Learn how to make soft caramel candy from scratch with this easy tutorial. Homemade caramels require just a handful of ingredients and a little patience, so skip the store-bought stuff this year and make your own!
*This post is sponsored by Danish Creamery. As always, all opinions are mine.*
When it comes to caramel, homemade is the way to go. Store-bought caramel sauces and candies are super sweet with very little caramel flavor, and they often contain unnecessary ingredients to keep the candies shelf-stable.
The caramel candy recipe I’m sharing with you today requires just seven basic ingredients, including two types of sugar (for sweetness and flavor!), high-quality Danish Creamery Butter, vanilla extract, and sweetened condensed milk.
Making homemade caramels isn’t difficult, but you do need to be precise when measuring the ingredients and taking the temperature of the caramel mixture. (I’ll walk you through the caramel making process step-by-step in this post, so you have nothing to worry about!)
Make a batch of homemade caramel candies to gift at the holidays. Your friends and family will love them!
Ingredients in This Recipe
Soft caramels use ingredients you likely have in your pantry already. I’ve listed the ingredients and measurements in the recipe card below, but I wanted to quickly touch on a few of the key ingredients.
- Danish Creamery European-Style Unsalted Butter: My favorite brand of butter for making homemade caramels! Danish Creamery’s European Style Butter is slow-churned in small batches, which results in a velvety texture and rich flavor that I adore.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk: Make sure to use sweetened condensed milk and NOT evaporated milk. It’s much thicker and sweeter and works best for these caramels.
- Sugar: I prefer to use a mix of granulated sugar and brown sugar for this recipe, but you may use all brown sugar if you prefer.
- Light Corn Syrup: This helps to keep the caramel from crystallizing, so your candies stay nice and soft.
How to Make Caramel Candies
Soft caramel candy isn’t difficult to make, but you do need to watch the mixture closely as it boils. This is one recipe where you can’t afford to get distracted halfway through the cooking process! Here’s an overview of how how to make caramel candy from scratch:
- Prep your baking pan: Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper before beginning the recipe. Once the caramel mixture is finished cooking, it needs to be poured into the pan immediately!
- Melt the butter: Slice the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces before melting it in a large saucepan. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend using Danish Creamery butter for best results. It boasts a higher butterfat than most butter brands (85% compared to 82 – 83% butterfat). The extra fat will give the caramel candy a creamy texture that literally melts in your mouth.
- Add the sugar, corn syrup & sweetened condensed milk: Whisk the mixture until it’s fully combined.
- Boil until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage: You’ll need to stir the caramel mixture constantly as it boils. You’re looking for it to reach the soft ball stage, which is 236°F to 240°F.
- Let the caramel cool: As soon as the caramel reaches the soft ball stage, remove it from the heat. Then, stir in the salt and vanilla before pouring the caramel into the prepared baking dish. The caramel needs to cool for 1 hour at room temperature, then chill in the fridge for an additional 2 hours before you can slice into it.
- Slice and serve: I find it easiest to slice the caramel into bite-sized pieces using a sharp knife that’s been coated in non-stick cooking spray.
How to Tell When the Caramel Is Done
This recipe makes soft caramel candy. You’ll know the boiling caramel mixture is done cooking once it reaches the soft ball stage. You have two options for testing the caramel’s doneness:
- With a thermometer: Caramel reaches the soft ball stage between 236ºF and 240ºF. A candy thermometer or instant read thermometer is essential for this!
- Without a thermometer: Test the mixture by dropping a small amount into a cup of ice water. If the mixture forms a ball that flattens when pressed between your fingers, it’s ready. If you can’t form a soft ball with it, then continue cooking and checking the mixture until you’re able to.
Can the Corn Syrup Be Substituted?
No, you need to include the corn syrup in this recipe. Using another liquid sweetener like honey or maple syrup would affect the taste and texture of the finished candies.
How Long Do Homemade Caramels Last?
The caramel candy will last up to 2 weeks at room temperature. I prefer wrapping the individual caramels in wax paper to keep them fresh.
However, you can also freeze them for up to 3 months. Store in a freezer bag and remove as much air from the bag as possible to prevent freezer burn. When you’re ready to enjoy the caramels, thaw to room temperature and serve.
- If you’re using parchment paper, there’s no need to grease it with butter. The caramel candies will easily come right off of the paper. If you don’t have any, you can just grease your pan with some butter before pouring the caramel mixture into it.
- I prefer to use an instant read thermometer to test the temperature of the mixture versus a candy thermometer. I find that it’s much more accurate!
- You can cut these caramels however you prefer. I usually cut mine into 12 strips, then cut each strip into 8 square pieces.
- If you don’t have a sharp knife, a pizza cutter coated in a little nonstick cooking spray works great too!
More Caramel Desserts You’ll Love!
- Caramel Popcorn
- Salted Caramel Sauce
- Salted Caramel Brownie Bites
- Salted Caramel Turtles
- Millionaire Shortbread
- 1 cup Danish Creamery unsalted butter (2 sticks; 230 grams)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar (200 grams)
- 1 cup light corn syrup (315 grams)
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. If you don’t have any parchment paper you may grease the pan with butter instead, but I find that parchment paper works best.
- Slice the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and place it in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Once all of the butter has melted, whisk in the granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk until fully combined.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is boiling, continue cooking and stirring until it reaches 236°F to 240°F (soft ball stage). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the mixture by dropping a small spoonful into a cup of ice water. If the mixture forms a soft ball that flattens easily when pressed between your fingers, it’s ready.
- Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and salt, then pour it into the prepared pan.
- Allow to cool at room temperature for one hour, then refrigerate for two more hours.
- Once the caramel is firm, use a sharp knife lightly coated in cooking spray to slice the caramels into pieces.