Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce is the exclamation point for all of your holiday recipes. Drizzle it on (nearly) anything for some serious wow factor.
I first made this Salted Caramel Sauce five years ago. I screwed it up royally, and somehow it was still ridiculously good. I knew then this sauce would be a mainstay in my holiday rotation, and indeed, it has. It usually makes its inaugural appearance in October, when we bring our first load of apples home from the orchard. Unsurprisingly, salted caramel sauce and apple slices get along quite well.
Another batch is usually required for Caramel Apple Cider Floats and then another for drizzling over homemade apple crisp. In the in-between time, it gets drizzled on pancakes and apple french toast, swirled into coffee and licked right off the spoon. At Thanksgiving, you’ll find the sauce stationed next to the pies, ready to take your holiday desserting to the next level, and at Christmas it gets poured into cute jars and tied with ribbon for everyone’s favorite DIY gift.
My friends have started calling this THE SAUCE, and it’s certainly earned its reputation. The sauce is remarkably easy to make, and it’s one of those recipes where the reward far outweighs the work required. Trust me, you’ll have to restrain yourself from licking the flaming hot pot you make it in. It’s that good.
Now, I promise this recipe really is easy. Only four ingredients and about 15 minutes of time is needed to make it. But of course, I have found ways to mess it up. From time to time (usually when I’m in a hurry), the caramel seizes up on me, but luckily nearly any caramel can be saved with a little bit of heat and patience.
Because I love you, and I really, really, REALLY want you to have this sauce in your lives, I’ve swallowed my pride and included my original tutorial photos from five years ago below the recipe. They aren’t winning any awards, but I hope they will give you the confidence to give this a try and push forward, even if you find yourself looking at something that resembles a pile of burnt cheese. Do not despair friend, sweet sultry Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce is only a stir or two away!
Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1/2-3/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla (if I'm feeling especially extravagant, I'll use the seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste)
- In a large heavy pot, spread sugar in a thin, even layer. Turn burner to medium and heat until parts of the sugar begin to bubble and liquefy.
- Gently stir, making sure unmelted sugar comes in contact with the greatest heat source. Continue, stirring occasionally until all the sugar is melted.
- Meanwhile, heat cream in the microwave or over the stove until warm, but not boiling.
- When the sugar is completely melted and has turned an amber color, remove from heat. Whisk in ½ the warmed cream. The mixture will bubble a lot. Whisk in remaining cream until smooth. If any of the caramel hardened, simply place it back over medium heat and stir gently until melted.
- Stir in salt and vanilla. Serve warm or pour into an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve. The caramel will harden when cold. Simply rewarm in the microwave when ready to use.
Recipe Tutorial + How to Fix Seized Caramel:
First, spread a cup of sugar on the bottom of a big, heavy saucepan. Turn the heat on medium and let that sit for a while.
Parts of the sugar will start to get liquidy and bubbly. For me, this was the center of the pot. Gently stir the outsides of the pot toward the center, and the liquid part towards the outside (or vice versa if your pot is heating better on the outside). My mixture looked like this:
Continue to heat until the sugar turns a deep amber color.
Now. This is very important. Are you listening? Heat up 1 1/4 cups cream on the stove top or in the microwave until it is warm, but not boiling.
If you whisk cold cream directly into the caramel, it often turns into something like this:
No bueno. BUT, if this does happen to you, don’t fret! Simply return the pot to medium heat and melt again, stirring constantly. Once everything is smooth, add sea salt and vanilla!
Voila! Golden, lovely salted caramel sauce for every holiday dessert imaginable.