Caramel Sauce

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This foolproof homemade Caramel Sauce asks for just 5 ingredients and 20 minutes of your time. Drizzle this easy Caramel Sauce on ice cream, bread pudding, or cheesecake. Or. enjoy it straight from a spoon!

Caramel sauce in a carafe.


 

Most homemade caramel recipes involve a finicky process of meticulously melting granulated sugar and brown sugar with butter, corn syrup, heavy cream or evaporated milk and vanilla until it reaches a deep amber color and a very specific temperature on a candy thermometer.

My easy Caramel Sauce tastes just as rich and luxurious, and will score you the same silky texture, just without all of the prep time and fuss. When you opt for all brown sugar instead of some white sugar, you can simply bring that duo to a bubble, then take it off the heat and use a whisk or wooden spoon to mix in 3 more ingredients.

With this, my best Caramel Sauce recipe, you’re just 20 minutes away from 2 full cups of caramel to doctor up with sea salt, if desired, then pour over any and all of the desserts.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for caramel sauce.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Light brown sugar: The key ingredient to make ace the consistency for this surprisingly easy Caramel Sauce recipe. Melting butter and brown sugar together allows you to skip right over the often tricky candy-making aspect or homemade caramel.
  • Butter: Salted or unsalted butter; either works well.
  • Evaporated milk: Heavy cream (AKA heavy whipping cream) is a fantastic alternative if you don’t have or can’t find evaporated milk.
  • Salt: My classic Caramel Sauce recipe calls for ¼ teaspoon of salt to balance out all of the sweet flavors. Start there, then add more salt, to taste, to create homemade salted caramel sauce.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a pan over medium heat, melt brown sugar and butter together. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
Caramel sauce in a silver sauce pan.
  1. Whisk in evaporated milk, vanilla, and salt. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for one month.
Evaporated milk being poured into a metal saucepan with other caramel sauce ingredients.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: My homemade Caramel Sauce recipe makes 2 cups of sauce, enough for 8 servings, ¼ cup each.
  • Storage: Pour Caramel Sauce into a glass jar or another easily-accessible container and cover tightly. In the fridge, it thickens up even more. It can get gritty when eaten cold straight out of the jar, but reheats beautifully.
  • Make ahead: Refrigerate this dessert sauce for up to 2 weeks. When you’re ready to serve, transfer to a heat-safe bowl and microwave until warm. Or it stovetop is your style, transfer to a pot and reheat over low.
  • Freezer: Stored in an airtight container, caramel sauce keeps for up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before reheating over low heat on the stove. Stir occasionally as the Caramel Sauce comes up to temperature.
Caramel sauce being poured onto baked bread pudding.
This Caramel Sauce was meant to be drizzled over Ice Cream Sundaes, Apple Pie a la Mode, and this Bread Pudding.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best ways to use Caramel Sauce?

The only limit is your imagination. I originally developed this as a sauce for Bread Pudding. Since, I’ve tried (and adored it) over ice cream, Vanilla Cheesecake, Cheesecake Brownies, The Best Apple Pie, Peach Crisp, and Cream Puffs. For a luxurious breakfast or brunch, consider topping Chocolate Pancakes or Croissant French Toast with a swirl of homemade caramel.

Can I use this caramel sauce for caramel apples, chocolate candies, or other dunked delights?

This is not the right caramel for dipping apples or making candies. Check out my Caramel Apple for the ultimate dipping caramel. For an ultra-easy candy caramel, see my Homemade Snickers Recipe.

Try this caramel sauce on…

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Caramel sauce in a carafe.

Caramel Sauce

This foolproof homemade Caramel Sauce asks for just 5 ingredients and 20 minutes of your time. Drizzle this easy Caramel Sauce on ice cream, bread pudding, or cheesecake. Or. enjoy it straight from a spoon!
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 8 servings (¼ cup each)
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 229
5 from 7 votes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, melt brown sugar and butter together. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
  • Whisk in evaporated milk, vanilla, and salt. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for one month. Yield: About 2 cups.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Light brown sugar: The key ingredient to make ace the consistency for this surprisingly easy Caramel Sauce recipe. Melting butter and brown sugar together allows you to skip right over the often tricky candy-making aspect or homemade caramel.
  2. Evaporated milk: Heavy cream (AKA heavy whipping cream) is a fantastic alternative if you don’t have or can’t find evaporated milk.
  3. Salt: My classic Caramel Sauce recipe calls for ¼ teaspoon of salt to balance out all of the sweet flavors. Start there, then add more salt, to taste, to create homemade salted caramel sauce.
  4. Yield: My homemade Caramel Sauce recipe makes 2 cups of sauce, enough for 8 servings, ¼ cup each.
  5. Storage: Pour Caramel Sauce into a glass jar or another easily-accessible container and cover tightly. In the fridge, it thickens up even more. It can get gritty when eaten cold straight out of the jar, but reheats beautifully.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25 cupCalories: 229kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 1gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 188mgPotassium: 88mgSugar: 28gVitamin A: 392IUVitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 67mgIron: 0.2mg
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. sound deliciuos!! is this thick enough & firm for filling macarons ? or what can I add to prevent it from oozing out ?

    1. Hi Sarah, it would likely be too thin to stay inside a beautiful macaron but would be great to drizzle over the top. Take care! – Meggan

  2. If need be, the pan can be pulled off heat and agitated (not stirred) once it starts to caramelize to distribute the color and the cooking. I had no problems doing that. Another thing is to turn the heat down a bit when it begins to thicken or even pull it off heat.

    Make sure there are NO granules of sugar anywhere other than in the water. Otherwise, you’ll build Superman’s Crystal Ice Castle. I use an IR Gun to check the temperature. Actually, you could go by the amber color. I cooled mine too much before adding the cream and almost ended up with hard taffy. 🙂 Just plop it back on some heat and keep stirring. If you blow it, it’s a cup of sugar, some cream and a half cup water. Just wash up and start over.5 stars

  3. I tried this twice, thinking I did something wrong the first time, but I removed this at exactly 350 F and it came out way too dark and burned. I had no issue with graininess … the finished product is nice and smooth, but it’s inedible. I’ll keep trying, because now I’m on a mission and want to know what I did wrong, but I’ve looked at other recipes, and the “take off the heat” temp seems about 10 degrees lower, which sounds more like what I thought should’ve happened.

  4. You can add more water and recook it to take the graininess away. I’ve had this happen with other recipes and it doesn’t have to be a failure at all. I always wash down the sides of the container it is cooking in several times with a pastry brush and hot water. I like to do mine in the microwave. Give it a try and see if you can salvage it for at least an ice cream topping. Good Luck.

  5. Works perfectly if you DO NOT stir the mixture as it cooks (google sucrose inversion).  Long story short, if you agitate it during this phase, it crystallizes. 

    Add this to your favorite coffee and viola! Save yourself $4 bucks!

    Thanks kid for another great post. 5 stars

    1. Thanks for your insights, Dave! I appreciate you and I’m glad the recipe worked for you. I’ll be taking some candy classes in culinary school some day so maybe I’ll know more about this kind of stuff. AND I still have to read Kenji’s Food Lab! Take care.

  6. I have noticed that detail in other recipes to not stir. In this recipe I noticed a technique that I thought might have been a game changer, and that is adding the sugar into the center of the boiling water. But it didn’t. The recipe that melts sugar to amber color, stir in pads of butter, then cream seems fail proof for me so far. I still enjoy your blog. Thank you for your help on this.

    1. One of my readers with a food science background is going to test this for us tomorrow. We’ll see what Dave can figure out. I also never cited my source on this recipe (correcting that now) but it’s an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. I will go look at the book again and see if I can find any other info. Thanks Tim.

  7. There is nothing that saddens me more in cooking as when an amazing looking recipe disappoints. I have made this recipe twice now and have been disappointed twice. The flavor and smoothness is definately there, that is not in dispute, but when it cools and crystalizes its not appealing to have grainy caramel on ice cream or cakes. I know and am aware of the crystalization concepts in chocolate. But whenever I use this method for caramel (water and sugar) it turns out the same. Not my favorite and won’t make it again unless someone can explain where its failing. Sadly, it discredits the website as well. And this is one of my favorite sites. Sorry Meggan.

    1. Hi Tim, I’m sorry to hear that’s happening to you. Unfortunately I lack the scientific food background to have any idea why your caramel sauce is crystalizing when cooled – this has never happened to me. It sounds like you probably know more than I do. I’ll ask one of my pastry chef friends and see if she has any ideas, but I’m sorry again for the bad experience. I completely understand if you can’t come back to the blog. I’ll comment again if I learn anything. Best of luck.

    2. Hi David, just looking online quick I saw something about stirring. It’s important that you don’t stir the caramel as it’s cooking as that causes crystals to grow, and to continue to grow, as it cools. It sounds like you probably know more about this stuff than I do, but I just thought I’d mention it. If you are stirring the caramel, that might cause the graininess. Good luck.