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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. Tied this recipe, but cut ingredients in half and it worked perfectly. Served over sliced apples cooked in a waffle iron. Mg grandson (7yrs) old gave his seal of approval.
    Thank you for posting this.

  2. I am not sure what I am doing wrong I am on median heat 1 cup of sugar constantly stirring and keeping everything moving and I am going on 37 minutes of this and it still not melted. I turned the heat up from a 5 to a 6 hoping that will help. I even watched videos and I did it exactly like everyone in the videos so I don’t get what I did wrong or what happened. Also never put water on a weird glob of sugar because it just hardens into a big rock. I think I might have ruined my spoon and pot, boiling it now to see if it’ll help but just a heads up anyone else who thinks to put water on this don’t do it I mean it is a hard rock.

    1. Okay FYI the boiling did dissolve my big hard glob I cannot get it off my wooden spoon but it may take a little bit longer but it completely dissolved into the beautiful amber color I was expecting after whisking for 10 minutes not almost 40. Please help. I just want good Carmel.

      1. Hi! So while normally you would want to do it that way, if you’re watching it super closely you can put it on high for a couple minutes to get the melting process started quicker! You just really need to watch and move it if you do that or it’ll burn super easy! But try starting it at an 8 or 9 for the first couple minutes to give it a little motivation 🙂

        Also oh no lol I think everyone who’s played with sugar has made the mistake of adding water at least once. If you’re still stuck with sugar on things boiling hot running water can help you get that off.

    2. I made this to put over my ice cream. I may have burned it because there is a slight bitter taste. Otherwise I think it came out wonderful. I always thought caramel had to be made using brown sugar. My son was mesmerized watching the sugar melt!

  3. If you use this as a cake filling, will it soften up once the cake is at room temperature?

    1. Hi Michelle, This caramel isn’t ideal to layer between cake layers – it will just spill out the sides under the weight of top layers. It’s great as a filling for cupcakes, though. Or you may wish to use this salted caramel frosting between your layers.

  4. Okay so second attempt worked. I got it done in 14 minutes and 7 seconds with the help of my husband and a lighter pan. He thinks my crappy stove that turns off the element and it turns it back on was affecting it. Can’t wait to try it. I can’t find my original help comment to comment again.

  5. I left a 4-star review awhile back, with a small deduction because I thought this recipe was difficult. Well, I tried three other recipes for caramel sauce, all of which were easier, but not nearly as good. Look no further, folks. This is the best.

  6. Oh this tasted delicious, but mine didn’t turn out runny to use as a topping for the butterscotch pudding from your previous post. As soon as it hit the cold temp of the butterscotch, it was chewy and stiff. Tasted great, but definitely fighting to cut into pieces while scooping the butterscotch. Am I suppose to add the extra 2T of heavy whipping cream to salvage the prepared caramel or add the 2T HWC at the beginning of the recipe? Did I leave the sugar in the heat too long causing the candy like consistency rather than a pourable liquid? Definitely will try again with more salt since I halved the amount fearing it would be too salty. The sweetness of the butterscotch and saltiness of the caramel should balance it out more.

    1. Hi Sandy, We are happy you enjoyed the taste and can help you troubleshoot! It sounds like your caramel may be cooking for too long/ at too high of a temperature. What kind of pan are you using? Something as simple as that can make a big difference in this recipe. You want a thick, heavy bottomed pan so prevent it from burning the caramel. If you try it again you can also try thinning it out a bit when cooking. We recommend adding 2-3 extra Tablespoons of heavy cream to the recipe when you stir in the heavy cream. This will thin out the caramel so it’s softer!

  7. I doubled this…oops. I had all the ingredients together and could not separate-unsalted butter with added salt is what did it. So I used a bigger pan. The caramel had not cooled yet but it has a great flavor. Will see what I get when it cools, but for right now this recipe is a keeper. I did get nervous because when melting the sugar down I did get a burning smell.

  8. This is the second recipe of the blog I’ve followed to a t, step by step, and it turns out all wrong. This had huge chunks of sugar left in it, just like the coconut cream pie recipe had huge chunks of egg. Frustrating. Giving 2 stars because the flavor is there, I just think the directions or measurements are not super accurate.

  9. I love this recipe!! We can’t stop eating it! This morning we had French Toast with cooked apples and caramel sauce! I always have a few hard sugar clumps when I am all done baking. What can I do to avoid that from happening?

    1. Hi Debbie, So glad you love this! Make sure you don’t add the butter until the sugar is completely melted and caramelized. This may mean turning down the stove heat so it cooks slower and more evenly. Make sure you use a nice high quality saucepan. Hope these tips help!

  10. Had never made caramel before today. Tried another recipe before this one but was more butterscotch (brown sugar) than caramel. This one is tedious in that you have to really stay on it, stirring consistently and sometimes vigorously. (My arm was starting to tire!). But end result was exactly what I was looking for. Also be sure to keep your heat low and BE PATIENT. Super yummy! Will be lucky to have any left for my original purpose after all the sampling.

  11. End result was too thick. Almost like soft caramel. I added another half cup of heated heavy cream. Made a big difference. Taste was great. It was the consistency that was the problem.

  12. Will this caramel work well as a swirl inside a cheesecake? Store bought caramel sauces just melt and blend right into the cheesecake, giving the flavor, but not the visual effect.

    1. Hi Steve, we recommend beating in slightly cooled salted caramel (still soft, but not scalding hot). You could even sub some brown sugar for white sugar in our cheesecake recipe (use 1/2 cup each) to really intensify that caramel-like flavor.

  13. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong but I have tried this recipe 3 times and have not had one successful attempt. Once I add the butter it separates qlmost immediately and no matter what I do, it will not come together. If I take it off the heat to try to whisk, it judt becomes harder and harder as it cools, and I’ve done this for 10 minutes. Help!

    1. Hi Donovan, When you make this caramel make sure you are not using a nonstick pan. If you decide to try it again try lowering your heat even more and when you whisk it you can keep it on the lowest heat setting instead of completely removing it from the heat so that it stays a bit warm. This should help it all come together!

  14. Hey Sally, can I use this caramel to layer between my chocolate chip cookie bars? Where I live (on an island) I’m not able to source other caramel, so I’ll have to make my own.

  15. I found that there was way too much butter. I ended up having to drain the butter. I can slightly taste butter but other than that it worked well. Thanks

  16. Perfect. Directions were clear, and exact. I only had: a non stick pan, unsalted butter, and an electric stovetop to work with, and it came out perfectly. I used a slightly heaping teaspoon of kosher salt. Served over super dark chocolate mousse tart, and vanilla gelato. It balanced the bittersweet chocolate exactly as I imagined it would. Thank you!

  17. Loved this recipe I used it for the salted caramel apple pie. Delish! Question though, how long would this caramel last at room temperature (average temp of 65F with no humidity)? I’m just trying to see if it’s worth having outside rather than in the fridge and having to heat every time I use it

  18. This recipe is by far my favorite for flavor on caramel, and the ease of it is nice too! I definitely do recommend busting out the cooking gloves though because that steam is no joke hahaha

  19. Is it possible to substitute brown sugar for white sugar in a 1-1 ratio? I feel like it’ll give the caramel more flavor

    1. Hi Gina, brown sugar has too much moisture to cook and caramelize properly in this recipe. We recommend sticking with white granulated sugar.

  20. Awesome recipe! It will be my go-to for caramel sauce. Thanks for sharing. I find that if you add a tsp. of vinegar the sauce will not turn sugary.

  21. This sauce is awesome!! My first ever attempt at caramel sauce and I did it!!! Easy instructions! A little more ‘elbow grease’ that I thought but we’ll worth the effort!

  22. I love this site but this recipe is ridiculous, a hot messy waste of ingredients and time.

  23. I’ve made this recipe several times and my husband loves it. Just follow directions carefully, especially when adding cold to very hot!

  24. I’ve made caramel pies from scratch for years (my 90 yr old mom’s favorite from her childhood) so caramelizing sugar is not new to me. I needed a salted -less thick version for the inside drizzle of a poke cake for my son’s birthday. This is perfect! Thanks! For those struggling with clumps, make sure your sugar doesn’t have lumps to begin with, heat it slowly and avoid the urge to stir! That’s what is making the hard clumps in the beginning. Cut the butter into small pieces to add then stir or whisk like crazy.

  25. So I thought that the first time I made this, it might be a fluke that it turned out so perfectly. I am happy to be proved wrong. Just made it a second time and it may even be better than the first batch. If that’s possible.

  26. I loved this recipe so much. I need to make a vegan version for a friend who doesn’t eat dairy. Would it work if I substitute the butter for margerine and the cream for non-dairy cream or should I use a different recipe altogether?

    1. Hi Amy, canned coconut milk can work in the place of the heavy cream but we don’t recommend margarine as it does not have the same chemical makeup as butter. It’s much more watery. We recommend searching for a vegan recipe to use instead!

  27. Texture was PERFECT! But more so, I greatly appreciate the thorough instructions. I’ve tried to make caramel in the past, but for a novice baker like myself, I don’t know how the sugar will start clumping all funky like and often think “oh well, I’ve screwed it up!” So I am thankful you walk through these various steps in detail so I know I am still on track. It was delicious!! Thank you!

  28. Loved the recipe, but even at room temp, wasn’t anywhere near pourable, pliable certainly, but not pourable. Wondering if I did something wrong, or of I want to add more cream/butter to make it a bit thinner?

    1. Hi Rob, this caramel solidifies into a chewy, thicker caramel at room temperature– that is expected. To thin out, reheat or you can try adding more cream when you make it to keep it thinner.

    1. Hi Deondray, We don’t recommend it. It’s best to stick to butter here.

  29. Thanks so much for this recipe! I make it ALL THE TIME. We do a big breakfast in my house every weekend, and my daughter and I drizzle this sauce over our waffles or pancakes. And okay, she then proceeds to eat it by the spoonful afterwards. I fill two small mason jars with the sauce when I make it and one is labeled with her name and the other is for anyone else who wants jt. I wind up making more about every 3 weeks.

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