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, salted caramel apple pie, and more!
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!
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, 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.
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:
- Turtle Brownies
- Burnt Sugar Caramel Cake
- Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie
- Butterscotch Pudding
- Snickers Caramel Tart
- Apple Cupcakes
- Caramel Dipped Pretzels
- Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Salted Caramel Apple Pie & Apple Cake
- Cheesecake Pie
- Chocolate Bread Pudding
- Drizzled on cookies like Shortbread, Brownie Cookies, and Snickerdoodles
50 Ways to Eat Salted Caramel
I have plenty more ideas too: here are 50 Ways to Eat Salted Caramel.
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.
You can’t really turn this sauce into a homemade wrapped candy. Instead, try my soft caramel candies recipe which is a little different.
How to Store Salted Caramel
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 VideoPrint
Homemade Salted Caramel Recipe
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 1 cup
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: American
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.)
- After the butter has melted and combined with the caramelized sugar, stir constantly as you very slowly pour in the 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.
- Remove from heat and stir in the salt. Allow to slightly cool down before using. Caramel thickens as it cools.
- 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.
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Medium Heavy-Duty Saucepan | Wooden Spoon or Spatula
- 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.
- Butter: Unsalted butter may be used instead, though I prefer salted. No other changes need to be made to the recipe if using unsalted.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Regular Caramel: If you want to make regular caramel, reduce salt to 1/2 teaspoon. Do not leave it out completely.
- 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:
It will begin to turn amber in color:
Once sugar is completely melted, stir in the butter:
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.
Remove from heat and stir in the salt.
Reader Comments & Reviews
This was a whirlwind of emotions for me, but ultimately I think the caramel sauce has a great taste. I would agree with the reviewer that said it was too salty. I even used Diamond Kosher Salt, which tends to be almost half as salty (aka dense) than most salts. Also, the caramelized sugar and butter separated immediately after adding the butter. I removed it from the heat and whisked until my hand cramped with no success– maybe even 5 minutes. Turns out I needed to put the mixture back on the heat. Once I did that, the butter incorporated ok (albeit there were parts of my pan that never dissolved back in.) The sauce looks dark and pretty. This batch is for ice cream sundaes… which now await!
This recipe did NOT work for me followed exactly as written. I finally got most of the sugar crystals dissolved it got big hard caramel clumps in it. The cold cream makes it clump even drizzled slowly. I tried it again and melted the butter before adding it was working out a little better until the cold cream hit it then again big hard clumps of caramel.
the texture is perfect but it is far too salty. will opt for unsalted butter and half the salt next time.
I really want to make this recipe but I have a question, can you use half and half instead of heavy cream? ( We have a lot of extra half and half)
Hi Julia! You really need heavy cream for this salted caramel recipe.
I was hesitant to try this because some reviews stated they had trouble with theirs turning out. I’m so glad I finally tried! It is delicious and was so easy to make!
We have hard-anodized non-stick Cephalon pans with a stainless steel bottom as we have an induction cooktop. What will happen if I use a properly sized one?
Hi Cindy, Though we do recommend avoiding non stick if possible, we’ve successfully make this salted caramel with non stick pans. You want a thick, heavy bottomed pan for best results. Hope you enjoy it!
Making this tonight. All the recipes of yours I’ve tried have been amazing. I can see why this one could be problematic. Hoping my pan is heavy enough.
I just made this, I am a caramel lover . I love this , want to drink it while it’s warm, but it’s going in and on a cheese cake . Yum! Thank you ! I have never made a bad recipe from you
I just made this recipe and it turned out great! I did use a candy thermometer in the beginning because I don’t trust myself not to burn the caramel. I like how salty it is because I’m going to use it in my salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream and meringue is so sweet. (Is gonna go on your spiced apple cupcakes!) thanks for the recipe!
That’s 30 min of my life I can’t get back! Sugar finally melted but when I added the butter it hardened right up!
This caramel is fantastic! Also doubles perfectly!
This recipe and video made it easy.
I do have a question about the type of sugar. I used a organic granulated sugar and it seemed to clump up in little crunchy clusters and no matter how long I waited and stirred, they never wanted to dissolve. I eventually ended up just pouring it through a strainer but I was wondering if you have any experience with that type of sugar?
Hi Wanda, I’m so sorry you had trouble with the sugar in this recipe. We haven’t tried that kind of sugar, so aren’t sure of the results. Sally’s preferred brand of sugar is Domino, and she uses their regular granulated white sugar.
I’m sure this recipe works very well but mine ended up tasting bitter, like a burnt taste
Mine was also bitter. Couldn’t use it.
Hi Sally! first of all, I love your recipes so much and I’m on your blog all the time. Thanks for providing tried and true recipes. So, I’m looking to make a very thin caramel sauce, is it possible to add more than 2 extra tablespoons of cream? Thank you so much! 🙂
Thanks Reagan! Yes, to thin out, simply use more cream.
Do you think I could reduce the cream and add a couple tablespoons of bourbon, or would salt and bourbon be too much? Would I need to reduce more cream than the amount or added bourbon so it won’t be too thin?
Hi Sara, you can try adding 2-3 Tbsp bourbon to this caramel. The more liquid you add, the thinner the caramel will be. If you want a thinner caramel, no need to reduce the heavy cream. If you want to keep it thick, replace some heavy cream with the same amount of alcohol. We haven’t tested it, but we would add it when you add the heavy cream. Let us know what you try!
This turned out way too salty and didn’t thicken up at all. Not sure if I’ll give this another go or find another recipe.
Have to update. After cooling all the way, it still didn’t thicken much. I went ahead and made a second batch and left the salt out. The second batch thickened more but I let it boil a couple of minutes longer. Did a taste test and hubby voted for the salted version although he thought both batches tasted good. ♀️
hello… i need to make salted caramel to add to buttercream for vanilla macarons filling… is this recipe suitable please
Hi Christina! We recommend following our salted caramel frosting recipe.
I’ve tried a few caramel recipes and it never came put quite right. I’ve made this twice now and both tes it came out PERFECT. Just follow the directions , even the equipment used and it is successful. I think the key is slowly melting the sugar in the beginning.
I do have a question though, I’d like to make my next batch a little thicker when at room temperature. I am using it for sandwich cookies. Do you have any suggestions on how I can do that with your recipe but without getting that burnt sugar taste I would get if I try leaving it on too long?
Hi Tara, You can make this recipe a bit thicker by reducing the heavy cream (try 1/3 cup instead of 1/2 cup).
Hello! I’d love to make these and put them in sealed sterilised jars, ready for Christmas gifts. Do you know how long they will hold sealed/preserved? Thank you
Hi Charmaine, we haven’t tested preserving this recipe. We simply seal the jars shut and let whoever know to enjoy the caramel within a couple weeks. If you do give it a try, let us know how it goes!
Hi Sally. Is this sauce can be use in making Caramel Cake?
Hi Christine, here’s our recipe for burnt sugar caramel cake!
Hi Sally..if i use this sauce as a topping over brownie, how long will it last? Will it spoil by the time it reaches the customer?
Hi Vidya, we top these salted caramel turtle brownies with salted caramel, and they stay well at room temperature for about a week.
HI there! I’ve made this recipe several times and it is delicious. I have used the printable version and the online version and always thought they were the same. Today I noticed that the printable version says “step 3 After the butter has melted and combined with the caramelized sugar, cook for 1 minute without stirring.” The online version doesn’t have this listed as a step. Which is correct? And how does including or omitting this step impact the recipe? Thank you. Have a great day.
Hi D! After repeated testing, we’ve found that step isn’t really necessary. But it will work either way!
HI Sally, The first time I made this it came out perfect. I ate half of it off a spoon. Since then though, my caramel always sets gritty, no matter haw carefully I follow the directions. I am careful about the room temp ingredients, and watch the times on my watch.
Hi Miriam, Next time, lower the heat and continue stirring until the sugar caramelizes. It could simply be because the heat is too high (or even the pan is too thin!).
Excellent.My first time making caramel sauce and I made it while camping in our RV. This recipe is so easy to follow. It is critical to have all ingredients measured and ready to add because this goes fast. I had to adjust my heat down a bit because my Rv gas burners seem to run a bit hot. I used unsalted butter and added 1/2 teaspoon only of salt because we need to limit our salt. It passed the Hubby test!
I love this stuff. I have used it many times for your Salted Caramel Rice Krispy Treats and always get asked for the recipe. I just made your Burnt Sugar Cake for a party and it got rave reviews. The salted caramel was the perfect finishing touch.
This was so easy to follow and the recipe was really well written. The color of my caramel came out to be really dark and it tastes more like toffee. I know this was an error on my part. Maybe you can share some tips on what I did wrong? Thanks!
Mine also turned out more like toffee and was dark colored. I’m guessing we cooked the sugar too long before adding the butter. Next time I’m going to add the butter when the sugar is a really light yellow color instead of caramel color.
can you make it by adding sugar, butter, and cream all together at once in stick proof pan. I’ve done that before for a carmel used between sandwhich cookies.
Hi Julie, for best results with our recipe, we recommend following the steps as written and adding the ingredients separately.
Didn’t have any luck melting the sugar. It started clumping and then started sticking and then it was in the end because the stuck sugar started to burn. Used rubber spatula and enamel steel pan. Think my burners run hot so I might just buy some salted carmel sauce for now.
Hi Julie, for next time, you can try turning your burner down a bit. That should help to prevent the sugar from clumping and sticking. It may take a bit longer to make, but the reduced heat should help. Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try!
Melting the sugar is a somewhat slow process. When it starts clumping, you’re on your way! Just keep stirring and shortly after it clumps, you should start seeing it melt.
I love to make flan. The first time I melted sugar to coat the dish before adding the custard, I was very nervous because of that clumping. I’ve done it endless times now, and its become old hat. Some recipe writers will tell you to add water to the sugar but don’t, because it simply extends the time – the water has to evaporate and you still reach that point where the sugar clumps before finally melting.
Don’t give up! You’ve got the right pan – heavy enamel – just lower the heat and take your time.
Great recipe, easy to follow, I always have all the ingredients in my pantry and fridge. It came out perfect. I used flaky Sea Salt as a finish on my Caramel Sauce, we used it to drizzle on Apple Crisp and Ice Cream, I even put a spoon full in my coffee. WOW. Thank you for sharing this great recipe. I appreciate you so much
So easy and tasty. Next time I’ll skip the salt. It was too salty for us with the added salt.
Can this be drizzled over cupcakes without it being too hard or chewy?
Hi Cara, this salted caramel makes a great cupcake topper! You can see an example with these apple spice cupcakes.