Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce is easier than you think to make and has just 5 ingredients. In just about 10 minutes you can have one of the most delicious sauces ready to spoon over ice cream, add to buttercream frosting, drizzle over apple pie... anything you can think of. The possibilities are endless!
Sugar - You'll need plain ol' granulated sugar to make homemade caramel sauce. If you notice any clumps or impurities in the sugar, I suggest removing them before turning on the heat so they don't end up in the final product.
Unsalted Butter - Butter will give the caramel a smooth shiny appearance and round out the flavor. Using unsalted butter will make it easier to control how salty the caramel is.
Heavy Cream - Also called heavy whipping cream, this is what gives the caramel sauce its creamy pourable consistency.
Vanilla Extract - I like to add a splash of vanilla to my caramel sauce. What sweet treat isn't improved with a bit of vanilla extract?
Salt - This is the one ingredient in this whole thing that you should be picky about. Table salt is definitely out for this recipe. It's far too harsh and could leave your caramel sauce with a weird taste. Kosher or regular sea salt will work but they're not the optimal choice.
Since salt is such a crucial component to the final taste of salted caramel sauce, I strongly recommend you use Fleur de Sel, a coarse sea salt with a smooth salt flavor.
How to Make Salted Caramel Sauce
In a pan with high sides, pour in the sugar. Check for any impurities (sometimes you'll see little bits that look like rocks) and remove them now.
Turn the heat on to medium-high and let the sugar cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Once you start to see some of the sugar melting and darkening, give the sugar a stir with either a wooden spoon or whisk. I prefer using the wooden spoon but it's a matter of preference.
Continue cooking and stirring until all of the sugar has melted and turned a rich amber color. At this point, I like to turn the heat down to medium to help control how quickly the caramel darkens.
Once all of the sugar is melted and has turned a deep amber color, drop in the butter and stir until it is fully melted. It will begin to bubble but should subside quickly.
Next, slowly pour in the heavy cream while stirring. The caramel will bubble and steam. No worries! Just keep stirring until it all comes together.
If your caramel seizes a bit just keep stirring until it smooths back out. This usually happens because the heavy cream is still cold or was poured in too quickly. If you keep stirring the sauce it will all blend together. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 1 minute then remove from the heat.
Stir in the vanilla extract and sea salt.
Pour the caramel into a heat-safe glass jar and allow it cool before eating.
WARNING: Just-made caramel is extremely hot! Allow it to cool before attempting to eat any.
Watch the Video (1 minute video)
Tips and Tricks
Caramel sauce is notoriously challenging to make, mainly because it can crystalize and ruin the whole batch.
But, that is usually only a problem with caramel made using the "wet method" where you mix water into the sugar before cooking. In that method, you cannot stir the caramel as it cooks and you have to be mindful of sugar crystallizing around the edges.
I find the "dry method" to be much easier and far less finicky. With this method, you can stir the sauce and the bits of sugar around the edges don't threaten to ruin the whole batch.
The one downside to the dry method is that the caramel can darken quickly once it gets going. However, this is easily managed by starting at medium-high then reducing the heat to medium once the sugar begins to caramelize.
Storing and Using the Caramel Sauce
Once it has cooled, cover the jar with a lid and store the caramel sauce in the fridge.
- It can be kept up to one month in the fridge.
- Caramel can also be frozen for up to 3 months. You'll need to transfer it to a plastic container first since glass can break from the sauce expanding in the freezer.
- On baked goods, caramel sauce can be out at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
Once it's been chilled, the sauce will become very thick. To thin it back out before use, simply add a splash of cream or water and stir.
Did You Try This Recipe?
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Easy Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup heavy cream room temp
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon sea salt strongly recommend using Fleur de Sel
- Pour the sugar into a high-sided pot. Remove any noticeable impurities in the sugar.
- Turn the heat to medium-high and allow the sugar to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until you see it starting to melt and caramelize. Using a wooden spoon or a whisk, stir the sugar.
- Continue cooking and stirring until all of the sugar has melted and has become a dark rich amber color. If it is darkening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium.
- Add in the butter and stir until it has melted. It will bubble and foam at first then settle back down.
- While stirring, slowly pour in the heavy cream. The sauce will rapidly bubble and steam. Don't worry if the sugar seizes, just keep stirring until it all melts back together. Allow the caramel to bubble and cook for about 1 minute then remove from the heat.
- Add in the vanilla and salt.
- Pour the caramel into a heat-safe glass jar and allow it to cool before using.
- In the fridge, the caramel will be good for about a month.
- Caramel can be frozen for up to 3 months but it will need to be transferred to a plastic container so that it doesn't shatter.
- On baked goods, the caramel will be ok at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.