Soft Chocolate Caramels
The addition of creamy chocolate morphs these soft caramels into a chewy, fudge-like consistency. What is the Christmas season without caramel!?
What would the holiday season be without homemade caramels, I ask you?
Caramels happened to make an appearance during last year’s Sugar Rush. My mom’s famous caramels to be exact.
But this year I wanted to try a chocolate version – little did I know it would be as easy as adding chocolate to the initial caramel mixture.
I went with a different recipe this year and wow. Wow. WOW!
These were beyond delicious. The soft chocolate-infused caramel about sent me into chocolate-caramel heaven.
Seriously, these caramels are beyond divine.
The addition of creamy, dreamy chocolate morphs these caramels into a chewy, fudge-like consistency. Definitely caramelly but still deepened to a rich, decadent consistency the likes I’ve never seen.
Be sure to check out the Candy Thermometer page for information on calibrating and using a candy thermometer and see below the recipe for step-by-step pictures on the chocolate caramels.
Click on the Sugar Rush button to the right to see all the Sugar Rush recipes so far!
One Year Ago: Caramel Shortbread Cookies
Two Years Ago: Holiday Morning Buns
Soft Chocolate Caramels
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups (424 g) sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 ½ sticks (170 g) butter
- 1 cup (170 g) dark chocolate, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Lightly butter a 9X13-inch pan and set aside.
- In a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan, combine the water, sugar, vanilla, condensed milk, corn syrup, butter and chocolate. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant rubber spatula. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, ensuring that the tip of the thermometer isn’t touching the bottom of the pan and is inserted at least 1-2 inches into the liquid (or according to your thermometer’s directions).
- Continue stirring while the mixture boils and cooks, until the caramels reach 245 degrees F. If the caramels seem to be scorching on the bottom of the pan, moderate the heat to a lower temperature. You can also test the caramels using a spoon and dropping a pea-sized amount of the hot caramel into cold water. If the cooled piece of caramel is firm but not hard, the caramel is properly cooked.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the salt. Pour the caramels into the prepared pan and allow to cool completely to room temperature, at least 2 hours.
- When cool, remove the sheet of caramels from the pan. Cut the caramels into pieces using a large knife or bench scraper.
Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Chocolate and Confections by The Culinary Institute of America
Combine all of the ingredients but the salt in a large pot. Caramels tend to foam and bubble so use a larger pot to accommodate boiling over.
Cook the mixture and stir as it dissolves.
There we go. Nice and dissolved.
Continue cooking until the mixture comes to a boil. Clip your candy thermometer onto the side of the pot.
Stir constantly while the mixture cooks.
You can see how as the cooking process goes on, the bubbles get smaller and closer together.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the salt.
Pour the caramels into the buttered pan. It’s going to be hot, baby, so be careful!
Let the caramels harden at room temperature for at least 2 hours. It may take longer for them to cool enough to cut so just judge according to your kitchen temp, etc.
Cut the caramels into strips.
Then into little squares.
Then place the caramel on small squares of wax paper…
Twist the ends and you’re done! Oh, wait, except for the other 100 caramels you have to wrap. It’s worth it, trust me!
83 Comments on “Soft Chocolate Caramels”
Made these (the first candies I’ve ever made) sooo good. Thank you
I love a super thick caramel. Do you think it would work if I put the chocolate caramels in a 9×9 pan instead of a 9×13?
This is the bomb! I’ve used this recipe for several years and it is the best!
I followed the directions precisely. These are hard. Not soft at all. Big disappointment.
This recipe was perfect and I got 110 candies out of it. I used waxed paper to wrap them and they look like little tootsie rolls! One question- do you have recommendations on stai rage and shelf-life? Can I just leave them out in a candy dish or should I freeze some?
I haven’t had great luck freezing caramels, but if kept at cool room temp, they should keep quite well (in a covered container) for a week or so.
Wondering why recipe calls for 1 cup corn syrup, then in parentheses you have (12ounces)
That’s how much 1 cup of corn syrup weighs.
I was thinking of making these, omitting the mixed in chocolate, and dipping them in chocolate instead. Think the caramels would come out soft enough to bite into but sturdy enough to dip?
Because I haven’t tried that, I’d probably recommend using a caramel recipe that’s already written without added chocolate just to make sure they set up.
I have made caramels in the past and I had high hopes for this as this is my first chocolate one. I noticed it started emitting smoke but did not seem to be burning however my thermometer was only reading 220-222 F. I took it off the stove and placed in a dish of cool water to halt the process but it still came out brittle and i guess burnt. I don’t understand why. I was tempted to take it off heat at around 210F as the cold water test was contradicting the thermometer (thermometer is new and analogue, I am constantly checking it with another, it is good quality) Please help.
Hey Josh, darn, I’m sorry to hear that! What temperature on the stove were you cooking the caramels at? If the caramel was smoking and ended up brittle, it does sound as though either the temperature on the stove was too high or the caramels overcooked somehow. Have you calibrated your candy thermometer by testing it in boiling water?
Hi Mel, I made these delicious Caramels are few times over Christmas and they hardly lastest a few days. However I’ve made 2 separate batches over the last 2 months and found out that if not refrigerated, after 10-14 days, the texture changes from caramel to a fudge consistency and become grainy. What causes this?
I noted in the comments that someone else had the same issue (DAVE — DECEMBER 12, 2013 @ 1:11 PM ). Has this issue been resolved? Is there some other ingredient or change of ingredients to address this? Different chocolate? Adding lecithin? More corn syrup? A corn syrup substitute? Adding coconut oil?
In any case, these are fabulous. It would be great if they didn’t need constant refrigeration – not that it’s a big deal….
Hi Eddie, I’m not 100% positive but I think it’s the addition of the chocolate to the caramel mixture. It changes the chemistry and texture of the caramels – I’m not sure of a workaround (we usually eat them before the 10-14 day window). If I come across anything, I’ll let you know!
Hi Mel and thanks for the quick reply. I’ll experiment as well and then leave some out for an extended time to see what works. But, like you, these don’t usually last over a week let alone two).
Incidentally, I added the chocolate at the softball stage (235° F) which helps eliminate the slightly-burnt chocolate taste. Thanks again.
Oops–forgot to paste in website:
About what to wrap them on, someone mentioned that candy store cellophane wrappers don’t stay closed. Well, I bought a bunch of cello wrappers from this store and they stay closed just fine. I got the 3″ square ones. I’d highly recommend getting maybe a 3.5″ square or a 4″ square–mine are a tad small–but, they stay closed! Looks beautiful and is food-safe.
Love the IDEA of throwing everything in the pot and mixing as you go, but unfortunately, chocolate doesn’t do well cooked for extended periods, as isnecessary with candy-making. Probably this combo of ingredients would do well (butter in place of whipping cream, extra sweetened condensed milk) as caramels FIRST, and then adding high-quality chocolate at the end. Stir the mixture ONLY until fully incorporated, and then stop cooking.
As-is, I followed the recipe religiously–and I’ve made caramels many times before using different recipes–the chocolate gets a tiny overly-cooked smell (although it still tastes great) and the texture of the chocolate caramels slightly crystallized, even with constant stirring. Both could be avoided by adding the chocolate at the end of cooking.
I’ve made the Martha Stewart Golden Caramels recipe and then added bulk chocolate at the end of cooking (someone else posted about the Trader Joe’s Belgian Pound-Plus bars as being a great option–this is what I used) and it tasted wonderful, while retaining the ultra-smooth texture of caramels.
Another tip: instead of pouring out your caramels into a metal pan directly, line the pan or baking sheet with parchment paper. Cleanup is easy, the candies won’t stick. You can spray the parchment with nonstick spray beforehand if you like.
Lastly, if your caramels are too firm, reheat, add in a little water and pour into your baking sheet again–water fixes overly firm caramels. If the caramels are too loose, cook a little longer.
Has anyone tried adding dutch processed cocoa powder?
Yes. That’s what I use for this and it’s great. I add 1 cup of unsweetened Dutch cocoa.
Mel, Your recipe reminds me of a family recipe from a family cook book. I am trying to make these without any corn syrup. Have you attempted? I am afraid of using the recipes that use white sugar and brown sugar with chocolate. Thanks 🙂
I haven’t attempted that Rob…how did it go?
Can you add chopped almonds or walnuts to this recipe? And, if so, when? At the end of the cooking process before pouring into the pan? Fanny May Candy store used to sell chocolate walnut caramels. Absolutely delicious!
I think so (although I haven’t tried it myself); try stirring them in (without scraping the bottom of the pot) right after the caramel comes to temperature and you take it off the heat to pour in the pan.
I made these yesterday and they are divine — but then I decided to try making a mocha java caramel — all I did was substitute the 1/2 water for a SUPER strong 1/2 cup of coffee — OMG — they are so good — I finally found a chocolate/coffee chocolate caramel recipe. Thanks
I cannot thank you enough for this recipe! I used Trader Joe’s Belgian Dark Chocolate (great price, in a big bar). I bought a Chicago Metallic collapsible pan (made of heavy plastic). This made removing the caramels a breeze! Mine turned out to be so professional looking…and they are insanely good. I got 100 wrapped caramels, and with the licorice ones,I have lots of Christmas treats to share. This was so simple to do.
Do you think a dutch oven pot would work to make these?
Alicia – not sure – I always use a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan. Definitely worth a try, though!
I made these today, and its been 4 hours they are still to soft to cut. I must have not cooked them long enough. Can I do anything to save them?
Christy – I haven’t tried this but I have heard that if caramels are too soft, you can dump them back in the pot and bring them back up to temperature. Worth a try if they really are not salvageable! Also, it might be worth checking to see if your candy thermometer is registering the correct temperature – some can be off by 5 or 10 degrees!
Oh. My. Word. Chewy little drops of heaven is the only way to describe these! So incredibly good and so incredibly easy! A good pot, a good candy thermometer and a patient stirring arm is all you need!
Thanks for the reply. I actually calibrated my thermometer right before and it registered 5 degrees off. I took the caramel to 245 accounting for the difference.
Darn, Katie, I was hoping that was the issue! I’m not sure, then, why your caramels would be so hard but if you dare make them again, I’d try taking them off at around 240.
If the thermometer isn’t in enough liquid the temperature can be off. This happened to me when I halved the recipe and didn’t use a smaller pot. We liked it so much though we do it on purpose. Cook it to about 158-160 for something like a Sees lollipop.
Made these today and they are super yummy…and addictive! Only problem is that they are not soft. Still edible but definitely on the hard side. Trying to figure out what went wrong, I followed your recipe to a T including using a heavy-bottom sauce pan and calibrating my thermometer. It did take FOREVER to reach 245 and was getting pretty thick near the end. I’m assuming it was cooked too long even though I took it off at 245…do you suggest bringing it to a lower temperature next time?
Katie – have you tested your candy thermometer to see if it’s registering the correct temperature? It’s not uncommon for candy thermometers to be off by 10 degrees or more. Here’s a post I did about it a while ago:
That may help – my guess is that the caramels cooked at too high of a temperature which is why they were so hard.
Mel, can you think of anything I can add to give these caramels a longer shelf life than 2 weeks? If I refrigerate them the next day, they seem to be able to last for over a month (I just let them warm to room temperature before eating them.) But generally speaking, even if they’re left in an airtight container, they start to dry out and get grainy after the 2 week mark. Have you experimented with adding more corn syrup to keep them moister longer? Or any other preservatives? Thanks! (By the way, your plain caramels seem to stay soft and chewy for up to a month. But the chocolate ones dry out after 2 weeks.)
Hi Dave – yes, I think you are right, the chocolate in these caramels makes for a shorter shelf-life. I haven’t experimented adding any additional ingredients. Could you refrigerate them instead of keeping at room temperature? I know it isn’t as convenient, but they’ll stay much fresher than if left at room temp.
Making these right now…they smell delicious! I’m assuming they are stored at room temp….how long can you store them for? Thanks!
Katie – after they are wrapped in wax paper, they can be kept at room temperature for 1-2 weeks easily.
Anxious to try these caramels especially after reading all the good reviews but wondered about the 1 cup (12 ounces) of Light Corn Syrup – bottle is marked at 1 cup so can you use that measure or do you actually need 1-1/2 cups (12 ounces)?
Mary Jo – I would go with the 1 cup measurement instead of the ounces. I always measure out 1 cup so if your bottle says 1 cup you should be good to go.
I just made these today. Followed the directions to calibrate my thermometer and everything. They stuck in my pan while cooling and are hard as a brick! What did I do wrong? I’ve never made caramels before and was so proud of myself… Until I went to cut them and wrap them and they were one solid mound. Any help will be appreciated.
Hi Emily – that’s frustrating about your caramels. Hm, makes me think somehow they were cooked too long. Usually if caramels are undercooked they are soft and gooey. Overcooked and they are really hard and impossible to cut sometimes. Is it possible that your pan is too thin on the bottom instead of being a heavy-bottomed saucepan good for candy making? That could make a difference in the outcome, too.
These were awfully sweet, good if you like Brach’s Candy. I prefer the taste of caramels made w/o condensed milk, but I can’t get those to set up properly, b/c they won’t heat above 245 no matter how high I turn my stove. (Your recipe set up fine.) I am trying for the taste of the long-ago Kraft Fudgies…and Kraft has taken the chocolate caramels recipe off its site. Dang it!
I just did an online search and up came a recipe for fudgies – I don’t remember them, but the recipe has flour and graham crackers in it – so it doesn’t sound like a chocolate caramel – would that be right?
You could try this recipe. https://food52.com/recipes/38969-chocolate-caramels
I made them with Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate and they came out amazing. Everyone I know that I gave them to is hooked on them. For a different batch, I only had 1 stick of butter in the house instead of the required 1 1/2 sticks… and honestly it tasted the same and seemed to have the same consistency. So I’ll probably just use 1 stick from now on and tell myself I’m being “healthy”. Ha.
I took me several batches before I got the right consistency when they hardened. You really need to watch that 245 degrees very carefully. If you go under, your caramels will be too soft and mushy. If you go over 245 they will become uncomfortably hard and you will have to soften each piece in the microwave before you eat it.
I’m still trying to find the most aesthetic way to wrap them. Clear cellophane from the baking store won’t stay closed, and I may have to use some kind of tape. Ordinary parchment paper seems to stay closed but doesn’t look terribly inviting. Open to ideas!
whenever i make candies, i put them in mini cupcake paper cups instead of wrapping and then store them in an airtight container. i also have purchased candy boxes online that i can then put them in for when i am giving them as a gift.
Sorry, this chocolate caramel recipe didn’t work for me. I have never cooked chocolate for so long on a stovetop. I ended up with more of a fudgy-type thing and not a caramel. The basic recipe is GREAT, but I wouldn’t add chocolate to this. In my opinion the chocolate should be added at 190-200 degrees F not at the beginning. Chocolate scorches too easily.
Will try Martha Stewart’s recipe for chocolate caramels.
Wowza! These were awesome!! We made them this weekend, one chocolate batch and one regular batch. We couldn’t stop eating them, but had to be because we were giving them away as gifts. I followed your instructions exactly, they were so helpful to this first time candy maker. We will be making these again, they really were easy, despite all of the stirring and watching it. Thanks for another great, fail-proof recipe!
made a DOUBLE batch for friends and neighbors. Ok, I wrapped about 200 caramels and have had countless raves. They turned out SO WELL! thank you for this recipe. The pictures were so helpful and made it much easier to get it right. I had never made this before and took it on because of how well you explained everything. Big success story here!!
I made these a few days before Christmas and they are so good. I love them, a little too much actually. It took me forever to wrap them all up though. It’s good to have some help if you can!
Jenny – glad you loved these caramels!
YUM! I made these yesterday (I am eating one as I speak!) I used Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips because that was all I had and I HAD TO MAKE THEM NOW! 🙂 I am a little impatient! Anyway, the chocolate chips worked great. I just added them to the pot when it started to simmer. Once it hit the boiling point it took 14 minutes with the water test to work. Thanks SO much!
Kim – thanks for including your changes! I love it when readers do that. So glad you loved them!
WOW! I just made these and they are fabulous. I was bummed last night because I spent 2 hours making caramels that scorched and tasted gross. Making these chocolate caramels has renewed my confidence! I am off to try your caramel recipe…
Tarryn – glad you loved these caramels. Super huge bummer on the scorched caramels – I HATE it when that happens!
Thanks so much for all your yummy recipes! I just made these chocolate caramels and am waiting for them to cool to see how they turned out. It’s my first time making candy. What do you think about using unsweetened chocolate, you know that baking chocolate that is in 1 oz. squares? There’s already a lot of sugar in the other ingredients.
LeAnne – unsweetened chocolate would probably not work very well in this recipe. Although they do have a fair amount of sugar, I think the unsweetened chocolate would add too much bitterness.
Hi, just wanted to say that I made the plain caramels yesterday and they were really, really good, and it was my first time making caramels ever. Plan on making a half batch of the chocolate caramels today. Thanks for the recipe!
Katie o – so glad that your first try at caramels worked out so well! Hope you like the chocolate ones, also!
I can’t wait to make this. Looks so good!!
riesen chocolate chews are perhaps my favorite candy, and these are so similar, i can’t NOT try them.
You win. This tastes better than any other caramel I’ve ever made. Frankly, I feel a little ashamed that I never thought to add chocolate to my soft caramels before. Vanilla bean, check. rum extract, check. Chocolate, ____. It seems so obvious in retrospect; like the ending of 6th Sense. “Whoa, he was dead the whole time.” “Whoa, caramel was meant to have chocolate mixed in.”
I love this comment. My favorite
Made them this afternoon, turned out perfect. Very Yummy, but does not satisfy my craving for caramel, need to make a separate batch of that. Don’t have a cany thermometer, just went the old fashioned way with a cup of cold water to test out. Mine boiled for about 15 minutes before I got to the consistency I needed. Checked after 10 minutes and every so often after that.
Lisa – glad you liked these and kudos to you for going the old-fashioned way to test the caramel (thanks for including your timing). The chocolate in these definitely changes the caramel factor a bit…
Like a tootsie roll!
Wow, I make caramel every year, but have never thought to try chocolate. I usually let brownies or fudge handle my chocolate cravings. You’ve made these sound too delicious not to try. Drool!
Can you use chocolate chips? And do they have to be bittersweet? Would semi sweet or milk chocolate work equally as well? I’ve always been intimidated by candy making, but this recipe is making me change my mind.
Jenny – I would highly recommend using a chocolate bar, finely chopped, instead of chocolate chips. Chocolate chips have different melting properties based on the fact that they have less cocoa butter to help them keep their shape. I can’t guarantee how the texture would turn out with chocolate chips. I would recommend either bittersweet or semisweet – I think the milk chocolate flavor wouldn’t shine as well as the darker chocolate. I hope that helps – let me know if you have any other questions!
I was just wondering, does the recipe call for one cup (8 oz.) of light corn syrup or one and one-half cups (12 oz)? Many thanks!
It’s just one cup; the 12 ounces refers to the weight not the volume.
What a fabulous idea to add chocolate to caramels! You are brilliant, Melanie! 🙂
Ohhh, I am not sure if I should amke these. I don’t think my self control would be good enough. They look so good.
I am excited to try these this year – what a great spin on caramels. What chocolate did you use for this?
Tarryn – I used Ghirardelli’s bittersweet chocolate.
They’re so cute! I’ve never made caramels before, but you’re making me want to try them! They’d make great gifts!
You’re killing me! How am I ever supposed to find the time to try all this deliciousness?? Oh, wait, I’m pretty sure I’ll stay up until 3 a.m. if necessary to make these bad boys! Thank you – they look beyond yummy!
your first photo for this post is terrific!
These look too good NOT to try!