If you’ve been putting off making a caramel sauce because you have heard horror stories about burning sugar and ruining your saucepans – well, that sometimes happens. However with this easy caramel sauce recipe you can be as green as possible and still come out with a delicious topping for ice cream, cakes, and more!
Caramel sauce is one of those things that sounds difficult, but once you get the hang of it you can whip up a batch in less than 10 minutes! My recipe is super simple, and guaranteed to come out perfect every time!
This caramel sauce uses regular white sugar, but you can easily substitute that for brown, raw, or turbinado sugar for a more molasses-y variation. Plus, this easy caramel sauce holds in the fridge for weeks so you can prepare it far in advance if you are having a party you want to serve this sauce.
What Do You Need For This Easy Caramel Sauce
There are a few tools that you need to make an easy caramel sauce at home. Plus a couple others I think are handy, but not at all necessary.
- Saucepan – You of course need a saucepan to make this sauce. I recommend a steel pan vs non-stick because steel is much easier to clean if sugar gets burnt on it.
- Whisk – You need a whisk to finish the sauce and make sure it is the right consistency. Just like with the pan I recommend a steel whisk instead of rubber.
- Kitchen Scales – this is optional, although I do recommend it for most dishes with precise measurements. However this sauce recipe isn’t too finnicky so you can skip the scales if you don’t have them.
- Rubber Spatula – This is also optional, but some people find making caramel sauce with a rubber spatula less stressful than doing the hand swirl. The important thing to note is that this is a tool that should be used sparingly if you do use it – caramel sauce doesn’t need to be stirred constantly.
How To Make A Super Easy Caramel Sauce
There are 5 ingredients for this caramel sauce, although two of them are optional. Really, this is a dessert topping you can whip up spur of the moment and really impress your guests!
- 125 grams White Sugar – You can use other sugars as well, but the sauce will likely be darker and more molasses-y tasting.
- 90 grams Butter – cut into cubes. I recommend European style butter with a fat content above 82%.
- 80 ml Heavy Cream – this is about 1/3 of a cup
- 5 grams Vanilla Sugar/Powder/Extract – this is an optional ingredient, but I do often like the flavor that vanilla brings to caramel sauce. The thing to know is that all of these ingredients must be used at a different time (will note below) so keep that in mind.
- A pinch of Salt – this is another optional ingredient, mostly if you want to make an umami packed Salted Caramel Sauce. I almost always add a little salt, but you can go as high as half a teaspoon for a really punchy sauce that goes great in things like brownies or cake.
- 2 tbsp Water
In a sauce pan on medium-high heat add your sugar and water. If you are using vanilla sugar you can add that as well at this step. Let the sugar begin to caramelize. DO NOT touch the pan or try to stir it at this point.
Soon you will see the sugar turn brown and bubble up along the sides. At this point you can swirl the pan gently to prevent any burning. Add in the cubed butter and allow to melt. If you are using a rubber spatula just run it along the sides and quickly over the bottom once.
When the sauce hits your desired color (aka light caramel) pour in the heavy cream. Let it bubble up for a few seconds, then whisk rapidly with the whisk and turn off the heat. If you are using vanilla powder you can add it here at this step.
Whisk the sauce in the pan until everything is homogenous, about 30 seconds. The sauce should be thick but runny. If the sauce seems too thin then keep it on the heat a little longer while whisking so some of the water evaporates and the sauce thickens, but watch it as it can get too thick or even crystalized very quickly at this point. Lift the whisk up and let the caramel sauce run down – if it looks like in the pic above you are done.
Add vanilla extract at this point if you are using it.
Pour the caramel sauce into a sealable container. It will hold in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Due to the nature of the sauce it will harden a bit, but just pop the jar in the microwave for 20 seconds or so to bring it back to ideal consistency.
Note: if your jar has metal like mine above, do not put it in the microwave. Rather, submerge it in hot water for a couple minutes and let it loosen up that way.
How To Use Caramel Sauce
This sauce goes great in so many different desserts. But it is pretty self explanatory when you should use it. If you think the dish will go good with caramel flavor, then the sauce will likely improve it!
Here are some of my favorite things that use homemade caramel sauce:
- Ice Cream – a drizzle of warm sauce over some French vanilla ice cream makes an elegant and delightful dessert great when you have to entertain a large amount of people. For this I highly recommend using a lightly salted caramel sauce, perhaps even with a pinch of ground cardamom.
- Cakes and Brownies – You can use caramel sauce as topping for cakes and brownies to elevate the flavors. I also like drizzling the sauce into brownie batter right before baking for a nice pattern like in my Caramel Pecan Brownies!
- Mousse – you can quickly whip some of this sauce into heavy cream for a caramel mousse! If you stabilize it with gelatin or agar-agar you can freeze it into molds for fancy entremet cakes.
- 1 Saucepan | steel preferably
- 1 Whisk | steel preferably
- 1 Kitchen Scale | optional
- 1 Rubber Spatula | optional
- 125 grams White Sugar you can use other sugars as well but the sauce will likely be darker and more molasses-y tasting.
- 90 grams Butter cut into cubes. I recommend European style butter with a fat content above 82%.
- 80 ml Heavy Cream this is about 1/3 of a cup
- 5 grams Vanilla Sugar/Powder/Extract this is an optional ingredient but I do often like the flavor that vanilla brings to caramel sauce. The thing to know is that all of these ingredients must be used at a different time (will note below) so keep that in mind.
- 1 pinch Salt this is another optional ingredient mostly if you want to make an umami packed Salted Caramel Sauce. I almost always add a little salt, but you can go as high as half a teaspoon for a really punchy sauce that goes great in things like brownies or cake.
- 2 tbsp Water
- In a saucepan on medium-high heat add the sugar and water. Let the sugar begin to caramelize and reach that golden color.
- Swirl the saucepan a bit to even out the sauce and let caramelize until you hit a slightly more brown than golden brown color. Add in the cubed butter and allow to melt. Swirl the pan to even out the sauce.
- Pour in the milk and let the whole mix bubble up. Once the bubbling slows down, turn off the heat and whisk the sauce rapidly to homogenize. Lift the whisk and allow the caramel sauce to trickle down to test if you have the correct consistency. If you are satisfied, pour the sauce into a squeeze bottle or sealable jar. Don't place in the fridge until the sauce is at room temperature. It will stay edible for at least 3 weeks.
- Note on Salted Caramel: if making salted caramel add the salt at the very end, after you have taken the sauce off the heat. Give a final whisk to combine the sauce before jarring/bottling.