Easy Caramel Sauce

I gave you a sneak peek of this simple and delicious caramel sauce last week (it appears prominently in this delectable pear crisp), but since I do truly believe it has a mission far greater in life than just fruit desserts, here it is posted in its singular glory.

A few suggestions for enjoying, if I may?

Apples, apples, apples (slightly cooled, the caramel sauce is luxuriously thick and perfect for apple or other fruit dipping)
Ice cream (seems almost too obvious)
To drizzle over these Banana Pudding Caramel Cream Trifles or for this Candy Apple Pie or as a topping for these 30-Second Chocolate Turtle Cookie Ice Cream Sundaes
By the spoonful (you know, on those kind of days that just call for a dip into the caramel sauce jar)
Outrageous Eskimo Bars (because they need to be dunked in caramel)
As an accessory to these Caramel Apple Cider Floats (my favorite fall drink)

As you can see: options = endless.

Easy Caramel Sauce

I have another caramel sauce (this divine version; and it is…divine). I’m not turning my back on it, nosiree, but I do have to say that this much easier version gives it a quick run for its money. Both of them are delicious and appropriate for when the time (or lack of time?) is right, but if caramelizing sugar on the stovetop makes you a bit nervous, this easy caramel sauce is for you.

I’m always surprised at the number of times I’m wishing I had caramel sauce at the ready and the number of times it’s…well, just not hanging around waiting to be needed. Thanks to this recipe, caramel sauce is pretty much guaranteed to appear anytime, anywhere as long as I can finagle 10 quick little minutes (most of which don’t require stirring or fretting). With about a million ways in which to use it, this super simple caramel sauce has won a permanent place in my heart.

Easy Caramel Sauce

One Year Ago: Salt Crusted Potatoes with Fresh Rosemary
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Blondies with Chocolate Chips
Three Years Ago: Spooky Eats: Monster Pudding Cups

Easy 10-Minute Caramel Sauce

Yield: Makes 2 1/2 - 3 cups sauce

Easy 10-Minute Caramel Sauce


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla


  1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, salt and cream. Melt over low heat while stirring slowly and gently. Once all ingredients are melted, increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes without stirring. Watch the heat closely, if it seems as though the mixture might be burning on the bottom (which can often happen if you are using a pan that isn't heavy-bottomed), reduce the heat as needed.
  2. Remove the caramel sauce from the heat and carefully stir in the vanilla (stirring vigorously at this point and/or scraping down the sides can cause the caramel sauce to develop a grainy texture). Use immediately or let the sauce cool a bit before pouring into a container to refrigerate. The sauce can be refrigerated for several weeks.

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (after many batches of experimenting for a quicker, fuss-free version)

56 Responses to Easy 10-Minute Caramel Sauce

  1. Jan says:

    Have you ever used evaporated milk in place of heavy cream? I know some times they can be used interchangeably, and I always have evaporated milk in my pantry, but seldom have heavy cream. 🙂

    I think I’ll just have to try it and let you know how it goes…not sure I can wait for a response. 😉

  2. Andra says:

    You are a genius! This is not only the easiest, but the most delicious homemade caramel sauce I’ve ever made! Made it to top homemade fried ice cream tonight and am so happy to know how easy it will be to always have yummy caramel sauce on hand. Yum! Thank you so much for figuring this recipe out! You’re amazing!!

  3. OK I made it for the party favors and I can’t say I’m sad that I need to make another batch b/c I’m looking forward to licking the pan clean again! Sooo delicious!! Thanks for such an easy & wonderful recipe. This is the caramel taste I was missing with the traditional method of melting the sugar first. I adore it.

  4. Missey D says:

    Thank you for all your hard work and delicious recipes –amazing! If I were to make a half recipe of this sauce, would I cook it for only 5 minutes? We ate the first bottle so fast (with just a spoon!) and it was actually too delicious to have “on hand!” Thanks!

  5. Angie says:

    I made this and it hardened when it cooled… or touched something cool. When I say hardened, I mean it was so hard you’d probably break your teeth if you ate it. What did I do wrong? I used a heavy-bottom pan, and all the correct ingredients. The only thing is I think it burned slightly, because the bottom of the pan was burned. But the caramel itself didn’t smell, taste, or look burnt.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Angie – sounds like the caramel overcooked. If the bottom of the pan had burned parts on it, the overall temp of the caramel was probably too high. Would it be possible to lower the heat quite a bit next time?

      • Angie says:

        Okay. Is there a temperature it’s not supposed to pass? Should I use a candy thermometer next time?

        • Mel says:

          I haven’t used a candy thermometer for this recipe so I can’t give you a range. I think the key is just to simmer over low heat. Once it comes to a simmer, adjust the heat slowly lower until that sweet spot where it is still simmering (any lower and it would stop simmering). Does that make sense?

  6. Sheila says:

    After making this caramel sauce for the beyond delicious pear crisp recipe that my family unanimously decided to replace a wholesome meal to indulge in yet another filled bowl of crisp in the same day, I decided to overcome crisp temptation today and I’m excitedly taking the leftover caramel sauce to work for lunch with sliced apples. Lunch can’t come soon enough! 🙂

  7. Deb says:

    Made this today after we got back from the apple orchard with a load of fresh apples. It was incredibly easy and soooo good. I actually think it was faster than peeling all those ridiculous packaged caramels and the non-processed flavor is so worth it. Thanks Mel!

  8. Nicole H says:

    I just made this and nearly choked to death because I was a little too excited and didn’t let it cool enough. But it was totally worth it. 🙂 It is delicious and I love how easy it is! We bought a bag of apples from a local Apple Day’s festival so I was trying to think of how we could eat them fresh before they go bad and remembered you just posted this recipe. Thank you! Now I need to try your dips from today!

  9. Annie says:

    You always know just what I am looking for, and it saves me from scouring Pinterest to inevitably find a recipe that disappoints. Thank you for all you do! On to the crockpot applesauce!

  10. Rebecca says:

    YUM. I will definitely make this. I also shared it on my blog as one of my favorite finds this week, I hope that’s ok! 🙂 (Link here: http://www.adventuresofbugandboo.com/blog/2014/10/10/the-one-in-which-we-buy-a-house) Have a great weekend! -Rebecca

  11. Melanie says:

    Finally a caramel sauce that I can make! I think. I made it yesterday. It seemed to be ok, tastes great, but a bit runny. It has been in an airtight container in the fridge since then and it thickened with the cool temp, but also seems to have some separation or maybe it is the butter solidifying a bit. Looks like it will re-combine fine if warmed. Is this normal? Or did I mess it up?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Melanie – it sounds like your caramel sauce can be salvaged (by reheating and stirring in the separated butter) but it shouldn’t separate like that. Sometimes that happens if there’s a drastic change in temperature (if the heat gets turned up higher than doing it gradually) or if the ingredients didn’t melt slowly at the beginning (if the butter or sugar melts faster than the other, it can cause separation sometimes which is why it’s important to melt everything over low or medium-low heat before bringing it to a simmer). A thin-bottomed saucepan can also make a difference but usually it’s due to one of the above factors. Do you think either of those things might have happened?

      • Melanie says:

        Thanks. I’m not sure why it happened. I didn’t use a particularly heavy-bottomed pan though. Tried to heat slowly and all that. But I was paranoid about burning it during boiling, so I kept turning the heat down as long as it kept bubbling. I wonder if I didn’t boil it long enough. Maybe I should use softened butter and be sure to cut it into cubes before melting too.

  12. ped victor says:

    The best Caramel Sauce there is, great with waffle and cinnamon buns. Thank you Mel!!!

  13. Abby says:

    Totally acceptable to lick the pot when you’re done pouring it into containers, right? Mmk, thanks, cuz I just did. YUM! Awesome recipe. Pairs perfectly with the local VA apples we picked last weekend. Love your site so much!!

  14. JennyP says:

    Holy cow, Mel! This recipe is amazing. I bake and cook all the time, but homemade caramel sauce always freaked me out. This is so easy, quick, and delicious!!! I love that it is made with brown sugar (vs granulated) – it lends a rich, “real” quality to the caramel instead of being overly sweet. Thanks again for this and all of your amazing posts. 🙂

  15. Hilary says:

    My new “go-to” caramel recipe!! Can’t believe how easy this is!! Absolutely delicious!! Thank you soo much!!

  16. Holly W says:

    I’ve needed an easy caramel sauce! Thanks for posting Mel!

  17. Ashley says:

    This looks so delicious and easy! I’m wondering if it hardens at all or if I can use it to make caramel apples? I hope I don’t sound too naive.. I’m kind of new with these things. Thanks!!

  18. Fantastic! Thanks for this fuss free recipe Mel – brilliant idea! Always get nervous about making caramel after a burnt finger incident 🙂 Going to try this!

  19. Britney says:

    So easy and fantastic. My kids were thrilled with this new way to enjoy apples.

  20. Melissa says:

    Oh wow, made this tonight for our homemade ice cream and it was a hit – thanks for sharing this simple and yummy recipe!

  21. Allison says:

    Do you think half and half will work? I don’t have any heavy cream in the fridge and I want this sauce NOW!

    • Mel says:

      I’m not entirely sure, Allison but it’s certainly worth a try if it’s calling your name (that totally happens to me all the time).

    • Sheree L says:

      Did you try it with the half and half? Please let us know your results, if you did. Thanks!

      • Erin says:

        I’m afraid half and half doesn’t really work. The sauce is thin in the pot and once cooled separates into three different layers. Maybe it’s just inexperience, but using half and half doesn’t provide a very satisfactory result.

  22. Allison says:

    I was just wishing for a new caramel sauce recipe! Thank you. Would this work well on popcorn?

    • Allison says:

      Just commenting again to say that I tried this on popcorn and love it! It doesn’t harden at all, just a sweet, soft caramel popcorn, which is my preference. We use this on popcorn, ice cream, apples, fingers 😉 – it’s good on everything! Thanks Mel!

  23. ashren pan3 says:

    Will it works for cakes as topping?

  24. Jenn says:

    I see a great Christmas gift idea for all the neighbors – a basket full of apples and some jars of this homemade caramel sauce! Thanks for the quick and easy version, I can’t wait to try it!

  25. Megan S says:

    Wondering if rapadura or sucanat would work equally well in place of the brown sugar? Thanks!

  26. Ms Nikita says:

    My favorite & MOST EASIEST way is to: Immerse a closed can of Sweetened Condensed Milk on its side in a pot of water and bring to a boil.Leave on a simmer for 2 to 2 and a half hours, topping up with HOT water as needed (I leave a tea kettle at the ready). Don’t let the water dry out or the can could explode. Remove from heat ^ let cool thoroughly before opening can. Don’t open the can while its still hot. The condensed milk should be thick and a nice caramel color.

    • Ms Nikita says:

      weird time stamp for my above comment. I’m in Calif & it stamped it one whole hour ahead. so, as I type & push enter it’s 12:42

    • Dulce de leche is my absolute favorite apple dip!! I’m always super scared to boil the cans but have never had them explode-super careful to make sure the water never drops below the can’s level. They WILL explode if it does – my cousin said he had three can’s explode so bad when he forgot to check on the cans that the ceiling was covered with dulce de leche. You can also cook the sweetened condensed milkt outside the can, but it’s just easier leaving it in if you have the guts lol.

      • Jennie says:

        I’ve had success making it in the crock pot. I just put the can in, cover with water, and leave on low for 6 hours or so. One of our favorite fall treats!

    • Mel says:

      I make dulce de leche in the slow cooker (no risk of exploding cans plus the chemicals in the can don’t leach into the milk this way). Here’s the link: http://www.melskitchencafe.com/diy-dulce-de-leche

      Also, keep in mind that dulce de leche has a different consistency than caramel sauce – much thicker and creamier.

  27. I’ve made caramel sauce by melting the sugar first and although that’s yummy, I’ve been wanting a version like this that doesn’t call for burning the sugar b/c really, that’s more of a burnt sugar taste and not a true caramel taste IMHO. This sounds perfect!! Joshua’s 1st birthday is quickly approaching and I decided to go with a fall theme and thought baby food jars filled with caramel sauce and an apple on top, put in cellophane bags and tied would be cute party favors. I’m so using this sauce!! Thanks Mel!

    • Mel says:

      I can’t believe your baby is almost 1, Veronica! Those party favors sound adorable!

      • I know, it’s crazy. I’m sure you’re familiarized with how time flies when you have kids by now, but it’s still crazy. I can’t believe your little girl is two. It seems like you were just pregnant with her. Anyway, I can’t claim it as an original idea. Pinterest! Gotta love it.

  28. Dianna says:

    This sauce is amazing! Thank you for the recipe! The last few times I’ve tried to make caramel sauce, its turned into a disaster but this came out perfect on the first try.

  29. Kim in MD says:

    I have made traditional caramel many times but it is so tricky and time consuming. I love this quick and easy caramel sauce, Mel!

  30. Jane says:

    Just today I made not one, but two batches of caramel sauce…successfully. Caramel sauce has been (as my hus says) my kryptonite for a long time! That said, I will gladly take a shortcut that doesn’t have me sweating bullets every time I make it. Thanks for the reminder about apples and caramel sauce – the perfect combination and I have fresh picked apples (by me, in the rain) on hand! Thank you!

  31. I’ve been on the lookout for an easy caramel sauce with low risk of failure. I will definitely give this a try!

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