Homemade caramel sauce. I’ve long thought this stuff should be illegal since it’s incredibly addictive. This delicious sauce is easy to make – just make sure to follow the tips then prepare to smother everything in it.
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Why you’ll love it
Sweet, buttery and rich, caramel sauce makes anything it touches taste like bliss – though you’re likely to want to eat it all on it’s own, with a spoon.
Drizzle it over everything from brownies to ice cream and caramel transforms them from decadent to pure indulgence.
While candy making can be intimidating, make sure to read through my tips below and you’ll have perfect caramel in no time. You don’t need a candy thermometer for this recipe and will instead just look out for the visual indicators, keeping it simple and easy for anyone to make.
Ingredients you’ll need
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
- Sugar: You want caster sugar / superfine sugar for the quickest, easiest result but you can use granulated. The important part is that it is all dissolved before it boils. Don’t use icing / powdered sugar.
- Cream: You’re looking for a full fat pourable cream like thickened cream, heavy cream or heavy whipping cream (not whipped).
- Butter: Use good quality unsalted butter in this recipe, then use sea salt to determine the saltiness.
- Sea salt flakes: Sea salt flakes will give the best flavour to this caramel. I don’t suggest using table salt. Even if you don’t want to have a detectable amount, make sure to at least add a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness.
Wait! Didn’t you say 5 ingredients? Sure did! The last ingredient is plain and simple tap water. You can technically make caramel sauce without water but it just makes it easier to dissolve the sugar.
Caramel vs butterscotch
The difference between caramel sauce and butterscotch sauce is mainly in the type of sugar used. Butterscoth uses brown sugar and often has vanilla added as well.
How to make caramel sauce
Homemade caramel sauce can be intimidating and that’s because it can be finicky but as long as you follow the steps below, you’ll have no trouble.
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
- Prepare your equipment: The one thing that can make caramel sauce tricky at home is the risk of crystallisation. This is where the sugar returns to it’s crystallised state after melting. Then it’s bye bye smooth sauce. Prevent grainy caramel sauce by having perfectly clean equipment since any tiny skerrick of fat can cause crystallisation. Rub vinegar or lemon juice around the inside of your saucepan and over your silicone spatula then rinse them off. No need to dry.
- Start with water and sugar: Now add your water and sugar to the pan over low heat. You want to heat this very slowly, using your spatula to gently stir and rub the sugar against the base of the pan to dissolve it. Don’t let it boil until it’s all dissolved – remove it from the heat if you must.
- Bring it to a boil: Once you have a sugar syrup with no crystals left, let it come to a boil. Now let it boil for 8-10 minutes until you see it turn a deep honey colour (you can swirl the pan if you see it colouring unevenly).
- Add the cream and butter: Once you’ve got a gorgeous clear amber syrup, add the cream – carefully as it may spatter – and whisk it in completely. Now add the butter and whisk until is completely melted and incorporated.
- Boil again: Now bring it back to a boil over medium heat and let it boil rapidly for 3 minutes. By the end of this it should be a deep golden brown. Let it cool for 20 minutes, then pour it into your jar or jug without scraping the pan out – just let it run out. The crystallised bits around the sides of the pan can still cause crystallisation at this point so just leave those behind and it’ll be perfect.
- Patience is a virtue: Now you have glorious homemade caramel sauce, however it’s also like molten lava so let it cool before tasting it. Caramel will firm up as it cools and in the fridge it will solidify so just re-warm it using the microwave or on the stove until warm (not boiling) then pour it over your desserts at will.
- Salted caramel sauce: Just add another ½ to 1 teaspoon of sea salt to taste. Make sure to dissolve it into the hot sauce and blow on the sauce to cool it before tasting.
- Peppermint caramel sauce: Add 1-2 teaspoons, to taste, of peppermint extract to the sauce. You can add this as it cools a little, stirring in one teaspoon then tasting before adding more.
- Coffee caramel sauce: Turn this into a gorgeous coffee caramel sauce by adding 1-1 ½ tablespoons of instant coffee powder. It’s best added while the caramel is still hot so to taste, take some on a spoon and blow it well to cool before tasting.
When caramel is first finished cooking, it will be liquid – thick but still liquid and runny. As it cools it firms up. Once chilled in the fridge it will become much firmer but still spoonable.
If you’d like a caramel that is liquid at room temperature, just stir in another couple of tablespoons of cream or as needed to get the consistency you want.
How to use caramel sauce
You can also freeze it in ice cube trays, then cover them in chocolate. Store your chocolate caramel candies in the fridge for sneaky treats.
How to store caramel
Store your easy caramel sauce in an airtight preserving jar, in the fridge, for up to 1 month. It can be frozen to for up to 2 months.
IF YOU TRY THIS homemade caramel sauce recipe, please take a moment to leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you, and it helps other readers too!
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 cup caster (superfine) sugar (granulated will work too)
- ¾ cup thickened (heavy) cream, room temp (180ml)
- 85 g unsalted butter (3 oz)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes (or ½ teaspoon fine sea salt)
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- A heavy-based stainless steel saucepan.
- A preserving jar/mason jar or a heat proof jug to store it.
- Rub some vinegar or lemon juice around the inside of a large heavy based stainless steel saucepan and over your silicone spatula, then rinse with water. No need to dry.
- Add the water and sugar to the saucepan over very low heat.
- Stir to dissolve the sugar, before letting it come to a boil. Make sure all the sugar crystals are dissolved before it boils, remove it from the heat if you must. The slower the better for this step.
- Once all the sugar crystals are dissolved, stop stirring. Increase to medium-low heat and let it come to a boil.
- Boil for roughly 5 minutes until it’s a deep honey colour, gently swirling the pan every so often if it looks like it’s colouring unevenly.
- Whisk in the cream and increase the heat to medium.
- As soon as the cream is mixed in, add the butter and whisk to melt.
- Bring it back to a boil for 3 minutes or until you have a nice caramel colour. You'll see lots of big frothy bubbles during this process and it will thicken up. Be careful not to burn it.
- Stir in the salt and set aside to cool for 10 minutes before pouring the caramel mixture into a preserving jar. Once cooled to room temperature, seal tightly and keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.
- Please take a moment to rate this recipe. It's appreciated and so helpful.
- Yield: This recipe makes just over 1 cup of caramel sauce.
- Take care: Hot caramel is like molten lava – be careful not to let it touch your skin. Stand back, don’t peer into the saucepan and wear gloves if desired.
- Caramel sauce firms up in the refrigerator. Warm it a little (not to boiling) in the microwave or in a saucepan before using.
- Is this salted caramel? While this recipe has salt, mostly for balance but a touch of background saltiness, a classic salted caramel sauce would be just a little saltier than this version. Add up to another ½ teaspoon of sea salt flakes or ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt to adjust.
- If your cream is cold, it may splatter more so room temperature or just slightly warmed in the microwave is best.
- You need pure cane sugar for best results. Don’t use powdered sugar or brown sugar.
- This caramel is not the right consistency to coat caramel apples, though you can certainly use it to dip sliced apples into.
- Feel free to add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Not normally in caramel sauce but tastes delicious.
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