Learn how to make homemade Salted Caramel Sauce in under 15 minutes using only a handful of store-cupboard ingredients. Sweet, luxurious with a salty kick, this sauce is incredibly versatile and can be used in a multitude of ways.
Every baker needs a good recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce. Am I right? It can be used in so many ways. Simply fill cupcakes with it for an unexpected surprise, like in my Apple Cider Cupcakes or stir through a no-churn ice cream as in my Salted Caramel Brownie Ice Cream. Or take it up a notch and create a whole 2-layer cake dedicated to this luscious sauce, as in my Salted Caramel Cake.
The list goes on as to how this delectable sauce can be used. The bonus is, that this sweet pot of gold can be stored in the fridge so that you can reach in, take a scoop and enjoy it at any time! I've definitely been known to enjoy it by the spoonful!
It’s quick and simple to make but a word of warning caramel gets hot, like seriously burns you hot, so when you're making this, ensure there are no kids around to pull the pan off the stovetop. Fully dedicate fifteen minutes to make it with no distractions. Caramel can turn from golden brown to burnt in the blink of an eye. Follow my step-by-step guide with images below so that you can take the intimidation right out of making this sauce.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Made in under 15 minutes. And that includes the prep time of getting out your ingredients and utensils! It really can be made in a flash!
- Uses a handful of ingredients. Five ingredients are all you need to make this remarkable sauce.
- Use it on everything! Brownies, cakes, ice cream, cookies, pastries...you name it, you can use caramel sauce with it.
- Makes a great gift. Pour into a jar, add a cute label and you have the perfect gift for birthdays, and the holiday season, to give to your host. A jar will be very well received!
- Sugar - Use either granulated or caster sugar. Even golden granulated or golden caster sugar can be used. I've specified granulated here as it's more widely available, but out of the two I'll use the caster sugar because the granules are finer so it melts into liquid form that bit quicker.
- Butter - As we are adding flaked sea salt at the end, go for unsalted butter. And make sure that it's at room temperature when you use it.
- Cream- Double or heavy cream is used to get that luxurious, full bodied taste to the caramel. Like with the butter, it has to be at room temperature.
- Vanilla bean paste - My preference is to use the paste as I feel the vanilla taste shines through more and seeing the little flecks of vanilla beans is always a treat. But use vanilla extract as an alternative if that is what you have on hand.
- Flaked sea salt - It wouldn't be salt caramel without this important ingredient. My favourite flaked salt is Maldon, but use the best quality that you can come by.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
I used to be so intimidated of making this Salted Caramel Sauce but once you know the steps and follow my tips below, you’ll see just how easy it is to make. Also just how good it tastes compared to a store-bought sauce. There’s really no comparison!
Mis en place: Before starting to make your caramel, measure out all your ingredients and place the utensils that you'll need within reach of the stovetop.
1. Heat the sugar in a saucepan. Heat the sugar in a large saucepan until it starts to melt. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon or rubber spatular. We heat it on low and stir it so that the heat disperses evenly throughout the sugar crystals.
The sugar starts to turn golden and starts to clump as you continue to stir, and you may think you’ve done something wrong. Be patient, these clumps will slowly melt back down and turn into a golden liquid. (Images 1-4)
Stop stirring once all the clumps have melted and continue to swirl the golden sugar in the pan as it continues to cook (Image 5). Keep an eagle eye on it at this point as it’s easy to take the caramelisation process too far. It needs to have a deep amber colour and have a nutty aroma (Image 6). If using a candy thermometer it should get to 150C (350F)
Use a high sided saucepan: When adding the butter and then the cream, the caramel will bubble up as the different temperature hits the hot sugar. It soon dies down with slow whisking, but it's a lot safer for you to make in a large saucepan.
2. Add the butter. Have your whisk to hand, and add in the butter all in one go and whisk whisk whisk. When the butter hits the liquid sugar it will instantly bubble up, so take caution, but continue whisking and the bubbling will subside as the butter melts. (Image 7 & 8)
3. Add the cream. Now it's time to pour your cream in slowly (Image 9) - again it will bubble up but as before, whisk until it dies down and the cream, butter and sugar are all amalgamated together (Image 10). Keep stirring the caramel over the heat until it starts to thicken.
Room temperature ingredients: It's imperative that the butter and cream are at room temperature before use. If you add cold ingredients into the hot sugar caramel, it will either seize or split.
4. Add the flavourings. Once the caramel is thickened then remove it from the heat and add in the flavourings. We'll add in the vanilla extract and the flaked sea salt (to taste), stir them well into the caramel. It'll still be molten hot so don't be tempted to take a lick of the spoon. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool for ten minutes (image 11-14)
Then pour the caramel into a sterilised jar and let it fully cool before refrigerating.
Note: as the caramel cools, it will harden. When it comes time to use it, spoon the required amount into a bowl and microwave in 10-second bursts until it is warm and of a runny consistency.
There are many ways that we can change up the flavours of Salted Caramel Sauce. Omit the sea salt when making any of my suggestions below so that you have a basic caramel sauce to add your various flavourings to.
- Espresso Caramel: Add a teaspoon or two of espresso powder into the caramel as it's thickening for a coffee-infused sauce. In my book ' Simply Sweet Nostalgic Bakes' I have delectable Espresso Millionaire Shortbread Bars using this caramel. It's dreamy!
- Fennel Caramel: Again from my cookbook, I include a fennel-infused caramel in a twist on a French Apple Tart. I've actually shared my recipe for my Apple Caramel Tart for you to enjoy this fennel caramel.
- Chocolate Caramel: The most decadent of all the flavoured caramels. Add chopped dark chocolate for a wonderful balance to the caramel sweetness. If dark chocolate isn't your thing, then add in milk chocolate.
- Bailey's caramel: Many different types of liquor can be added to the caramel. Stir through a couple of teaspoons of Baileys, or more to taste, into your caramel for a boozy kick.
- Prep your ingredients and utensils before starting. This will make the process run more smoothly.
- Use a large saucepan. When you add the butter or cream to the melted sugar it bubbles up quite vigorously and a larger pan than you think you’ll need will avoid any coming up over the lip of the saucepan.
- Use room temperature ingredients. When hitting the liquid sugar, your caramel sauce will most likely split if the butter and cream are too cold.
Frequently asked questions
Whilst containing the same ingredients as caramel, sugar, butter and cream, it's how the ingredients come together that makes a toffee sauce.
The first point to note is the different types of sugar used. In caramel, we use white sugar, whereas toffee sauce uses light brown or brown sugar. The high molasses content in this sugar imparts a deeper, more rounded flavour to toffee sauce.
The method of cooking doesn't require adding ingredients one at a time, as with caramel sauce. With toffee sauce all the ingredients are added together into a saucepan and heated until the sugar and butter have melted, the ingredients emulsify together and thicken into a toffee sauce.
Toffee sauce is most famously used on top of Sticky Toffee Pudding - an English Classic.
As the caramel cools it thickens and then when refrigerated it will go even thicker. It will never go totally solid due to the cream. But to get that loose, runny sauce again, heat the caramel on the stove or in the microwave.
If you notice a thin oily layer on the top of the caramel, it means the butter has separated from the sugar and split. But don't worry, you can hopefully recover it from disaster! Turn your heat to low and gradually bring the heat up slowly whilst stirring constantly. It should emulsify again so that you can continue making your salted caramel sauce as per the recipe.
Let me explain, there are 2 different ways of making caramel, wet and dry methods. 'Wet' is when water is added to the sugar at the start of the caramel-making process to help the sugar liquefy. It's a more time-consuming process because the water has to evaporate before the sugar will caramelise and turn golden.
The 'dry' method, as used today, is melting the sugar dry in the saucepan. There is a higher ability to burn the sugar if you don't keep an eye on it, but it's a faster method and there's no faffing around brushing the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush!
How to store and freeze
To store: The salted caramel sauce can be stored in a canning jar or airtight container in the fridge for up to one month. Heat on the stovetop or in the microwave to make it runny.
To freeze: It can also be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge.
More recipes using caramel that you may
If you tried this Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
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I do hope that you become a confident Salted Caramel Sauce maker having used my post as your guide. I'm just thinking of all the ways to use it...drizzle on ice cream, cupcakes, grilled fruit or fill pop tarts & brownies. Equally, swirl through cheesecake or dip your churros into it. I hope you can see that this sauce is a favourite for a reason or rather many...easy to make, basic ingredients, multiple uses. Now it's time to make your batch and enjoy!
Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 80 g unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
- 160 ml double cream (heavy cream), room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 2 teaspoon flaked sea salt, to taste
- Heat the sugar until it melts. In a high-sided non-stick saucepan, heat the sugar over low heat, stirring often. It will go lumpy, but slowly those lumps will melt away into a liquid that will slowly turn golden. Once the sugar is in liquid form, stop stirring and swirl the liquid sugar while the colour changes to a lovely amber colour. Keep an eagle eye on it at this stage, as it can turn to burnt sugar very quickly. If the liquid is turning amber, but there are still lumps of sugar, then take the pan off the heat and keep swirling the liquid to give a chance for those lumps to melt.
- Add the butter. Carefully add the butter in one go. It will bubble up but whisk continuously until it has thoroughly melted. Then remove from the heat.
- Add the cream. Pour in the cream, but be careful as it will bubble up again, but keep whisking, and the bubbling will die down. Please return it to medium-low heat, occasionally stirring, so that the caramel can thicken. This takes around 5 minutes.
- Add the flavourings. Remove from the heat, stir in vanilla extract and salt (to taste), and mix thoroughly to combine. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.Serve warm or pour into a jar or air-tight container to store.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.