This easy salted caramel recipe doesn't require a candy thermometer and can be successfully made at home. Use it as a topping for your pancakes or ice cream, fill your chocolate muffins or cake with it, or drizzle some on top of your apple pie, cookies, or your morning granola bowl.
Ingredients and substitutes
Sugar – I use white granulated sugar for my caramel sauce, but you are welcome to use castor sugar if you like.
Water – There are two ways to make caramel sauce – the wet and dry methods. I prefer the wet method (when you add a little bit of water to your sugar) over the dry one (when you melt the sugar as it is, without any water) because it ensures an even caramelization.
Lemon juice – Adding acid into the sugar and water mixture will help to break sucrose into fructose and glucose. It means that the sugar crystals will have problems regrouping and crystalizing again.
Butter and salt – Always use unsalted butter to have better control over the caramel flavor and add as much salt as you want at the end of cooking. For my caramel sauce recipe, I used ½ teaspoon of flaky sea salt, but you can use kosher salt or Himalayan pink salt.
Heavy cream – Your heavy whipping cream should have at least 34% fat. I usually go for 36% though!
Vanilla extract – This is totally up to you, but I love to add a little touch of vanilla to my salted caramel sauce. You can also add a pinch of ground cinnamon instead.
Cooking tips and troubleshooting
Measure all your ingredients using a digital kitchen scale. I add cup measurements to all my recipes, but I highly recommend using scales for better results which you can replicate over and over again.
Use a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan. It will conduct the heat evenly which will help the sugar melt evenly.
If your caramel is darker on the sides of the saucepan and lighter in the center, lower the heat.
If the sugar crystallizes on the sides of the pan, you can brush it with a wet brush to make the sugar melt again.
All tools have to be clean. Any grease or dirt will make your sugar crystalize – and if it crystallizes, there’s no way back.
Don’t use dark color pots. It’ll be harder to see how sugar changes colors and you might end up burning your caramel.
Don’t stir your sugar when waiting for it to melt and caramelize. Stirring will encourage the sugar crystals to regroup and crystalize again. Instead, gently swirl the pan to help the sugar melt evenly.
Step by step directions
- Place the sugar, water and lemon juice into a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Heat the mixture over medium-high heat to a deep amber color.
- Pour in hot heavy cream (in 2-3 batches) and whisk vigorously until completely incorporated.
- Remove from the heat and add the butter at room temperature and whisk until incorporated.
- Whisk in the salt and vanilla extract.
Where to use homemade caramel
Obviously, you can eat it on its own! Or, you can spread it with some peanut butter on your morning toast. Or use it as a delicious topping for your yogurt granola bowl.
You can pour it on top of your favorite ice cream; chocolate or vanilla ice cream will be perfect.
Drizzle some salted caramel over homemade apple crumble pie.
Store it in a clean air-tight jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
To make the caramel runnier again, heat it in a microwave 10 seconds at a time, stirring in between.
Freeze it in an air-tight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before using.
More dessert recipes
- Digital kitchen scale
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 50 ml water
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 150 ml heavy cream
- 50 g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract optional
- ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
- Add the sugar, water and lemon juice into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix until it resembles wet sand, and place it on your stovetop. Let the sugar melt and caramelize to a deep amber color over medium high heat.
- Meanwhile, pour the heavy cream into a microwave-safe bowl and heat until hot, but not boiling.
- When the sugar syrup has caramelized, pour in the hot heavy cream (do it in 2-3 batches to prevent the mixture bubble too much). Whisk vigorously until fully incorporated.
- Remove from the heat and add the butter. Whisk vigorously until completely incorporated.
- Add the salt and vanilla extract and whisk.
- Use right away or pour into a clean, dry mason jar and store for future use.