Homemade Caramel Sauce

This is a quick and easy, and by the way delicious, recipe for homemade caramel sauce. A little butter, a lot of sugar and cream, some water and a little vanilla extract and you’re done!

Perfect for ice cream, fantastic with pie; this is one of those essential recipes you need to keep on hand at all times…

If you have any kind of sweet tooth I guarantee you will love the taste of this sauce. None of that artificial taste you get from store bought junk – this is the real deal!

I, probably like everyone else, love the silky smooth taste of a caramel sauce and it amazed me to discover that caramel is pretty much just sugar and water!

I’ve made a few different caramel sauces in my time and this one is possibly the best tasting and easiest to make. In the past I’ve added extras like cinnamon, used brown sugar, and of course I’ve made a salted caramel version just by adding a little sea salt at the end of the cooking process.

Click here to jump straight to the Homemade Caramel Sauce or have a look at the photos taken during the cooking and some tips on the method and serving suggestions.

Caramel sauce and ice cream

Just look at that photo – superbly decadent caramel sauce served over a straightforward vanilla ice cream courtesy of Haagen Dazs…

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How to Make the best Homemade Caramel Sauce

It’s pretty hard to mess this up. 90% of the cooking is simply boiling some water and sugar and the only thing to watch out for is the moment it takes to go from perfectly cooked caramel to burnt sugar! As long as you keep an eye on it there won’t be a problem.

Homemade Caramel Sauce Ingredients

These 5 ingredients are all it takes – water, sugar, butter, cream and vanilla. As I said before you can easily add a tablespoon of sea salt at the end to make a wonderful salted caramel sauce.

Here’s a couple of our best tips for getting this sweet and delicious sauce right first and every time:

Don’t take your eyes off the boiling sugar water

The first step is to add the sugar to the water, stir it, and then boil the mixture until it turns an amber (that would be caramel) color. It takes around 12 minutes to get here but the moment it “turns” you need to be watching it because an extra minute or so will result in a burnt mess…

Whisk the mixture hard after adding the butter and cream

This mixture requires a firm and vigorous whisk to combine the butter and cream thoroughly – this is what turns it into the pure, smooth caramel sauce and makes sure that the sauce doesn’t break up or separate. It really is important to fully incorporate the dairy into the sugar to get the right consistency.

Feel free to make a double or triple batch – it’s completely straightforward

These ingredients scale up easily; simply double, triple or quadruple to get more caramel sauce at the end. This recipe produces a cup and a little more and from my experience lasts about 4 days with people stealing it from the fridge and covering their ice cream with it. If you have a crowd to feed or a large family that likes to “steal” your caramel then feel free to scale up!

caramel sauce sugar and water

So you start off really simply with the sugar and the water – mix it together with a whisk or spatula WHILST STILL COLD then heat it on medium high to get it to boiling and then carefully watch it for the next 10 to 12 minutes… Don’t stir it at all! Not at all!

There’s a reason behind this and that reason is one that I whimsically call “science”…

You see, when you mix the cold water and the relatively huge amount of sugar – this recipe calls for 4 to 1 sugar to water ratio – you are producing a supersaturated solution. So, a quick technical and fun fact for the day is that something is saturated when said substance is united with the greatest possible amount of another substance – in this case, sugar and water. When a substance is supersaturated it is holding more of the dissolved material (sugar) than could be dissolved by the solvent (water) under normal circumstances. These “normal circumstances” are changed when you begin to heat the water and the excess sugar will dissolve. The reason to avoid stirring is that a supersaturated solution is desperately looking for a way to precipitate, which in this case means to solidify or crystallize.

So, basically, if you stir it, the sugar will crystallize and become hard and probably ruin your pan…

So don’t touch it!!

After a few minutes you can see the character of the mixture start to change; from a normal boiling pot of water to a super syrupy, huge bubble mixture to a final gloopy, slow boiling, beautiful mess of amber caramel.

boiling sugar water caramel sauce

When it does turn, it turns quickly so keep watching and have your butter ready to add immediately.

The Caramel Appears

When you do add the butter to what is now a very, very hot solution, it will froth and bubble aggressively but that’s what you want so don’t worry about it 🙂

Add the butter to the caramel

Yes, I’m using a spoon now – after the caramelization process has completed (ie when the mixture turns brown), you are allowed to stir it – in fact you should be very vigorous in your stirring or whisking now because caramel needs a lot of encouragement to combine thoroughly with dairy products.

Homemade Caramel with the butter

As soon as the butter melts take the pan off the heat – it’s hot enough now (about 330F in fact – I wouldn’t dip a finger in to taste it quite yet…).

Caramel Sauce with the Cream

Add in the cream and watch a brief display of angry sugar trying to boil some cold dairy – it only lasts 5 to 10 seconds then it will calm down.

Homemade Caramel Sauce Recipe

Stir or whisk hard to combine the cream – look at the beautiful color of that sauce! It’s just about ready. It looks very runny but it will thicken up a lot as it cools. Once it gets to room temperature you can put it in the fridge and it will get even thicker!

Easy Homemade Caramel Sauce

Serve with ice cream! Or waffles! Or pancakes! Or French toast! Or coffee! Or apples! Or bananas! Or anything you want!!

If you enjoyed this recipe then have a quick look at these, I think you might like them too:

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AUTHOR: The Englishman
Print Recipe
Homemade Caramel Sauce
Super sweet, super decadent, super delicious homemade caramel sauce - ready in just a few minutes!
Beautiful Homemade Caramel Sauce
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
cup
Ingredients
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
cup
Ingredients
Beautiful Homemade Caramel Sauce
Instructions
  1. Add water and sugar to a pan and heat to medium high. The sugar water will boil and bubble. Cook until the mixture turns amber in color - this will take around 10 to 12 minutes but make sure to keep an eye on it; it can turn from perfect caramel to totally burnt mess in just a minute or so.
  2. Add the butter - it will sputter and froth for a few seconds but that's fine.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the heavy cream - the mixture will again bubble and froth for 5 to 10 seconds. Finally, add the vanilla extract and gently stir the mixture.
  4. Allow to cool - it will thicken as it does and then pour it over your favorite ice cream! Delicious!!
Recipe Notes

This will store in the fridge for a week but it won't last that long if you have ice cream to serve it with and wives and children that know where it is...

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