Caramel Apples

Caramel apples are one of those things that are as much fun to make as they are to eat. I made this batch with my goddaughter Piper with apples she had picked apple picking at a nearby orchard. The last time I made caramel apples with young Piper she was barely 4 years old, and she covered her apple with pink sprinkles. This time we kept them simple and unadorned, but you could easily dress them up with chopped nuts, raisins, M&Ms, or candy sprinkles.

Many recipes for caramel apples just take caramel candies and melt them. I prefer to make the caramel sauce from scratch. The taste is phenomenal (no worries about what to do with the leftover sauce, it won’t last) and it really isn’t hard to make. In addition to the base ingredients, the one thing you do need is an accurate candy thermometer (though at least one reader—see comments—has winged it without one). Beyond that it’s just sugar, butter, cream, corn syrup, molasses, vanilla, and salt.

Recipe updated. First posted in 2006.

Caramel Apples

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Caramel Apples Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 6 caramel apples.

You can easily double the recipe, if you do, use a 4-quart pot to make the caramel sauce.

If you don't have access to molasses, you can substitute the one cup of white sugar and tablespoon of molasses with one cup and one tablespoon of dark brown sugar, packed.

Why the corn syrup? Corn syrup is an "invert sugar" that will help prevent the sugar in the caramel from crystallizing. It also helps to soften the caramel.

Apples from the store often have a wax coating on them which should be removed before attempting to coat them in caramel. To remove you can dip the apples in boiling water mixed with a splash of vinegar for a few seconds, remove and thoroughly dry.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp dark molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 6 sturdy lollipop sticks or chopsticks
  • 6 medium apples (rinsed and patted dry, room temperature)
  • Assorted decorations (such as chopped nuts, chopped raisins, mini M&M's and candy sprinkles)
  • Equipment needed—one accurate candy thermometer.

Method

combine caramel ingredients and heat on medium low until melted brush down sides with pastry brush

1 Place sugar, butter, cream, corn syrup, molasses, vanilla, and salt (omit if using salted butter) in a thick-bottomed 3-4 quart saucepan. Heat on medium to medium low heat and stir slowly with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. If you see sugar crystals on the edge of the pan, brush them down with a wet pastry brush.

Bring to a rolling boil Pour hot caramel sauce into metal bowl

2 Let the caramel mixture come to a rolling boil, adjusting the heat so that the caramel doesn't boil over the pan. Continue to stir in a slow figure-eight pattern with a wooden spoon. Monitor the temperature of the caramel with a candy thermometer. When the temperature of the mixture reaches 240°F (after about 15 minutes or so of boiling), remove from heat and pour into a metal bowl.

Let the hot caramel mixture sit in the bowl until the temperature cools to just below 200°F, at which point you are ready to dip the apples.

Push sticks into apples through core Sticks in apples, ready to dip into caramel sauce

3 While the caramel sauce is cooking and cooling, line a baking sheet with either Silpat or buttered aluminum foil. Insert the sticks (either lollipop sticks, thick wooden skewers, or chopsticks) into the center of the apples through the stem end.

dip apple in caramel sauce swirl the apple in the caramel sauce and pull out, letting the excess sauce drip off

4 When the caramel sauce has cooled sufficiently, working one at a time, dip the apples into the sauce. Swirl each apple around in the sauce so that the caramel sauce completely coats the apple, except for the very top near the stick. Pull the apple up from the sauce and let the excess caramel gently drip back into the bowl. Place the coated apple onto the lined baking sheet. Some caramel sauce will form a little pool at the base of each apple. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Caramel apples cooling fold the caramel that has pooled at the bottom of the apples back onto the apples

5 Once the caramel has chilled a few minutes, remove from the refrigerator and press the caramel that has pooled at the bottom of the apples up against the side of the apples. If you are using coatings such as sprinkles or chopped nuts, roll the caramel apples in them now. Then return the apples to the refrigerator and chill for at least another hour.

If giving as gifts, after the apples have completely chilled, wrap them in plastic wrap.

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Caramel Apples

41 Comments

  1. Morazan

    Do you have any recommendations as to which type of apple to use? I would think something with a thin skin would be best…and maybe on the sour side?

    • Laura

      Not sure if this helps, but I’ve used Jonagold apples when I’m looking for something a bit more sour.

      Just imagining making these for Halloween and being the hero of my neighborhood, they can be dressed up in so many ways!

  2. Rhonda

    Granny Smith apples are the best to use, as they hold up well to the heat of the caramel, and are nice and crisp. But I have been wanting to use some big Crispin apples for them (they are a bit sweeter than Granny Smith, but just as crisp). Also, if you soak your apples in very hot water for about 15 -20 minutes, it will force any gases in the apple out, and you won’t get alot of bubbles.

  3. jonathan

    Kids choosing M&M’s and sprinkles over pecans? Who would’ve guessed? ;-)

    Maybe next time we try the Sugared Pecans recipe on this site, chop ‘em into little bits, and tell the little darlings they’re “candy crunchies”.

    Ahhh….reminds me of mom hiding the peas in my mashed potatoes…

  4. Lady Amalthea

    Oh, yum. I have to get a good candy thermometer and make these. Maybe for Hallowe’en? Hmm. Now there’s an idea.

  5. Ari

    I’m pretty sure you can’t take out the corn syrup – it’s an alton brown thing. The corn syrup is a different kind of sugar and helps prevent crystalization when you’re heating things up. I hear it’s really easy to get crystalization if things aren’t totally clean, smooth, and pure. Anyway, unless you want rock candy coated apples, I think the corn syrup should stay.

  6. Elise

    Here’s another recipe for making caramel sauce: caramel sauce recipe, which only calls for sugar, butter, and cream. I just thought it was going to be a little too runny to use on the apples. Refrigerated it is pretty firm, however. If you are avoiding corn syrup, you might try that.

  7. Tanya

    My family owns a small confectionary store and a big thing when dipping the apples is to make sure they are dry and at room temp. Otherwise the caramel will slide right off. We also dip them in the nuts and toppings right away. They stick better.
    P.S. We use Granny Smiths. The tart and sweet are wonderful together.

  8. Debbie

    Not to be Debbbie Downer over here, but caramel apples can be dangereous for kids with loose teeth. I lost my two front teeth to a caramel apple when i was six, and they weren’t even loose, and it was really painful. But they do look delicious!

  9. Luv2Cook

    Wow…they look so yummy, Elise…

    On a serious note, you’ve got me curious about why kids didn’t care for the nuts…I loved nuts growing up..hmmm….

  10. Jake

    This looks great for a party! Just one silly question – how best to clean up all that caramel??

  11. Skyler

    Could one use light corn syrup in replacement of dark corn syrup? I’m not even sure of the difference…

  12. ELLIE

    How long do the caramel apples stay good? So many places have the gourmet ones for sale. If we made them could we make them a few days ahead? Thanks.

  13. Lizeth

    What can I use instead of molasses? I can’t find it.

  14. Denzil

    Is there a reason for not submerging the apple completely in the caramel?

  15. Steve

    Hi ELLIE,

    This may sound kinda gross, but my friend will eat anything.

    I made these on Halloween 2006. I gave one to my buddy and he kept it in the fridge and forgot about it until a couple days ago. I don’t know why but he gave it a try and it was still good. The apple was still crisp.

    Now would I recommend this, absolutely not, but my point is they stay good for a while.

  16. Sarah

    My friend is making caramel apples for her wedding favors in october of 2007. how many days ahead of time should we make them in order to guarantee that they stay fresh?

  17. april

    For anyone still wondering why kids aren’t into nuts these days, I have a theory. Many pediatricians are recommending that kids don’t try nuts untill age 5, due to possible allergies. Many schools are now “nut free”, because at least one of the students has such an allergy. So many children have had few opportunities to get used to nuts’ texture/taste.

  18. Kristy P.

    This Web-site is very helpful when your hosting a Halloween Birth-day for an 8 year old girl! all of her friends loved it and enjoyed the apples! I’m 27 and i enjoyed them! I did use the nuts but as you said some kids just don’t like nuts, but everything worked out and they all had a wonderful time i will definly use this web-site next year again!

    Thankyou,
    Kristy P.

  19. Sialia

    The best caramel apple I ever had was an Empire apple, but they’re hard to get outside of upstate New York.

    Grannys, Cortlands and Fujis will work well too–you want something crisp, firm and a little tart.

  20. nikki s

    I just wanted to thank you, Elise for all your hard work on this recipe! It’s truly amazing, and really helped a lot at my party. Everyone loved them, and some even asked for the recipe.

    Thanx;)

  21. BONNIE

    I also want to use these for wedding shower favors. How many days can I make them ahead and how can they be stored?

    Honestly, I don’t know. I wouldn’t make these more than a couple of days ahead, and I would store them in the refrigerator. ~Elise

  22. Phil

    I love the recipe as well, I had one problem, my caramel seemed to want to run off the apples, it doesn’t look that thick and bunched up on the plate below the apple. Did I not put enough of something in?

    Thanks,
    Phil

  23. Shannon

    So after making your delightful caramel corn recipe, I decided to give these a go. They’re fantastic. I only had 10 smallish apples, so i ended up double dipping each one. They weren’t as pretty, but after being covered in chopped, salted peanuts, they looked (and tasted) downright fantastic.

    So now that you are officially my guru of all things caramel, I want to know if you have any suggestions as to how to turn this buttery deliciousness into a sticky, almost break your teeth toffee candy. Something along the lines of Thornton’s irish toffee. Maybe if I cook it longer/ let it reach hard ball stage? I am open to any and all suggestions.

    Thanks!

  24. Lisa

    I made this recipe using 1/2 dark and 1/2 light corn syrup and they were still darker than “normal” caramel apples. I personally like the darker color and only used light corn syrup because I ran out of dark. I also did not have a candy thermometer and followed the following timing: rolling boil for 12 minutes and cool caramel in a metal bowl for 20 minutes. The caramel turned out delicious! So if you don’t have a candy thermometer, don’t let it deter you from making this snack!

  25. Suzanne in TN

    OH MY GOSH is all I can say about this caramel recipe! My changes: I used raw sugar in place of the brown sugar, used light corn syrup instead of dark and used salted butter since that is all I had and these were fantastic! I used a silpat and a couple of lightly buttered paper plates to put apples on in fridge. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! I will be making these again very soon!

  26. Diana from Virginia

    YUM! The caramel is delicious and fool-proof. I am not a cook and couldn’t manage the pastry brush trick but they still worked out delightfully yummy. Craft sticks worked really well for me (like popsicle sticks) and I had more than enough caramel for 15 apples and some to save for ice cream. I tried the soaking in hot water to release bubbles, but then the apples were not so pretty, but then just cover them in caramel! I had leftover caramel and dipped non-hot- watered apples and they looked prettier on the tops. The caramel was so sticky and yummy! Thank you!

  27. Krystin

    I live in the UK, so proper caramel apples don’t really exist for me anymore. I wanted something that wasn’t too runny and tasted like the Kraft caramels I was used to, only better. This surpassed my expectations!

    I had trouble getting corn syrup as it’s not available unless you get a food delivery with Ocado, which I did. They only had light corn syrup, which was fine. I didn’t have a thermometer of any kind so I did the rolling boil for 12 minutes and cooled for 20. It worked perfectly! I used one of those spatulas that can handle heat up to 500F (Williams and Sonoma) bypassing the pastry brush trick. All in all, really easy and my colleagues loved them!!

  28. Cynthia

    I wish I read this blog completely before I made a large batch for a wedding because I wondered why I got so many bubbles. Does heating the apples in hot water to release the gases shorten the shelf life of the apple? For all those asking questions about making these as favors I started making the apples the Wednesday before the wedding but did the majority of them on Friday (for a Saturday wedding). I would say the ones done on Wednesday were still quite good; however I didn’t dip all of them completely to the top and you could see the green skin of the granny smith was starting to brown. If they had been totally submerged this wouldn’t have been noticeable.

  29. melissa

    I made this recipe for a fall get-together (bonfire and all!). It was a wonderful treat that everyone loved! I’ve heard the apple makes this a “healthy” treat so there’s no guilt in indulging! ;)

  30. Michael Barakat

    Hi All,

    Michael here. This is a great recipe. It’s also relatively easy and very quick for the quality of the end result. After consideration, my wife and I would like to make a couple of suggestions for others to try. We preferred using a slightly more tart variety of apple. Initially we had used Honeycrisps – much too sweet for my liking with the caramel. Johnamac’s on the other hand were very tasty – their sweetness and slightly tart character worked well with the caramel. I would also suggest salting the caramel apples just before eating. if you ever had a chocolate pretzel you know how good sweet and salty can go together.

  31. Chandell

    I appreciate that you listed a temperature to cool the caramel to, in order to start dipping the apples! That’s what I came here to hopefully find, and I found it! That temp was perfect, even for the homemade caramel recipe that I used, which wasn’t this one. Thanks a lot, I appreciate your attention to detail!

  32. Kyle

    For anyone who was wondering what apple to use for caramel Apples.
    As an owner of an Apple orchard in Canada the best apple for candy / caramel apples is “EMPIRE”

    Great size, slight tartness, and holds up extremely well when used for cooking :)

    Enjoy

  33. CuriousGeorge

    Hi, just wondering if this can be made ahead of time and reheated the evening we have our harvest party? Or do you have to make and use right away ?

    I have found that if you make ahead and then reheat, that the caramel sauce can crystallize, which you definitely do not want. But you could try it. Maybe it won’t crystallize for you. ~Elise

  34. Emily van Kampen

    I have been wanting to make caramel apples for years, but somehow (due to the lack of a candy thermometer ) have never made them. I should definetely get a thermometer and make them this year! They look so delicious!

  35. Brenda

    I you live in Western Canada, Rogers Golden Syrup is excellent. It is not corn syrup, it is treacle and tastes great. I use it in place of corn syrup.

  36. Marilyn

    If you want really old-fashioned (English) hard crack toffee apples it is a simple as 150g sugar and 250 ml water. Caster sugar dissolves easier than granulated and my mom (1940’s) used to use Golden syrup to replace some of the sugar if she had any, but sugar and water makes the glass-like cracky toffee that I always think of as toffee apples. the hardest part these days is cleaning the wax off the (commecerial) apple. Elise mentions not sealing the apple – leaving a space at the top – I was told that was to let the gas escape so you didn’t get bubbles (?) We were never that fussy and they were fine. Eat same day if possible – damp gets to them and makes them sticky. Never squished the bases up – that was the challenge for the eaters to see if you could get the one with the biggest extra toffee!

    Marilyn O

  37. Carol at Wild Goose Tea

    I always expect more than the best from you. You certainly came thru again with a fabulous caramel for the coating on your apples. Wow. And yeah no worries about leftover sauce—you got that right. In fact the caramel might not make it on any apples. Ha.

  38. Kylee

    Those look like a fun activity with a young kitchen helper!

  39. George

    That’s going to be a great treat for Halloween!

  40. Adrian

    Thank you for this delicious recipe :) We tried it at home and it was so yummy :D I cannot thank you enough

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