How to Make Caramel Sauce

Yield: About 1 1/4 cups

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

This easy caramel sauce doesn’t require a thermometer or any special equipment and it’s SO much better than store-bought. Follow the video AND step-by-step photos to see exactly how it’s made.

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Deeply sweet and I love adding sea salt for salted caramel. Homemade caramel sauce is no joke 1,000 times better than the store-bought variety.
Texture: Lusciously thick and rich.
Ease: Much easier than you probably think. If you’ve never made it before I’ve included everything you need to see and know to make a successful batch of caramel!
Appearance: Who wouldn’t want to receive a jar of this liquid gold?!
Pros: Fun and satisfying way to make a homemade goodie.
Cons: Caramel can be a little tricky to clean. If you get any stubborn sugar or caramel stuck to your pot simply pour some water into it and bring it to a boil. It’ll dissolve anything!
Would I make this again? I’ve made this recipe countless times.

When I was in culinary school we spent days on caramel, candies, and other sugar work. It’s all very detail-oriented and the smallest change in temperature can make a huge difference in your finished product. Don’t start making candy if you have to pee, because you cannot walk away from the stove! I learned that the hard way.

How to Make Caramel Sauce

Luckily there is a way to make caramel sauce that is super streamlined and simple, with no special equipment required. This caramel sauce recipe, which you can add salt to for salted caramel sauce, actually comes from my cookbook Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich.

I included it as a sort of bonus recipe for readers who really wanted to amp up their ice cream sandwiches. Caramel isn’t just good with ice cream, it’s good on EVERYTHING. Seriously, this stuff is liquid gold and you’re going to want to drizzle it all over cheesecake, brownies, cinnamon rolls, apple slices, swirl it into your favorite baked good batters, or even a spoonful inside your morning coffee. You’ll probably just want to eat it straight up with a spoon. What’s your favorite way to indulge in caramel?

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Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe If you’re anything like me, you may already have the few simple ingredients needed for caramel sauce on hand!

How to Make Caramel SaucePlace the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. That’s right, just the sugar. Cook the sugar for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until it completely melted and liquified. Be sure to swirl the pan often so the sugar can cook evenly. Don’t walk away during this part, you don’t want the sugar to burn! It will turn amber in color, which is what you want.

How to Make Caramel SauceOnce the sugar is completely melted and amber, turn off the heat and stir in the butter. The sugar may bubble up slightly, just be careful not to burn yourself! Also be sure to use heatproof utensils throughout the caramel making process because cooking caramel is a scorching hot process, like hotter than boiling water. Stir the butter until it’s completely melted.

How to Make Caramel SauceNext, whisk in the heavy cream. Now in the video above I whisk in the heavy cream properly, meaning I do not. stop. whisking. Not even for a second! You need to whisk the mixture vigorously the entire time you’re stirring in the cream. If you don’t, the mixture may crystallize.

How to Make Caramel SauceNow for the sake of these step-by-step photos, I didn’t whisk. I know, I was a bad girl. But I wanted to show you that even crystallized caramel sauce can usually be rescued! So, if this happens to your caramel sauce do not panic and definitely do not throw it away just yet. This can happen to the best of us. All you need to do is melt the chunks of hardened caramel back into the sauce over a very low heat. You want to avoid overcooking the caramel to make is smooth again, because the higher you allow the temperature to get the more likely you are to make hard caramel candies instead of caramel sauce.

How to Make Caramel SauceDon’t worry too much if you can’t melt back every last bit of hardened caramel, we’re going to strain the caramel anyways which will catch any pieces of crystallized sugar. Be sure to strain even if your mixture looks smooth. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Homemade Caramel Sauce RecipeAfter straining you can stir in some nice sea salt if you’d like to make salted caramel. I used fleur de sel, which can be purchased at many gourmet or specialty food stores. The caramel will thicken as it cools. Use it now or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Bring it to room temperature or microwave before using. You can easily double this recipe to make a big batch of caramel, divvy it between mason jars, and give it to your friends as gifts!


How to make
Caramel Sauce

Recipe By Tessa Arias, Handle the Heat
Yield: About 1 1/4 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes


1 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel or gray sea salt (optional)


In a medium dry saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar melts and begins to turn a deep golden color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter until melted. Whisking constantly, gradually add the cream. Whisk until the mixture is smooth.

The caramel may seize. If clumps of sugar form, continue heating on low heat until they melt back into a smooth sauce. Remove from heat and pour through a fine strainer into a heatproof container. Stir in the salt if using. Let cool until warm and thick. Use or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Let come to room temperature or warm in the microwave before using.

Recipe from Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich

About Tessa...

Tessa is a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. She loves to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. She's on a mission to make the world a more unapologetically DELICIOUS place. Tessa lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

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29 Responses to “How to Make Caramel Sauce”

  1. #
    Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness — February 12, 2014 at 4:35 am

    THANK YOU! The other day I was planning my weekend recipe creations and I wanted to do caramel sauce but I had never done it before…and now I know how! 🙂

  2. #
    Amy — February 12, 2014 at 7:26 am

    This looks like one of the simpler caramel recipes I’ve seen (no candy thermometer, yay!). Is there any way to make it non-dairy? I know almond milk is not a great sub for heavy cream, but can it be done? I think I could use Earth Balance instead of the butter, it’s the heavy cream that has been my stumbling block (in part because I also have to avoid soy and corn, so most non-dairy creamers are a no-go.

    • #
      Tessa — February 12, 2014 at 8:45 am

      I’ve never attempted to make a non-dairy caramel but you could certainly try. I can’t think of any particular reason why it wouldn’t work! If you do try it out please let me know how it goes, I’m sure other readers would love to know if it’s possible!

  3. #
    Kevin @ Closet Cooking — February 12, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Homemade is the best and so easy!

  4. #
    Florian — February 12, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Concerning making a non-dairy version, I think that almond milk should work fine. I recently made a caramel sauce with whole milk instead of heavy cream. I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute almond milk in this step. If you can find it, califia makes a very creamy almond milk that’s really good.
    I melted the butter and milk together in a sauce pan and then whisked the warm milk/butter into the caramel once it had reached a pale yellow/gold. Instead of turning the heat of, I left it on and thickened the sauce further. The caramelization continues in this step, which is why I added the milk/butter earlier than Tessa’s recipe asks for.

  5. #
    Crystinna — February 12, 2014 at 10:07 am

    I’ve been making caramel sauce for years and never knew about straining it! Does tempature alter if I use an anodozied pot to stainless? The videos are great by the way 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — February 15, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      Probably a little! I know my anodized pot takes longer to heat than my stainless one.

  6. #
    Gaby — February 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    You make it look so easy! Homemade caramel is the best!

  7. #
    Amy R. — February 27, 2014 at 11:46 am

    This sauce is fabulous and I love how easy it is! It will replace the difficult caramel filling I was making for the Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcake recipe from a Pinterest recipe. Your recipe tastes the same but is much easier. This caramel sauce was a huge hit on the Ice Cream Sundae Bar I had for my church dinner last night. Thank You and keep the great recipes coming!

  8. #
    Hannah — May 4, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    For anyone who was wondering about making this vegan, I used almond milk and Earth Balance and it turned out great!

    • #
      Tessa — May 6, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing! Good to know.

  9. #
    ash — July 22, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    hi i m going to try this can we make it with whole milk instead of cream? plz do answer

    • #
      Tessa — July 23, 2014 at 7:24 am

      No, you should use cream! The caramel needs the fat from the cream.

  10. #
    Laura R — July 30, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    An ice cream snack attack led me to this recipe and it turned out so great and it really is so easy! I recently stumbled upon your site and I absolutely love it, thanks for all the awesome recipes!

    • #
      Tessa — July 30, 2014 at 8:23 pm

      That’s so awesome! Thanks so much 🙂

  11. #
    IRENA — November 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    vypadá to skvěle, zítra hned zkusím, vřele děkuji za recept

  12. #
    Lyndsay Johnson — December 19, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Thanks so much for posting this!! The video was so helpful. I made a vegan version with Earth Balance and Almond Milk (I have a dairy allergy). My first batch was less thick than yours, but I am going to keep working with it. It definitely takes a few times to learn when to take the sugar off the heat without having an overcooked taste. But this method works better than all the others I have tried. I love that it doesn’t crystalize in the fridge. YUM!

    • #
      Tessa — December 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Wonderful, Lynsday! Thanks for your helpful tip for making the recipe dairy-free.

  13. #
    Oliver — January 13, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    The lemon juice reacted with the cream and it curlded!!!!

  14. #
    Oliver — January 13, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    The Lemon Juice reacted with the cream and curlded it. It’s now watery and the scrambled egg looking cream is floating on top. I’m straining it and reducing it.

  15. #
    Oliver — January 13, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Ok after reducing it again to a thick sauce, I swirl in the butter. It was looking the same as your picture but as I tasted it, it has no caramel flavor. I think the lemon juice killed it.

    • #
      Tessa — January 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Hi! Not sure why you used lemon juice – I don’t call for it in this recipe!

  16. #
    Susan Westfall — February 25, 2015 at 6:58 am

    I am loving your site and the recipes. I have not made any of them yet but I am collecting them for the day that I will. After all this time I am turning into my Mommy who read recipes and cookbooks the way most people read books. I inherited her cookbooks-some I kept and some I have passed to my children. All of my daughters have developed what my oldest calls “the family illness”-collecting books (all kinds) and kitchen gadgets.

  17. #
    Laurel — July 4, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Oh boy, I really need new glasses or something.
    Everything was going well, up till the cream. I went a-whiskin’, and at first it seemed smooth, but as I finished pouring in the cream it seized. I followed your tips, got it all but a bit melted back together, then added my fleur de sel and it tasted amazing! Can’t wait to put it over some apple crisp a la mode!
    Well I’m just rereading your recipe now, and NOW I see you only put HALF a cup of cream plus one tablespoon–I used a whole cup. *facepalm*
    Oh well, it still tastes so good; it just probably won’t thicken much. I’ve got it for next time though. 😀

    • #
      Tessa — July 5, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Awh man!! I’ve definitely done stuff like that more times than I can count. At least you’ll never do that again 😉

  18. #
    Brindy — December 25, 2015 at 12:49 am

    Hi Tessa I’m a big fan of yours as are all my weekly tasters ( husband, kids, brothers, and sister in law). I made this caramel sauce nondairy and it came out finger lickin good. I subbed marg for the butter and nondairy whip topping for the heavy cream. ( not very healthy, I know, but I make it up in other areas, like mime made organic baby food.) I was just wondering if it would be possible to freeze the sauce, I’m a big freezer person. Thank you again

  19. #
    plasterer bristol — May 12, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Mm delicious, this turned out just right. Thanks for sharing.


  20. #
    Cori Dary — October 17, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Hi Tessa! I made this caramel sauce recipe yesterday for the salted caramel apple sheet cake, which was absolutely amazing. When I made the caramel sauce, it tasted bitter. I still used it for the cake because I figured with all the sugar in the glaze everything would work out fine. But, I want to know how I can make the sauce better. I’m guessing that I overcooked it, but I removed the sugar from the heat as soon as it was dissolved and there was nothing burnt in the pan. My sauce looked quite a bit darker than yours too. Thanks in advance for the help! You’re great!

  21. #
    Sandy — October 18, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Oh my! I just made this caramel sauce this afternoon. I’ve never had the process go so smoothly — both literally and figuratively! I can’t wait to serve this later this week on cheesecake when our family gets together for dinner! Thanks so much for making it so simple, Tessa. 🙂

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