Caramel Sauce Recipe

This foolproof homemade Caramel Sauce is made with just 5 ingredients and ready in minutes. No candy thermometer required, either! Drizzle it on ice cream, bread pudding, pound cake, and everything else.

Caramel sauce in a glass bottle on a gray countertop.

Recipe ingredients:

Caramel sauce ingredients in various bowls.

Ingredient notes:

  • Butter. You can use either salted or unsalted butter depending on what you have or prefer.
  • Brown sugar. The key in this easy recipe! You skip right over the often tricky candy-making part by melting the moist brown sugar and butter together.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. To start, melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Stir gently to make sure the brown sugar melts.
    Caramel sauce in a silver sauce pan.
  2. Once the mixture boils, just remove it from the heat and quickly whisk in the evaporated milk, salt, and vanilla. Taste it and see if you want to add more salt, if that’s your thing!
    Evaporated milk being poured into a metal saucepan with other caramel sauce ingredients.

Recipe tips:

  • Salted caramel: Add more salt to taste for your very own salted caramel sauce (start with 1/4 teaspoon salt and add more to taste, a little bit at a time).
  • The sauce thickens as it cools: Pour it 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.
  • Candy coating: This is not the right caramel for dipping apples or making candies.
  • Make ahead: Refrigerate for up to two weeks, then microwave or reheat over low heat on the stove.
  • Freezing and reheating: Stored in an airtight container, caramel sauce keeps for up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before reheating gently on the stove.

Caramel sauce being poured onto bread pudding.

Put your caramel sauce to work:

More sweet sauces:

Did you enjoy this recipe? Leave a comment and rating below!

Caramel sauce in a glass bottle on a gray countertop.

Caramel Sauce Recipe

This foolproof homemade Caramel Sauce is made with just 5 ingredients and ready in minutes. No candy thermometer required, either! Yield: About 2 cups.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 230kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (see note 1)

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.

Notes

  1. Salted caramel: Add more salt to taste for your very own salted caramel sauce (start with 1/4 teaspoon salt and add more to taste, a little bit at a time).
  2. The sauce thickens as it cools: Pour it 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.
  3. Candy coating: This is not the right caramel for dipping apples or making candies. 
  4. Make ahead: Refrigerate for up to two weeks, then microwave or reheat over low heat on the stove.
  5. Freezing and reheating: Stored in an airtight container, caramel sauce keeps for up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before reheating gently on the stove.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25cup | Calories: 230kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 231mg | Potassium: 91mg | Sugar: 28g | Vitamin A: 546IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 1mg
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  1. Sam

    This is super easy and delicious. I made it for your bread pudding recipe.5 stars

  2. PLenhardt

    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.

  3. Susanna Piotrowski

    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.

  4. Dave

    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. meggan

      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.

  5. Tim

    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. meggan

      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.

  6. Tim

    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. meggan

      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.

    2. meggan

      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.

  7. YES YES YES YES. I love caramel. I love salt. I love salted caramel. Therefore, I love this recipe. :-)5 stars

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