Caramel Sauce (with Step by Step Pictures)

November 2, 2017

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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?

Salted Caramel Sauce
4.93 from 27 votes

Caramel Sauce

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
Prep5 minutes
Cook20 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp (85ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (56g) salted butter, diced into 1 Tbsp pieces
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, or more to taste

Instructions

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

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.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.

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139 Comments

  • Katie

    My favorite carmel recipe! I’ve tried others but they don’t compare. If a recipe calls for carmel, I disregard their instructions and come back to this one.

  • Jane

    I’ve made caramel a few times over the years and I couldn’t find the recipe I’d used. Came across yours and it seemed similar to what I remember and this turned out even better! Normally I add about a tablespoon or so of corn syrup to prevent crystalization (it helps the sugar stay in its liquid state and the crystals don’t form as much) but I forgot this time. Thankfully it’s crystal free! Instead of a pastry brush with water – I can never seem to find mine when I need it – I use a squirt bottle with water and just spray down the inside of the pan near the top of the syrup. Made this to drizzle over bread pudding but there’s also ice cream in the freezer calling for it….lol

  • Dawn Brown

    Love this sauce. It was easy to make and tastes delicious. Perfect consistency. I made it exactly according to the directions. Oh, no..I lied.. I added 1/2 tsp vanilla with the cream. I put it into a squirt bottle and drizzled it over peach shortcake. yum! Definitely goes into my ‘favorites’ folder.

  • Todd

    Excellent recipe! I made this to go with your pumpkin bread pudding for Thanksgiving and was a total hit! So much so that I made some to jar and give away for Christmas. Everyone is crazy about it and doesn’t last long before the jars are empty…

  • Ren

    I ran out of caramel and thought I’d try making it myself instead of buying more – it came out perfectly! Your instructions are very clear and the pictures helped a lot.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Love to know it worked out well for you Ren! Thanks for taking time to let everyone know how it went!

  • Danielle

    I admit I had to start the first part over once because I burnt the sugar..but I blame the pan I used! :) the next time I took the advice of whisking vigorously if cooking a bit uneven (gas stove) and had a wet pastry brush handy & was able to complete the steps. It came out delicious!!! Tried to follow the recipe to a T, that dark amber color comes quickly once it starts to turn so be vigilant! This is my first time making caramel and I can’t wait to try again, I LOVE caramel!! Thank you for the simple but excellent recipe!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      You’re welcome! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for your feedback I appreciate it Danielle!

  • JESSICA

    Haven’t tried this yet.. wondering if it’ll be good for caramel apples if I chill after dipping??