Caramel Sauce (with Step by Step Pictures)

November 2, 2017

Caramel Sauce – Is there anything better?? It’s perfect for a huge number of desserts, if it will last until serving that is. I know when I’ve got a batch of this sitting around we are all just eating it by the spoonful.

Salted Caramel Sauce

My Favorite Caramel Sauce Recipe

Caramel was one of the first foods I ever learned how to make. I was a young teenager and my mom and sister were talking about how they remembered my grandma’s caramels and how they missed them.

They went on to talk about how hard they were to make and that was when I started paying attention. I thought the challenge sounded fun, plus I’ve always been obsessed with caramel so I decided to look up some recipes and learn how to make it.

I’ve been making it far too much ever since. And really, it isn’t nearly as hard as people make it out to be.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Only Four Ingredients Needed for Homemade Caramel Sauce!

  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Butter
  • Heavy cream
  • Sea salt (optional)

How to Make Caramel Sauce

  • Gather all of your ingredients and have them nearby ready to add to the mixture as needed.
  • In a heavy-bottomed 2 – 3 quart saucepan (something that isn’t dark on bottom so you can see the shade of caramel), heat sugar, salt and water over medium-high heat whisking constantly to dissolve sugar.

Steps for making caramel sauce

Once mixture reaches a boil, stop whisking and allow mixture to boil until it reaches a dark amber color, carefully swirling pan occasionally* (this will take time, so be patient. See photos below for the stages to watch for).

Steps for making caramel sauce

It will first bubble vigorously and steam and it will be a clear shade, then bubbling will continue but the bubbles will become smaller and slower and it will slowly tint yellowish…

Steps for making caramel sauce

..Then orangish, then a deep reddish orange and that is what you are looking for.

Steps for making caramel sauce

Once mixture reaches a dark amber color, immediately add butter and whisk until butter has melted then immediately remove from heat.

Steps for making caramel sauce

Carefully pour in cream and immediately whisk with a long handled whisk to combine (it will bubble vigorously). Whisk until mixture is smooth.

Steps for making caramel sauce

Pour caramel into a glass jar to cool. Once cool, store in an airtight container in refrigerator.
Caramel sauce will be thicker once cooled to room temperature and much thicker once chilled.

Steps for making caramel sauce

Tips for Caramel Sauce

  • If using a gas stove top I like to use a wet pastry brush to brush down sugar on the sides of the pan so it doesn’t burn from the flame. Also you can stir just briskly as needed if it browns in one spot to quickly.
  • Have ingredients measured out and ready to add in so caramel doesn’t burn in the meantime while measuring.
  • With caramel sauce I really like to push it to it’s limits. There is a prime stage with caramel sauce, if you take it off too early, it hasn’t reached that key stage and it will be lacking in flavor (it also won’t be as thick), but if you leave it on just a few seconds too long it’s can burn and become bitter
  • So really really pay attention to the shade of the caramel. A rich but not super dark color. Once you’ve gotten it right and know that shade, it’s becomes easier to get it right from then on because you know exactly what to watch for.

Salted Caramel Sauce

What Should I Serve this Caramel Sauce With?

Caramel Sauce

4.95 from 17 votes

The best salted caramel sauce! So good you won't be able to resist eating it by the spoonful! So rich, so creamy and deliciously sweet with the perfect balance of salty. 1,000 times better than store-bought.

Servings: 10
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, diced into 1 Tbsp pieces
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, or more to taste

Instructions

  1. Gather all of your ingredients and have them nearby ready to add to the mixture as needed. 
  2. In a heavy-bottomed 2 - 3 quart saucepan (something that isn't dark on bottom so you can see the shade of caramel), heat sugar, salt and water over medium-high heat whisking constantly to dissolve sugar. 

  3. Once mixture reaches a boil, stop whisking and allow mixture to boil until it reaches a dark amber color, carefully swirling pan occasionally* (this will take time, so be patient. See photos below for the stages to watch for). 

  4. It will first bubble vigorously and steam and it will be a clear shade, then bubbling will continue but the bubbles will become smaller and slower and it will slowly tint yellowish, then orangish, then a deep reddish orange and that is what you are looking for. 

  5. Once mixture reaches a dark amber color, immediately add butter and whisk until butter has melted then immediately remove from heat. 
  6. Carefully pour in cream and immediately whisk with a long handled whisk to combine (it will bubble vigorously). Whisk until mixture is smooth. 

  7. Pour caramel into a glass jar to cool. Once cool, store in an airtight container in refrigerator.
  8. Caramel sauce will be thicker once cooled to room temperature and much thicker once chilled.

Recipe Notes

*Note that if you are using a gas stove top I've found certain areas tend to cook faster on the gas stovetop, so if you start to see a darker area on the side you can give it a brisk whisking. Also using a wet pasty brush to wet down the dried sugar on the sides helps.

Nutrition Facts
Caramel Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 159 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Cholesterol 28mg9%
Sodium 161mg7%
Potassium 8mg0%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Sugar 19g21%
Vitamin A 315IU6%
Calcium 9mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: European
Keyword: caramel sauce
Author: Jaclyn

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114 Comments

  • Robb Lawrie

    Easy to make with the excellent directions outlined in the recipe. As good as Australia’s much loved chef (Maggie Beers) salted caramel.

  • Anna

    The step about adding the butter while the pan is still over heat is dead wrong. My finished product looked like caramel and tasted like burnt caramel. I will attempt this recipe again without making this mistake.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I’ve made it this way probably 50+ times sorry to hear that it gave you trouble! Adding the butter at that step isn’t what would cause burning though, the butter just needed to be added a little earlier and then removed from heat.

  • Paula Dolloff

    Great recipe, clear instructions. However, I want to add one warning because I learned the hard way. The mixture turns to that amber color in the blink of an eye, so watch it. I got distracted loading the dishwasher, and sure enough, the mixture burned. No worries, I started over but this time, watched it like a hawk. I noticed the mixture was that yellowish color for a very long time but within seconds, it was that amber color, so don’t get impatient and distracted as I did! Enjoy!

  • Dina

    Do i have to keep it in the fridge? I dont want it hard. If left outside, how long can it stay?

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      What I recommend is refrigerating then reheating in the microwave or on the stove over low heat stirring frequently. I won’t get solid in the fridge but it does get thick.

  • Jessie Ettinger

    Made this for work with the apple crisp..this is to die for. It was so easy thanks to your video. Thank you…it turned out perfect.

  • Lucie

    Thank you for explaining the caramel making process so well! I’ve tried making caramel in the past and failed… but following this recipe my caramel came out perfect! So yummy.

  • Connie Lawyer

    I made this and the salted,caramel Apple cupcakes and they turned out really good I did a few tweaks on my Apple cupcakes cause they were a little dry.