Easily make your own caramel sauce at home using just 5 ingredients! Read on for tips on how to get a perfect and luscious caramel sauce, time and time again!
Did you know that some people (myself included) call caramel sauce “liquid gold”? One taste of this sauce, and it’s easy to see why!!
It gives me allllll the fall vibes, and it’s the perfect addition to elevate drinks and desserts (like coffee, apple cake, homemade brownies, ice cream, apple pie, and more!) You could even dip sliced apples in it! Although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t eat it by the spoonful as well…
Homemade caramel sauce ingredients:
• water: I have seen some recipes make caramel sauce without water, and a pro of NOT using water is that the caramel cooks up quicker (not by a lot though). The con is that caramel made without water can be more difficult to work with, and more prone to burning or crystalizing. SO for the sake of making this recipe as fail-proof and easy to make as possible, I like to add water!
• granulated sugar: it’s the main body and color of the caramel sauce!
• butter: adds flavor and helps with the set of the caramel
• heavy cream: adds flavor and helps with consistency
• salt: to balance the sweetness
How to make caramel sauce at home:
1. Cook water and sugar. Cook until the sugar dissolves and turns a deep golden color. Do NOT stir!
2. Add in butter. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter is fully melted into the sauce.
3. Add heavy cream and salt. The caramel will seize up because of the cold cream, but keep stirring until it all melds together. Cook for 1 minute, then immediately take off the heat and pour into a jar.
4. Cool to a safe to handle temperature before serving!
Caramel sauce tips & best practices:
Measure out all of your ingredients before starting. The caramel comes together very quickly, so you won’t have time to measure in between steps.
Pick a LARGE, heavy bottomed saucepan. Homemade caramel sauce will have a lot of moments where the mixture bubbles up and doubles or triples in volume. So it’s important to pick a pan that can fit at least triple the amount of sugar. And do avoid using non-stick pots and pans – they don’t hold up as well to the heat.
Add water to the pot before the sugar. This seems like an insignificant point, but it does help prevent crystallization. By adding the water before the sugar, it creates a water base on the bottom of the pot, and makes it easier for the sugar to dissolve without stirring.
Speaking of stirring…
Don’t stir the sugar! When it’s just the water and sugar in the pot, it’s important to NOT stir! Stirring will cause sugar to stick to the sides and makes it more prone to crystallizing. If needed, swirl the pot occasionally to ensure even browning. It’s okay to stir after you add the butter.
Don’t walk away! This is one of the most important points to walk away with (pun intended). It’ll look like a lot of nothing is happening, and then suddenly everything will happen all at once. Keep a constant eye on your caramel! It’s seriously like the sugar knows when you’ve stopped watching over it!
Prevent crystallization. While making caramel, the sugar can sometimes harden and crystallize along the edges of the pot. Now this has never really been a problem with me, but I do want to let you know how to deal with it if you notice it happening!
It’s really an easy fix: if you notice opaque and stiff sugar along the sides of the pot, simply brush some water along the sides of the pot and the added steam should be enough to melt the crystalized sugar. If there’s just too much crystallization and this doesn’t work, cover the pot with a lid for about 2 minutes, and it should create enough steam to melt the sugar.
Watch out for burnt sugar! Caramel sauce can very easily go from perfect to burnt in half a second – I’m not exaggerating! It’s important to note that darker pots and pans will make your caramel appear darker than it actually is. It’s usually best to err on the side of too light than too dark. Lighter caramel sauce is still salvageable and tastes pretty much the same.
Use a LONG handled wooden spoon! Trust me, you really want to avoid sugar burns because … OUCH! The longer the handle of your spoon, the better. I wouldn’t recommend using rubber spatulas for caramel sauce as they don’t tend to hold up well to the extreme heat of hot sugar.
And above all…
BE CAREFUL! Hot sugar is no joke – it can seriously burn!! So work carefully – and if you’re concerned, wear a long sleeve shirt and kitchen gloves to protect your skin from splatters.
Homemade caramel storage:
Caramel sauce keeps very well! Store in an airtight container, and it’ll keep for up to 1 month in the fridge. The caramel sauce will firm up after it’s chilled – if you like a thinner consistency, you can reheat the caramel until it loosens up again.
You can also freeze your caramel for up to 3 months! Defrost overnight in the fridge or for a few hours at room temperature. Again, feel free to reheat the sauce to loosen it up.
Check out these other recipes!
Homemade Caramel Sauce Recipe
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Measure out all of your ingredients ahead of time, and set them aside. The caramel comes together very quickly, so you won't have time to measure in between steps.
- In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine water then sugar. Place the pot over medium heat and cook, without stirring, until the sugar dissolves, thickens, and turns a deep amber color. If needed, gently swirl the pan every so often to ensure even browning. Keep a constant eye on the sugar – it will brown suddenly!The mixture will bubble a lot and turn foggy in the early stage, then the bubbling will calm down and the mixture will begin to caramelize. Take care not to let the sugar get too dark or it'll taste burnt!* If you notice hardened/crystallized sugar along the edges of the pot, brush the sides with cool water to help dissolve it, or cover your pot with a lid until dissolved.
- As soon as the sugar has turned an amber color, quickly (but carefully!!) add in your butter. Cook, mixing constantly with a long handled wooden spoon, until the butter is fully melted. The mixture will bubble and almost triple in volume, but once the butter is mixed in it should settle down.
- Pour in your heavy cream and add your salt to the pot. The mixture may seize up because of the cold cream, but continue cooking and stirring until it all melds together. Boil the mixture for 1 minute without stirring, then take off the heat and transfer the caramel sauce immediately to a heat safe jar. Cool to a safe to handle temperature before serving!