is so good! I added the full amount of salt and it's not terribly sweet, just the right mix for salted caramel. I got a little nervous when it hit the 330 mark and it wasn't turning color. My Thermapen starting reading almost 350, so I took it off the heat and it was turning slightly amber. I'm sure my sauce will be thinner because of it, but it's still yummy!

Suzanne

Thursday 15th of October 2020

Wow! I was reading every recipe and method I could find and decided to try this one and it was fail safe! My first time and I think it was the only one to say, Leave it it alone while caramelizing the sugar. I’m glad I read this because others say it’s grainy if you disturb it. This turned out wonderful for technique and taste as well! Thank you!

Ana

Thursday 17th of September 2020

Can I use this caramel for chocolates, I mean make it little thick and use it as chocolate center.

Jen Sobjack

Saturday 19th of September 2020

This is caramel sauce and is too thin for using inside chocolates.

Lisa

Tuesday 24th of December 2019

Made this to put over my turtle cheesecake and holy wow that was simple and easy and no grittiness! I will be making this again for ice cream in the summer

calie

Thursday 28th of November 2019

oooh i'm so thrilled this turned out!! i only had a tiny nonstick pot to work with and no thermometer. i was a little nervous after reading your directions, but went for it anyhow. just watched patiently for the color to change and followed the rest of the directions, and voi la! it's delightful! thank you!

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