An easy recipe for homemade caramel sauce: perfect for dipping apples, topping ice cream, adding to coffee drinks, or incorporating in other desserts.
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Caramel sauce is one recipe that I’ve struggled with for years. I’ve tried so many recipe variations – various proportions of ingredients, dry caramel, wet caramel, stir method, no stir method, with a thermometer, and without. And most of the time I’ve failed. I’ve ended up with burnt sugar, crystallized sugar, or a runny sauce. Last year I needed to make caramel sauce for a specific dessert recipe that I was serving for a dinner party. I made the caramel sauce three times that day until I finally succeeded. I’m sure it was user error with all of the recipes I’ve tried over the years, but it became a personal challenge of mine to figure out the key to consistently successful caramel sauce.
I recently heard of a trick: adding a small amount of corn syrup to the sugar and water mixture, which helps the sugar dissolve and lowers the likelihood of crystallization. I tried it once, tried it again, then one more time for good measure, and one final time to make sure the first three weren’t a fluke. It’s been consistently successful for me, and I hope it works just as well for you!
How to Make Homemade Caramel Sauce
With this recipe it’s important to prepare your ingredients before you start and to pay close attention to what you’re doing. I love to multi task in the kitchen, but this is one recipe that you want to focus on, otherwise you’ll end up with burnt sugar which smells terrible and is no fun to clean up.
Measure out your salt and heavy cream before you start and set it aside. Then grab a medium saucepan and mix together the sugar, water, and corn syrup. When you add the heavy cream at the end, the mixture will bubble up, so use a larger pan than you think you need.
Place the pan on the stove and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved. I like to use either a metal or wooden spoon to mix. Once the sugar has dissolved, you won’t need to stir as much, but continue to watch closely. The mixture will boil and then start changing colors. You’re looking for it to turn a rich caramel color: if you take it off too early it won’t be quite as rich – if you take it off too late it can burn.
As soon as the sugar mixture is a rich caramel color, remove from heat and mix in the cream mixture. You’ll want to start stirring pretty soon, but you may need to step back for a few seconds so you don’t burn yourself on the steam that will be released when the cream hits the hot sugar mixture. Once you’ve mixed everything together, carefully pour into a glass container. Store in the refrigerator. Then when you’re ready to serve, microwave for 30 to 60 seconds to soften. Enjoy with apples, cheesecake, ice cream, oatmeal, coffee drinks, in other desserts, or on its own!
If you try this recipe for homemade caramel sauce, leave a comment and review below and let me know how it worked out for you. Or just let me know your favorite ways to use caramel sauce! If you’re not in the mood for caramel sauce right now, pin it here to save the recipe for later.
Homemade Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon corn syrup
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon salt use 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons for salted caramel
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mix together the cream, salt, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved.
- Once the mixture starts to boil, stir occasionally and watch the color of the mixture closely - you're looking for a caramel colored liquid. This can take anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes depending on your stove.
- As soon as the color has turned caramel, immediately remove from heat and mix in the heavy cream mixture. Step back for a few seconds while the mixture bubbles and steams, and then start stirring.
- Once the caramel is smooth, pour into a glass container to cool. Store in the refrigerator. Microwave for 30 to 60 seconds to soften before serving.