Homemade Divine Caramel Sauce
Sweet and a little salty, buttery and deliciously caramel, this homemade caramel sauce is heavenly on just about everything from ice cream to apples!
Homemade caramel sauce is one of those things that everyone needs to conquer.
First of all, YOU JUST NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO NEED A HEALTHY DOSE OF CARAMEL SAUCE.
And second of all, it’s one of those rock star recipes. As in, you’ll feel like a rock star when you make it. There’s nothing quite like it.
No easy caramel sauce recipe will ever come close to the real deal. It can be argued there is a time and a place for both (and there is), but today, we’re diving into the land of buttery, silky, cooked sugar caramel sauce. And it’s not hard, I promise.
This ridiculously amazing homemade caramel sauce is perfect for everything from ice cream to cheesecake to apples.
And, you know, just digging in with a spoon.
It is irresistible.
Caramel Sauce Guaranteed
It’s pretty much a guarantee that I will always have a jar of this caramel sauce in the refrigerator. It keeps forever.
Which is actually a non-issue, because we eat it up long before forever gets here.
I haven’t tried freezing it. I pour the warm caramel sauce into jars, add a lid, and store in the fridge that way.
Making Homemade Caramel Sauce
A lot of homemade caramel sauce recipes start with just sugar…but melting and caramelizing sugar on its own can be tricky, and it can burn easily.
This caramel sauce starts with a simple mixture of sugar and water. And we’re going to cook that until it darkens a little bit.
Cover with a lid and cook for a couple of minutes.
After the lid comes off, continue cooking until the color starts darken.
While it cooks, if you notice any hardened sugar crystals on the sides of the pan, wash them down with a wet pastry brush.
That really is the only risk to this recipe – if those sugar crystals make their way back down into the caramel sauce, it can turn the whole batch grainy and crystallized.
It’s not really anything to worry about as long as you brush down the sides of the pan as needed.
Keep the heat moderated at a medium level; you’ll notice the color start to change from a light golden brown to a deeper honey color.
Continue cooking until the color is a deep amber.
Fair warning: it can go from deep amber to too dark (and burned) pretty quickly, so keep an eye on it. It’s better to pull it off too early than to cook it too long.
Add the butter and stir until melted. Then add the cream.
Last additions: vanilla and salt.
The sauce will bubbly to a frenzy after the vanilla is added. Stir until combined.
Let the sauce cool in the pan, stirring every once in a while, until it is warm room temperature.
Pour into a jar or container and pop in the refrigerator. If you’re planning on using/serving the sauce within the next 4-6 hours, it can hang out on the counter.
This homemade caramel sauce is divine. It’s our go-to for build-your-own ice cream sundae nights. Or to toss into a milkshake.
It’s wonderful drizzled on these caramel apple cheesecake bars or any variety of dessert or treat.
I mean, really, there’s no wrong way to enjoy this stuff.
If homemade caramel sauce has intimidated you in the past, I encourage you to try it!
Following the steps in this recipe, it’s not hard at all…and it comes together really fast. Much faster than your holiday batch of caramels, for sure.
One year, I made batch after batch of this homemade caramel sauce, poured it into smaller jars, and gave it to friends and neighbors in place of the traditional Christmas cookie plate.
It was wildly accepted, and to this day, I still get asked if there’s any chance I’ll be making caramel sauce in December again. 🙂
One Year Ago: Kitchen Tip: Menu Planning 101
Two Years Ago: Peanut Butter Crunch Snack Balls
Three Years Ago: Chiang Mai Noodles
Recipe Source: from Joy of Cooking
Recipe originally published Jan 2011; updated May 2020 with new photos, recipe notes, etc.
Another quick look at a step-by-step tutorial for the caramel sauce:
Homemade Caramel Sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 1 cup (212 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (113 g) salted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- 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.
- Cook the mixture over low heat until the sugar is mostly dissolved, stirring slowly (so sugar crystals don’t splash up the sides of the pan).
- Increase the heat to medium 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. If there are hardened sugar crystals on the sides of the pan above the sugar mixture, wash them down with a wet pastry brush.
- Continue cooking until the syrup turns a deep amber brown (see the pictures in the post), about 5-7 minutes. It will take more or less time depending on the heat of the stove, so watch closely.
- Remove from the heat and add the butter. Gently stir until the butter is fully melted. Stir in the cream. If the sauce becomes lumpy and isn’t whisking together, set the pan over low heat and stir until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and salt. It will bubble when the vanilla is added.
- Let the sauce cool until warm before transferring to a jar or other container to store in the refrigerator. Reheat on low on the stove or in the microwave as needed.
159 Comments on “Homemade Divine Caramel Sauce”
The best. Thank you for another amazing recipe!
Yummy sauce! Tried one from another site but was too sugary and set up very firm…not soft and creamy. This turned out great. Didn’t change a thing. Thank you!
Honestly, it’s hard to find a recipe originating from The Joy of Cooking Cookbook that doesn’t work. Caramel sauce (and candy making in general) has always intimidated me so I never looked it up in my copy of JOC. The picture guide was amazing and spot on. I like to find people who have tried stuff out of JOC or other major (and equally epic) cookbooks to get their thoughts or to look out for potential problems. Thank you so much for the super helpful pictures. My bit of advice is to
1) Read. The. Entire. Recipe. First. Read ALL of it.
2) follow your gut on cook times and stove temps (you know your stove best, and there’s a huge difference between an electric range, a gas range, a glass top range, an induction range, and so on). If it looks and smells done, it probably is. Even if it hasn’t been the 5-7 min.
3) don’t rush.
Just made it this morning for my milk tea and it came out great. Was very diligent with the pastry brush as the last three recipes I tried all crystalized because of that. First time trying this recipe and I have a beautiful caramel sauce.
Don’t do it!!!! Read the reviews. Impossible. Wasted an hour and ingredients
Hands down this is the BEST caramel sauce recipe I have ever come across. I have been making a variety of recipes for years which would only “work” part of the time. I have made this recipe many times and never have an issue with this method. It is ALWAYS wonderful! Thank you for such a great recipe/method!!!
These were incredibly easy and sooooo delicious! I brought them to a friends for dinner, and she asked to keep the leftovers which I don’t think ever happens!!!…No one ever wants leftover sweets laying around, but for these, she did! 😉
Can I use this when making caramel rolls? Or when I put it in the bottom of the pan and allow my cinnamon rolls to raise on top of them and then with the extra baking will it make my caramel hard?
I’m not sure since I haven’t tried that – sorry! I’m not sure if the extra baking time will harden the caramel (my guess is it will work but I’m not positive).
A fourth failed attempt but I am bound and determined because caramel is my favorite!!! My caramel crystalizes when I add the butter. Every time. I’m assuming lingering crystals on the sides of the pan are being incorporated as the mixture bubbles with the addition of butter. I feel like I’m moving slowly and being patient and I don’t see anything washing up on the sides of my pan but alas. We shall persevere.
I love, love, LOVE this recipe! I make it every few months to add to just about everything, but haven’t posted a review till now. I know…[gulp] shame on me. I made it last night for a Salted Caramel White Russian cocktail recipe for the holidays. Gets me very happy knowing I have a fresh batch of this amazing sauce in my fridge (calling me, enticing me, beckoning me..). I’m aware that makes me a pretty pathetic human…but I don’t lose too much sleep over it. 😀 So, a very belated , but very sincere THANK YOU, Mel for giving me my rock star status!
Haha, thanks, Deirdre! If it makes you pathetic, than I’m pathetic right there a long with you! I love this stuff, too!
I failed at this recipe too. It was a crystalized, burnt-tasting, watery mess. I actually make caramels every year, but I failed at this…I think some degree measurements would be helpful, but from now on I’ll just buy my caramel sauce!
Shared with my readers and pointed them here for directions. Thanks for the recipe!
I just made these to go on your Caramel Snickers cheesecake bars and oh my gosh I love it!! I love caramel and I think this is the BEST caramel topping I’ve ever had. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe!
This is a great recipe. Its the first time for me to make it and I was a bit worried but it is very detailed which is very helpful for a first timer like me. thanks so much for taking the time to explain it, my caramel sauce turned out amazing…
Glad to hear that, Siggy – thanks!
I’m thinking a non-stick pan was my problem, but it tastes so burnt. Every step took forever, and now it’s gross. 🙁 Warning, the pan you use matters!
I used a very fancy all clad stainless steel pan and it still burned and yet was watery and crystallized 🙁
Mel, please help! I made your Blue Ribbon Apple Pie to serve guests (awesome!!) and was dreaming of this drizzled over it with a good quality vanilla ice cream — sounds divine, just like you named it, right?! Alas, I am failing at this one! I tried twice, following the directions so very, very carefully, but my entire pan just turned to sugar clumps! Boohoo! I can’t imagine what I did wrong, but obviously it was something! Any ideas?
Ah, darn, Emily – I’m not sure…but my first guess would be to moderate the heat a bit lower. Any chance it could be cooking too hot?
I tried doubling this. After an hour of stirring, the sugar still wasn’t dissolved. I gave up. bummed.
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!
Loved the comment, Beth! I hope you wow those judges!
What sauce would you recommend for dipping apples in?
This one is delicious for apples.
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.
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.
Sorry, I should also have said, do you know how I can make it?. thanks.
Allan – I would just let the caramel sauce cool to room temperature and then use it for your dessert.
Can I use any caramel ce recipe for caramel popcorns? :0
I think this caramel sauce is a bit thin for caramel popcorn.
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.
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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!
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!
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! 🙂
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.
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!
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 🙂
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)?
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?
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!
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)
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!
Ok, I attempted to make this twice. The first time, it took me over an hour before my sugar dissolved. I had to increase the water and the heat but it eventually worked. I boiled it covered, then stirred it uncovered with a silicone spatula. I had to throw the whole thing out because the silicone spatula melted. Who knew that silicone could melt like that in a pot?!
I woke up today determined to make this sauce…and it went perfect! I did have to add a little bit more water and increase the heat (I used a regular spoon too!). Also, I would agree that it takes more like butterscotch than caramel but it’s sugar, butter, and heavy cream….you cannot go wrong with that!
Delicious! I will definitely make it again. Thank you!
Does it need to be refrigerated?
Heather – yes, it should be refrigerated if not using up right away.
I was nervous making this because of all the warnings in the recipe and all the comments about crystallization, but it turned out wonderfully! I did have some crystallization along the sides of the pan even with careful stirring but in the end, they blended in the caramel and dissolved away. What a delicious final result, will not buy caramel sauce again.
I’m doing something wrong?! My sugar just never dissolves?? I’ve done it 3 times now. I’m cooking on a gas stove…. Maybe that is it? Not stirring it fast enough?
Cass – do you continue on with the recipe? How long do you cook it in the dissolving phase?
I was a little hesitant to make this because of the mixed reviews, but I decided to give it a go. It was going well until I added the butter. The caramel seized up almost immediately. I went ahead and added the cream and managed to smooth it out a bit, but I still had a bunch of hard sugar crystals swimming in my caramel. So, I ended up pouring the caramel through a strainer to remover the crystals, and what was left was the best caramel I have ever tasted! Very rich and buttery. Well worth the effort it takes to make it. Next time I will try harder to not let the caramel seize up.
This was the first time I had ever tried making caramel sauce… and it was fantastic!! I even made a substitution, because I didn’t want to run to the store. I used half & half in place of the heavy cream, and it still worked! I followed your directions to a T. It’s delicious!!!
I’m going to try this again today. Yesterday I got a big lump of crystallized sugar. I think it might not have dissolved all the way when I started the boil. I was in a hurry and rushing it. I keep reading about a “heavy bottom pan”. I have calphalon contemporary stainless steel – is that heavy enough? I was using the 1.5 quart size, but have 3.5 quart too. I don’t have any copper bottom ones like in your pictures. Ready to try it again!!!
Katie – yes, calphalon is definitely heavy enough. You don’t necessarily need copper bottoms (mine aren’t, they just look like it; in fact, they are fairly cheap pans so yours should definitely work). Good luck! Take it slow and steady. 🙂
Folks with the sugar clumping issues – try not stirring it at all. I make caramel all the time with some slight variations to ingredient ratios to Melanie’s recipe here. Try adding about 1/2 cup cold water to your HEAVY BOTTOMED sauce pan, then pour the sugar (I usually use about 1 1/2 cups) in a tight pile in the middle, do not stir at all. Bring to a boil on high and let it keep boiling at high until the caramel starts to turn colour, then gently swirl the pan until it reaches the colour you’re looking for. Remove from heat, whisk in the butter (I usually use 1 Tbsp., tastes more like caramel, less like butterscotch), very slowly whisk in the cream (1/2 cup thick sauce, 3/4 cup thinner) and you should be good to go. Well, don’t forget the vanilla. The issues could be coming from using a pot with a thin bottom, or from too much stirring. I love a spoonful of caramel in my morning coffee, there is always a jar on the go in my fridge!
Hi Mel….. Just want to thank you for this wonderful caramel! I had a lot of problems making caramel but I could make it easily following your step-by-step methods! I made this several times and everyone love it.
Hi Mel…I just tried this recipe. I was nervous that it wouldn’t turn out, but it is INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS! Thanks for the great photos and step by step directions, which made it so easy… it came out perfectly on the first try! I so appreciate all of the many recipes I have added to my collection, thanks to you. Happy New Year to you and your family!
Mel from California
How do you reduce the splashing of the mixture on the edges? I tried stirring it gently and slowly but there is still splashing. Thus, too much washing of the those sugar crystals and getting them incorporated into the mixture thereby making my caramel a little grainy. Might that be a result of the pan I use or is it in the cooking process?
Hi Randal – the butter is necessary in the recipe. It helps create the perfect consistency.
I want it to come out like yours Mel.
Are you supposed to put butter to make it light and buttery/syrupy or is it alright to not add butter in your recipe?
Kadar – if it is too thick, you might be cooking it too long.
Syrupy I mean?
How do you make yours light and buttery? When I make it it comes out thick, how come?
Hi Jennifer – I use salted butter.
Hi there, this looks wonderful! I’m wondering though, should I use salted or unsalted butter?
I made your caramel sauce for the first time last week to top an apple pie, with ice cream, for a pie competition at work. I won first place, and one of the judges said it was the caramel sauce that put my pie over the top. Thanks, Mel! I love your blog. I’m making your sauce again tonight to go with the apple pie for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Can’t wait!
I am the WORST cook I know! Even following recipe’s I just never get it! It NEVER turns out! I swear I have the WORST luck in the kitchen! But I keep trying anyways! So I tried this for a fruit dipfor Thanksgiving tomorrow(Because fruit platters is all they ‘ll let me provide now! :D) . I JUST finished it and it is AMAZING! I can’t wait to take it to my family! If I don’t eat it all first!
Ellen – hmmm, I’ve never had this particular caramel recipe separate like that. If it were me, I’d reheat over low and whisk to combine and see if it emulsifies and doesn’t separate again.
Just tried the recipe this afternoon and I encountered some problems with separating after I transferred the caramel to a jar. There appears to be about an inch of (butter? water? something!) at the bottom of the jar. The caramel on top hardened after I put it in the fridge which I was happy about since it seemed pretty liquidy when it was still hot. I’m just wondering if I can reheat it and try and mix it together again or if separating in general is normal. I’ve never made caramel sauce before so I’m confused! It would be great to get some feedback!
*Other than that the caramel tasted delicious right after I took it off the heat. 🙂
Mel, thank you SO SO much for your incredibly helpful instructions and pictures in this recipe. Last night I (foolishly) tried a caramel sauce recipe from another website, and it was a total disaster! I had never made it before, so I didn’t know about the whole don’t-stir-too-much thing. And the recipe said nothing about how to properly handle the water and sugar mixture. So I stirred the crap out of it and it was a complete failure. So I of course abandoned the recipe and ran to your website for help. Thank you for having this recipe because I did not want to run to the store and buy jarred caramel sauce. This recipe was no-fail with your photos and instructions.
I mixed some of this sauce into your magical frosting for some caramel apple cupcakes. And after piping them, I drizzled more sauce on the top. It was amazing. You should try it! Thanks again!
Hi Mel! I made this caramel tonight and it was wonderful! Your directions and pictures were nice and clear – very easy to follow. It was my first time ever making caramel and it worked great. I will definitely be making this again!
For those of you that are having troubles with crystalizing sugar. Make sure you aren’t scraping the pan at the end. I had crystals form around the edges – they didn’t get incorporated at all, just make sure you don’t stir them in at the end. As Mel says, only stir along the bottom. Hope that helps someone.
I finally got it right this time. The consistency was smooth and syrupy. I was doing it wrong yesterday even though it was the perfect color and tasted a bit grainy. Now I don’t taste the grains of sugar and it looks better this time. I know how to make it perfect now. Thanks 0:-)
Thank you for the updated steps!!!! A year ago I made this and every time-crystallized. With the new instructions, turned out perfect. Thanks so much!
How come my caramel is a little darker than that recipe’s color? I did everything right and my caramel is thick except I don’t put butter on mine. I wanna know how I can make caramel the perfect color like that or lighter even.
The best! We have been using it in our coffee for the last 3 months. It is so much cheaper than the bottled coffee syrups. Okay, we also eat it by the spoonful on really bad days. I will admit to doubling and tripling the recipe.
needed caramel sauce for apple dumplings being served at my son’s wedding (which were served in place of cake). I was really apprehensive about trying to make this sauce. I thought I was gonna screw it up, but I must say, following your instructions, mine turned out perfect (& delicious, I might add!) I even doubled the recipe, and it came out great! Thanks for such detailed instructions. I’m sure you saved me a few ruined batches! One thing I did differently was to mix the sugar and water in a separate container, then carefully pour it into my saucepan. That way, I was sure not to splash any on the sides. Thanks for your great recipe and instructions.
Hi Karly – sorry you are having trouble getting the caramel to work out. It really needs to turn dark golden before adding the butter otherwise it won’t work as caramel sauce – as you probably saw happened to your batch today. What kind of pan are you using? Sometimes if a pan doesn’t have a heavy-bottom or has a nonstick coating it can make it so the syrup takes a long time to turn amber colored (or thin bottom pans can cause the syrup to burn before it turns the right color). How long (total) did you cook the syrup for? This recipe can take a lot of patience, my guess is that you need to continue to cook the dissolved sugar syrup at medium heat (don’t turn it up too high) for even longer. It might take several minutes longer than mine based on your stovetop, temperature, pan type, etc. But eventually, the syrup should change color.
Attempt #2 i added 1/3 cup of water instead and all of the sugar melted got to the point of boiling and my caramel never turned brown. I started it out on medium… then went up a little… and then went up a little. So i decided just to take it off the heat after about 10 minutes and add the butter. It turned into a big glob of really chewy sugar ball. Any suggestions this time ? =)
Karly – You might need to cook the water/sugar mixture for longer at a lower heat. The sugar will eventually dissolve, it just might take a while.
So i just tried to make it and i could never even get the sugar to dissolve in the first step, what happened?
Just found this drool worthy sauce on Pinterest. Of course I repinned. I just want to lick the spoon. Can’t wait to give this a go, I’ve already thought of 5 different ways I can eat this!
Tina- I wouldn’t recommend it because I don’t know the specifics of food safety when canning caramel sauce.
If I pour the caramel sauce in a jar when still hot and let it seal, can i store it in my pantry and for how long.
awesome stuff! easy to make. love it!A++++
Thank you for this! Your step by step process made my first try with caramel a success! Love your blog!!
Jordan – ack, how frustrating! I’m sorry! What kind of pot are you using? Is it heavy-bottomed or fairly thin on the bottom? It’s surprising to me that some commenters have issues with the sugar crystallizing in the first step – I wish I could be in the kitchen with you to see exactly what is going wrong because I’ve never had that happen. I’m sorry you spent so much time on it! I’m wondering if it has something to do with type of pan??
I spent half the day attempting to make this and it was a disaster 🙁 I sadly never got past the first step. I had the heat on the lowest setting and kept the sides clean as clean and stirred it ever so carefully. I waited patiently for it to dissolve , but every time my sugar would crystallize. By the fourth failed attempt, I almost chucked it across the room 🙂 Wish I knew what I was doing wrong. I’m sure it’s delicious, I’ll take your word for it! 🙂
P.s. everything else I make of yours turns out great, so I’ll get over it!
Stephanie – sorry this didn’t work out for you but actually, there isn’t a flaw in the recipe. I made it tonight after reading your comment and again, it worked beautifully and I’ve made it dozens of times. A few extra notes about the caramel process may help (I’ll add these to the recipe for others):
-the reason sugar crystallizes is if there is any lurking sugar up on the sides of the pan…as the sugar and water dissolve in the first step the sugar can crystallize if any of the hard spots of sugar on the sides of the pan get incorporated into the syrup which is why in that first step of dissolving the sugar, the mixture should be stirred very slowly and gently to minimize the syrup splashing up the sides of the pan and bringing down any of the sugar that hasn’t dissolved. If you see that there are sugar crystals sticking to the sides of the pan, you can gently brush them back into the water with a clean wet pastry brush.
-It is critical not to stir the caramel during the first boiling stage where it 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 have fallen into the syrup while it is boiling. By not stirring, the amount of moving around is reduced which reduces the chances of any of the sugar crystals on the sides of the pan will make it into the mixture.
-When the recipe states to begin stirring (while the mixture turns a deep amber), stir extremely gently and don’t scrape the sides of the pan, simply scrape the bottom of the pot very slowly back and forth so it doesn’t scorch. If need be, turn the heat down during this step.
I hope that helps! This caramel sauce really is divine – I wish it worked out perfectly for everyone but it may take a time or two to really perfect the process.
I made this last night. The sugar crystallized and I was too stubborn to throw it out and start over, so I added a bit of water and melted the sugar again. It never turned color and never thickened, but it does taste really good. I put it in a jar and refrigerated it overnight and it’s nice and thick now. I think there is some kind of flaw in the recipe, so I won’t make it again, but at least I didn’t waste all of the expensive ingredients!
I love this recipe! My first try was a disaster – a complete and utter fail. I used a coarser organic cane sugar and it just hardened into lumps. Then I switched to a white sugar that was lurking in my cupboard, it is a much finer sugar, and it worked like a charm. Now whenever I make it, I use white instead of cane sugar – that was the only thing I did differently the second time around and it worked. *sigh* oh well … I love having homemade caramel sauce in the house 🙂
Mel – I’m not familiar with the consistency of Starbucks’ caramel so I’m afraid I’m not much help if this will work or not. I’d say it is worth a try, though! Thanks for the sweet comment!
Would this be the right consistency to use in my homemade version of a Starbucks iced caramel macchiato? I used to buy their caramel in bottles, but they no longer sell it.
By the way, you are my new favorite spot to find great recipes. Every one I have tried is great! Maded the baked rigatoni with sausage and spinach last night-YUM!
Thanks for the wonderful website and recipes!
The Other Mel : )
This is wonderful. Mine turned out great, thanks to your pictures of each step!
We have always loved your recipes, but we tried this twice today. What a waste of butter and cream. First time the sugar just hardened into clumps like other readers have said. Second time, after more than 20 minutes, it finally turned golden color. Followed step by step instructions exactly, except we added the salt and vanilla since the step by step instructions don’t ever say to add those ingredients. It is very runny and is not carmel at all. It is butterscotch. We don’t like butterscotch. Will be making my tried and true carmel sauce instead.
Hi Tammy – do you think you are overcooking the sugar mixture (past the golden amber stage)? That’s the main reason I can think that would add a bitter taste to the sauce.
I tried this twice and both times it had a bitter taste. Any suggestions what I may have done wrong? I’m wondering if I over cooked in the last step maybe.
I just made this tonight as part of an all caramel gift basket for my dad’s birthday. I must say I’m really upset that I only made enough for him! It is so stinkin’ good. Thanks for the in-depth directions and pictures!
We tried this tonight and it was PERFECT. It took a little longer than the estimated times for the sugar to dissolve and the mixture to start turning brown. Thank you so much for sharing this – this is the first time I’ve made caramel sauce successfully!
Monica – the graininess probably came from crystallized sugar and what that does to caramel…meaning if there are any crystallized spots of sugar on the edges of the pan that somehow get reabsorbed into the caramel, it can make the whole batch a little grainy instead of smooth and silky. Sometimes that happens if you stir too vigorously (splatter the sides of the pan) or agitate the sugar mixture too much. I hope it works out better for you if you try it again!
I LOVE the flavor of the caramel, but I didn’t like the texture as it was more grainy than I thought it should be. Do you think it’s because I didn’t take enough time in the first step (on low before boiling), or because I should have taken longer in the last step after mixing to clear out the clumps?
I also intended to come with specific degree questions, but you answered that already.
I too had the problem with the crystalized sugar. The trick is to use a true, heavy bottomed copper pot. You can still make it in a regular pot it just takes longer. If it does crystalize, just keep cooking it and it will turn back to liquid and then you can finish the caramel sauce. It has a slight burnt/toasted taste but is still delicious. Hope this helps!
It helps to add a bit of lemon juice or cream of tartar to this formula. By nature, sugar will try and re-crystallize after melting. To prevent sugar clumps and the like, add a bit of lemon or tartar if you see it starting to seize up. It will not change the flavor, but it will smooth out the texture.
Love your site! I tried this today TWICE and both times right as it was turning brown on the edges it hardens into sugar clumps in seconds! SO FRUSTRATING. The second time I took nearly an hour to make it…making sure I wasn’t rushing the steps, etc. I usually love your recipes… thanks for always sharing!
I tried again this afternoon and had the same issue with the taste (poisonous is the only way I can describe it..chemically)..the sauce thickened more than last time, however. I have made peanut brittle numerous time without problems..could it be my non-stick pan? ugh, so disappointed 🙁
Chelsea – I really am not sure why this would be happening. You may be on to something with your nonstick pan – I’ve only ever used a stainless steel pot with no coating on it, but I’m not sure.
Ha-I had to laugh at the comment/situation. Should the sauce thicken almost immediately after adding the butter/cream?
Chelsea – the caramel will definitely thicken more upon cooling. Mine is always a little thin (but not overly so) after cooking and adding the butter and cream. It thickens up nicely after cooling and refrigerating. Then to serve, gently reheat. It doesn’t need to be piping hot, just gently warm so it stays on the thick side.
…and it has this odd poisonous after taste..
Chelsea – um, poisonous = bad so I suggest dumping out that batch and trying again, if you dare. I have no idea why that would be happening.
@Chelsea…. Mine did the same thing! I cannot figure out why. It has great color and texture, everything worked as described in the directions. I went to taste it and the front end tastes okay, but then it gets strongly bitter. I checked my cream and it was still good, I thought maybe it was sour. Nope. Maybe my vanilla?? But I have been using it in other recipes with no problem. Not sure what might be causing the bitter taste… . I am sure it is user error!! Lol! Mels recipes are magic, this is the first in a decade of following her that the recipe did not end as anticipated.
I didn’t have any problems with the sugar clumping or turning color, however the sauce never thickened..any ideas as to why?
It was when I was stirring the sugar on low. It was wierd, like it needed more water which I added and it made it worse. I actually just finished making it again with great results. I don’t know what the difference between the two times was. But I think it’s a keeper now!
I tried this today and it was a sugar clump nightmare. I read that some others had a hard time and perhaps warm water would help but I kept it on low for 20 plus minutes and the water seemed to evaporate instead of the sugar dissolving. Do you stir yours while it’s on low or do you just let it sit? I will have to try again because it looks yummy!
Hi Lisa – does the caramel turn clumpy and hard after you add the butter and cream or while it is boiling covered? I stir my sugar/water mixture until the sugar is dissolved (up until I bring it to a boil and cover it).
I made this and followed your step by step instructions. It tastes delicious, but it’s very runny, I just wanted to make sure that it is supposed to be runny. Thanks,
I made this delicious sauce yesterday. The first attempt was a disaster. I couldn’t get the sugar/water to become amber and suddenly it was a big, white clump. I started another batch and used warm water with the sugar and was extremely patient. It took much longer than yours I think. However, the second batch was scrumptious. Thank you for posting this.
nice picture of the sauce running over.
Thanks so much for the updated step by step pics, I’ll have to try it again now! I don’t know how you find the time with your 4 boys, but I know we sure appreciate all your yummy recipes! Tonight we are having soft wrap bread pitas…. yum!
Oooooooooooooh, I need to make THIS!!! I – like so many others – just want to lick my screen! I love caramel sauce over all others (I know, kooky, right?!). Also, it’s been a while since I’ve dropped in — love the new look of your blog!!! 🙂
I think I’d eat that with a spoon!
Yum! Yum! Yum! My kiddos love it when I drizzle caramel over their apples! The thought of never buying caramel again brings the biggest smile to me!!! Can’t wait to try this! I absolutely LOVED your cornbread recipe! I make it atleast once a week ! I even blogged about it ~ if you have a chance to stop by my blog I hope you like my entry! Blessings, EMichelle
so the last picture that is labeled “beauty” I hear that word in my head via Rick Moranes (sp?) from “Strange Brew.” Tell me you’ve seen that show. And I love the term food therapy. You’re onto something big there.
PS- I am a fairly infrequent/lame commenter, however I wanted to let you know #1 your creamy chicken and vegetable with cream cheese soup has graced our table MANY times this winter, delish! and #2- glad to see you on FB. I was out of chocolate chips the other day and as I was going to the store to buy more, I thought at least this isn’t a blizzard like Mel had to face when she was out of chocolate chips. 😉
i always sigh when a recipe lists a pinch of salt because i know that inevitably, that pinch is gonna become a heap. some days, it even turns into a mound. i like me some salt (and i love me some caramel).
say…cara-mel. mel’s caramel. ha. 🙂
Now I feel like making this and a dessert to go with it!
I had the same problem as the miller family. I tried it twice yesterday and the second time when it turned to sugar crystals, I added the butter anyway and dissolved it again on the stove and added all the rest of the ingredents too, but it turned out more like a butterscotch sauce. Which don’t get me wrong is yummy, but also is definately not caramel. I think I take for granted that all your recipes usually work out for me on the first time, because it totally ruined my day. 🙁 Any idea what i can do better next time?
Elizabeth – never fear! I’m remaking this tomorrow to take step-by-step photos and analyze the recipe more. I’ve made it several times with no trouble but if two of you had issues, it’s worth a retest. I’ll let you know!
This just means your temperature wasn’t high enough. I had the same problem. Higher heat and worked great!
Hi this is Ashlie Stroman’s mom and we wanted ot know if you have ever canned this for storage? If so how do we do it? You are Awesome! keep up the great cooking.
Hi Becky – I’ve never canned caramel sauce or hot fudge sauce for food storage mostly because they keep for so long in the refrigerator…that and I don’t have a pressure canner which I’m pretty sure you would have to use for something like this. You might try googling the issue since I’m definitely not an expert in the matter!
wow. Now I’m craving an ice cream sundae!
Hey there, just got this recipe referred to me. This looked good, so I tried to make it. Can you give me a temp for when you would see the carmel turn brown? Mine never did and it turned into hard sugar clumps. I’m used to making my own corn syrup, so I’m not sure what happened.
Miller Family – I didn’t use a temperature to gauge the sugar – I went by the color of the sugar but I just looked at this article for reference and this is just a guess, based on that info, but I’m thinking the temperature would be around 345 to 350 when you take it off the heat and add the butter and cream. Sorry it didn’t work out for you – that’s odd that your sugar never turned color.
This just means your temperature wasn’t high enough. I had the same problem. Higher heat and worked great!
That stuff looks wicked good and not that hard to make either. The sweet and” slightly salty” gets me every time.
I love caramel, and this does indeed look like a divine sauce. Yum! As Beauty and the Feast said, I could happily eat this with a spoon straight from the jar!
Is it completely terrible that I feel like I could just go at this with a spoon?
Of course, some ice cream wouldn’t be a terrible vehicle either. Great recipe!
I am seriously thinking this looks just about as close to heaven as you can get! Just give me the spoon!
Hey Mel, cool website. Would this sauce work on popcorn and/or in english trifle. (hopefully no english trifle makers are saying ‘what in the world is she talking about….). Thanks for your and your readers experience and suggestions.
conniep – I’m not sure I would use this on popcorn, it might soggy-up the popcorn a bit. But yes, in a trifle – perfect.
Yes! Though after your coat your popcorn put it in a 250° oven for 30 min, stirring every 10-15 min. It will dry out and crisp up nicely
This sounds amazing!!!
I cannot wait to try this and the hot fudge recipe. I have been looking for one for a while!! As always…thanks!!
I am not going to lie…I have gained 10lbs since I have started eating all your goodies in the last year! I need a dose of Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Therapy!
So I’ve confessed to you my aversion for chocolate. Well, this is where I make up for that. I love, love, love anything caramel and will be stocking my fridge with this from now on.
Seriously Mel, that first picture is stunning! It made my mouth water to look at it. You multi-talented woman, you!
I am a caramel-a-holic! This looks and sounds great!
Nom! Delicious caramel.
Mel- your photo makes me want to seriously lick my computer screen! I know…don’t judge, though! 🙂
I make caramel sauce all the time, but I have never added butter. This will be the recipe I try next! YUM!
Just wanted to let you know that I discovered your blog through Leigh Anne’s blog. You have so many recipes that appeal to me that I don’t know where to start!! Looking forward to making Chicken Dumpling Soup tonight!
Mel, that first picture is incredible! yum, I want to eat it straight off the spoon!
I have recently become friendly with Caramel, so this sauce fits right in! Thanks.
Drool drool drool!
A healthy dose of food therapy, and your companions comforting you from the fridge. I can relate. Lately I’ve been collecting butter, way too much, because just knowing it’s there makes me feel like some cathartic baking is a thought away. I’m making those sauces!
Oh MY!! This looks soooo yummy!!! Makes my mouth water!!! :-))