Sea Salt Vanilla Caramels

sea salt vanilla caramels cut into small rectangles with some wrapped in candy wrappers

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.

knife slicing sea salt vanilla caramel into small rectangles

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!! ↑ ↑

2 images of ingredients for sea salt vanilla caramels and tools for caramels including a saucepan, wood spoon, and pastry brush

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.

2 images of boiling caramel mixture in a saucepan on the stove and smooth caramel liquid in a saucepan on the stove with some on a wood spoon

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!

pouring sea salt vanilla caramel liquid into a baking dish lined with aluminum foil

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.

sea salt vanilla caramels cut into small rectangles with some wrapped in candy wrappers

sea salt vanilla caramels cut into pieces

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 cut into small rectangles with some wrapped in candy wrappers

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

224 Comments

  1. Andrea @ Cooking with a Wallflower says:

    Oh my gosh! I’m soo excited for these. Caramels are a favorite of mine! And the combination of sea salt and vanilla in caramel sounds so delicious. I can’t wait to try these! I have a feeling I won’t be able to stop eating them.

  2. heather (delicious not gorgeous) says:

    already thinking about how great these would be for holiday gifts! if i don’t eat them all ahead of time (;

  3. Peppermint Dolly says:

    I make caramels for my family every Christmas, I absolutely love giving them as gifts and they always go down a treat! Personally, I disagree with you saying that corn syrup is imperative for making candy. I know Stateside, you guys seem to put corn syrup in everything, but here in Europe we don’t use it at all and get along just fine without it. As you said – it’s a controversial topic! 🙂

    Rebecca
    xx
    www.peppermintdolly.com

    1. I’ve always had difficulty producing a smooth as silk soft caramel candy without it– what is your secret!?! I’d be excited to try a caramel recipe like this without it!

      1. Peppermint Dolly says:

        Hiya Sally,

        Just to clarify, I was saying that I disagreed with your comment that corn syrup specifically, was imperative. Here in Europe, we don’t have corn syrup readily available and my reading of your original blog post was that you were saying these sweets could not be made without corn syrup.

        To avoid crystallisation, I use Lyle’s Golden which is far more easily accessible for non US residents and yields the same delicious, smooth and soft caramel sweets. I’ve also read a few recipes that use liquid glucose with a touch more water added in, but I haven’t tried that process myself, so cannot attest to it’s results!!

        All the best 🙂

        Rxx

      2. GREAT tips! Thank you so much for sharing!

      3. Hi Rebecca,
        I agree. Growing up we always used golden syrup, or I now see recipes using glucose syrup for caramels.
        I am in Australia and always have golden syrup on hand due to making Anzac biscuits 🙂

  4. These look so tasty, definitely must try! Sophie x

    sophiehmstewart.com

  5. My luck with the sugar not seizing is touch and go, so I’ll just eat all of yours, please!

    1. There’s enough to go around!

      But if you ever want to try: a thin pan typically causes seizing. That or humidity– or too-high heat. The sugar won’t seize in these with all that cream and if you make sure you’re stirring occasionally as you go. 🙂

  6. Patricia @Sweet and Strong says:

     I have never really made too many candies, but have your book on my Xmas list so I can start.  But I LOVE anything with caramel in it, twix, milky ways, snickers, now I need to go out and get a bag of halloween candy or make these vanilla caramels 😉

  7. Marina @ A Dancer's Live-It says:

    These look amazing! I’m such a huge fan of salted caramel anything. So happy I have your Candy Addiction cookbook too! 🙂

  8. Hey Sally! This recipe looks AMAZING!

    I know you recommended the twisting candy wrappers, but what else can you use in a pinch? parchment paper?

    Thanks & happy baking 🙂

    1. Parchment paper works! You can manually cut into squares or the right shape.

      1. Thanks Sally 🙂 I can’t wait to make these!!

  9. Dawn - Girl Heart Food says:

    Oh, wow! These look so good! I absolutely love salty/sweet combos. Pinning these. They would be so perfect for the upcoming holidays 🙂

  10. Jessica @ Citrus Blossom Bliss says:

    I’ve yet to dabble into the world of homemade caramel making – but your post makes it seem so easy. I’ll have to find myself a candy thermometer to make these happen!

  11. Michelle @ Brown Butter and Biscuits says:

    These look TOO good!! Caramels make such perfect gifts, especially in the winter months! There’s nothing like a melt-in-your-mouth caramel on a cold winter day 🙂

  12. Going to make these for sure. Wondering which vanilla beans you purchase through Amazon. I looked and there are 17 pages of beans. Which do you recommend? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jan! I recommend these: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015PM4FJ4?th=1

  13. I LOVE caramel! Caramilk and twix are among my favourite chocolate bars, and I always ask for a box of quality caramels for Christmas. I’ve made your salted caramels sauce many times before (love it!) but never actual individual caramels. Loving your candy recipes Sally. Especially those in your cookbook. I just got mine this summer and while I’ve only made a couple of recipes, 23 all really loved each one! Have a great weekend 🙂 

    1. I’m so glad you’re enjoying candy addiction! I love hearing from readers who do not typically make candies but are experimenting with recipes in the book. Makes me so happy.

  14. I love these! They would make a perfect treat in winter during the holidays – and I have just the perfect tin for them! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  15. Sharon K (The Farm Chick Bakes) says:

    Ahhhh Sally….this warms my heart. Some folks go bonkers over all the Pumpkin Spice? I go nuts over anything Caramel in the Fall! Fall = Caramel, Caramel = Fall! My mouth is watering and need to make these asap! Thank you!

  16. Caramels are my speciality. I make around 50 lbs every Christmas. Next week I have six batches to make so I can ship some to my kids out of state and use the rest for Halloween treats for friends.

    Something I always do is test my thermometer. I was given this tip long ago when I first was making candy. I bring a pan of water to rolling boil. If the temp is high I typically subtract that from my recipe cooking time…low add. I find humidity plays a huge role even in Minnesota.
    I also typically check it the old fashioned way with cold water and checking for firm ball. Most cookbooks have this technique.

    Maybe I’m being too overprotective?:)

    I’m going out on a limb here but have you ever frozen your caramels? My niece is an amazing chef and baker…she has been trying to talk me in to this for years. I truly do not do often but tried it last fall when I made little take away bags for 200 guests at a wedding.
    I bagged the caramels in heavy duty freezer bags and when it was time to prepare for the wedding…I thawed them in the freezer bag on my kitchen counter. Absolutely perfect!
    I still enjoy the process fresh from my cutting to my gift containers but it certainly is a time saver for those that are busy.

    One more tip…a pizza cutter works wonders for cutting.

    Where do you purchase your candy wrappers? I cut my own waxpaper squares. I use to purchase wrappers but the store went out of business.

    1. Great tip with using the pizza cutter! Caramels are my specialty too…must be a Minnesota thing :).

      1. LOVE YOUR NAME!!!!!

        Do you make other candies?

    2. You are a caramel rockstar. 50 lbs?!?! I’m glad you enjoy the process. I personally LOVE making candy, especially for others, because it’s not something people typically make for themselves.

      I’m glad you brought up testing the candy thermometer before using or every few uses. It’s so important. 

      Love the pizza cutter tip, thank you! 

      I love these twisting candy wrappers and they’re super cheap on Amazon 🙂 

      1. These look like a great bargain!  Thanks Sally.

  17. I think these would be great to make and give as a gift for Christmas, especially for my dad, who loves his sweets!  How long would these keep if I made them now and how would I store them?  Thanks for another great recipe!

    1. They keep for about 2 weeks- in all honesty, I’ve had these around for about a month and they’re still good! Just keep wrapped at room temperature.

  18. Hey Sally,

    Just thought I’d let you know that in your paragraph about Corn Syrup, you say that “It’s a controversial ingredient, for sure, but an imperative one for making candy as it prevents crystallization kevin reps the caramels smooth as silk.

    I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure that “crystallization kevin reps” would be a typo… ;o)

    If you’re anything like me, I figured you’d like to correct it. You can delete this comment once that’s done; It will have served its purpose.

    Love your blog, by the way. It’s quite an amazing job you’ve done here! Huge congrats!

    1. What?? You didn’t understand what I meant when I said crystallization Kevin reps?! 😉 Fixed that. Thank you Sonia!

  19. Hello! I have a question… I have made your salted caramel sauce before and it was so yummy, but after it cooled down it was hard as a rock. Any ideas on what I did wrong? Will these be hard or soft?

    1. These are super soft. The salted caramel sauce could have been cooked too long– or the heat was too high. Reduce the heat slightly and boil the caramel (after adding the heavy cream) for only 45 seconds next time.

  20. lisa | Garlic & Zest says:

    These caramels are absolutely gorgeous!  I make my own caramel sauce for cakes and ice creams, but I’ve never gone FULL-CANDY.  I’m going to try this one!  Love that fleur de sel!

    1. This is your chance to go full candy. You won’t be disappointed!

  21. Can’t wait to make these! What size would you say your caramels are? Thx!!

  22. Blogtastic Food says:

    Omg I could snack on these all day (:

  23. Sally,
    I have not really tried candy making since I live at 5300 feet. Would you think these would work at my altitude? 

    1. Yes, they should work just fine!

  24. Hi Sally,
    After making your to-die-for salted caramel chocolate pretzel bars, I figured I’d give this recipe a shot. To my dismay, my caramel didn’t turn out. It stayed this sandy-brown color (no red/orange hue) and didn’t harden. Think this was due to a faulty candy thermometer/not cooking it long enough? Thanks so much.

    1. That would most definitely be the culprit. Have you calibrated your candy thermometer to make sure it reads accurately?

  25. I saw these on Instagram and knew I HAD to try them. I even went out and bought a candy thermometer, I’m usually a rebel and just go without! 🙂
    Anyway, I made them tonight and they are perfect. I only ate about 20 of them myself! I’m storing them in the fridge for now, I have the windows open at home and this Kentucky Fall weather can make the house pretty warm. They’re still delicious right out of the fridge! 

    1. Sounds like the perfect way to spend the day! I’m so glad you love them 🙂

  26. Looks like an amazing recipe. Any idea how to adjust it for altitude? Like 5280 feet. I know I make other things with corn syrup I have to stop just before it boils so as not to loose the softness. It’s that the ideal thing to do? What temp would that be?

    1. I’ve made this at a cooking demo at high altitude with NO problem. I say just try the recipe as is!

  27. Hi Sally, I can’t wait to make these. Caramels are my favorites! I also want to make the pretzel chocolate caramel square thingy that has my mouth watering. I LOVE your posts and your recipes! Two questions, 1) I noticed in this post that you are working with the Wusthof Classic Knife, how do you like it and is it the Classic or the Classic Ikon? I’m looking to upgrade and like the knife, but I’m procrastinating and would love your advice. 2) I want to make cake pops for my classroom kids for Halloween. Do you have any experience? suggestions? Most recipes use box cake and canned frosting which is not my favorite but I’ve tasted them and they’re not bad. It’s certainly a timesaver. Let me know your thoughts if you have a minute or two. I am always happy when I see you in my inbox! Thanks for your inspiration, fun recipes and love of sugar!

    1. Hi Carol! It’s my favorite knife in the kitchen. I received it off my wedding registration and was honestly the most excited about this gift! It’s fantastically sharp, stays sharp, and cleans easily. Easy to handle. It’s just the classic model.

      For cake pops, yes– I have experience. I have a recipe for 100% homemade cake pops – both cake and frosting – in my cookbook. Not sure if you own a copy? I don’t have a recipe published on my blog, just available in my book. https://www.amazon.com/Sallys-Candy-Addiction-Truffles-Sweet-Tooth/dp/1631060317

      1. Hi Sally, thanks for your reply.

        Unfortunately, I don’t have any of your books … yet … but they are on my Christmas list. I am really a cookie baker so I can’t wait to see that new book. I want them all, when is the boxed set coming?!! LOL

        I do love your blog, thank you for taking the time to respond to the questions posted. Not every blogger does that so you should feel proud.

        PS I live in Vermont. I know you visited last winter. Hopefully, we will have more snow this winter, come up and see us again. You should take your new book and tour the north! Northshire Bookstore in Manchester is a great bookstore and they are always doing author events. You should check it out, then you can visit us, do a demo and make it a business expense!!

        Warm regards,
        Carol

      2. I will keep that in mind because we *PLAN* to come back for a trip this winter!!

  28. Kayle (The Cooking Actress) says:

    H-E-A-V-E-N

  29. Austria Azaceta says:

    Hi Sally!
    I’m so excited to try these!!  Just need to get my hands on some vanilla beans first.  I just made the chewy caramel candies from your book last week with great success & I cannot get over how amazing they are!! The first time i tried the caramel got rock hard.  This time around I took it off the heat at 240 degrees instead of 250 & it worked beautifully. Maybe I need a new candy thermometer (mines not digital). Good to know that I can purchase pre cut wax paper squares cause cutting those by hand was quite tedious…. In the mean time I plan on making the ones from your book again but the chocolate covered version w/ sea salt!! YUM!!

    1. Perfection! I recommend calibrating your candy thermometer. I have instructions in Sally’s Candy Addiction on page 14-15. 🙂

  30. Looove caramels. Homemade are the absolute best! What I love is that reading your recipes reminds me so much of my time in my grandmother’s kitchen. First the baking sheet storage above your oven (she had that too, and I forgot about it until I saw your kitchen reveal), and now these caramels and the way they are wrapped. Every Christmas, we would make chocolate caramels and my sisters and I would be in charge of wrapping them. I think we ate more than we wrapped. 🙂

    I haven’t made any all by myself, seems like something that maybe I should try!

    1. I really hope you try them this Christmas 🙂

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