Making your own caramel sauce from scratch is a lot easier than you might think! And it takes practically no time at all.
I learned how to make caramel sauce this way years ago from my friend Suzanne and now make it any time a recipe calls for caramel sauce. There’s really no reason to buy it when you can so easily make it with just three simple ingredients — sugar, butter, and cream.
How to make easy homemade caramel sauce
To make caramel sauce, first you start by heating white granulated sugar. (Make sure you are using real sugar, not a sugar substitute.) As the sugar heats, it will melt and start to “caramelize” (hence the name “caramel”), changing color and creating caramel flavors.
Once the sugar has all dissolved and turned brown, we add butter. The heat of the caramel will melt the butter and create even more wonderful flavors.
Finally, after the butter has melted, we add heavy whipping cream. This will allow the mixture to be loose enough to be used as a sauce.
Use a thick-bottomed, sturdy pan
Making caramel requires that you cook the sugar evenly, which is much easier to do with a thick-bottomed, sturdy pan that can distribute the heat.
If you find that your sugar is burning and not melting, the culprit is most likely the pan heating unevenly. In this case you can either lower the heat and cook the sugar more slowly, or you can start over and add some water to the sugar in the beginning.
Use a pan with high sides as well. When you add cream to the caramel mixture the hot caramel will bubble up. You want to make sure you have a pan that will not overflow when this happens.
To use water or not to use water
If you are having problems with sugar burning before it is all melted, you might try adding a half cup of water to the sugar in the beginning of the process. This will help the sugar dissolve and heat more evenly. It will also take quite a bit longer to caramelize the sugar, which is why I usually don’t use water.
My one note of caution is to be extra careful while you are cooking the sugar, as with any candy making process. Once the sugar has melted it has a much higher temperature than boiling water. It helps to wear oven mitts and long sleeves to prevent burns if the caramel splatters.
Try Caramel Sauce on These Recipes!
- French Vanilla Ice Cream
- Apple Pie
- Classic Cheesecake
- Coffee Bourbon Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
- Chocolate Brownies — drizzle it over the top before baking!
Caramel Sauce RecipePrint
- 1 cup (210g) of sugar
- 6 Tbsp (85g) butter (salted or unsalted)
- 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy whipping cream
- A 2- to 3-quart thick-bottomed saucepan
1 Assemble ingredients: First, before you begin, make sure you have everything ready to go - the cream and the butter next to the pan, ready to put in. Making caramel is a fast process that cannot wait for hunting around for ingredients. If you don't work fast, the sugar will burn.
Safety first! Make sure there are no children under foot and you may want to wear oven mitts; the caramelized sugar will be much hotter than boiling water.
2 Heat sugar: Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. The sugar will begin to melt in a minute or two. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. The sugar will form clumps and will start to melt at the edges of the pan.
As the sugar starts to melt, lower the heat a bit to keep the sugar from burning.
Keep whisking until all of the sugar has melted. Once all of the sugar has melted, stop stirring. You can swirl the pan a bit if you want.
Note that this recipe works best if you are using a thick-bottomed pan. If you find that you end up burning some of the sugar before the rest of it is melted, the next time you attempt it, add a half cup of water to the sugar at the beginning of the process, this will help the sugar to cook more evenly, though it will take longer as the water will need to evaporate before the sugar will caramelize.
3 Add butter: As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.
4 Add cream: Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate.
Note that when you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up considerably. This is why you must use a pan that is at least 2-quarts (preferably 3-quarts) big.
5 Whisk until smooth: Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass mason jar and let sit to cool to room temperature. (Remember to use pot holders when handling the jar filled with hot caramel sauce.)
Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.
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