Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
Homemade salted caramel sauce is made with just six ingredients and takes 15 minutes to prepare. Spoon it over ice cream, use it as a dip for apple slices, or drizzle it over your favorite baked goods!
If making homemade caramel sauce sounds intimidating to you, this recipe will change your mind!
Making caramel sauce from scratch is so much better than buying a jar at the store. Store-bought salted caramel sauce often contains thickeners or added sweeteners and is overly sweet.
Not this recipe! Just six basic ingredients are transformed into a perfectly sweet and salty caramel sauce.
In this post, I’ll walk you through my foolproof method as well as my top tips for success!
Ingredients in This Recipe
This is a very straightforward recipe for salted caramel sauce that requires just six ingredients. Let’s review what you’ll need:
- Water: You need to add a little water to the saucepan so the sugar can fully dissolve.
- Granulated sugar: This serves as the base of the recipe. As the sugar cooks, it develops a rich caramel flavor. You need to use granulated sugar, not a sugar substitute.
- Heavy whipping cream: Make sure your heavy whipping cream is at least 36% fat. Do not try to use a lower fat alternative, like half and half or whole milk or the sauce will be too thin.
- Unsalted butter: I recommend using unsalted butter, since the amount of salt in salted butters can vary between different brands. We don’t want this sauce to be too salty either!
- Vanilla extract: Pure vanilla extract is best, but use what you have.
- Salt: Regular table salt works just fine for this recipe, but sea salt would also be great.
How to Make Salted Caramel Sauce
Making caramel sauce is as easy as letting the mixture simmer and combining everything in a saucepan. Here’s an overview of how this salted caramel sauce is prepared:
- Dissolve the sugar: Add the water and sugar to a saucepan (use one that’s a little larger than you think you’ll need). Heat over medium heat and stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved.
- Bring to a boil: Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. At this point, you do NOT want to stir the sugar mixture anymore. After 4 to 12 minutes, the mixture will turn amber in color.
- Add the cream: When the sugar mixture is a lovely amber color, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Keep in mind that it will bubble up quite vigorously, this is normal!
- Add the remaining ingredients: This includes the butter, vanilla, and salt.
- Let cool: At this stage, I like to transfer the caramel sauce to a storage container (like a glass jar). It’s best to let the sauce cool to room temperature before sealing and storing it in the fridge.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Type of Salt Is Best for This Recipe?
I used regular table salt, but you may make sea salt caramel sauce if desired.
If using sea salt, you may need to add more salt than the recipe calls for. Sea salt has coarser grains than table salt, which is quite finely milled. You may need a little more to achieve the same level of saltiness as table salt.
What Causes Caramel Sauce to Form Clumps?
If the sauce clumps up when you stir in the heavy cream, it’s probably because the cream was too cold when you added it to the hot sugar mixture. Set the cream on the counter before you begin the recipe, or warm it slightly in the microwave before adding to the sugar mixture.
If your sauce still forms a few clumps, you can easily strain them out using a fine mesh sieve.
How Do You Thicken Caramel Sauce?
If your sauce came out too runny for your liking, you probably didn’t simmer it long enough on the stove. The sugar-water needs to come to a rolling boil and cook until it’s a rich amber color. The simmering process could take up to 12 minutes, so be patient!
Keep in mind that the caramel sauce will also be much thinner while it’s warm and will thicken up more as it cools.
- The heavy whipping cream will bubble up quite a bit when you add it, make sure to use a saucepan that’s a little bigger than what you think you will need.
- Be sure to prep your ingredients and have them ready to go before you get started, this will make the process much smoother.
- To make this a regular caramel sauce, just use a pinch of salt or about 1/8 teaspoon.
- Note that this is best used as a finishing sauce for desserts. I don’t recommend trying to bake with it as it’s a little too runny for that.
More Dessert Sauces to Make!
Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
- ¼ cup water (60 ml)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream (160 ml) at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (45 grams) cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the water and sugar over medium heat. Make sure to use a saucepan that's a little bigger than what you think you will need. Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture starts to bubble just a little.
- Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, stop stirring completely. Let the mixture continue boiling until it turns an amber color, this could take anywhere from 4 to 12 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble up quite a bit, so make sure to do this very carefully. Then, mix in the butter, vanilla, and salt one at a time.
- Pour the caramel sauce into a dish and allow to cool completely, then cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. The caramel sauce will thicken up more once it's cooled and refrigerated.
Oh my gosh this is so good! I did have a little trouble when I added the heavy cream. It seemed to cause the sugar to clump up. I added it slow. Would you have any idea why this happened and what I can do to prevent it next time?
That can sometimes occur because of the cold heavy cream being added to the hot mixture. You can try warming your cream before adding it next time and see if that helps. If you get a clump or two, you can also strain it to remove them.
I tried it again, but it started clumping before I added the heavy cream.
I had a similar problem. I think you have to use a smaller pan. I tried a larger pan and this happened twice. The sugar mixture is too shallow so the water cooks off before the sugar turns to caramel…it just crystallizes instead of making a smooth sauce. If you use a smaller pan, the liquid is deeper so it works! I hope this helps someone!! ??
That is the last stage of the sugar crystallizing before it goes Amber. Continue to let it boil and within 39 seconds it will melt into the Amber caramel color
Is there a way to make this recipes shelf life last longer? Like with jam, you steam the jar to seal it for pantry storage. Can you do this with This caramel recipe?
I don’t think that it would work well for this recipe. You could freeze it though and just thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.
I absolutely LOVE this recipe! I made one similar to it last Halloween. It was so good. Im making this one again today to dip apples in. Thanks so much!
This is a delicious easy recipe to prepare. There are so many uses for this amazing caramel sauce. Can I use light cream and still get a great sauce? Thanks for your wonderful ideas and recipes.
So glad you loved the caramel sauce! I recommend heavy whipping cream for this recipe, just to ensure that the sauce sets up properly.
How long will the caramel sauce keep in the fridge? can i make it now for Christmas in 7 weeks?
I don’t recommend making it that far in advance, but it will keep for about 2 weeks.
Can i use salted butter instead of unsalted? And what modification in the recipe is needed if I will be using it?
Yes, just reduce the salt to 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon.
Do you use kosher salt or just regular table salt in this recipe?
I use regular table salt.
I made it on my own it is so easy to make and it only took 10 minutes very tasty plus i am 9 years old !
Freya age 9
I’m concerned about how I’m going to clean my pan. The sugar on the sides never melted and it appears to hard as a brick. I hope I haven’t ruined my pan. Any suggestions how I can clean it? I have it soaking in hot water right now. HELP!
Were you able to remove it from your pan? You could try filling it with some water (to where it covers the sugar) and let it simmer on the stove.
I made this today – and it is a light waffle colour. I don’t understand why it is caramel colour. I followed the recipe to a T. Except that I used 35% whipping cream. That is all i could find.
If it was light in color, you may have just removed it from the heat too soon.
Great Recipe But do you have a Substitute for the Heavy Whipping Cream? I don’t have any of that or Whip Cream does Milk Work?
You do need heavy cream or heavy whipping cream for this recipe, milk won’t work very well.
can I eliminate the salt ?
Yes, that’s fine.
Perfect, easy to follow, easy to make, made it to go with the bread pudding for Mother’s Day.
Thanks for sharing!
This was perfect! I don’t think I’ll ever use store-bought again. Everybody loved it.
Just made. Wow so good! I used 1tsp. fine sea salt and salted butter (what I had). I love salty things, and this just hints at too salty without being. I warmed the cream in the microwave ahead of starting. The sugar and water started to turn amber but just on one edge of my pan. I worried that part would burn before the rest turned amber, so I picked up and swirled the pan. Voila! Entire batch was amber. I also needed to remove candied sauce from my pan. I just added a lot of water and heated it on stove until the candied bits released and liquefied. This is so so so good.
Would like to use sauce for cheesecake, do you think it will bake well in the mixture?
Hi, Katherine! I’ve tried swirling it into cheesecake and mixing it in and it doesn’t work very well. I would recommend just pouring it over the top of a cheesecake and using it as a topping instead. I hope that helps!
I made this caramel this morning and it turned out great! I used a wet silicon pastry brush to wet down the interior sides of the saucepan with a little water while the sugar was caramelizing, to prevent crystallization and clumping. I also warmed the heavy cream. It’s came out silky smooth. Very easy. Drizzled it on Dutch apple pie bars. Soooo good!
Hi, the granulated sugar can be substituted by coconut sugar?
I haven’t tried it, but it may be okay.
I reduced the sugar to only 1/4 cup. Used 1/4 cup allulose and 1/2 cup Splenda for Baking. Substituted 2/3 cup evaporated milk for heavy cream. It was thin but tasted great. So then I stirred in 1 T. Corn starch to 1/4 cup of the hot thin sauce, blended well with hand frother/ immersion blender. Poured that into the thin sauce and brought it back to boil, stirring. Setting up nicely while cooling in pint jar!
The flavor was good, followed directions to a tee but mine came out very grainy.
It took two attempts (since the first time, I burned it because it boiled a minute longer than 4 minutes, and it clumped up after I added the cream the first time), but I did it! I was so happy to get it right the second time, because it’s delicious, and my kitchen smells like caramel afterwards! The reason why my sauce clumped up the first time was that 1) my cream was not warm enough (and the second time, I made sure to microwave it for a minute in 30-second increments before starting the recipe), and 2) I waited a little too long after taking the pot off the heat before adding the cream. I’ve discovered that the cream has to be added immediately while the temperature of the sugar is at its hottest, or else it won’t work well.
I’m excited to make my apple pie bars and then drizzle the sauce on top for Halloween! They are going to be so delicious!
Thank you for this recipe and for your straightforward instructions and tips. I had never made caramel sauce before now, so having all your advice was really helpful. And now, thanks to you, I have a beautiful salted caramel sauce.
Thank you again!
I have made this recipe a number of times over the years. Absolutely the best, IMO! I do think that making it in an iron skillet makes the best sauce. It browns the nicest in that.
Also, the burnt sugar WILL clump when you add the cream. But keep stirring, it will dissolve. Your batch is not ruined! I usually put it back on the warm burner a bit to get the sugar to melt again and blend with the cream.
Oh my God I made this last night and it was incredible! I added in 20 drops of a pure wild orange essential oil to the heavy whipping cream before adding it and it is unbelievably beautifully flavored! Thank you so much I’m excited to gift these!
Help!! I added the cream too soon. How can I fix it
When did you add the cream?
I just made it and it’s really good. The only thing is that it tastes more like butterscotch rather than salted caramel. I’ll add half the butter next time to see if there’s a difference.!
Could I fill cupcakes with this as a filling once cupcakes are cooled?
Yes, that would be fine!
Oh my goodness, I finally found a caramel sauce recipe that doesn’t end up tasting burnt!!!! This recipe with instructions makes me soooo happy, thank you!!!