A really quick and easy homemade caramel sauce recipe that comes together in 10 minutes! All it takes is sugar, butter, and cream. This luscious caramel is super versatile, and can be poured and drizzled on so many things!
Once you see how it easy it is to make, you won’t ever buy store-bought again.
What does it take to make an incredible caramel sauce? Just 3…yes, three ingredients. Perfect timing and not being distracted by any social media will also ensure a superb sauce that will make your stomach flutter with excitement and your eyes tear up in delight. Seriously! I’m not kidding. It happened to me.
Come on…look at this sauce?!? Aren’t you getting just a wee bit excited? Maybe it’s just me and caramel. Oh, caramel. You tempt me so.
Homemade caramel sauce
The first step is to heat up the granulated sugar (do not use a sugar substitute)in a sauce pan. Once the sugar melts and heats, it will begin to caramelize and turn a dark amber color. As soon as it reaches this point, remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the butter with the pan off the heat, and stir it into the sugar.
Removing the pan from the heat makes sure the sugar does not burn. If it burns, you’ll end up with a bitter caramel sauce.
With the pan off the heat, slowly add in the heavy cream in a thin line. As you pour the cream in the sugar mixture, carefully whisk the sauce together. Then with the pan off the heat, slowly add in the heavy cream.
Take care to not rush the whisking of the heavy cream. Rushing the whisking of the heavy cream will produce a lumpy caramel sauce.
Now look at this gorgeous caramel sauce! It wasn’t that difficult, right? My words of advice are to make sure you have your butter and cream right there ready for the pan. When the sugar melts, you need to move quickly.
Also make sure you aren’t using your smallest pan in the house. This sauce may not look like a lot but it will foam up and it is hot! Don’t be tempted to dip your finger in it. I’m warning you to be patient and let it cool a while. Then you just dip in your spoon. Go ahead, dig in! It is amazing!
Should I use a candy thermometer to make homemade caramel sauce?
Here is the total truth: I don’t own a candy thermometer. I have just learned by instinct how to make things that require one that are easy, like this caramel sauce. My mom taught me how to make this caramel.
It is all about the color of the sugar as it caramelizes (dark amber)and also the scents…it smells amazing. It smells like caramel!
IF you own a candy thermometer. GO AHEAD and use it! It will be completely precise. The temperature will be between 338-350 degreesF. If it goes above 350F, you’ll end up with it smelling as if it is burnt, which results in a bitter sauce. If it stays below 338F, you won’t be able to caramelize the sugar. Just stick to this recipe. And use your thermometer, if you have one!
How much caramel does this recipe make?
This recipe makes 1 cup. I do not recommend doubling it.
Do you need to refrigerate homemade caramel sauce?
Yes, you do. Since it has butter and cream, it needs to be refrigerated as soon as it completely cools down.
It can be reheated as you need it.
Do you need to refrigerate homemade caramel sauce?
Yes, you do. Since it has butter and cream, it needs to be refrigerated as soon as it completely cools down. Reheat the sauce as you need it (either in a saucepan stovetop or in a microwave).
How to Store Caramel Sauce
Let the caramel cool down and then pour it into a glass jar or a container. It will stay in the refrigerator, tightly sealed, but up to 3 weeks.
Caramel sauce does solidify in the refrigerator, so it will need to be reheated before using. Once you reheat it, the caramel will become a bit thinner and runnier.
Can I freeze homemade caramel sauce?
Yes, as soon as it cools down, you could freeze it in an airtight container for up to 2 months. You could even store it in a zipped lock freezer bag.
Caramel sauce tips:
- Take a step back and do not stir the sugar: While the sugar is heating up, leave it alone. If you stir it, it will cause grains to form, which results in a not so smooth caramel sauce.
- If the sugar crystallizes: No problem, my mom taught me to add just a scant 1/4 cup of water, and that will get the sugar back to gently bubbling. The water is supposed to dissolve the crystals and the sugar should get to that nice dark amber color.
- Salted or unsalted butter: Truly, it doesn’t matter. Use either or. If you would like unsalted caramel, use unsalted butter. If you would like salted caramel, use salted butter, and taste the sauce. You could add a pinch of sea salt to adjust the salt level. Typically, start with 1/8 teaspoon. Adjust up as you stir it in and taste it. Add the salt when it’s finished.
- Practice patience: This is a recipe where you have to hover over the pan. Plan on not checking your phone or doing the dishes while it the sugar does its magic. It could take anywhere from 8-12 minutes for the sugar to thicken, darken and turn the beautiful amber color. (Mine is always ready by the 10 minute mark. Set your timer, and keep an eye on it.)
- Most important tip: stay put near the stove!
How to use homemade caramel sauce?
Once you learn how to make your own caramel sauce, you’ll want to drizzle it on absolutely everything!
You’ll use it as a topping for this and so much more!
- Drizzle on Angel Food Cake.
- Make my gorgeous Caramelized Apple Bundt Cake with the sauce.
- Swirl it into gooey brownies (like Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies).
- Layer it in between Classic Italian Pizzelle for the ultimate caramel cookies.
- Makes for a lovely holiday gift idea.I used the recipe from Simply Recipes.
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Originally published June 2013 and updated for content in September 2022.
- 1 heavy bottomed sauce pan
- 1 whisk
- 1 cup of sugar
- 6 Tbsp butter salted or unsalted
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- In a 2 (or 3) quart pan, melt the sugar over medium heat. Whisk the sugar as it melts to make sure you don’t burn it. As soon as sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring. You should have a liquid sugar that is a dark amber color.
- Add the butter and stir it in. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Slowly add the cream to the sauce (take caution as it is very hot and it may foam up). Whisk the sauce until it is nice and smooth.
- Pour into a jar and and store it in the fridge for up two weeks. Heat up before serving.
- Stores nicely in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- To reheat the sauce, place a heatproof bowl over a pot with simmering water and gently heat it up (or use your microwave if you have one, heating until warm in 30-second intervals).