Home » Quick & Easy Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

Quick & Easy Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

|| byKat

This is my favourite, go-to recipe for homemade salted caramel sauce and it’s incredibly easy. It requires just 4 ingredients and thanks to the dry caramel method, you can actually stir it without having to worry about it crystallising. Here, I’m sharing all my top tips for stress-free caramel making: from how to determine when your caramel is done without a candy thermometer, to how to fine-tune the consistency of the final caramel sauce.

Salted caramel sauce in a glass jar, being spooned out with a small metal spoon.

There are few things as delicious as salted caramel sauce. It’s a fact.

So, today I’m sharing my favourite, go-to recipe for THE BEST homemade salted caramel sauce – or just caramel sauce if you don’t want to add the salt. Though I really do encourage you to finish it will a sprinkling of salt, as it brings out all the wonderful, complex flavours of caramel and takes the sauce from amazing to OUTRAGEOUSLY DELICIOUS.

Below, you’ll find all my top tips and tricks for making a perfect salted caramel sauce – and making it with minimal fuss and no stress whatsoever. Importantly, you can actually stir this caramel without having to worry about it crystallising! That’s all down to the dry caramel method (more on that below), and it works with a 100% success rate.

I’ve also included my tips for how to determine when the caramel is done (without having to use a food or candy thermometer), how to fine-tune the consistency of the final caramel sauce, and how to reduce the chances of it bubbling up or spluttering too much. (Trust me, caramel burns are the worst, so be sure to follow my tips for making this salted caramel sauce easily and safely.)

Salted caramel sauce in a glass bowl, being spooned out with a small metal spoon.

Before we get to the bits and bobs of making this amazing caramel sauce – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!

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Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.

Ingredients for salted caramel sauce

You need just 4 ingredients for this homemade salted caramel sauce, and all of them are pantry (or fridge) staples:

  • Granulated or caster/superfine sugar. I prefer to use caster/superfine sugar, as it melts faster due to the smaller crystal size, but either sugar will work.
  • Unsalted butter. Even though this is a salted caramel sauce, I still recommend that you use unsalted butter. This allows you to control the amount of salt more precisely, especially as the salt content of salted butter can vary quite a bit between different batches and brands.
  • Double or heavy cream. Note that this recipe was developed using double cream, which contains about 48% butterfat. In comparison, heavy cream (the US equivalent for double cream) contains only about 36-38% butterfat. Accordingly, heavy cream has a higher water content than double cream. So, if you use heavy cream in this recipe, you might need to cook the caramel a couple of minutes longer, just to allow some extra water to evaporate, in order to reach the same consistency as you would get with double cream.
  • Salt. I recommend using anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt in this recipe (it makes about 1 ¼ cups of salted caramel). Of course, you can definitely tweak the amount of salt depending on your personal preference.

The ingredients of homemade salted caramel sauce.

No food or candy thermometer needed!

While many caramel recipes will require you to use a food or candy thermometer (for example, when making homemade soft caramels or the caramel layer in my Gluten-Free Caramel Twix Cookies – which are AMAZING, by the way, and you should definitely try them ASAP!), you don’t need to use a thermometer to make this caramel sauce.

Instead, just keep an eye on the colour of the caramel – that’s all you really need to do to achieve caramel perfection.

This is especially important in the first stage of making the caramel, when you’re melting and caramelising the sugar. This is the step that determines the success of your caramel sauce. After you’ve added the butter and cream, the caramelisation is for the most part halted – so it’s that first stage of caramelising the sugar that decides whether your caramel will be amazing or a burnt mess.

Now, some recipes might tell you to pay attention to the consistency or the smell of the caramel (or the caramelising sugar), but I find them to be rather unreliable indicators. For example, the caramel will be very runny initially as it’s hot, and it will then thicken as it cools. Especially in the initial stages when you’re waiting for the sugar to caramelise (before adding the butter), the consistency therefore really isn’t the best indicator to follow.

Instead, just pay attention to how the caramelising sugar changes colour. It will go from very light golden all the way to amber, at which point you can start adding the butter (more on that below).

The only part of the process where looking at the consistency is actually useful is in the last stage, after you’ve added the cream. At that point, you can spoon out a small amount of the caramel sauce onto a plate and allow it to cool for a few minutes. If you think that the sauce is a bit too runny once cooled completely, you can cook it over medium heat for a few minutes longer. This will evaporate some extra moisture and will give you a thicker final sauce.

Overhead view of the salted caramel sauce in a stainless steel saucepan.

Dry caramel method: you can STIR the caramel!

There are two ways of making caramel: the dry and the wet caramel method.

In the wet caramel method, you add a small amount of water to the sugar before you start heating it. This means that the sugar first dissolves in the water, essentially making a concentrated sugar syrup, and then (after most of the water has evaporated) it starts browning and caramelising.

The downside of this method is that the sugar can crystallise out of the caramel if you stir it, in which case you basically need to start from scratch, as it’s virtually impossible to save grainy, crystallised caramel. Instead, you need to swirl the caramel in the saucepan until it reaches the correct colour. In my opinion, this method is rather fussy, and it makes the whole process unnecessarily complicated and stressful.

That’s why my go-to method for making caramel is the dry caramel method, where you just melt the sugar (without any water added) over medium heat WITH STIRRING, allowing it to caramelise and reach the desired amber colour, before adding the other ingredients. The sugar may initially clump together as you stir it, but that *doesn’t* mean that it’s crystallising! It’s just that some of the sugar hasn’t melted yet, and as that sugar gets mixed in with the caramel, clumps will form. Just continue stirring and it will eventually all melt together into amber-coloured goodness.

This dry caramel method removes much of the stress out of caramel making. So, if you’ve been hesitant to make your own homemade caramel or caramel sauce, or if you’ve had bad experiences in the past, I really encourage you to give this method a try. It really makes an enormous difference.

How to make the perfect salted caramel sauce

Making your own homemade caramel sauce really couldn’t be easier. Here’s how:

  1. Place the sugar in a light-coloured (or stainless steel) saucepan over medium heat.
  2. After a few minutes, some of the sugar will start to melt. Once you see that happening, start stirring it. The sugar will initially clump together – that’s perfectly okay.
  3. As you continue to stir over medium heat, more and more sugar will melt. If there are any persistent clumps of sugar, reduce the heat to low and continue stirring until all the clumps disappear.
  4. Continue cooking the caramel with constant stirring over medium heat until it reaches an amber colour. Depending on how intense you like your caramel to be, you can take it all the way to quite deep amber (which will give you a slightly bitter, darker caramel sauce), or you can stop at the light amber stage (which will give you a mellower caramel sauce with a more subtle flavour). I usually like my caramel somewhere in between – so that it has a pronounced caramel flavour but without too much bitterness.
  5. Once you reach the desired caramel colour, add the butter.
  6. Stir well until the butter has completely melted. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble quite violently and release a lot of steam after you’ve added the butter.
  7. Cook the mixture for a further 30 seconds, it will have a foamy appearance.
  8. Pour in the cream, mixing constantly. Again, be careful as the addition of cream will release a large amount of hot steam and it might bubble up quite violently.
  9. Cook for a further 30-60 seconds with occasional stirring.
  10. Then, remove from heat and stir in the salt.

The first 6 steps of the 10-step process of making salted caramel sauce.

The last 4 steps of the 10-step process of making salted caramel sauce.

And that’s all there is to it! Yes, it’s *that* easy. As mentioned above, at this point you can spoon out a small amount of the caramel sauce onto a plate and allow it to cool completely. Then, check if you’re happy with its consistency:

  • If you want the caramel sauce to be thicker, return it to the heat and cook for a few minutes longer. This will remove some extra moisture from the caramel and it will give you a thicker final sauce.
  • If you want your caramel sauce to be runnier, add more cream. I recommend starting with a tablespoon or two of extra cream. Stir well until combined. If the cream doesn’t incorporate easily into the caramel, heat it briefly over medium heat for 15-30 seconds with constant stirring.

Salted caramel sauce in a glass bowl, being spooned out with a small metal spoon.

Do you need to refrigerate homemade caramel sauce?

Yes, as the caramel sauce contains dairy (cream and butter), it needs to be kept in the fridge.

For storage: allow the sauce to cool completely to room temperature, then transfer it into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. It will firm up significantly in the fridge, so you’ll need to reheat it (either on the stovetop or in the microwave) before using it.

Top tips for THE BEST homemade salted caramel sauce

  • Use a light-coloured or stainless steel saucepan. As it’s crucial that you can easily follow how the colour of the caramel changes, I don’t recommend using a saucepan with a dark-coloured interior.
  • Use a heat-proof rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. This one is rather self-explanatory: you obviously don’t want your stirring utensil to melt in the caramel – after all, the molten sugar reaches very high temperatures.
  • Cook the caramel over medium or medium-low heat. The caramel can change its colour quite quickly, so it’s best that you cook it over medium heat (or lower), so that the transition between colours happens as slowly as possible. This allows you to stop the caramelisation (by adding the butter and cream) before the caramel starts burning.
  • Don’t be afraid to stir the caramel. As I’ve mentioned above, using the dry caramel method allows you to stir the caramel without having to worry about it crystallising. Stirring the caramel ensures that it’s of an even colour (and therefore of an even caramelisation) throughout.
  • Use room temperature double or heavy cream. When you pour the cream into the caramel, it can easily sputter or bubble up and release hot steam. The greater the temperature difference between the caramel and the cream, the more violent the reaction will be. So, to reduce the chances of the caramel bubbling up and splattering too much, use room temperature cream (or you could even warm it up slightly).
  • Be careful, especially when adding the butter and cream. This is just a continuation of the previous point. As both the butter and the cream (a) contain moisture and (b) are much cooler than the super hot caramel, you’ll inevitably get some violent bubbling and steam formation when you add them. So, be careful – caramel burns are the worst and can be dangerous.
  • You can adjust the consistency of the final caramel sauce by cooking it a bit longer or by adding more cream. If you want the final (cooled) sauce to be thicker, cook it a bit longer to remove more moisture. If you want it to be runnier, add more cream (a tablespoon or two at a time).

Overhead view of the salted caramel sauce in a stainless steel saucepan.

Serving suggestions for caramel sauce

You can use this salted caramel sauce in all sorts of delicious ways:

  • Pour it over ice cream.
  • Drizzle it over brownies.
  • Add it to cakes, either as a drip or in between cake layers.
  • Use it to stuff cupcakes.
  • Add it into frosting.
  • Use it as a dip for everything from fruit to marshmallows.
  • Swirl it into cheesecake batter.
  • And lots more!

This covers pretty much everything you need to know about making your own, homemade salted caramel sauce. Aside from it being easy to make and incredibly delicious, I find the whole process rather mesmerising – from the sugar melting and changing colour to gorgeous amber, to watching the caramel sauce get thicker and even more luscious as it cools… 

Above all, I hope this recipe will show you that caramel isn’t scary or complicated. Especially with the dry caramel method, the number or things that can go wrong is really miniscule. 

And really, there are few things as delicious as perfectly made salted caramel sauce.

Enjoy!

Signature of the author, Kat.

Salted caramel sauce in a glass jar, being spooned out with a small metal spoon.

If you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!

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Quick & Easy Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

This is my favourite, go-to recipe for homemade salted caramel sauce and it’s incredibly easy. It requires just 4 ingredients and thanks to the dry caramel method, you can actually stir it without having to worry about it crystallising. Here, I’m sharing all my top tips for stress-free caramel making: from how to determine when your caramel is done without a candy thermometer, to how to fine-tune the consistency of the final caramel sauce.
Print Rate
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook/Bake Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Servings 1 batch (about 1 ¼ cups or 380g)

Ingredients

  • 200 g (1 cup) granulated or caster/superfine sugar
  • 70 g (½ stick + 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 180 g (¾ cup + ½ tbsp) double or heavy cream, room temperature (Note that this recipe was developed using double cream, which contains about 48% butterfat. In comparison, heavy cream contains only about 36-38% butterfat and therefore has a higher water content than double cream. If you use heavy cream and your caramel sauce turns out too runny, you might need to either use a slightly smaller amount next time or cook the sauce a few minutes longer after you've added the cream.)
  • ¼-½ tsp salt

Instructions

Salted caramel sauce:

  • In a light-coloured or stainless steel saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat, with occasional stirring, until fully melted.
    Tip 1: I recommend using a light-coloured saucepan, as it allows you to easily keep track of the colour of the caramel.
    Tip 2: Initially, the sugar will clump together when you stir it – don't worry. That doesn't mean that it's crystallising! It’s just that some of the sugar hasn’t melted yet, and as that sugar gets mixed in with the caramel, clumps will form. Just continue stirring and eventually all the sugar will melt into a light golden (or light amber) liquid.
    Tip 3: If there are any persistent clumps of sugar, reduce the heat to low and continue stirring until all the clumps disappear.
  • Continue cooking the caramel (melted sugar) with constant stirring over medium heat until it reaches an amber colour.
    Tip: Depending on how intense you like your caramel to be, you can take it all the way to quite deep amber (which will give you a slightly bitter, darker caramel sauce), or you can stop at the light amber stage (which will give you a mellower caramel sauce with a more subtle flavour). I usually like my caramel somewhere in between – so that it has a pronounced caramel flavour but without too much bitterness.
  • Once you reach the desired caramel colour, add the butter. Stir well until the butter has completely melted.
    Tip: Be careful, as the caramel will bubble quite violently and release a lot of steam after you’ve added the butter.
  • Cook the mixture for a further 30 seconds with constant stirring, it will have a foamy appearance.
  • Pour in the cream, mixing constantly.
    Tip: Again, be careful as the addition of cream will release a large amount of hot steam and it might bubble up quite violently.
  • Cook for a further 30-60 seconds with occasional stirring.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the salt.
  • Allow to cool. The caramel sauce will thicken as it cools.

Adjusting the consistency (if needed):

  • If you want the caramel sauce to be thicker, return it to the heat and cook for a few minutes longer. This will remove some extra moisture from the caramel and it will give you a thicker final sauce.
  • If you want your caramel sauce to be runnier, add more cream. I recommend starting with a tablespoon or two of extra cream. Stir well until combined. If the cream doesn’t incorporate easily into the caramel, heat it briefly over medium heat for 15-30 seconds with constant stirring.
  • If you're using heavy cream, note that it contains more water (less butterfat) than double cream. If your caramel sauce ends up too runny, cook it for a few minutes longer to remove some of the moisture – this will thicken it up. (And next time, try using a slightly smaller amount of heavy cream.)

Storage:

  • Allow the salted caramel sauce to cool completely to room temperature, then transfer it into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
  • The caramel sauce will firm up significantly in the fridge, so you’ll need to reheat it (either on the stovetop or in the microwave) before using it.
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