My homemade Thick Caramel Sauce is super easy to make. Drizzle it on cakes, pancakes or waffles. Or use thick caramel sauce to make scrumptious Caramel Swiss Buttercream , Caramel Cheese Cream Frosting or Caramel German Buttercream. Flavor it with Vanilla, Coffee, Maple flavorings or use sea salt. Possibilities are endless. Let me show you how I make it.
Updated post from 2011
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CARAMEL SAUCE
This Thick Caramel Sauce recipe is made using a wet caramel. What does it mean? Water and sugar are combined together in a non-reactive pan. Then with a gentle heat sugar is completely dissolved. After mixture is brought to boil. As sugar mixture continues to cook sugar caramelizes. Mixture takes on a beautiful amber, golden brown color and characteristic caramel flavor. That’s how wet caramel is made. Then we are going to add cream and butter.
WHAT INGREDIENTS YOU NEED TO MAKE THICK CARAMEL SAUCE
- Heavy Cream
- Vanilla Bean Paste or other concentrated flavorings (for example coffee, maple flavorings or sea salt)
PREPARE WET CARAMEL
In a nonreactive 3quart pan( I used stainless steel pan) combine sugar and water. Cover pot with a lid heat the water and sugar on low heat until all of the sugar is dissolved. This can take 3-6 minutes on low heat. If you are not sure if sugar is completely dissolved gently stir the mixture with a spatula and check spatula if you see any sugar crystals sticking to it.
MELT SUGAR – SUGAR SYRUP
After sugar is dissolved mixture will look cloudy. It’s normal. Increase the temperature to medium. Do not stir! You’ll notice mixture will gradually become clear. After sugar mixture is brought to simmer be sure you don’t stir it.
At this stage you’ll notice some sugar spots on the sides of the pan. It is important to get rid of these rough sugar spots. Any sugar particles left behind can cause the caramel sauce to crystallize. This is the reason why caramel sauce can become grainy after few days.
- There are couple of methods you can use to remove sugar clinging to the sides of the pan:
- A common method is brushing the sides of the pan down with a pastry brush dipped in water (image 1).
- Another popular method to battle sugar crystals on the sides of the pan is to cover the pot of simmering sugar syrup with a lid for 2-3 minutes. And let the steam and condensation wash down the sides of the pan clean.
- I usually use the steam method twice throughout the whole caramel sauce cooking process. Just be sure to check on sugar syrup. Lift the lid to be sure sugar is not caramelizing-getting brown faster than expected (Image 2).
SUGAR SYRUP TURNS AMBER CARAMEL COLOR
Watch sugar syrup carefully, don’t leave it cooking on the stove unattended. Not even for couple of minutes. Once you notice that sugar syrup is starting to change its color it is important not to leave its side. It takes only couple of moments for it to caramelize and become amber, honey gold, honey brown color. Don’t let it burn. Once caramel is burned there is no salvaging it. You’ll have to start over.
ADD HEAVY CREAM AND BUTTER
After caramel reaches an amber color, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat. Stop the cooking immediately by pouring in about ½ of the cream and stirring well. The mixture will sizzle and foam up significantly. This is normal. That’s why it’s important to use a tall pan. Then stir in the remaining cream. And after, stir in butter. The mixture will be thin. Don’t worry; as caramel sauce cools, it thickens.
HOW TO FLAVOR CARAMEL SAUCE
Yes, you can flavor caramel sauce. Allow caramel sauce to cool slightly before adding flavorings. I like to add Vanilla Bean Paste.
But you can also experiment with other flavors. Use sea salts, maple, coffee concentrated flavorings. Little goes a long way. Don’t add too much as it will overpower caramel flavor.
HOW TO STORE HOMEMADE CARAMEL SAUCE
Let caramel sauce cool completely at room temperature. Then pour it into a jar, plastic container, cover with a plastic wrap and a lid. Store in the fridge for up to a month.
Caramel Sauce thickens in the fridge. You can gently reheat it in the microwave to more pourable consistency.
CARAMEL SAUCE TIPS AND TRICKS
MY CARAMEL IS VERY THICK, CAN I REHEAT IT ?
Caramel sauce thickens as it cool and when refrigerated. Yes, you can microwave it in 5 second intervals to make it more fluid. Stir well after each heating period.
WHY IS MY HOMEMADE CARAMEL SAUCE GRAINY?
This can sometime happen. Graininess is caused by sugar that crystallized. Most likely there were few crystallized sugar spots on the sides of the pan you cooked the caramel in. These when mixed with caramel sauce will cause trouble. They set of a chain reaction and cause sugar crystallization. And as a result caramel will be grainy. This doesn’t have to happen right away. It can happen in a week, 2 weeks etc. Don’t worry there are few things you can do to prevent or delay crystallization.
HOW TO PREVENT MY CARAMEL SAUCE FROM BECOMING GRAINY?
- Dissolve all the sugar on low heat.
- Don’t stir sugar and water mixture once it starts to simmer.
- Make sure sides of the pan are clean, with no sugar spots clinging to them. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash down the sides of the pan.
- Or use steam/condensation method. I employ the steam method twice during the caramel sauce cooking process.
OTHER WAYS TO BATTLE SUGAR CRYSTALLIZATION
As you probably know a lot of recipes for Caramel Sauces, Candies, Marshmallows include corn syrup. But why? Corn syrup is a great crystallization inhibitor. It can prevent or delay crystallization process. Corn syrup helps to keeps sugar crystallization at bay, keeping your caramel super silky smooth.
I’ve heard you, loud and clear you don’t want to use corn syrup. If you are still struggling making homemade caramel that is silky smooth and without the use of corn syrup try Invert Sugar Syrup. It’s super easy to make and it keeps for at least 6 months in fridge. And it can be used in place of Corn Syrup in this recipe. Just like corn syrup Invert Sugar works as crystallization inhibitor, it can prevent or delay the crystallization process.
- Corn Syrup – it’s widely available but I know many of use are trying to avoid using it in homemade recipes
- Invert Sugar Syrup – great substitute for corn syrup in this homemade caramel sauce (if using – use 3 tbsp in this recipe)
- Acid : cream of tartar, citric acid, lemon juice – these can also help fight crystallization. Use tiny amounts only. As too much of it can affect the caramel taste. Use a pinch only.
HOW LONG DOES CARAMEL KEEPS?
From my experience it’s good for at least a month if stored in the refrigerator. Be sure to let it cool completely before refrigerating.
CAN CARAMEL SAUCE BE FROZEN?
Yes, freeze it in a freezer save container. Covered with a plastic wrap and a lid. Freeze for up 3 months, let it defrost on the counter.
DO I HAVE TO REFRIGERATE IT?
Yes, due to dairy content it is best to refrigerate homemade caramel sauce.
IS THIS SAUCE GOOD FOR CAKE DRIPS?
WHAT OTHER FLAVORS OF CARAMEL CAN I MAKE?
You can use concentrated flavorings ( I’d recommend Lorann Oils flavoring, and use only few drops) to flavor caramel. However don’t have a heavy hand with flavors. I really like sea salt and coffee undertones. I also tried Maple which was delicious. But be sure to use only few drops as it can be overpowering.
PIN IT for later
TRY THESE DELICIOUS CARAMEL RECIPES
- Caramel Wafer Bars
- Soft Apple Cider Caramels
- Apple Bundt Cake with Apple Cider Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
- Gingerbread Caramel Popcorn
- Caramelized Pecans via Striped Spatula
- Caramel Swiss Buttercream
- Brown Sugar Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Homemade Thick Caramel Sauce
- 1/2 cup water (120 grams, 120ml)
- 1 3/4 cup sugar (350 grams)
- 1 cup heavy cream (240 ml)
- 3 tbsp butter (45 grams)
- 1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
- In a nonreactive 3 quart pan combine the sugar (1cup and 3/4cup), water (1/2cup).
- Stir with a wooden spoon. Cover the pot, heat sugar, and water on low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. 3-5 minutes.
- Remove the lid, swirl the pan to see if all the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat to medium and bring the sugar syrup to a simmer. DO NOT STIR. The mixture will appear cloudy at first. It will clear up as it starts to boil.
- To remove any sugar spots on the sides of the pan, either brush the sides with a pastry brush dipped in water or cover the pot again for 2-3 minutes. Steam/condensation will wash down the sides of the pan clean. If there are any stubborn areas, use a pastry brush. It is important to keep the sides of the pan clean. This helps to prevent sugar crystallization and grainy caramel sauce.
- Keep an eye on the caramel. Once you see sugar syrup is changing color, it is important to monitor it closely as it can burn in seconds. Continue to cook until the caramel turns amber color, then remove from the heat and pour in about 1/2 of the heavy cream (1/2 cup, 60 grams, 60 ml). The mixture will foam up significantly, stir it and then pour in the remaining heavy cream (1/2 cup, 60 grams, 60 ml). Stir in the room temperature butter (3 tablespoons, 45grams). The mixture will be thin. Pour it into a heatproof dish and let cool slightly, about 20-30 minutes, Then stir in Vanilla Bean Paste (1 teaspoon). Flavor with other flavoring as desired. Use sea salt, coffee, maple, and pecan flavoring sparingly.
- Cover the bowl/container with cooled caramel sauce, plastic wrap, and a lid. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- DON'T BE TEMPTED TO TASTE CARAMEL SAUCE BEFORE IT COOLS. THE MIXTURE IS EXTREMELY HOT.
- WHERE SHOULD I STORE THE CARAMEL? In the fridge it contains dairy. It’s best to keep it refrigerated.
- HOW LONG DOES CARAMEL SAUCE KEEP? From my experience, it keeps for at least a month if stored in the refrigerator. Be sure to let it cool completely before refrigerating.
- SAUCE IS VERY THICK, CAN I REHEAT IT? Yes, heat it in the microwave in 5-second intervals or gently on the stove.
- HOW TO PREVENT MY CARAMEL SAUCE FROM BECOMING GRAINY?
- Dissolve all the sugar on low heat.
- Don’t stir the sugar syrup once it starts to simmer.
- Make sure the sides of the pan are clean, with no sugar spots clinging to them. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash down the sides of the pan.
- Or use the steam/condensation method. I employ the stem method twice during the caramel sauce cooking process.
- OTHER WAYS TO BATTLE SUGAR CRYSTALLIZATION
- Corn Syrup – add 3 tablespoons into the pan with sugar and water, then heat the mixture to dissolve sugar.
- Invert Sugar Syrup – an excellent substitute for corn syrup. If using – use 3 tablespoons in this recipe. Add it to the pan with sugar and water, then continue with the recipe as written.
- Acid – the cream of tartar can also help fight crystallization. You can only use small amounts. As too much of it can affect the caramel taste. Use only a pinch. You need to add it to the pot at the very beginning.
- CAN I USE IT TO MAKE CAKE DRIPS? Absolutely.
Did you make this recipe? Tag @hanielas on Instagram and hashtag it #hanielas
TO MAKE HOMEMADE CARAMEL SAUCE YOU NEED
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This post was originally published on March 7th, 2011. On September 26th, 2019 I updated this post with new step by step photos, written text and a video.