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Follow these easy instructions to create sweet salted caramel sauce at home. This salted caramel recipe requires only 4 easy ingredients. It’s perfect for cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pound cake, ice cream, cheesecake, scones, apple pie, and more!

Salted caramel in a glass jar with a handle

What once intimidated me became the subject of my 2nd cookbook: Sally’s Candy Addiction. As it turns out, homemade candy isn’t all that difficult. And salted caramel is one of the easiest recipes. This truly the best salted caramel I’ve ever had and there’s only 4 ingredients required: sugar, butter, heavy cream, and salt.

This salted caramel is a reader favorite recipe, marking its spot in the top 10 most popular recipes on my website. It’s sweet, sticky, buttery, and tastes phenomenal on anything it touches. (Though you really only need a spoon to enjoy.) Trust me, after trying this 1 time, you’ll be hooked like the rest of us!

Salted caramel in a glass jar with a spoon

How to Make Salted Caramel

Use the written out instructions below, but here’s the basic process: The first step is to melt sugar, which is called caramelization. This requires 1 small pot and a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. Stir until melted. Stir in butter, let the mixture cook, then stir in heavy cream and let it boil for 1 minute. Finally, add the salt. That’s it, the caramel is done.

Remember to use caution when cooking over the stove as the hot liquid, butter, and cream may splatter. If needed, kitchen gloves come in handy.

No Candy Thermometer Salted Caramel

Unlike most caramel recipes, this salted caramel doesn’t require a candy thermometer. Instead, I encourage you to follow the recipe and use your eyes to determine when to add the next ingredient. The caramel thickens as it cools.

Salted caramel in a glass jar with a spoon

What to Eat with Salted Caramel?

You will love homemade salted caramel with recipes like cinnamon rolls, cheesecake, and apple pie bars. Use it as a caramel dip for apples, spoon over ice cream, or pour into decorated jars and gift it for the holidays.

The possibilities for salted caramel are endless:

50 Ways to Eat Salted Caramel

I have plenty more ideas too: here are 50 Ways to Eat Salted Caramel.

stack of apple pie bars with salted caramel sauce on top

What is the Texture of This Salted Caramel?

The caramel is liquid as it comes off heat. As the caramel cools, it solidifies into a chewy texture. After refrigerating, the caramel is hard and you must heat it up to bring it back to a liquid consistency. Do you need a thinner caramel? Feel free to add 2 more Tablespoons of heavy cream to the recipe.

How to Store Salted Caramel

I receive this question a lot and I’m so happy to answer it. After the caramel cools down, pour it into a glass jar or container. Refrigerate for up to 1 month. The caramel solidifies as it cools, but you can reheat in the microwave or on the stove so it’s liquid again. You can freeze the salted caramel, too. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then warm up before using.

What About Caramel Apples?

This caramel is not thick enough to coat apples for caramel apples. Instead, I recommend my homemade caramel apples recipe.

Quick Salted Caramel Video

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Salted caramel in a glass jar with a spoon

Homemade Salted Caramel Recipe

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Made from only 4 simple ingredients, this homemade caramel is salty, sweet, and irresistibly buttery. No candy thermometer required and the possibilities for serving are endless. (Though just a spoon is acceptable!) Use caution as the cooking caramel may splatter. Stand back and wear kitchen gloves if desired. Review recipe notes prior to beginning.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar (make sure it’s labeled “pure cane”)*
  • 6 Tablespoons (90g) salted butter, room temperature cut up into 6 pieces
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Heat granulated sugar in a medium heavy-duty saucepan (avoid using non-stick) over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn it.
  2. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately stir in the butter until melted and combined. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. If you notice the butter separating or if the sugar clumps up, remove from heat and vigorously whisk to combine it again. (If you’re nervous for splatter, wear kitchen gloves. Keep whisking until it comes back together, even if it takes 3-4 minutes. It will eventually– just keep whisking. Return to heat when it’s combined again.)
  3. After the butter has melted and combined with the caramelized sugar, cook for 1 minute without stirring.
  4. Very slowly stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Since the heavy cream is colder than the hot caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble when added. After all the heavy cream has been added, stop stirring and allow to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the salt. Allow to slightly cool down before using. Caramel thickens as it cools.
  6. Cover tightly and store for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Caramel solidifies in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove to desired consistency. See “What is the Texture of This Salted Caramel?” above.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can make this caramel in advance. Make sure it is covered tightly and store it for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Warm the caramel up for a few seconds before using in a recipe. This caramel is OK at room temperature for a day if you’re traveling or gifting it. You can freeze the salted caramel, too. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then warm up before using.
  2. Sugar: This recipe is most successful using granulated sugar that’s labeled “pure cane” on the packaging. I usually use and recommend Domino brand regular granulated sugar which says “pure cane granulated” on the packaging.
  3. Butter: Unsalted butter may be used instead, though I prefer salted. No other changes need to be made to the recipe if using unsalted.
  4. Heavy Cream: Heavy cream (approximately 36% milk fat) may also be sold as whipping cream. Light whipping cream (30% milk fat), or double cream (48% milk fat) may be substituted. Do not use milk. Room temperature cream is best.
  5. Salt: Use regular table salt or kosher salt. If using larger flaky salt, add 1 teaspoon, taste, then add more if desired. This recipe works with 1 teaspoon of any variety of salt. You can always add 3/4 teaspoon, taste, then add more if desired.
  6. Caramel Candies: This caramel is great as a sauce, topping, or filling, but won’t set up properly to make soft caramel candies. Here is my soft caramels recipe.
  7. Regular Caramel: If you want to make regular caramel, reduce salt to 1/2 teaspoon. Do not leave it out completely.
  8. Larger Batches: Avoid doubling or tripling this recipe. The added volume could prevent the sugar from melting evenly and properly. Make a couple batches instead.

Keywords: caramel, salted caramel

The sugar will be clumpy as it begins to melt:

sugar for salted caramel sauce in a saucepan

It will begin to turn amber in color:

sugar melting in saucepan for salted caramel sauce

Once sugar is completely melted, stir in the butter:

chunks of butter and melted sugar in a saucepan for salted caramel sauce

sugar and butter melted together in a saucepan for salted caramel sauce

Very slowly, drizzle in the heavy cream. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added. Boil for 1 minute.

salted caramel sauce after adding heavy cream in a saucepan

Remove from heat and stir in the salt.

Salted caramel in a saucepan with a wooden spoon

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Would it be possible to use water instead of cream so that I could have a nice clear sauce to put on my Christmas pudding?

    1. Well I made this caramel sauce today. I haven’t baked or made candy in many years. So the first batch I burned. Yuk I started over again immediately. This time I didn’t melt the sugar at quite so high and I made sure it kept moving and watched the color closely. What I learned. Have your butter and cream ready to go. Any delay and it burns really fast. Especially the butter step. I wound up lifting it off the burner to prevent scorching. Same with the cream. However, it IS yummy. Just keep an eye on it.

  2. It did separate and clump. I tried mixing it but the sugar was forming into bigger rocks. Then I tried warming it so the sugar would melt, and taking it off the heat all while mixing. It did not work at all. I mixed for over 30 mins for a sticky pan and oven top. I do not recommend this method at all

  3. I’ve made this several times over the past 2 years or so and it always comes out great! I missed the part that said not to double or triple the recipe…. I usually double it and it’s turned out fine. Time to make a bunch for this year’s gifts and now I’m nervous to double it lol.
    Thank you for a fantastic, easy to follow recipe!

  4. I’ve never made any kind of caramel before. The instructions were very clear and it turned out absolutely fantastic. The butter did separate and it came back together when I kept whisking. Perfect flavor too. I’ll combine it with your lava cakes for Christmas 😀

  5. Very salty, even for salted caramel. Had to make a batch with no salt to rescue it. I would half the salt, maybe more. Or add slowly. Good overall though.

  6. I have seen similar recipes that use whole milk. Will this work here?
    I have tried it the way as written and it is fantastic!
    It is late and i don’t want to go to the store 🙂
    Thanks

    1. Hi Jennifer, We recommend sticking with heavy cream, any lower fat content the caramel may not set up properly.

  7. This is the WORST caramel recipe I have ever used. Lost a whisk and pot because of how badly the sugar clumped when the butter was added. No matter how hard or long I whisked, it did not come back together. Would give 0 stars if I could.

    1. Followed the very clear instructions and it turned out great. It was my first time ever making caramel and having everything at room temp pre measured helped a lot. Will definitely make this again. People slating this recipe because they messed up is laughable, it’s like complaining that a hollandaise split.

  8. I made caramel for the first time and it turned out perfectly. I’ve tried many of Sally’s recipes and the result is always beautiful and delicious. With this caramel, you have to stir continuously while the sugar is melting or it will definitely clump.

  9. There is definitely some problem here that isn’t addressed in the instructions (and I’m a huge Sally’s fan.) I followed the instructions, of course. After adding the butter, it clumped horribly. I removed from the heat, whisked for an eternity, etc. Nothing worked. It’s a huge, oily, crumbly mess that I may never get out of my pan. Others are having this problem, too. Can someone at Sally’s please let us know what’s going on here?

    1. Haven’t tried this yet. My fave is a dark brown butter caramel recipe. I will try this but believe I’d melt the butter in a measuring cup in the microwave and slowly pour into pan while mixing constantly. Otherwise, I see no issue with this and it’s instruction.

      I look forward to trying it

  10. My hint!
    If you keep your heat low and work very slowly.. this is great! Add very little at a time!! I also remove from heat completely adding butter, and cream. Return to heat after blended to thicken! Family loves it

  11. Tried it today. First time making caramel! Came out great! Put it over cheesecake!

  12. THe butter would not mix with the sugar, when reheated just separated out again, when adding the cream the sugar lumped and set on the bottom, and it is not a sauce! And all this was not resolved and in an hours effort, all it was good for was the bin! I have made litres and liters of caramel sauce and never before a failure! This is the worst recipe ever for me! and will not be using any recipes off here again!!!! Anger wasted christmas dinner desserts, no ingerdients left and shops shut!!!!!!

  13. This was really difficult for me, but the end result was delicious. When I added the butter, things went south. I tried to whisk it together again, but it was way too hard. So I added the cream and stirred until smooth.

  14. My first time making a successful caramel 🙂 It did have some sugar clumps at the end because I was impatient with the butter but I just strained out the clumps and pretended it never happened. I used the caramel to make caramel filled chocolates and the chocolates turned out really good!

  15. Died and gone to heaven! Going to use this in a cake if I don’t eat it all before it cools.

  16. Easy recipe. I cut it in half because I don’t need that much sauce.
    Don’t know why so many folks struggled. It is pretty easy and straight forward. Suggestions that might help: use a whisk the entire time. Have the ingredients at room temp, use a heavy-stainless steel pot that fits the size of your recipe. Use extra cream if you need to. Take off heat to wisk butter in if your heat has gotten too high, you can put it back after a vigorous whisking.

  17. Made the first time last year and I’m back looking for this recipe again. So good.
    Had no trouble with the recipe. Have everything ready, you can’t leave it alone, is the key.

      1. Hi Sandra! We would only stir in a little pinch sea salt at a time, tasting after each little pinch, and stopping until you are happy with the flavor.

  18. It does work! Just be careful to follow the steps closely. The best caramel sauce I have ever had. Thank you!

  19. Can I use sweetened condensed milk for this? Even a watered down version of it? I want to use this recipe to make hot chocolate bombs. Thanks!

    1. Hi Angela! The salted caramel will not come out correctly using sweetened condensed milk. Bets to stick with the recipe!

  20. Tastes amazing although mine came out more like fudge rather than a pouring consistency. Any ideas where I went wrong?

    1. Hi Esther! Cooking for slightly less time will help for next time. Glad you love it!

    1. Hi Avina, brown sugar won’t caramelize properly. Stick with regular white granulated sugar here.
      A different recipe using brown sugar with similar ingredients actually makes a butterscotch sauce. If you wish you can see how it’s made in this post: Brown Sugar Butterscotch Cupcakes.

  21. I love this recipe! Didn’t have heavy cream so I used what my mom always used…..evaporated milk! Tastes incredible!!!

  22. To stop the sugar from clumping add 1/4 tsp of either plain vinegar or lemon juice to the sugar as you are melting it. Keep heat medium to low. No clump quarentee

  23. This turns out great with the right ingredients….. NOTE- PLEASE heed Sally’s note about making sure you use Pure Cane Sugar!!! I made this with sugar that wasn’t labeled as beet sugar, but found out soon enough that Sally is Right – it does NOT work with beet sugar. As far as I can tell -if your granulated sugar doesn’t say PURE CANE SUGAR, then it is probably beet sugar. I don’t know why it doesn’t work with ‘sugar beet’ sugar, but after the sugar melts and you add the butter, the butter wouldn’t mix in and then the sugar turned rock hard (it was Quite the struggle getting it out of the pan…) I went out and bought some Domino’s Pure Cane sugar, and it worked just as she describes. My caramel turned out thick when it cooled. I used it to make caramel buttercream frosting – delicious!

  24. I’ve made this caramel a billion times and it is always delicious! Totally fool-proof. If I was wanting to make it coconut flavored, would a bit of coconut extract be enough?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Stephanie! We enjoy stirring in 1/2 or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract when you stir in the salt – you could try the same with coconut extract. Also, we haven’t tested it, but some readers have had success using unsweetened canned coconut cream in place of the heavy cream. Let us know what you try!

    1. Hi Lily! Though we do recommend avoiding non stick if possible, I’ve successfully make this salted caramel with my non stick pans. You want a thick, heavy bottomed pan for best results. Hope you love it!

  25. The taste is amazing! But I have one question. After it cooled a bit it turned kinda like jelly/jam. What did I do wrong?

    1. Hi Janelle, This is normal! As the caramel cools, it solidifies into a chewy texture. You can heat it up to bring it back to a liquid consistency. See the above paragraph called “What is the texture of this salted caramel” for details.

  26. What is the purpose of the two one minute cooks without stirring? I tried it and watched it burn thinking “this is not good”. I asked my wife and she uses a recipe from a different blog that has neither of those (add the butter, stir until melted, remove from heat, immediately add the cream, stir, done). My second batch I followed your recipe without the two one minute cooks and it turned out perfectly.

    1. Hi Mark, this time is necessary for most bakers to allow their caramel to thicken. Sounds like your stove may run a bit more warm – feel free to turn your stove down or remove early if that works best for you.

  27. Thank goodness I found this recipe. Have tried loads over the years and the same recipes would sometimes turn out correctly and then another time burn terribly. This is fast, easy and what’s most important: it works. Thanks for saving the day!!

  28. This was sooooo easy and soooo delicious. I’m happy to have found you!

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