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. Hi Sally, I have been using a lot of your recipes they all look so good and this time of year I make a lot of candy, cookies, breads. But, today I tried making the caramel after making your gingerbread loaf and it is a big hit with everyone. Now back to the caramel I make perfect fudge and every candy I make but this looked great for a few hours on the counter but, after 4 hours it is hard as a rock. I don’t know what happened but I really hate to throw things away is there some way to use this block in some other way? Thank you for all the great recipes.

    1. Hi Deborah! That’s so frustrating. I’m sorry the caramel turned out too hard. Did you cook to the right temperature? 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. I haven’t tried these, but I have a couple of my own caramel recipes. Try testing your candy thermometer before making the candy. Put a small pan of water on the stove and bring it to a full boil with the thermometer. If it’s not at 212 degrees allow for the difference in your recipe.

  2. Does this recipe work if I wanted to just make caramel instead of salted caramel?

    1. It would, yes– but I suggest this caramel instead. Reduce to 1/2 teaspoon salt if you don’t want it salted. (You still need *some* salt in there to make a sweet caramel.)

  3. I saw you said a heavy duty pan, I only have stainless steel of lower quality or a Dutch oven pot. Which one would be better? 

    1. I’d use the stainless steel pan.

  4. Sharalee Coughran says:

    How many ounces does one recipe yield?

  5. I have made these again this year. So good! This year I picked up the twisting paper so much better than cutting parchment paper and taping them. Ha! Love your recipes!

  6. Mackenzie S. says:

    Hi, I was wondering if it would harm that caramel any if I were to put it in the fridge to make it cool down faster?

    1. I do it all the time!

    2. I have a friend who is uber allergic to soy, nuts, and peanuts. And she really wants a salted dark chocolate caramel candy would this work for the inside of a shell?

  7. I don’t think I can get vanilla beans where I live, would it be possible to omit them? Also, I can’t get corn syrup either. On other websites it say to use golden syrup in its place – would this have any different effects on the caramel?

    1. Hi Amy! I strongly recommend the corn syrup if you can somehow find it. You can leave out the vanilla bean.

  8. I am too lazy to make caramels on the stove top. I use a can of condensed milk instead of cream and cook the candy in the microwave. It takes about 15 minutes. I stop and stir every 5 minutes.

  9. Hi Sally,
    This is my first time making candy of any sort and for some reason my caramels got stuck at 225° for a good 20 minutes. When I turned the heat up to “7” it still only increased the temp to 230° after a total boiling time of 30 minutes.
    I pulled them off the heat and poured them into the pan after a total of 35 minutes boiling, 50ish minutes total on the heat.
    Did I do something wrong to make them get stuck at a low temperature?
    I was using a standard sauce pan that came in my set of pans (2 qt I think) and it is ceramic coated if that helps figure out what went wrong.

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Ceramic coated pans take along time to heat up, so I’m not surprised your cooking caramel was taking awhile. Depending on the pan and stove, it can cook in 10 minutes or 60 minutes. So next time, just let it cook to the proper temperature even if it’s taking a long time.

  10. Hello!
    I made them for two times and first time was really perfect: chewy, but hard and “in shape”. But the second time it comes to soft, still tasty and chewy but it is hard to cut it and not like a wrapped candy. Is it possible to place this caramel block back to the heat and get 119-120*С or even more? Does it have sense?

    And one more question: I have cream 30% and 33%. Does it matter? Second time I used 30%..

    1. Hi Julia! 30% cream isn’t ideal for this caramels recipe– you’ll want a cream at least 36%. You can try cooking the caramel block a little longer, though it’s best to start over with a higher percentage cream. Sorry you had trouble!

  11. Darlene Stillion says:

    I’ve made caramels for years and every thermometer is different. I use the ice water test along with the thermometer.

  12. Where do you get the twisting paper?

    1. Hi Kate! Here is the twisting paper I use.

  13. Hi do these Carmel’s have to stay refrigerated since they have butter and cream? I want to make these for chocolate turtles.

    1. Since the candy is cooked, the caramels can stay at room temperature. I suggest up to 2 weeks.

  14. Can’t find the vanilla bean…should I add more vanilla ?

    1. Another 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract may be substituted. Enjoy!

  15. I made this recipe yesterday, but my caramels are still not hardened. What did I do wrong?

  16. Teresa Cunningham says:

    Just made my second batch! Turned out perfect! Soft and smooth! Best caramel recipe I’ve ever made! ❤️

  17. Made a double batch for party favors, perfect texture. The only thing I will change next time is to add another 1/2 t. of salt. I adore your salted caramel sauce and was hoping for the same saltiness in these. That being said, I can’t stop eating the scraps of caramel from the edges. I used a pizza cutter to cut the caramel into pieces but the cuts weren’t as even as yours. When I tried to use a knife the caramel stuck to it, do you dip your knife in melted butter to keep the caramel from sticking to it?

  18. Darn Sally, I can’t stop eating these!

  19. Bernadette Niebuhr says:

    Hi Sally,
    I love your blog-thank you for sharing your recipes.

    I have one question about your Salted Caramels, can raw honey be used in place of corn syrup?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Bernadette! Thank you so much. Unfortunately, honey doesn’t have the same chemical makeup as corn syrup. I recommend sticking with the recipe.

  20. HI Sally. These look great. Can I mix these, once they are cooled, in a brownie batter? Or would they burn?

    1. Hi Romali! They’re much too soft and will melt into a giant mess in the brownie batter. I don’t recommend it. Here are my caramel brownies if you’re interested!

  21. Julie Pappas says:

    I’ve made this a few times and it came out perfect but haven’t made it for a while so I thought I would try to make it again for my boyfriend. Well it’s not coming out right. It’s turning watery. I’m going by the same exact recipe that I wrote from you and used the same ingredients and it just won’t come out like it did before. Help!

  22. I was very nervous to make this, but it turned out amazing! My friends couldn’t stop eating them!! All your recipes that I have tried in the past have not disappointed!

    1. I loved reading this comment, Corrina! Glad these caramels were a hit 🙂 Thank you for baking my recipes!

  23. Terri Campo says:

    Hi Sally,
    I would like to know how to make these caramels chocolate instead of vanilla. I’m sure the vanilla is wonderful but I am a chocoholic! LOL

    1. Hi Terri! I actually haven’t tried this recipe as a chocolate version. How about instead you cover the caramels in chocolate? Or let me know if you find a chocolate caramel recipe you love!

  24. Hey just wondering if I can make these into hard caramels if I allow the mixture to reach a higher temperature. Really wanting to make something more like hard werthers. Would this recipe work?

    1. Hi Catherine! It should work, but you’ll have to reduce the liquid (heavy cream) as well. I haven’t tested it, so I’m unsure of the exact amount.

  25. Hi there sally!

    I love this recipe and I have it made perfectly! The only problem I’m running into is a week or two after making it, the caramel starts to crystallize or something like separating where it will break apart with a pinch. What am I doing wrong? How can I prevent this??

    Does any one have any tips!

    1. Hi Sydney! Is the caramel getting too soft, you mean? Storing in the refrigerator would definitely help.

  26. Charity Peterson says:

    This was the first time I ever made homemade caramels. I can’t believe how easy and how delicious these were. I will definitely make these again. Thank you for the step by step instructions, video and pictures.

  27. Susan Heneghan says:

    Hi Sally: I am making this recipe for the third time. The caramel is soooo tasty, but I can’t seem to get it hard enough to form a candy? I’ve also tried the caramel for apples, which is even better tasting. Though I prepared my apples per your instructions, the caramel wouldn’t stick to the apples? I’ve read through numerous comments and suspect I am not cooking the caramel long enough. I use a candy thermometer, but I also suspect it doesn’t work correctly? Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Susan, If you suspect that your candy thermometer doesn’t work then I would start there! The thermometer I like is linked above in the blog post and it’s always been accurate for me.

  28. Hi Sally. I need to make salted caramel thumbprint cookies for our Thanksgiving gathering. Which recipe would work better…this one or your Homemade Salted Caramel recipe. I don’t know if the latter would stay fluid or become solid enough to stay in the thumbprint. Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Darla! Salted caramel works best for making thumbprints! I actually have a recipe for caramel apple spice thumbprints which uses my homemade salted caramel 🙂

  29. I’d like to add small pieces of broken, toasted pecans to this recipe. Can you suggest an amount that would be appropriate for the volume of this recipe, please? Thanks!

    1. Hi David! I recommend about 3/4 cup of chopped pecans. Stir them in after you remove the cooked caramel from heat.

  30. Hello! I’m wondering whether to make this recipe or not because all my other caramel recipes have failed me. If I do do it, I don’t think I can wait for 4 hours. If I put it in the refrigerator, how long should I leave it?

    1. They really need at least 4 hours to set properly – overnight is even better! You can try storing them in refrigerator if you want to cut them as soon as 4 hours.

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