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How to make smooth and creamy homemade caramel sauce! Stovetop caramel only requires three ingredients and is smooth, delicious, and so easy to make!
If you have ever wondered how to make smooth caramel, wonder no more. While it may seem easier to run out to the store and buy some, you will be amazed at how simple the process is to make it yourself. Once you have learned how to make caramel, you will prefer it over the store-bought stuff. The best part? This recipe is quick, easy, and the results are smooth and delicious!
Homemade caramel sauce is perfect for drizzling on ice cream, coating taffy apples, making your own caramel-filled candy, or even as a decadent topper on toast with sliced bananas for breakfast.
It is so versatile and easy to use in so many desserts, from something as easy as this Instant Pot Apple Crisp (drizzle it on top, and it’s the perfect finishing touch!) or even these Caramel Cashew Bars. When you have a nice smooth caramel sauce, it is a really decadent ingredient to add to cheesecake, like this Easy Nutella Salted Caramel Cheesecake. You’ll be hooked!
Homemade Caramel Ingredients
This easy caramel recipe is made with just three simple ingredients.
- Sugar: We start with granulated sugar. Make sure you get out any large clumps before putting it in the pan.
- Butter: I recommend using unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter, that is fine to use, but keep in mind that it will alter the taste and add a little bit of a salty flavor to it.
- Heavy Cream: If you don’t have heavy whipping cream, you can replace it by making your own. To replace one cup of heavy whipping cream, add two tablespoons of cornstarch to one cup of milk and stir, allowing the mixture to thicken. Plain milk will not work in this recipe.
How to Make Caramel
Stovetop caramel sauce is easier to make than you think, and you don’t even need a candy thermometer. Be warned though, the melted sugar is HOT. Be extra careful the stirring in the butter and cream (it’s a good idea to keep the kids out of the kitchen to prevent any accidents).
Here is a brief overview of how to make caramel on the stovetop. It comes together in one pot which makes for easy cleanup! For the full recipe including all of the measurements, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
First, heat the sugar in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, stirring every few seconds. It will initially be very lumpy, then will turn to a golden liquid. Continue stirring until all the sugar (including any smaller lumps) has melted.
Once all the sugar has melted, carefully add the butter. Continue stirring the mixture for two minutes.
Finally, slowly pour in the cream, continuing to stir. Allow the caramel to bubble for a minute, stirring once or twice, then turn off the heat and allow to cool.
Don’t walk away from the stove. This recipe doesn’t take long to make but isn’t one you can walk away from. It needs to be stirred very often or it will burn. Stay present with the sauce at the stove until it is done.
How to Make Salted Caramel Sauce
After you make this homemade caramel sauce and realize how easy it is, you may find yourself ready to try other flavors. The best way to make caramel is to use the recipe as a base and then modify it as much as you’d like (or simply enjoy it as is). Try some of these variations:
- Want salted caramel? Just stir in half a teaspoon of kosher salt at the end. It’s as simple as that.
- Add vanilla. Add a splash of vanilla extract for a sweeter flavor profile.
- This Pumpkin Spice Caramel Sauce is perfection, especially when it’s paired with these Pumpkin Caramel Rice Krispy Treats!
How to Use Homemade Caramel
Sure you can buy caramel sauce at the store, but this homemade sauce is so simple to make, and tastes fresh and decadent! One of my favorite ways to use this homemade caramel is to drizzle it on top of my Instant Pot Apple Crisp. Here are a few other ways to use it:
- Add it to your favorite coffee, latte, or this Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino Copycat.
- It makes the best drizzle for this Better Than Sex Cake or Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake.
- Sometimes simple is best! Drizzle it over ice cream like in the photos.
Yes! None of the ingredients in this caramel recipe contain gluten, however I always recommend double-checking your ingredients if you are making a recipe for someone who can’t have gluten.
Yes, because of the heavy cream this homemade caramel should be stored in the refrigerator. It can stiffen up, so placing the portion you plan to eat in the microwave or back on the stovetop to reheat it and soften it up.
Yes! Once the caramel has cooled completely, put it in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months. I don’t recommend using a jar because of the risk of it breaking. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
How to Store Caramel
Once the caramel sauce has cooled, it can be used right away or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Glass jars with lids (like mason jars) work well.
The caramel will thicken as it cools, but you can warm it up in a pan or the microwave for 5 seconds to loosen it up if you need to. I recommend only reheating it once, so only use the portion that you plan to eat.
If you learn how to make caramel from this recipe or try any of my other recipes, please leave a comment and let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!
How to Make Caramel
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 12 tbsp unsalted butter cut into small chunks
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Place the sugar in a large heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat. Once the edges of the sugar start to turn to liquid, stir with a heat-resistant rubber spatula. Keep stirring every few seconds.
- The sugar will initially go very lumpy, then will turn to a golden liquid. Continue stirring until all the sugar (including any smaller lumps) has melted. If it seems to be taking a long time, turn the heat down while stirring to prevent the caramel from burning.
- Once all the sugar has melted, very carefully add the butter to the pan. It will bubble and spit, so you may want to lower it in with a spoon to be extra careful.
- Stir the mixture for 2 minutes. You may find that the butter doesn't completely stir in – some of it may stay on top. This is fine. It will mix in properly once the cream is added.
- Pour in the cream while continuing to stir. The caramel will bubble up quite a lot at this point. Once combined, allow the caramel to bubble for a minute – stirring once or twice – then turn off the heat.
- Leave to cool, then pour the caramel into one large or two small sterilised jars.
- Serve once cooled or cover and refrigerate until needed.