Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Sea Salt Vanilla Caramels

Super soft and chewy sea salt caramels loaded with delicious vanilla bean! Step by step recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

This weekend, let’s satisfy our candy addictions and make homemade caramels completely from scratch. Before you run away at the thought of making caramel, let me assure you that making chewy creamy soft caramels on the stovetop is SO easy.

A 15 minute ordeal where all you have to do is… stir.

I’m being serious. If you know how to stir, you know how to make caramels from scratch. They’re truly that simple.

Super soft and chewy sea salt caramels loaded with delicious vanilla bean! Step by step recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

And, let me tell ya, homemade caramel candies taste even better than anything you can buy at the store. Especially when you flavor them with vanilla bean and extra sea salt on top. Friends, just check out all those vanilla bean specks!! ↑ ↑

Ingredients and tools for making sea salt vanilla caramels on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Here’s exactly what you’ll need to make these sea salt vanilla caramels and why. When making candy, it’s important to know what each ingredient does in the recipe. Because it really is chemistry! Delicious chemistry. There are very little ingredients (just 7!) required and each one plays an equally imperative role.

Heavy cream. Or heavy whipping cream. Cream is the base of these caramels and what makes them, well, CREAMY!

Sugar. Duh! Caramel is sugar and sugar is caramel. 🙂

Brown sugar. I looooove adding brown sugar to caramels because it keeps them incredibly soft and chewy. This is because brown sugar has a lot of moisture.

Corn syrup. It’s a controversial ingredient, for sure, but an imperative one for making candy as it prevents crystallization and keeps the caramels smooth as silk. What I like to keep in mind is that there are far worse processed ingredients in store-bought candies and only 1/3 cup of corn syrup divided over 65 candies is like .00000001 teaspoon per caramel. Or something like that.

These are the 4 main ingredients. After the caramel is made, remove it from heat and immediately stir these ingredients in for flavor:

A smidgen of butter… yum! Makes them even softer and creamier, too.

Vanilla extract and vanilla bean. Vanilla bean can be a little hard to come by, but I usually find it in the baking aisle of most major grocery stores. And there’s always online. Amazon has them for a steal!

Salt because we always need a little salty with our sweet.

How to make sea salt vanilla caramels on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Here are 3 tools you’ll need and why each is important.

Sturdy pan. A thick-bottomed and sturdy pan which is KEY to even heat distribution. Thinner, cheaper pans can scorch the cooking candy and cook it unevenly. Here are some great choices: Anolon Nouvelle Copper and Crestware. I own a couple pricier copper pots because of the amount of candy I make. In all honesty, you can’t beat their quality.

Candy thermometer. Don’t get nervous! Candy thermometers make your job even easier, not harder! It literally tells you when your candy is ready, ensuring consistency and success. I prefer using digital candy thermometers. Here is an excellent choice right here!

Pastry brush. A pastry brush is imperative when making candy– its purpose is to help rid the saucepan of any sugar syrup or cooking candy that may have splashed up on the sides. The candy on the sides of the pan can burn and crystallize, ruining your batch of candy. Running a water-moistened pastry brush around the sides of the pan helps prevent this from happening.

More on my favorite candy making tools right here!

Super soft and chewy sea salt caramels loaded with delicious vanilla bean! Step by step recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Pour the hot caramel into a lined pan. I always line it with aluminum foil because it’s very easy to get that foil lined nice and snug in the pan. Lightly butter the foil so the caramels peel off easily. Then let the caramels cool for about 4 hours (or overnight) at room temperature. Then cut into rectangles or little squares.

I usually give caramels out or bring them with me to events, so I individually wrap them. And I’m sure you’ll give some away as well– I know I can’t be trusted with 65 caramels in my kitchen TAUNTING me! But maybe you’re stronger than I am- lol. I’ve tested out many different types of wrappers and these twisting candy wrappers are the easiest to use and the perfect size. They’re great for homemade truffles or other candies too! I went through a ton while writing Sally’s Candy Addiction.

Super soft and chewy sea salt caramels loaded with delicious vanilla bean! Step by step recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Super soft and chewy sea salt caramels loaded with delicious vanilla bean! Step by step recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

This is my go-to base for homemade caramels. Sometimes I even dip them into dark chocolate after I cut them. My piece of advice? Place one in your mouth and let it melt on your tongue. Truly an indulgence!

Sea Salt Vanilla Caramels

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (355ml) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
  • 1 Tablespoon (14g) unsalted butter, softened (plus more for lightly buttering the pan)
  • coarse sea salt for topping

Directions:

  1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough overhang on the sides to easily remove the caramel once it has set. Lightly grease the foil with butter.
  2. Combine the cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup in a 3-quart heavy duty saucepan over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly as the sugars dissolve. The mixture will be thick and cloudy looking.
  3. Once boiling, brush down the sides of the pan with a water-moistened pastry brush. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan, making sure not to let it touch the bottom.
  4. Cook and stir gently every minute or so until the temperature reaches 245°F (118°C). Immediately remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt, the vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, and butter. The mixture may burst and bubble, so be careful stirring.
  5. Pour the hot caramel into the prepared baking pan and top with coarse sea salt. Allow to cool at room temperature, uncovered, for 4 hours or overnight (no need to cover).
  6. Once set, remove the caramel from the pan by lifting out the aluminum foil. Peel the foil off and, using a very sharp knife, cut into rectangles or squares. Wrap with candy wrappers, if desired.

Make ahead tip: wrapped caramels keep for up to 2 weeks!

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

SHOP THE RECIPE

Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.

Vanilla Beans | Wooden Spoon | Pastry BrushDigital Candy Thermometer | Heavy Duty Saucepan Option 1 | Heavy Duty Saucepan Option 2 | 8″ Square Cake Pan | Adorable Salt Keeper (love this!) | Twisting Candy Wrappers

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

sea-salt-vanilla-caramels

105 comments

  1. These look SO darn delicious! Loooooove that you added vanilla, and that hint of salt just sets it all off perfectly!

  2. Sally
    I just bought your book “Sally’s Candy Addition” from Amazon and it arrived today. What a beautiful book. The pictures of your recipes make me want to try them all. I will try at least one of them this weekend. Thank you for taking the time to put together this book for your followers. I love having all these wonderful recipes in one book.
    Thank you

    • Thank you so much Penny, I sincerely appreciate this comment. You are so kind, thank you! I hope you enjoy the recipes you try.

  3. Hi Sally! I made these today and they are as beautiful  as they are tasty! Do you refrigerate them once they’re wrapped? I’m wondering because of the cream.. Also, mine are extremely soft but still hold their shape. Are yours super  soft too? Nothing like store bought, that’s for sure. Thanks for another fabulous recipe!! 

    • No need to store in the refrigerator, though you certainly could. The cream is cooked up to a high heat, so it’s safe at room temp. Yes, these are super soft caramels!

  4. Potentially silly question- how do I know if my pot can withstand caramel making? We got a nice set of pots for our wedding, but I’m afraid to try this out in case they scorch and are ruined!

    • Hi Hil! Is it a sturdy, heavy pot? If it’s flimsy, then I wouldn’t use it. Though I’m sure that your nice new set of pots would be OK. Not a silly question at all!

  5. Hi. Just wanted to know can these caramels be melted down again and used as a sauce or a tart filling?

  6. honestly, i’m certain i begin all of my comments with “ohhh my god Sally!” but this one especially…. ohhh my god Sally! while i’m being honest, the day you posted these, i made the hubby go out and buy a candy thermometer so i could make these! and i did make them, and they were so delicious but not QUITE comment worthy (i make so many of your recipes on a regular basis that it would be a waste of both of our time at this point to comment on every one so you know that they are EXTRA delicious when you see me comment

  7. How can I make them without a candy thermometer? 

  8. Hi Sally!!! I have you. Along booking and LOVE it! I can’t wait to try the candy one. However I have a caramel question… I just made these and stopped when they got to 245 like it stated and then added the ingredients and dumped in a greased foil pan. However I went to cut them and they were all stuck to the foil. Then I put in the fridge and it was a little better but totally stuck to the foil so I had to take it apart… and was kind of horrible but managed to get most of them out. My question is do I need the foil? Or did I do something wrong. Help? However they taste amazing! 

    • Well I’m glad you love them!

      Did you grease the foil? That will help the set caramel peel off easily. Or you can just use a greased pan 🙂

  9. I really want to make this, but there are some ingredients I do know. Corn syrup? (maïs?). Heavy cream? Is it like whipped cream? What you put on your cake, ice cream or coffee? Vanilla beans? I haven’t seen them before. I only know the little vanillasticks..

  10. *do=don’t (in there are some ingredients I don’t know) sorry!
    😉

  11. Hi Sally,

    I made these caramels today – super easy to make ☺ But my caramels won’t peel off the greased foil. We’re eating the ones I made today as an after dinner treat – sooooo yummy! I’d like to make them again to give as gifts for Christmas – any tips to get it not to stick?

    Thanks in advance and for the continuous amazing recipes!

    Sheila ☺

    • Hi Sheila! I’m so glad you enjoy the caramels. Really, they aren’t peeling off even when greasing the foil? How about trying parchment paper instead. Make sure you grease that as well.

      • My caramel stuck to the foil too. My grandma, who has a little more patience than I, managed to get it all off 🙂 I’m thinking I will be using parchment or wax paper next time. By the way, loved the recipe! The caramels were very popular! Thanks Sally!

  12. I made these for Thanksgiving this year. The recipe was surprisingly easy to execute. However, after leaving them out overnight, uncovered as recommended, they are so hard I can’t cut them. Any ideas what I did wrong?

    • Hi Noelle! Did you remove from heat right at 245? And is your candy thermometer calibrated? Because it could be reading inaccurately. Any lower than 245 may not be long enough and the caramels may not set up. And we wouldn’t want to go higher either.

    • Do you live above sea level? Altitude changes the temperatures for candy making pretty substantially. I live at 7220 ft and I have to adjust the temp down quite a bit if I don’t want rock hard caramel.

  13. I made those caramels the other day and they taste amazing! Because I have rather a big baking pan, I decided to double the ingredients, so now I have to feed everyone I know over a hundred tasty caramels 😀

    One problem I met, though is that they are very sticky. I lined the pan with aluminum foil and greased it, but most of the time it still stuck to it and I had to cut it off. And they also stick with the wrappers, you have to eat the candies straight from the wrapper because it’s impossible to separate them from it. How can I adjust this next time? Perhaps, add more butter?

    • A Tablespoon more butter could help for next time, Poline. I’m so happy you love them!

      Only thing– I do suggest making 2 batches. The added volume when doubling candy recipes isn’t ideal for proper set up and cooking. Something to keep in mind 🙂

  14. Sally,
    Thank you for the recipe. I tried it last night but mine came out so hard that I can’t even cut them this morning. What did I do wrong and how can I fix it?
    Thank you.
    Melelani

    P.S. I’ve been making your salted caramel sauce and they are divine. You are my go-to baking expert. Thank you.

    • Hi Melelani! Did you use a calibrated candy thermometer? Make sure your thermometer reads the accurate temperature. Do you live at high altitude? Because boiling points vary based on that. If you change nothing and simply take the caramel off the stove a few seconds before hitting 245, you should be golden!

  15. Hi Sally. Do you think a silicone basting brush (rather than one with boars hair or nylon bristles) will work for washing down the pan while making the caramel?

  16. Hi Sally,
    I can’t wait to make these and bring to a Christmas party. I have a question tho..do you use the same sea salt in the cooking as you do as the sprinkled topping? Do you use table salt?
    Thanks,…

  17. Hi Sally! I tried to make these last night, but they didn’t harden. What di I do wrong?

  18. I’m scared of making caramel so I really appreciate the little details you always include in your instructions, like when to stir …I made these twice, they are delicious! I hope you will consider making different flavored caramels as well! Thank you Sally

  19. Hi Sally! 

    So I just made your chewy caramels from the Sally’s Candy Addiction cookbook and I think I did something wrong. First, they didn’t take very long to set- only about an hour. Second, they’re extremely hard- not chewy, melt in your mouth at all. I can’t even cut them with a knife and I can barely break them into pieces with my hand. They taste good, but there’s risk of breaking your teeth when you chew them. Do you have any ideas of what went wrong? Thanks! 

    • It could be a few things. Did you use a candy thermometer? If so, was it calibrated to ensure the temperature is accurate (see the intro in the book about that one!). I like to take the caramel off heat between 245-250. This is a soft stage, not a hard stage– so I’m shocked that yours are so hard! The only thing would be overcooking the caramel.

  20. Thanks so much for the recipe and your instructions are so detailed.
    Mine didn’t set thought… left it overnight and there was a thick skin on top but underneath is liquid…
    Any tips for my second attempt?

  21. Hi Sally. Can this recipe be halved? If so,what would change?
    Thank you.
    Caryn – All the way from South Africa 🙂

  22. Amazing 🙂 A question.. Can I use salted butter to make it salted caramel?

  23. Hi Sally I have your candy addiction cookbook and I would like to make the peanut butter fudge. I have a bialetti saucepan, and it’s for sure 3 quarts and it says professional quality on the bottom but is it not sturdy enough?  I can email you a picture if you want

    • That pan is great– is it nonstick? Make sure you avoid nonstick.

      • Hi Sally. I made your peanut butter fudge and it turned out crumbly and a bit scorched. It’s good, you can’t really taste the scorch, but if it’s crumbly does that mean I overcooked it or was the pan too thin?

  24. Hello Sally!
    I’m thinking of making these soon!! They look delicious! You mentioned at the end of the post that you dip them in dark chocolate. Is there a “recipe” for that? I’m assuming I’d need the dipping tools you have? Also, after dipping them in the chocolate do I sprinkle lightly with the sea salt or before?

    Thank you again! I love your recipes!!

    Regards,
    Jacquelyn

  25. Hi Sally! 

     I made these tonight for the third time, the first time my pan was a little big for my candy thermometer so they overcooked slightly, they were still delicious just not really “cuttable”, second time was absolutely perfect! soo good. but as I was making them tonight, once the temp got to 240 sadly i missed the 245 mark and didn’t end up removing from the heat until 249.. do you think they will wind up hard again? or could still be soft?
    Also I just wanted to add congratulations on your pregnancy and you look beautiful and glowing! I had to throw that in because it’s been so long since i’ve commented on a recipe! Also, I’m 19 weeks along myself and if you have any tips I’d love to hear em 🙂 

    • Thank you so much for the congrats and CONGRATS to you! I don’t really have any pregnancy tips for you as I feel like I’m barely getting by, but just take time for yourself and relax. Get plenty of rest now. Moving around helps me feel better, so I try to balance being active and resting. Anyway! I think your caramels should be OK. The temperature really does creep up fast between 240 and 250!

  26. Everything went perfectly until I went to cut them. That’s when I realised I forgot to butter the fool. ‍

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