how to make caramel and caramel sauce

Apples. Chocolate. Coffee. At first blush, those three foods might not appear to have much in common, but one thing is for sure: They all play well with caramel! Sure, you can buy pre-made caramel products for pairing, but making it yourself is a lot easier than you may think. So, how exactly do you make the sweet stuff? Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Though the end result is complex and has incredible depth when it comes to flavor, the concept is actually pretty simple. Making caramel is pretty easy; you just have to heat sugar up!

Dessert DilemmaWhat Is the Difference Between Dulce de Leche and Caramel?There are two basic methods for doing so: dry or wet. First up: the dry method. Spread a layer of white sugar evenly in a clean saucepan and place it on the stove over medium heat. Don’t step away; you’ll want to be close by to avoid it burning! As the sugar starts to melt, use a wooden spoon to keep moving the sugar around to avoid clumps or burning. The sugar must reach at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit for caramelization to take place (certain sugars have to be heated at slightly higher temps for the same reaction), but too much higher and it could burn and spoil the batch. As the color deepens, you can use the caramel as is for desserts like flan or pralines, or add in cream or vanilla for additional flavor and a more sauce-like consistency.

Hoping to end up with a more liquidy version of the confection (like the kind that is used to make caramel apples)? Then you might want to go with the wet method. It’s a pretty simple ratio: add in about ⅓ cup of water per one cup of sugar into a clean saucepan. Set it on high heat and stir it until the water starts to boil. At that point, the water will begin to boil off and the sugar will start to caramelize. Keep a close eye on the sauce as the color begins to deepen and pull it off the heat once you’ve found the tone you’re going for. That’s when you’ll want to add any other ingredients (like cream or butter) that your recipe calls for. Boom—you’re ready to add the sauce to any number of baked goods!

A couple of things to keep in mind: adding liquid (like cream) to caramel typically makes the mixture bubble up, so be prepared for that. The caramel mixture will be scalding hot, so either use oven mitts or extra caution throughout the process to avoid any burns!

At a loss for how to use your newly whipped-up caramel? Read ahead for some ideas.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce

pumpkin spice Bundt cake with salted caramel sauce


If your familiarity with bundt cakes begins and ends with “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (you know the scene!), then it’s time to school yourself on this hole-y dessert. Pumpkin flavor and warm spices combine to make an autumnal treal that you’ll want to eat all year. A salted caramel sauce is the icing on the cake—literally. Get our Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce ecipe.

Three-Ingredient Date Caramel

3 ingredient vegan date caramel


This take on caramel actually doesn’t use heat; it uses lots of blending instead. Grab your food processor and watch a bowl of dates transform into a nutty thick caramel-like topping that is vegan and gluten free. Get the recipe.

Pecan and Salted Caramel Cheesecake

pecan and salted caramel cheesecake


Making a homemade pie crust may seem intimidating, but with an end result as delicious as this one, it’s worth the work. Chopped pecans pair with a layer of caramel sauce for a drool-worthy cheesecake. Get our Pecan and Salted Caramel Cheesecake recipe.

Chocolate Caramel Fudge Cups

paleo vegan chocolate caramel fudge cups

Paleo Running Momma

Were you the kid who plotted out which houses had the best Halloween candy growing up? Then this grown-up take on one of your favorite treats will make your inner child beyond happy. The creamy and sweet bites won’t last long, so enjoy them before they fly off the plate. Get the recipe.

Salted Chocolate and Caramel Pretzel Bars

salted chocolate caramel pretzel bars

Tastes Better From Scratch

Crunchy, salty, and sweet? That’s a trio anyone can get behind. This recipe pairs pretzels with chocolate and caramel sauce for a crispy dessert you can eat on the go. Get the recipe.

Kelsey Butler is a reporter and editor based in New Jersey. She has written for a number of health and lifestyle publications, including Women's Health, Brides, and NBC News Better. Hot sauce, black coffee, and bacon make up 50% of her diet.
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