How to Make Caramel Sauce

Have you ever gone for a tasty bowl of vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce, only to discover that your teenager ate the last of the caramel sauce…on a hamburger? Kids will eat anything, but take heart: making your own caramel sauce from scratch is a lot easier—and a lot tastier than you might think. Even better, it takes practically no time at all. All you need is some sugar, butter, and cream to make your own caramel sauce at home!


[Edit]Wet Caramel

  • 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) sugar
  • 4 oz. (112 g) butter
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) cream, room-temperature or warmed
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water (wet method only)

[Edit]Cream Based Caramel Sauce

Makes approximately 2.5 cups:

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


[Edit]Dry Caramel Preparation

  1. Gather your ingredients. The cream and the butter should be measured out, sitting next to the pan and ready to be added. Making caramel sauce is a fast process; if you are wasting time looking for ingredients when your sugar is burning, you’re not going to end up with caramel sauce you’ll want to eat.
    Make Caramel Sauce Step 1 Version 2.jpg
  2. Combine the butter and sugar. On medium-low heat, add the butter and sugar to a heavy-bottomed, 2- or 3-quart saucepan.
    • Do not stir the sugar and butter as it dissolves. If you need to, swirl the mixture gently to combine the ingredients, but not much. You want the caramelization to start from the bottom and let it work its way up.
  3. Heat the mixture. Leave the sugar and butter mixture on medium-low for 5 to 8 minutes. Keep an eye on the caramel sauce. Swirl the mixture if necessary to prevent burning, but do not stir.
    • If you find that you end up burning some of the sugar before the rest of it is melted, the next time you attempt your caramel sauce, add a half cup of water to the sugar at the beginning of the process. This is called a “wet” caramel sauce. (See below.)
    • The wet caramel sauce recipe will help the sugar to cook more evenly, although it will take longer to cook—the water will need to evaporate before the sugar will begin to caramelize.
  4. Check the color. After 5 to 8 minutes, the mixture should turn a light brown. You should still see small bunches of sugar crystals which have not yet crystallized.
    • If sugar crystals start forming on the sides of the pan, use a brush to wipe them back down into the mixture.
  5. Keep the sauce on medium-low. Continue cooking until the remaining crystals caramelize and bubbles start to form. The color should be deep auburn. This could take two minutes, or it could take another five.
    Make Caramel Sauce Step 5 Version 2.jpg
    • This is the time to really guard against burning. You don’t want to leave the sauce unattended at this point.
    • If you’re worried about the sauce burning, you can turn the heat down to low. It’s better to take a little longer cooking than to hurry the process and burn the caramel.
    • Keep resisting the urge to stir. Swirl if you need to, but don’t stir yet!
  6. Remove the pan from the burner. After all the sugar crystals have caramelized, take the pot off the burner, and mix in the cream a little at a time. Now is the time when you can finally use a whisk to stir.
    • Mix in the cream in small batches and stir vigorously. The mixture will foam up and grow in volume.
    • As you mix in the rest of the cream, the sauce will turn a darker color. The sauce will keep on bubbling as the cream gets incorporated into the sugar and butter.
  7. Strain the mixture. Pour the caramel into a heat-resistant bowl or jar, through a strainer. Any uncaramelized crystals left will not make it into the final mixture.
  8. Let the sauce sit to cool to room temperature. Except, of course, the caramel that you put on your ice cream!
    Make Caramel Sauce Step 8 Version 2.jpg
    • Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm it up before serving.

[Edit]Wet Caramel Preparation

  1. Gather your ingredients. The cream and the butter should be measured out, sitting next to the pan and ready to be added. Making caramel sauce is a fast process; if you are wasting time looking for ingredients when your sugar is burning, you’re not going to end up with caramel sauce you’ll want to eat.
    Make Caramel Sauce Step 9 Version 2.jpg
  2. In a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, combine sugar and water. Turn heat on high and wait for mixture to start boiling, stirring constantly.[1]
    • When the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low, and stop stirring completely.
    • Allow mixture to boil undisturbed until it turns a deep amber. It should look like the color of dark beer.
  3. Remove the sauce from the heat. Mix in the butter into the sauce, then slowly and carefully pour the cream into the caramel, stirring regularly. Careful: the sauce will bubble up furiously![2]
    • Scrape the thick parts that settle on the bottom. If lumps develop, put the pan on the heat again, and stir until the lumps dissolve.
  4. Get it to a nice, viscous consistency. The mixture should be uniform after cooling slightly and stirring.
    • Strain into a heat-resistant bowl or jar and wait until caramel sauce is cool enough to serve.

[Edit]Cream Based Caramel Sauce

  1. Place the butter into a heavy-based saucepan. Heat gently (low heat).[3]
  2. Add the sugar and cream. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves.[4]
  3. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes over low heat. Stir constantly; this prevents the sugar from crystallizing.
  4. Remove once the sauce has just thickened.
    Make Caramel Sauce Step 16 Version 2.jpg
  5. Add the vanilla extract. Stir through.
  6. Serve. This sauce can be used warm or cold.
    Make Caramel Sauce Step 18 Version 2.jpg
    • If you need to store, this sauce will keep for up to 7 days if covered and refrigerated.



  • Wait until all of the sugar is melted, then add the butter straight away.[5] Alternatively, let it brown just 10-15 seconds after all sugar has melted to intensify the flavor.
  • Caramel sauce also works great on fruits. Combine grilled peaches or pears with caramel sauce, or pack a little extra caramel into bananas foster.
  • Caramel sauce, once cooled, makes a great addition to vanilla or chocolate ice cream.
  • Add 1 tablespoon or so of cocoa powder if you like chocolate. This also decreases the taste of burn if you have slightly burnt it.
  • Dip or spread the caramel sauce on apples. Decorate them, and let them cool in the fridge for candied apples.
  • Occasionally, if your cream is very cold, it will cause the caramelized sugar to seize up. To prevent this, you may wish to heat the cream up beforehand.
  • If you have no cream, milk will work although the caramel sauce will be much runnier.
  • Although the caramel sauce will be runnier when warm, if you find that yours is too thick, add some more cream during the cooking process.
  • Whisk in a touch (about half a tablespoon) of vanilla after the cream for flavor. You could also add flavoring oils for variety. Raspberry, lemon, and orange, for example, are tasty in the right recipe.


  • Be extra careful whilst you are cooking the sugar: once the sugar has melted, it has a much higher temperature than boiling water—and it’s very sticky.
  • Use pot holders when handling the jar filled with hot caramel sauce, as it will burn you.
  • Be sure to pour the hot caramel sauce into a thick Pyrex glass or jar. Do not use a normal glass jar or one that has not been made for temperature changes, as the high temperature of the caramel sauce would likely crack it.

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