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. If calibrated, a candy thermometer is 1000x more accurate than using your eyes to detect candy’s doneness. See My Favorite Candy Making Tools for how/why to calibrate.

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!

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Sea Salt Vanilla Caramels

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: 65 caramels
  • Category: Candy
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These sea salt vanilla caramels are unbelievably soft and chewy; the ultimate sweet and salty candy treat. The recipe makes a big batch to share!


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

Instructions

  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. Without stirring, cook 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, if desired. 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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Wrapped caramels keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
  2. Special Tools: Vanilla Beans | Wooden Spoon | Pastry BrushDigital Candy Thermometer | Heavy Duty Saucepan Option 1 | Heavy Duty Saucepan Option 2 | 8″ Square Cake PanTwisting Candy Wrappers

Keywords: vanilla caramels, homemade caramels, sea salt caramels

sea-salt-vanilla-caramels

186 Comments

  1. Sally,

    Thank you so much for the prompt reply. I’ve yet to give this recipe a try, but will be doing so this coming week. I’m awaiting the arrival of these wraps I found on Amazon. The reviews are promising.

    I made a recent trip to the Biltmore Estate, and they sold some caramels with pecans in them at their winery gift shop that were very good. Your recipe looks as if it would make an even better caramel; but I’d like to add the toasted pecans, as well.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for what you do. I’ve now made a number of recipes from your site and all have been quite good – not a dud amongst them – and they’ve all become family favorites. This weekend, I’m making your carrot cake.

    One recipe in particular that I’ve done of yours has become so popular that I’m constantly being asked for it. I tell folks that it came from your site, but that it’s really a hybrid of several of your recipes, actually. The base recipe is your Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, with the plumped raisins (had never done that before, and the difference it makes is amazing); but instead of walnuts, I added toasted pecans (the toasting is something I learned from you, as well, and it also makes a huge difference in the taste); and finally, I iced them with the icing from your Iced Oatmeal Cookie recipe. I’ve even made a completely gluten-free variant using King Arthur Flour’s Measure for Measure Gluten-Free Flour substitute in lieu of the all-purpose flour, and also Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Extra Thick Rolled Oats – just to make sure there’s no gluten, since they were processed in a guaranteed gluten-free facility. These were made for a friend of my wife’s who suffers from Celiac Disease, so it was critical. And believe it or not, the end result was a cookie that, unless told that it was gluten-free, no one could tell the difference. They are that good.

    So, again, thank you so much for all your efforts. Your site’s great and I’m constantly referring folks to it, and I’m there all the time. I’m already on your mailing list, and have been for more than a year now, and you have your own folder in Outlook where all of your posts go to archive.

    I hope you and yours had a great Thanksgiving, and that you’ll have a very Merry Christmas to come!

    Best Regards,
    David

    1. Thank you so much for this glowing review on my recipes! It truly means the world to me to read thoughtful comments and feedback like this and I’m thrilled that many love the carrot cake as much as I do and I hope you enjoy it, too. And the oatmeal cookie base is fantastic too!

  2. I am trying to put these into molds.
    I was wondering if the molds below would work and if they would be the same size as you cutting them out of a baking pan.
    They say 40 per mold so I would do 65.
    It looks like a nice size. The specs of each mold is at the bottom of the amazon description.

    Thanks

      1. Not sure why the amazon description link disappeared, but it came out to 30 of them perfectly Into the molds. You could also cut them in half for 60 smaller ones

    1. Hi Sandy! Unfortunately, it’s not ideal to double candy recipes like this. The added volume will negatively change how the candy cooks. Instead, make two batches and combine for your 9×13 inch pan.

  3. Good evening-

    Love the new book! I made the caramels tonight, and they are hard. The flavor is good, but they are impossible to cut. They just break, like brittle. Any idea where I went wrong? Thank you for all you do!

    1. Hi Gretchen! I’m sorry the caramel turned out too hard. Did you cook to the right temperature and follow the recipe closely? If you ever want to try it again, try cooking to only 240. That should help. You can melt down your caramel on the stove to use as sauce/topping.

      1. Thank you for the reply! Yes, I read and reread the recipe. It looked great until the end, when the caramel turned more of a toffee color. I’ll try 240 tonight!

  4. I tried the recipe and let them cool for 24 hours. They were in the fridge so I don’t know if that is where I went wrong. When I tried to take them out the foil WOULD NOT come off! It was just a pile of caramel 🙁 they were too soft. Not sure where I went wrong but the taste is great and I would like to try it again. Any advice?

    1. Hi Michelle! A few tips: follow the recipe closely (no substitutions) and make sure you are using a calibrated candy thermometer that reads the correct temperature. (See above about calibrating.) If cooking to a lower temperature (or if your thermometer isn’t calibrated and reads the wrong temperature), the caramels will not set.

      1. Thank you for the tips. I also just read that you should not stir once it comes to a boil. I stirred the whole time. Could that also make a difference?

        Thank you!

  5. Sally First of all I want to tell you that your recipes are my go to. I have not tried one of your recipes that have not turned out. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put in to making sure that all your recipes are tried, tested, and true.

    I want to make these caramels to use in your caramel stuffed nutella cookies, but I do not have time to order the vanilla beans from Amazon and still be able to make those incredible looking cookies for Xmas. I also can not find vanilla beans in any store in my area, and believe me I have looked everywhere! I know the taste will not be as decadent as with the vanilla beans, but is it possible to just use the liquid vanilla in this recipe? I am more concerned with the recipe chemistry, and if it will effect the candy’s ability to set?

    1. Hi Rayne! Feel free to simply leave out the vanilla bean. These soft caramel candies will still cook properly and will still have plenty of flavor without the beans.

      1. Thanks Sally! One more thing I wanted to say about your recipes and I forgot. I used to belong to a lot of mailing lists for recipes, but I got rid of almost all of them when I discovered yours! One of them I got rid of because they were all about store bought ingredients. Frozen pastry, frozen bread, cake mixes, etc etc. That’s not cooking or baking. I love that 99% of your recipes are real, make from scratch, and that even the few store bought items you suggest, you also leave a link to the homemade version. It’s just so awesome! I have introduced my daughter to your recipes as well. She feels like an outcast because in our area she is the only one in her age bracket that knows how to make things from scratch. But we wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

        Take care Sally, and A Very Merry Christmas from me and my family to you and yours.

  6. Hi, I’m currently making the caramel and it’s taking ages to reach the right temperature. It’s been boiling untouched for at least 20 minutes and it’s just hanging out at 220°. How long does it normally take to reach 245°?

    1. Hi Kyle, it depends on the stove– electric stoves take longer than gas stoves. And the thicker the pan, the longer it will take as well. Just keep cooking until it reaches the correct temperature.

  7. Hi Sally,

    Just made this recipe last night. The flavor is great but after cutting off the first row, they are a little too soft to get off the foil. I put them in the fridge and am going to try again with the rest. Do you think this will help? If I made them again would you add like 5 degrees on my thermometer?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Brook! Refrigerating the caramel will help make cutting much easier, yes. If you cook another batch, make sure your candy thermometer is calibrated. (It could be giving false readings– some do!) and you can definitely try cooking to an extra 3-5 degrees F.

  8. I haven’t made these yet, but was wondering if buttered parchment would be ok to use instead of foil? You mentioned to substitutions so I wanted to check before I made. Thank you!

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