Homemade caramel sauce is easy to make and tastes a thousand times better than store-bought. It only takes 15 minutes to make with just 5 simple ingredients. Caramel sauce is delicious on everything! Perfect for dessert recipes, making tasty coffee drinks, drizzling over ice cream, or for dipping apple slices.
Homemade caramel sauce is so easy to make and tastes way better than store-bought. You are going to want to put this on everything!
Ingredients for Caramel Sauce:
- Sugar: Caramel is made from caramelizing sugar. When sugar is heated it melts and then thickens, the color becomes dark and the flavor intensifies.
- Water: Caramel can be made with or without water (Dry vs. Wet Caramel). Dry caramel is made by simply heating sugar in a pot. The sugar turns into a liquid and then quickly darkens. This requires close attention because the sugar can burn easily. Wet caramel is made by dissolving the sugar in water and then bringing it to a boil. The water boils out and the sugar becomes thick and dark. The wet method cooks the sugar slower and more evenly. The slower cooking of using the wet method also allows more time for the flavors to develop and intensify.
- Heavy Cream: The difference between caramel and caramel sauce is the addition of heavy cream.
- Butter: Butter thickens the sauce and adds flavor and richness.
- Salt: For regular caramel sauce add half a teaspoon of salt, or add a full teaspoon to make a salted caramel sauce. Both are delicious!
How to Make Caramel Sauce:
- Start with a large, clean pot. Add sugar and water and place over medium-low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Stop stirring completely and bring the heat up to medium. Watch closely as the sugar syrup turns from clear, to pale yellow, to a dark amber color. Have your heavy cream ready.
- As soon as the sugar is dark amber in color, remove from heat and slowly drizzle in the heavy cream, whisking constantly. Do this carefully, the drastic temperature difference of the cold cream is going to cause the sauce to bubble violently at first, and then settle after a few seconds as the temperature evens out.
- Return to the stovetop over low heat and whisk in the butter and salt.
- Remove from heat and let cool. The caramel will get thicker the longer it cools.
Tips for Making Caramel Sauce:
- Start with a clean pot. If there is any debris the sugar crystals will want to cling to it, which can cause the caramel to crystallize.
- Use a large pot with high sides. While the sugar is heated it is going to bubble up quite a bit, so use a pot that is big with high enough sides to prevent it from boiling over. You definitely don’t want any of the hot syrup splashing out onto your skin.
- Grease the sides of the pan with oil or spray with non-stick spray. When the sugar and water boil the sugar syrup splashes onto the sides of the pan, the water evaporates and hard sugar crystals stick to the sides. Greasing the sides of your pan stops the sugar from sticking.
- Don’t stir the sugar syrup, if you notice that it is browning unevenly you can gently swirl the pot.
- Watch the pot closely. The sugar can go from perfectly caramelized to burnt in a matter of seconds. If you do burn the sugar you have to start over. Luckily sugar isn’t too expensive and you haven’t added any cream or butter at that point.
How to Store Caramel Sauce:
Caramel sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. It also freezes well. Thaw from frozen in the fridge or in a water bath. Caramel sauce will be very thick when cold, you can reheat it in the microwave until it reaches the desired consistency.
Homemade Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ tsp. salt*
- Grease the sides of a large pot with oil or spray with non-stick spray.
- Over medium-low heat, dissolve the sugar in the water, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the water is clear.
- Stop stirring completely and increase the heat to medium. Let the sugar boil until it turns a dark amber color. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the heavy cream. Whisk constantly. The caramel will boil violently at first and then settle after a few seconds.
- Return to the stove and whisk in butter and salt over low heat until melted and the caramel sauce is smooth.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. The more the sauce cools the thicker it will get.