This decadent, creamy homemade salted caramel sauce is easy to make (only about 15 minutes) and takes only 5 ingredients. Perfect poured over ice cream or drizzled over apples!
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One of the great benefits of making things from scratch is that they taste SO MUCH BETTER than store bought. While I can appreciate a store bought caramel sauce because really, I’m not that picky, I kinda think it tastes a little bit like plastic.
Plus, making caramel is an adventure in chemistry that you actually get to eat!
How To Make Caramel From Scratch
Wet Caramel vs. Dry Caramel:
The method we are going to use is known as a “wet caramel method.” Wet caramel is when water is added to the sugar. The “wet method” is used for both caramels and other cooked syrups (simple syrup, lollipops, etc).
Basically, we’re dissolving the sugar in water, breaking it down from a crystalline structure to a non crystalline structure. You want to stir the water/sugar mixture constantly until the sugar syrup comes to a boil. This is to be sure that all the sugar is dissolved. We add in the corn syrup which acts as a “doctoring agent”. It helps prevent the sugar from re-crystallizing so that our caramel is smooth and adds the “chewy” texture of caramel we all love.
The “dry method” is when no water is added and the sugar is added dry to the pan. It will eventually melt and caramelize. I don’t love this method, because while it does seem to cook faster, I think it burns much more easily.
After we have cooked the sugar to a dark amber color, we remove it from the heat, add in heavy cream, and stir. This is always the point I think I ruined the caramel because it seems like it seizes up. But just keep stirring and it will smooth out. If it still seems lumpy, you can return it to VERY LOW heat and stir but don’t let it boil.
After the caramel is smooth, then add in a teaspoon of vanilla and a healthy pinch of sea salt. Stir and pour into a jar (or straight over your ice cream). The caramel sauce will seem thin at this point but it thickens as it cools.
Should you stir caramel?
Stirring caramel can encourage crystallization, which is not the best. Many recipes (including this one) do not advise stirring. You do want to stir your sugar syrup until it comes to a boil, to fully dissolve the sugar. Then we’re not going to touch it until it becomes dark amber in color. However, once you have added dairy products, you need to stir your caramel to prevent burning.
Notes about salt:
I recommend using sea salt or kosher salt rather than table salt in this recipe. Both are large, flaky grain salts. Their flavor and texture both really add to this caramel sauce. I used Maldon sea salt when making mine. It’s a nice flaky finishing salt that really goes nicely with caramel.
If all you have is table salt, by all means, don’t let it stop you from making this caramel sauce, however, you should reduce the amount of salt to 1/2 teaspoon. Why? Because table salt crystals are small dense crystals and can pack more tightly into your teaspoon, making them “more salty” than the less dense sea salt or kosher salt.
How Long Will Salted Caramel Keep?
This caramel sauce will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. We want to keep it in the fridge because we use fresh dairy products (i.e. the heavy cream) that need to be refrigerated. It will get firm in the refrigerator so if you want to pour it you will need to heat it up a bit. I usually do this in the microwave at 10 second intervals, stirring between.
Ways To Use Your Salted Caramel Sauce
- Pour it over ice cream
- Stir it into your morning coffee
- Make caramel apple cider
- Dip apples in it (or any fruit really)
- Drizzle it over brownie batter before baking (or after baking)
- Put it in a cute jar and gift it to friends and family
- Make a drip cake (if using for a drip cake, allow to cool a bit to thicken up-it’s very runny when it’s first made and will drip right off the cake)
- Drizzle over cheesecake or bread pudding
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 vanilla bean
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Add sugar, water, and corn syrup to a heavy, medium sized saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring until just combined. Stop stirring and allow mixture to boil.
- Cook until the mixture turns an amber color, 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully because caramel can go from lovely brown to stinky black in a heartbeat.
- Remove from heat and add cream and vanilla (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean). Stir to combine. Be careful because the cream will be inclined to pop and splatter. It may seem like your caramel is siezing up but keep stirring and it will smooth out. Add in sea salt and stir to combine.
- Enjoy now or store in a jar in the fridge for 2-3 weeks
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