Homemade Caramel Sauce is the exclamation point for all of your holiday recipes. This easy caramel sauce recipe adds amazing flavor to all kinds of recipes. Drizzle it on pancakes, ice cream, and apple pie or swirl it into your morning coffee for an irresistible salted caramel flavor.
I first made this Homemade 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 is.
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.
Homemade Caramel Sauce For All the Things
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 Buttermilk Pancakes and Apple Overnight French Toast Casserole, swirled into coffee and licked right off the spoon.
At Thanksgiving, you’ll find the homemade caramel sauce stationed next to the Caramelized Apple 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.
Ingredients For Homemade Caramel Sauce
Now, I promise this recipe really is easy. You’ll only need these four ingredients:
- Heavy Whipping Cream
- Sea Salt
- Vanilla Extract
…and about 15 minutes of time in order 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 homemade caramel sauce can be saved with a little bit of heat and patience.
How to Make Caramel Sauce
- 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. This is really important! Heating the cream keeps the mixture from seizing up when you add it to the pan.
- When the sugar is completely melted and has turned an amber color, remove from heat.
- Whisk in 1/2 the warmed cream. The mixture will bubble a lot. This is normal! Whisk in remaining cream until smooth. Stir in salt and vanilla.
How to Save Seized Caramel
If any of the caramel hardened, place it back over low heat and stir gently until melted. This may take several minutes. Alternatively, you can remove any small bits of hardened caramel from the sauce.
How long does homemade caramel sauce last?
Any leftover caramel sauce should be cooled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. It will last for several weeks.
- 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)
- Heat the cream in the microwave or on the stove top until warm but not boiling. Set aside.
- In a pot or saute pan with a large surface area, spread sugar in a thin, even layer. Turn burner to medium and heat until parts of the sugar begin to liquefy. This part feels like it takes awhile, but once it starts to melt it will go fast.
- Gently stir, making sure unmelted sugar comes in contact with the greatest heat source. Continue, stirring often, until all the sugar is melted.
- When the sugar is completely melted, continue cooking until it turns a deep amber color, only a few more minutes. Alternatively, use a candy thermometer to temp it. When it reaches 350 degrees, remove from heat.
- Dribble a small stream of the cream into the caramel whisking constantly. It will bubble a lot and be slightly terrifying. Continue to add the cream, a little at a time, whisking. Once about half the cream is incorporated, you can add the rest in a steady stream, continuing to whisk until smooth.
- Stir in vanilla and salt, to taste. 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.