Dessert/ little desserts

Easy salted caramel sauce recipe

27 May 2021 By Aleksandra

Salted caramel sauce is so quick and easy to make. It will be ready in about 10 minutes! The hardest part is to wait for it to cool down. You don’t need any special equipment, just a couple of basic ingredients!

I’ve also included a recipe for chocolate salted caramel sauce – it was kind of a revelation to me and I actually like it better than plain salted caramel!

Salted caramel sauce is being poured from a teaspoon to a jar.

Ingredients

You only need 6 ingredients to make this delicious recipe!

  • granulated sugar – it’s important to use white sugar and not brown sugar, it’s very difficult to see the change of color when making caramel using brown sugar, it can burn more easily
  • water – it’s easier to make caramel with sugar and water – the risk of burning sugar is smaller!
  • heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream)
  • butter – use unsalted butter, we are also adding salt so if you use salted butter your caramel sauce will be too salty, if salted butter is what you’ve got, you can also use that, just don’t add all the salt specified in the recipe, let the caramel cool slightly then season with salt to taste
  • vanilla extract – adds great flavor, instead of extract you can also add 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste or beans scraped from 1 vanilla bean
  • salt – balances the sweetness of sugar, it’s what makes caramel sauce so special! you can add less salt, for example 1/2 teaspoon, or omit it completely
Labeled ingredients for salted caramel sauce.

Flavored caramel sauce

Chocolate caramel sauce – it’s just salted caramel and melted chocolate. Seriously, it’s so good I have no words. If you love chocolate like I do, you HAVE to try it. My husband has said that it tastes like Daim candy. It’s so hard to stop eating it. How to do it: simply make a batch of salted caramel, then warm up with chopped chocolate until chocolate is dissolved. I’m adding 1 ounce (30g) chocolate per 1/4 cup (60ml) of salted caramel. These are 3 cubes of chocolate (large cubes, like Lindt chocolate) and I’m using 1/3 milk chocolate and 2/3 dark chocolate.

Other flavors:

  • Make bourbon caramel sauce – add 2 tablespoons of bourbon along with sugar and water. Kahlua, apple whiskey, or calvados (French apple liquor) would also be great.
  • Honey – replace 2-3 tablespoons of sugar with honey.
  • Add some apple juice or apple sauce.
  • Brown butter caramel sauce: simply brown your butter and add to the caramel! Brown butter adds an amazing flavor. How to brown butter: Heat butter in a small saucepan, stirring from time to time, until it changes its color to light brown and it smells nutty. Keep an eye on it as it can easily burn. It will take about a minute, maybe two.
  • Add some spices: pumpkin pie spice or gingerbread spice mix!
  • I’ve seen recipes with fruit puree added, like a strawberry puree. I haven’t tried that myself, but it sounds delicious!

Step by step instructions

It’s important to measure out all the ingredients and have them ready before you start.

Water and sugar are being cooked in a pot. Caramel in a pot.

STEP 1: Add sugar and water to a medium saucepan, stir to combine.

STEP 2: Caramelize the sugar: Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. When the sugar mixture starts to change its color from white to light yellow, reduce the heat to medium-low. Now you need to keep an eye on sugar and don’t let it burn. Cook the sugar mixture until it’s medium or deep amber in color. Don’t stir the sugar mixture, don’t swirl with the pot, the mixture should bubble all the time while cooking (don’t let it cool). Don’t try to taste the caramel, it’s extremely hot! When the sugar changes its color, it’s ready – the sugar is caramelized.

This process will take about 6-8 minutes (if you have a less powerful burner or you’ve cooked it over lower heat than I did, it can take longer, about 10-12 minutes).

For a milder / toffee-like flavor, cook the caramel to a light amber / honey color, for a deeper flavor cook it to deep amber color.

Caramel and butter in a pot. Caramel and butter are being whisked in a pot.

STEP 3: Add the butter to the pot. Be careful, the caramel sauce will bubble furiously.

STEP 4: Whisk in the butter until combined.

Cream is being added to caramel sauce.

STEP 5+6: Next, whisk in the cream and vanilla. Add the cream in a slow, thin stream, whisking constantly.

Salt added to a pot with caramel sauce. Caramel sauce spooned from a pot.

STEP 7: Let the sauce cook for about a minute, then add salt, whisk in, and take the pot off the heat.

STEP 8: Leave the sauce to cool – it will need at least 40 minutes to cool to the room temperature. The caramel sauce will be runny at this point, but it will thicken considerably while cooling.

Enjoy!

Top tips

  • Prepare all your ingredients and measure them out before you start. Once the sugar is caramelized you need to immediately add the remaining ingredients or the caramel will burn.
  • It can take a while for the sugar mixture to start turning color, but as soon as you notice it starts to turn a bit yellow, be careful, it will proceed quickly.
  • Butter and cream should be at room temperature or the caramel will seize.
  • If your caramel seizes up (it’s grainy) just cook it a little bit longer, stirring, over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Use a saucepan with a heavy bottom. It’s easier to burn caramel in a thin-bottomed saucepan.
  • Use a white or silver pan so you can see the shade of caramel changing as you cook it. Don’t use a shallow pot or a pan, the caramel will bubble and it can overflow a shallow pan. Use at least a 1.5 qt (1.5 l) saucepan.
  • Don’t stir the sugar while it caramelizes or you’ll end up with sugar coating on your spatula, I also don’t recommend swirling the pot – the sugar crystals will form on the walls of the pot. It’s ok if the caramel is not uniformly colored! After adding the butter, you can stir/whisk your caramel as much as you want.
  • Don’t walk away from the pot – it’s the easiest way to burn the caramel!
  • If you see that the caramel is amber/light brown, immediately add the butter. Caramel can change from caramelized to burnt very quickly!
  • Adjust the thickness: if it’s too thick add a little bit of cream and if it’s too runny you can cook it a little bit longer (but remember it will thicken significantly while cooling!)
  • If you want to check the temperature with an instant-read or candy thermometer, it should be between 320-350°F (160-177°C). Don’t heat it over 350°F (177°C). It’s helpful but really not necessary with this easy recipe. I actually prefer to make this recipe without measuring the temperature, poking around with a thermometer trying to check the temperature can encourage the formation of sugar crystals and can make your caramel grainy. It’s best to check it just 1 or 2 times when it’s nicely amber in color. Judging the color by eye is easier as the color changes so fast it’s better not to be too preoccupied with checking the thermometer.

Different preparation methods

Generally caramel sauce can be made using two methods:

  • Dry method – sugar is caramelized on its own, you add sugar to a saucepan and stir it until it’s melted and caramelized. It can cause clumping which makes your caramel grainy. This method is quicker but it’s better to use if you’re already experienced.
  • Wet method – sugar is caramelized with water – it takes a little bit longer to make, you need to wait until the water is evaporated but for me it’s easier and there is less chance you will burn the sugar. If you master the ‘wet’ method, you can give a dry the ‘dry method’ since it’s a little bit quicker to make. I’ve also read that since the process of caramelizing sugar is longer, the sugar mixture has more time to develop a better flavor!

Salted caramel sauce uses

  • use it as a topping for ice cream
  • drizzle it over pancakes (like these fluffy pumpkin pancakes), waffles, or French toast
  • as a topping for pies, cakes, cheesecakes, and tarts (it would be lovely with this apple tart)
  • swirl it into brownies
  • as a topping for brioche bread pudding (pictured below)
  • it’s great as a gift
  • as a dip for apples
  • you can make caramel latte but please use unsalted caramel for that (add 1-2 tablespoons of caramel sauce per 1 large cup of coffee)

Storage

Keep your caramel sauce in a closed jar in the fridge for about 1 month. It will keep probably much longer, but I haven’t tried that, I kept it in my fridge for a month and it was like freshly made.

It will be very thick so you need to reheat it on the stovetop or in a microwave to make it pourable.

Recipe FAQ:

Why is my caramel sauce grainy?

It can be caused by stirring the sugar while it’s being caramelized or by adding cold cream or butter.

How to fix grainy caramel?

Just add 1-2 Tbsp of water to your caramel sauce and cook it for 1-2 minutes until all the crystals are dissolved and the sauce is smooth.

Brioche bread pudding is being drizzled with salted caramel sauce.

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

Easy salted caramel sauce

Easy to make homemade salted caramel sauce.
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Salted caramel sauce in a jar is being spooned with a teaspoon.
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Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 1 1/4 cups
Calories 1618kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60g) water
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120g) heavy cream at room temperature or warm
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Instructions

  • Measure out all the ingredients and have them ready before you start.
  • Add sugar and water to a medium saucepan, stir to combine.
  • Caramelize the sugar: Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. When the sugar mixture starts to change its color from white to light yellow, reduce the heat to medium-low. Now you need to keep an eye on sugar and don’t let it burn. Cook the sugar mixture until it’s medium or deep amber in color. Don’t stir the sugar mixture, don’t swirl the pot, the mixture should bubble all the time while cooking (don’t let it cool). Don’t try to taste the caramel, it’s extremely hot! When the sugar changes its color, it’s ready – the sugar is caramelized. This process will take about 6-8 minutes (if you have a less powerful burner or you’ve cooked it over lower heat than I did, it can take longer, about 10-12 minutes).
  • Add the butter to the pot. Be careful, the caramel sauce will bubble furiously. Whisk in the butter until combined.
  • Next, whisk in the cream and vanilla. Add the cream in a slow, thin stream, whisking constantly.
  • Let the sauce cook for about a minute, then add salt, whisk in, and take the pot off the heat.
  • The caramel sauce will be runny at this point, but it will thicken considerably while cooling.
  • Leave the sauce to cool – it will need at least 40 minutes to cool to the room temperature and thicken.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • For a milder / toffee-like flavor, cook the caramel to a light amber / honey color, for a deeper flavor cook it to deep amber color.
  • Chocolate caramel sauce – simply make a batch of salted caramel, then warm up with chopped chocolate until chocolate is dissolved. I’m adding 1 ounce (30g) chocolate per 1/4 cup (60ml) of salted caramel. These are 3 cubes of chocolate (large cubes, like Lindt chocolate) and I’m using 1/3 milk chocolate and 2/3 dark chocolate.
  • Other flavors: you can add some liquors to your caramel sauce, like bourbon, rum, kahlua, apple whiskey, or calvados. Add 1-2 Tbsp with water and sugar.
  • I do not recommend swapping white sugar for brown sugar. It’s difficult to see the change of color and it can easily burn because of molasses.
  • If your caramel sauce turned out grainy (there are small cristals of sugar that have not beed dissolved), add 1-2 Tbsp of water, then cook for 1-2 minutes until it’s smooth.
  • This sauce is intensely (but pleasantly) salty, if you want it just slightly salty, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. If you want to make just caramel sauce and not salted caramel sauce, add a big pinch of salt instead of 1 ts.
  • While adding butter and cream the caramel will bubble furiously and it can overflow the pot, use at least a 1.5 qt (1.5 l) saucepan. Use white/silver pot that has a thick bottom.
  • Adjust the thickness: if it’s too thick add a little bit of cream and if it’s too runny you can cook it a little bit longer (but remember it will thicken significantly while cooling!).
  • If you want to check the temperature with an instant-read or candy thermometer, it should be between 320-350°F (160-177°C). Don’t heat it over 350°F (177°C). It’s helpful but really not necessary with this easy recipe. I actually prefer to make this recipe without measuring the temperature, poking around with a thermometer trying to check the temperature can encourage the formation of sugar crystals and can make your caramel grainy. It’s best to check it just 1 or 2 times when it’s nicely amber in color. Judging the color by eye is easier as the color changes so fast it’s better not to be too preoccupied with checking the thermometer.
  • Storage: Keeps well in the fridge for about 1 month. It will be very thick so you need to reheat it on the stovetop or in a microwave to make it pourable.
  • Calories: whole recipe. This is only an estimate!
Course Dessert
Cuisine French
Keyword caramel sauce recipe, salted caramel sauce

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