Divine Caramel Sauce

Sweet and slightly salty, buttery and deliciously caramel, this sauce is heavenly. Fabulous on ice cream, it would also be perfect drizzled over these bars or in any type of application you can dream up (brownies, cheesecakes, cookies – oh my!). Seriously, the options are endless and this caramel sauce is a main staple in my house now. It warms my heart to open my refrigerator and see the jar of caramel sauce cuddled right up to the jar of hot fudge sauce. Two little allies in my corner when I need a healthy dose of food therapy.

Divine Caramel Sauce

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Divine Caramel Sauce

Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce

Divine Caramel Sauce


  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt


  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, slowly combine the sugar and water, taking care not to let any of the mixture splash up onto the sides of the pan. Set the pan over low heat and stir the mixture gently until the sugar is dissolved, 6-10 minutes. Again, don’t stir vigorously or else the syrup will splash onto the sides of the pan which can cause crystallization issues later. To be sure the sugar is dissolved, I’ll dip a spoon in the sugar mixture and then gently slide my finger over the mixture on the spoon and take a taste. If the sugar is dissolved, the syrup will be smooth and not at all grainy. If you still feel grains of sugar, keep stirring over low heat until it is completely dissolved. Make sure the sugar is completely dissolved before letting the mixture come to a boil. If you notice any sugar particles on the sides of the pan, gently wash them down with a clean wet pastry brush. As the caramel boils, it can crystallize if those undissolved sugar particles get incorporated into the caramel.
  2. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, increase the heat to medium or medium-high and bring the syrup to a boil. Cover the saucepan and let the syrup boil for 2 minutes. Uncover, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to boil, without stirring, until the edges start to turn golden brown. It is critical not to stir the caramel during stage while it boils covered and then turns a light golden color because this is where it is most likely to crystallize if it is going to do so. Again, the crystallization happens due to undissolved sugar grains and other possible substances that fall into the syrup while it is boiling. By not stirring, the syrup doesn’t move around as much which reduces the chances of any undissolved sugar granules falling into the caramel.
  3. Once the syrup has turned a light golden brown, carefully and gently stir the syrup or swirl the pan until it turns a deep amber, caramel color. On my stove, this takes about 5-7 minutes. Do not stir vigorously or quickly and don’t scrape down the sides of the pan while stirring. Simply move the spoon or rubber spatula slowly over and around the bottom of the pan.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the butter. Gently stir until the butter is incorporated. Stir in the cream. If the sauce becomes lumpy and isn’t whisking together, set the pan over the still-warm burner and stir until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and salt.
  5. Serve the sauce warm or at room temperature. Store the sauce in a jar or airtight container, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Reheat on low power in the microwave or in a saucepan, adding a tablespoon of two or water, if needed, if the sauce is too thick.

Recipe Source: from Joy of Cooking

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138 Responses to Divine Caramel Sauce

  1. Shannon says:

    Thank you for this recipe. I am just starting to make everything homemade. This recipe was easy, and turned out perfectly the first time. My family gave it two thumbs-up!

  2. Lani says:

    I just made a double batch of this to put on pumpkin ice cream, and lots of other yummy fall treats. I think the reason some are having trouble with the sauce is that they are rushing it, or they are using the wrong kind of pan. I make lots of candies during the holidays and my non-stick pans do not work well for many of the recipes. Just a thought. Thanks Mel for the great caramel sauce!! (and my hips thank you too)

  3. Erica says:

    Hi Mel! I’m attempting to make caramel apples for the first time. Have you ever used this caramel recipe for apples? Or do you have any other caramel apple recipe?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Erica – I think this sauce will be too thin for caramel apples (it’s meant as more of a drizzle). I haven’t found a great homemade caramel recipe for apples. It might be worth a good google search. Sorry I’m not more help!

  4. Laurie says:

    Hi Mel,

    I just finished making this and am wondering if the kind of pan you use makes a difference. I noticed in your pictures you used a metal pot. I used a non-stick pot and everything seemed to take 3-4 times longer than you mentioned in the recipe. It’s still too hot to try, so I hope it turned out 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Hi Laurie – yes, a nonstick pan will definitely make a difference both in cooking time and the end result. Did it end up working out (the finished product)?

  5. Laurie says:

    It turned out great! The color is not as dark as yours (in the pictures), and it tastes a little burned, but the texture is silky smooth and it pairs great with your hot fudge over vanilla bean ice cream! In the end I am glad I was patient, but I’ll definitely dig out my non-non-stick pot for the next time I make it. Thanks for the great recipe!

  6. Neida says:

    Hello Mel,

    The caramel was silky and smooth, but after refrigerating the caramel, it became grainy. I wanted to use it as a filling for my macarons. Help! 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Hi Neida – sounds like maybe some of the sugars crystallized which is sometimes why this can turn grainy and can happen if crystallized sugar from the sides of the pan make it down into the caramel mixture.

  7. Katie says:

    I was terribly worried that this sauce would not turn out since have never made caramel sauce before. I was super OCD about my stiring (I used a large silicone rubber spatula that’s flatish on the end and it was the perfect utensil in my opinion). I was not going to get one tiny sugar crystal in that pot. It turned out smooth, the perfect color, so far so good. I tasted it and thought it was OK. Not great. Then I realized I forgot to add the vanilla and salt. Added those and re-tasted. I could not stop re-tasting haha. So delicious. It is a little thin right now, but I think it will thicken up beautifully as it cools. Success!

  8. savannah says:

    I tried this recipe SIX times today,and had six failures. The last time,I thought I was on my way to success,and stirred in the butter and cream,only to have giant sugar clumps. Which tasted lovely,btw. 🙂 I was stubbornly determined to make it work,because every recipe I’ve tried from you,has always turned out. But I had fun following your wonderful step by step instructions. Maybe the seventh time will be the charm. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Savannah – six times?? You deserve an award! I’m sorry this hasn’t worked out for you. I often get clumps of sugar when I stir in the cream and butter but they even out over low heat on the stove (are you taking it off the heat before adding the butter and cream?). Let me know if the 7th time really was the charm. Good luck!

  9. Sara says:

    savannah – you are possibly making the common mistake of pouring the cream (which is cold) into the hot caramel too fast, causing it to seize. But its an easy mistake to repair, you should be able to “fix” the caramel by place the pan back over low heat and stirring until the sugar lumps melt back into the mixture.

  10. savannah says:

    Yes,the seventh time was the charm! My perseverance paid off! I think Sara was right,the cream might have been too cold when I poured it in. I am a happy lil cook tonight. 🙂 glad I stuck with it. The challenge was fun. Plus Its DELICIOUS! Thank you.

  11. Natalie says:

    Okay, I have to say I was a little bit nervous to make this after reading the comments. I offered to bring caramel to a family gathering and was just going to buy the store bought stuff! I am SO glad I didn’t!! I tried it (and doubled it!) and it turned out AMAZING!!! Mine did take a little bit longer to boil (maybe because I live at a higher altitude??) and change color but once it did, it was perfect! And, I’m not ashamed to say I licked the spoon! 😉 Thanks for all the great recipes Mel! Love them all!!!

  12. Lorie Hainsworth says:

    Ugh. My first attempt at this caramel sauce ended up a crystalized mess. Tried it again today being very careful not to agitate the sauce too much. Again, when I added the butter, it crystalized. I don’t know what’s going wrong. I’ve read through the comments and I’m going to give it one more try.

  13. Melissa says:

    I just have to say, I have been making this carmel sauce for 2 years now. My family loves it. I make it so we can drizzle it on ice cream. Your directions are perfect. I’ve never had trouble with this recipe.

  14. Reham says:

    Can I use any caramel ce recipe for caramel popcorns? :0

  15. Allan says:

    Hi Mel, I wish to have a cold runny caramel sauce. I wish to put sauce in bottom of dario mould for panna cotta, so that when the panna cotta is cold and the dario is inverted allowing contents onto plate, the sauce will run down the sides of the panna cotta.
    Thanks, Allan

  16. Eileen says:

    Thank you for finally showing me how to melt the sugar correctly! I have been making flan for many years and melting the sugar was always hit or miss with me! Low temperature and stirring is the trick, thanks so much.

  17. brooke says:

    What sauce would you recommend for dipping apples in?

  18. Beth W. says:

    I was going to buy a caramel sauce at the store for the Candy Apple Pie but forgot. I reeeaaaallllyyy don’t want to go to the store again so I decided to make it from scratch. Was a little overwhelmed at the length of directions, but since I know you think like me and like to share little details so people can be truly successful at what they are making, glued myself to my computer and my stove and made this. I am cooking, mostly your recipes, for a group of snobby Winter Guard judges (OK, one year there was a snobby judge, most of them are truly delightful, but we have called them snobby judges since we had to run to the grocery store to buy special foods for Mr. Snobby.) Anyway…long run-on sentence… tomorrow is the contest and the caramel sauce will truly be the icing on the Candy Apple Pie! Crimeny…what if they are all on diets?…sheesh… This is a tough job. Thanks for helping me make their diets difficult tomorrow!

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