Homemade caramel sauce is such a delicious dessert topping and surprisingly easy! With only 5 ingredients you can whip up a batch in 15 minutes.
Doesn’t this homemade caramel sauce look delicious?! It’s perfectly pourable making it an idea topping for ice cream, bread pudding, cheesecake, and other desserts.
And, it’s so quick and easy to make – you can whip up a batch at home in less than 15 minutes! Seriously, it’s so simple and so versatile, you’ll never buy pre-made caramel sauce again!
How to Make Caramel Sauce
Step 1: Cook Sugar and Water
In a medium saucepan add sugar and water and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes, stirring until the sugar dissolves. It will turn clear and start to bubble up and boil.
Once it starts to boil, continue cooking until 338-350 ℉, about 10-15 minutes. During this time not stir the mixture or it can cause the caramel to get grainy. Be sure to wipe down any sugar crystals form the sides of the pan using a pastry brush dipped in water. You can also place the lid on the pot for a few minutes and allow the steam to dissolve any sugar crystals.
You do have some control over the darkness and thickness of your caramel. The darker/higher temperature you cook the the sugar mixture the darker and thicker your caramel will be. But be careful not to overcook! It goes from deep amber to burnt very quickly.
The sugar mixture will have thickened up a bit and turned a golden to deep amber color. Once it hits the correct temperature and desired darkness remove from heat.
Step 2: Add Butter
Once you remove it from heat, stir in the cut up butter pieces. It will bubble up, this is totally normal, just continue stirring until all the butter and melted and incorporated into the caramel topping.
Step 3: Add Cream, Vanilla, and Salt
Then, slowly add in the cream and continue mixing until it has fully incorporated. It might start to look separated, like it won’t all mix in, but just keep stirring and it will. Once all the cream is mixed, stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Let the sauce cool down before using.
Once it’s cooled down it’s ready to use on your favorite dessert or be stored in an airtight container for later use. And remember, the sauce will thicken as it cools!
Do I need a candy thermometer?
A candy thermometer or instant read thermometer is very helpful to get the sauce to the correct temperature, it is not necessary.
Just cook the sauce until it is a golden yellowish amber color. Do not let it get too dark or it will start to taste burnt and bitter (although just a hint of overcooking can give it a burnt caramel flavor if you’re into that!)
Why is my sauce grainy?
There are two main reasons the sauce gets grainy:
- Undissolved sugar granules
- It was stirred or moved around too much while cooking
You can combat this by making sure the sugar has dissolved by washing down the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush or putting the lid on the saucepan for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar. Adding a tablespoon of corn syrup to the sugar and water before cooking can help combat this as well.
Why are there chunks or clumps in the sauce?
Because the sugar was cooked slightly unevenly and has clumped up. This is not a problem though! Typically once you add the butter and cream it will incorporate. If not, you can strain out any larger sugar chunks. But, note the sauce might be more prone to getting grainy as it sits.
What is my sauce so thin/thick?
The caramel sauce will thicken as it cools. If after storing in the fridge you want to get it a thinner consistency you can reheat it in the microwave for 5-10 second intervals. Be sure to watch it carefully and not overheat it. You can also stir in a few more tablespoons of cream to the warm caramel for an even thinner pourable consistency.
How long does this sauce last?
This caramel sauce will last 2-3 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge and can be frozen for 2-3 months.
Best uses for Homemade Caramel Sauce
This is such a versatile dessert sauce. Since this is a caramel sauce, it is perfect for drizzling on top of ice cream, cheesecake, tarts, and pie.
It can also be used to fill cakes and macarons, but since it is more of a sauce make sure to do a buttercream edge so the sauce doesn’t spill out.
Another fun way is in coffee! Add this homemade caramel topping instead of sugar for a fun caramel coffee variation. Or, jazz up your favorite vanilla or pumpkin spice coffee by drizzling this sauce on top. And of course, it’s also a great dip for apples, graham crackers, and cookies!
Looking for more dessert sauces? Check these out!
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Easy Caramel Sauce
- Medium Saucepan
- pastry brush optional
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- ¼ cup unsalted butter 1/2 stick, cut up into smaller pieces
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/8 tsp salt decrease to just a pinch if using salted butter
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup optional
- In a medium saucepan add sugar and water and stir to combine.
- Cook over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the liquid is clear and starts to bubble, continue cooking on medium until the mixture reaches 338-350 ℉, about 10-15 minutes. During this time not stir the mixture or it can cause the caramel to get grainy.
- Be sure to wipe down any sugar crystals form the sides of the pan using a pastry brush dipped in water. You can also place the lid on the pot for a few minutes and allow the steam to dissolve any sugar crystals.
- Once the sugar hits the correct temperature it will have have thickened up a bit and turned a golden amber color.
- Immediately remove from heat and stir in the butter. It will bubble up quite a bit, this is totally normal, just continue stirring.
- Then, slowly add in the cream and continue mixing until it has fully incorporated.
- Stir in vanilla and salt.
- The sauce will thicken as it cools. Once it’s cooled down it’s ready to use on your favorite dessert or be stored in an airtight container for later use.
- 1 tablespoon of light corn syrup can help combat the caramel getting grainy, but it is not necessary. If you have trouble with grainy or chunky caramel, check out the troubleshooting/Q&A section of the post.
- The darker/higher temperature you cook the caramel the darker and thicker your caramel will be. But watch closely because it can easily overcook and burn.
- This recipe makes about 2 cups of caramel.
- It will last 2-3 weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator or up to two months in the freezer.
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