{Simple Yet Glorious} Caramel Sauce Recipe

by Alice Currah on November 4, 2009. Updated March 10, 2012

caramelsauce6[donotprint] Caramel sauce is a wonderful sweet condiment to have on hand.  The beauty of making your own sauce is how simple it truly is.  A candy thermometer is helpful but not necessary if you have attentive eyes and a wooden spoon or whisk ready to be used in a seconds notice.

When people discover I make my own caramel sauce they are often surprised by how easy it is to make.  I’m surprised by how many people don’t realize caramel is basically sugar, water, butter, and cream.  I find the most problematic part of making caramel sauce is the sugar water burning, making it inedible or hardening to rock candy stage, which leaves you with (ehem..) candy.  However if you are concerned about this, I would recommend purchasing a candy thermometer such as the Taylor Classic Candy and Deep-Fry Analog Thermometer. The clear benefit of having a candy thermometer is knowing when to turn off the heat so your caramel does not burn.  You want to cook the sugar syrup to 350 degrees.  When I make caramel sauce, I just watch the sugar water change colors and from there I move quickly.

Homemade caramel sauce will be better than anything you can purchase from the store.  I recommend using it for desserts, sliced apples, beverages, ice cream, or straight out of the jar for a late night pick-me-up-treat-myself-with-a-large-spoon.  Once you make homemade sauce, there is no returning to store versions (never ever again).  And if you’re feeling really adventurous, add a few tablespoons of rum and you will have elevated your caramel sauce to “Gourmet” status.  With or without rum, enjoy!

AliceCaramelsauceonicecream
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Simple Caramel Sauce Recipe

Makes 2 cups

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup heavy cream, heated to luke warm in microwave (30 seconds)

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup heavy cream, heated to luke warm in microwave (30 seconds)

*optional 2 Tablespoons Rum
*optional 1/4 cup corn syrup – for those of you who are concerned your caramel sauce will turn to candy)

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium sauce pan, add sugar and water (and optional corn syrup).  Cook the ingredients on medium-high heat.  Carefully watch the sugar syrup change colors around the outer edge to an amber-brownish color, or if using a candy thermometer – 350 degrees. Remove from heat immediately and using a wooden spoon or whisk, quickly stir everything to keep the sugar water from burning.  Your simple syrup should be a golden ale brown.  As you continue to stir, pour in 1/2 cup of warm heavy cream and pats of butter.  When the cream makes contact with the sugar water it will start bubbling violently.  Continue to stir until the sugar crystallization dissolves.  Finally, add 1/4 cup of additional warm heavy cream (and rum) until caramel sauce is nice and smooth.  Transfer to a heat proof jar and allow the sauce to cool on the counter slightly covered with plastic wrap for an hour.  Use immediately or seal the jar and store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Note: *As caramel sauce cools, it will thicken.  Before serving, re-heat in the microwave for 30 seconds for 1 cup.

{Related Post} Chocolate Ganache Recipe 3 Ways

sugarwater{Just pour the water in and give it a stir…}

sugarwater1{Sugar/Water mixture cooking kind of looks like 7-Up.. don’t you think?}

sugarwater2{Now we’re going somewhere}

sugarwater3{Ahhh.. this is what we want.. but we don’t want it to burn so REMOVE from heat fast and start stirring that baby like you’ve never stirred before}

sugarwater4{Isn’t the color here beautiful? Wish I had a sweater this color, would be perfect for Fall – color should be a golden maple syrupy hue}

caramelsauce1{This is the fun part… caramel ain’t real caramel until it has some HEAVY cream- now stir!}

caramelsauce2{Looks like a crazy science fair experiment, except its better!}

caramelsauce5{From 7-Up looking sugar water to this…. GLORIOUS!}

CaramelSauce{Don’t you wish you could stick your finger in that stream of caramel?}
caramelpan
{Remember to soak your pan in warm soapy water… but not before scraping it down and licking your spoon… (as many times as you need to so you don’t have to clean as much later)}
{Related Post: Dulce De Leche}

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{ 110 comments… read them below or add one }

Chelsea August 5, 2010 at 4:11 am

Alice,
I tried this recipe last night, and in the end, it worked out wonderfully! Except, I tried and failed twice before I got it right. In your directions, you don’t say to stop stirring after the sugar/water starts to boil. I guess that’s crucial because I looked up another recipe online and it said to make sure to stop stirring after it boils, or it will clump up and never turn colors. After I stopped stirring mine looked just like the pictures in the step by step! It looks pretty, haven’t tried it yet cause it was too hot. Thanks for the recipe!

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VERENICE August 25, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Hi,

thanks for this great recipe~~~

sorry, but I have a question… can you give some names of The HEAVY CREAM??? ’cause I never bought it before!!

thankyou very much!!!!

regards from Mexico!!!

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Julia January 17, 2012 at 8:28 pm

What she means by that is the kind of cream you use to make whipped cream (generally 36-40% butterfat)

Hope this helps :)

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peedee October 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Verenice: Heavy cream goes by that name “Heavy Cream” or can also be called “whipping cream”. The brand name depends on whatever company services your local supermarket/market/sales area.

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Megan Leone August 27, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Excited to try this! Thank you for the recipe.

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staceys September 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm

oops. Mine did the same thing Linda’s up there did. 7up to dry sugar in 5 seconds. I’m going to start from scratch again. My guess was the burner was too hot.. Round two coming up!

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Betty September 15, 2010 at 12:59 am

I tried this and its wonderful .I can make light color or dark .,Both are wonderful.Thanks a lot

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pkn September 26, 2010 at 6:11 am

Thank You! I will try ASAP!

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Michelle November 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Help? My sugar never browned at all! It went right from the pretty white bubbly stage to white fluff to solid sugar. I notice in your photos you show what looks like a teflon pan..I don’t have a teflon and used stainless steel. Does that make any difference? Grrrr. There went my contribution to a dinner I’m going to tonight. :(

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alice November 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Hi Michelle,
It sounds like to met the heat wasn’t high enough to start caramelizing the sugar syrup. Based on what you’re telling me, sounds like the sugar kept cooking on a lower heat and turned into candy. You want to cook the sugar at a higher heat so it starts browning.

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Mechelle June 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Don’t stir the simple syrup after it starts to boil. I think they forget to tell you that. Rookie mistake that I made as well. I cried and tried again. Much better the second time.

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Cecily September 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I have this problem too, every time I’ve tried to make caramel except once: Put cover on it which keeps the water amount the same (ish) so the sugar doesn’t crystalize, the steam just condenses on the cover and the sides and keeps the sugar moist. A clear top is best, since you don’t have to take the top off to see the color of the sugar

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Michelle November 7, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Maybe that was it, I didn’t have the temperature on as high as it would go. Getting ready to try it again at a higher heat now.

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Michelle November 7, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Yeay, it worked this time. Like, like, like!! Now I won’t have to show up to dinner empty-handed! :)

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Charlotte December 14, 2010 at 4:58 am

It’s so easy and fast to do. I accedently overdosed myself on this jummy caramel sauce with thick unhealthy vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Thank you for a brilliant info display : )

Charlotte x

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Kiley December 15, 2010 at 12:17 am

This was so easy! One question though. I was planning to mail it to relatives as gifts…does it need to be refrigerated immediately? Or is it safe to mail?

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Nat December 16, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Ah yes! How long does this deliciousness last for? (expiry date)

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Glenda December 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I have made this 6 times this morning and it did not turn out once. I am so bummed :-( Each time it crystallized and never turned amber….

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Mechelle June 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Don’t stir after it starts to boil. It’s some crazy chemical reaction and the water just disappears. Ugh!!!

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Glenda December 18, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Ok – I tried it today… attempt #7 and it turned out!! I did the same thing but it turned out :-) Thanks for this recipe!!!

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sharon December 19, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I was looking for an easy recipe and found this one…I started reading the comments and reflected on the first time I made caramel – it failed many many times. Being determined, I read about the food science and it’s all about the sugar crystals. If you do not wet down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush while heating the sugar, you risk the crystals flaking off back into the syrup and this is what causes the “dry sugar” effect described above. Alice had mentioned using corn syrup as optional, which disrupts the potential for this especially when first starting to make carmel, as it changes the structure of the sugars. This is described in better detail in “ON FOOD AND COOKING” by Harold McGee

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Tina December 20, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Do you know how long this will last in the fridge?

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Moe December 24, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I’m about to attempt making a homemade caramel cake with…….you guess your recipe! I’m so excited about it because this will be my first time making it this way. My grandma use to make it with evaporated milk and it was to die for. Hear goes I’m keep you posted.

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Moe December 24, 2010 at 12:29 pm

I’ll keep you posted not I’m keep you posted. Duh sorry typing to fast. You know.

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Moe December 24, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I did it! I most say it much more thicker and creamier than what grandma use to make. I just put it on the cake and it look soooooo attractive. I can’t wait until everyone try it. Thanks alot and Merry Christmas you’re awsome you tha girl.

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alice December 24, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Moe: Yay.. glad it worked for you!

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Jackie January 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm

one word for this sauce is: AMAZING! Also I want to say a big THANK YOU for posting pictures for each step. I didn’t have a thermometer and was worried that it wouldn’t come out right, but your pictures helped so much!

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betz January 28, 2011 at 11:34 am

Thanks for the great recipe! Question: How long will this last refrigerated? (Not long in my house, but I gave a jar to my folks at Christmas and they still have it. My mom wants to know how long it’ll keep) Thanks!

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alice January 29, 2011 at 3:47 pm

It should last for at least a few months. The cream is pasteurized and normally lasts a long time.

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Renee May 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Your ingredients say 1/4 corn syrup. Is that 1/4 cup?

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Joe June 30, 2011 at 8:07 pm

I made it, with a few adjustments. First, I used a whole cup of cream, second, I added scotch AND rum to it, and third, I added a teaspoon of salt. This tastes a bit more potent, more business like, for savory things like cheesecake and dark chocolate things. Still very sweet, not burned, just more oomph to it.\

Cheers,
Joe

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alice June 30, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Hey Joe: Thanks for sharing your adjustments. I’ve added rum and bourbon to the sauce before, but scotch? I must try!

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superfrancy97 August 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Lovely. I did this recipe today and it went wonderful. You can use milk instead heavy cream :-) .

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winterwhite53 September 15, 2011 at 2:45 am

I like this site.

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Dori September 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I guess I just can’t make caramel sauce. I’ve made this twice now and had to start over both times! Ugh!!!!!

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Deb October 7, 2011 at 11:29 am

I am a Caramel freak!! I’ve been online checking out different recipes to make my own and this one is the one I’m picking! Especially after reading the reviews, I can’t wait to have a big ‘ol spoonful of my own Homemade Caramel sauce! Thank you Alice for posting this recipe and the pics (*so I know what mine is supposed to look like*) lol. And thanks to all the folks that put up the reviews and added different ideas. I’ll post again to let ya all know how mine turns out! ;)

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Allison November 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I am about to try this recipe. I tried a similar one the other day. For those of you whose water evaporated and turned to dry sugar… Just keep stirring and the sugar will caramalize and you’ll end up with delicious caramel sauce anyway. That was my experience anyway. It just takes longer.

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Jenny November 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I’m making caramel apple cider this week and can’t wait to use this recipe for the caramel sauce! YUM!!

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Arwa November 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

Just made this…I took the caramel off the stove even though my candy thermometer only registered 300 degrees since a) the simple syrup had achieved the colour shown in your (beautiful!) photos and b) the syrup was starting to get that burnt sugar smell. It’s cooling right now but I just had a taste of the leftover in the pan and, mmmm…delicious. It has that rich, deep, sweet with a slight bitter finish taste. Thanks for the recipe. Can’t wait to make the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate with it!

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Katherine November 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Thank you so much! I was wanting to make this but had no thermometer (maybe for Christmas), but your pictures made me think I could do it at least as an experiment. My sugar water did crystallize during the boiling, but I gently stirred it and kept the heat on till it browned anyway, put in the cream and butter slowly, and it cooled into a smooth liquid. Looks and tastes fantastic!

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Bria December 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Hi thanks for the recipe! Quick question- I made this and surprisingly on the first time it went absolutely perfectly UNTIL I started adding the butter & cream! It was only then that it began to seize up randomly and form these odd clumps. I kept stirring and heated it up a bit more to dissolve it but it actually ended up forming this odd crumbly solid with a very light caramel taste as opposed to the flavorful sauce I was hoping for. The cream was lukewarm when I put it in and the the butter was room temperature. Any ideas?

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alice December 14, 2011 at 1:03 am

Hi Bria,
Sounds like you did everything correctly. The part people find most difficult is when adding the cream. The sugar mixture will seize up and you have to mix very quickly and vigorously through the clumps. Once you continue to do this, the clumps break apart and you magically get beautiful caramel sauce.

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Julie December 21, 2011 at 11:27 am

When it cooled, it “separated” – with a lighter color at the bottom (about an inch in a mason jar) and the rest above that looked right. Did I mess up?

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Vedette December 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Wow that looks Delicious I am a #1 caramel lover thank you so much for this awesome recipe!!!

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Stephanie January 1, 2012 at 11:36 am

I made this sauce for the first time last night and finally got it right after the third try. It is such a beautiful color and so delicious!!! The only thing is that when I drizzled it over vanilla ice cream it got really hard almost immediately, you couldn’t eat it. I don’t know if I did something wrong in the making, or if that’s just what happens. It tastes really good though and I would definitely make it again to use in another recipe.

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christina January 17, 2012 at 10:45 pm

What kind of milk should you use?

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Rania January 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I just made this recipe and it was absolutely divine! Can’t wait to try the salted caramel recipe :)

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Jecka February 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I tried making this today and failed. :( I thought the sugar turned amber but when I added the butter and cream, it never became as dark as yours looks. I cooked and stirred for a while, added the rest of the cream, and now I’m stuck with a light-colored grainy mess. I wouldn’t be distraught if I hadn’t used a real vanilla bean for this! That’s $3.75 down the drain. :(

I guess I’ll give this another try sometime, but I’d like some clarification:

What do you mean by stirring “until the crystallization dissolves”?

Thanks.

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Jecka February 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Update:

I decided to let it cook farther and see if it clumps up like I heard in other replies. I was happy to see that it did! Big clunky crystals!

So I followed your instructions and let them dissolve. It turned amber and beautiful!

I removed it from the heat, continuing to stir, then put it in a mason jar.

I decided to follow your last step and eat a little of it from the spoon…

…well, as another commentor mentioned, it was rock-hard when it cooled! It’s candy caramel, like what’s used for brittle. (If I had nuts, I would’ve made some. Unfortunately I didn’t, so the caramel just hardened in the jar and I had to throw the whole thing out — jar and all.)

How do you ensure that it doesn’t do this and stays liquid even when not hot? :(

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Shapewear Bezzitos February 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Mmm. It really look tempting

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Peggy March 10, 2012 at 11:28 am

The instructions say to add 1/4 corn syrup….1/4 what? (I know it’s optional). Thanks

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alice March 10, 2012 at 11:48 am

Hi Peggy,
It’s 1/4 cup. Sorry about that!

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Ivan May 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I tried this as a child and always failed, ending up with sappy looking sweet milk. Wanting to make it perfect this time, I methodically followed your tips. Pictures were very useful, as were the comments. Well it came out amazing first time. I will definitely remember this recipe. Thanks for posting it!

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kisty August 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm

heya could some1 help me i used to make this as a teen and i used to make it with brown sugar and condenced milk i made it tonight that way but i took my eye of the ball as kids desturbed me so the sugar dident mealt rite but i still eat it it was good but im lost as i see people saying white sugar and cream so dnt no if any1 has made it with brown sugar and condenced milk if so could u tell me im doing it rite well it tasted good would have been better without the lumps of sugar so looks like i dident melt the sugar enough but has any1 ever heard of doing it that way with the brown sugar and condenced milk as i dident think u could do it with white sugar so could some i tell me if they have done it like that oh and also if u want to make a bigger batch how much more sugar and cream would u use i just went with the recipe i got on the can of condenced milk as it tells u how to make caramel cake on the tin and how to make the caremel so i just followed the steps on that it worked but i dident brake the the sugar down enough and kids distracted me

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Shan September 23, 2012 at 6:59 pm

I received a jar as a gift and couldn’t wait to find the recipe. Will be trying it tomorrow. Just one question, as I would also like to gift this, can the batch be doubled? I tried to double a batch of marmalade and ended up with syrup. And we won’t even talk about my mother doubling a batch of peanut brittle (the only thing that wasn’t covered was the cat!).

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lemniskate October 7, 2012 at 9:56 am

When in the process do you add the 1/4 cup of corn syrup?

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lemniskate October 7, 2012 at 9:57 am

Oops. The very first line of the recipe! That’s what I get for reading before breakfast. nevermind ;)

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kathy November 24, 2013 at 9:04 pm

My tip for this recipe is to Not stir once it begins to boil. Add the Corn syrup with water/sugar. Take off of heat at 345 degrees as heat continues to climb a few degrees!! Once off heat stir vigorously and then add rest of ingredients.

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