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A thick, easy Salted Caramel Sauce recipe that you can make in under 15 minutes! Just 5 ingredients for the best caramel sauce you’ve ever tried! Use in bars, tarts, and cakes, or use it as a topping!

caramel sauce pouring from spoon into jar.

A versatile salted caramel sauce recipe made using the dry caramel method. It makes a thicker sauce, which is ideal for using in baked goods like these caramel chocolate chip blondies, buttercreams like this caramel swiss meringue buttercream, or custards, as well as topping desserts!

I give you all my professional tips and tricks to help you get the perfect caramel every time, and to teach you how to fix it the next time, because bad caramel days happen to everyone.

Why This is the Best Salted Caramel Recipe

  • It is thick and pourable. This makes a thicker caramel sauce, which makes it ideal not only for topping ice cream, cakes or other desserts, but also perfect for baking into recipes!
  • Developed in a professional kitchen. This is the recipe that Chef Lindsey used in the restaurants. It is adaptable and can be made in very large batches.
  • Perfectly balanced flavors. This sauce is rich but does not rely on too much butter or heavy cream for the flavor. The salt, caramel and cream flavors are in balance.

Professional Tips for Making Caramel Sauce

  • The #1 Rule of Caramel is remembering that you are in control. You control the heat of the stove, and therefore you control how fast the caramel is cooking.
  • Sugar caramelizes at different rates in the same pot. Don’t freak out when you see that parts are already a dark amber and you have a bunch of unmelted sugar. This happens every time. Embrace it. Stir or swirl the sugar crystals into those pockets. This will melt the granules and also lower the temperature of those pockets.
  • Bring the butter, cream, vanilla and salt to a boil in the beginning. This way it’s already hot when you add it to the hot caramel and it won’t seize.
  • Don’t fear the caramel. Take precautions but don’t have fear. Fear makes people do dumb stuff or act erratically. Never act erratically around 340°F sugar. The worst thing that can happen is your sugar gets too dark and you have to start over.
  • Use a whisk to add your wet ingredients at the end and don’t stop whisking. Add them slowly to control the ferocity of the caramel but also don’t stop whisking! The whisking calms the caramel down. Choose the longest handled whisk you own. This is no time for a mini-whisk.
  • After incorporating your cream/butter mixture pour the caramel into a heat proof glass, ceramic or metal bowl. This will stop the cooking process or your caramel will continue to get darker especially in a larger batch.
  • Practice makes perfect. Sometimes you don’t know what “too dark” is until you take it there. Then you know and next time you can add your cream/butter mixture earlier. When training new cooks, this is the best way for them to learn. I’m like Goldie Locks: too light, too dark, waaaay too dark, just right.
caramel sauce spilling over side of jar.
cooked lemon chicken before serving.
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Ingredients Needed

  • Butter: This recipe calls for unsalted butter because of the additional salt that is added. You could roll the dice with salted butter and omit the salt.
  • Heavy Cream: The heavy cream is here for flavor, texture and also to loosen the caramel into a sauce consistency.
  • Vanilla Extract: I love the added vanilla extract in the sauce, but you could certainly omit it for a pure salted caramel version.
  • Kosher Salt: A lot of recipes call for fleur de sel, and while flaky sea salt is delightful, I find it harder to ensure it dissolves in the final caramel sauce. I also find the “sea salt” flavor to be overpowering unlike kosher salt or even regular table salt, but these are just my opinions.
  • Granulated Sugar

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Possible Variations

  • Change the consistency: For a looser sauce, add more heavy cream to the recipe as written. I don’t suggest adding more than an additional ¼ cup.  
  • Change the flavor: While technically a gastrique, you can use lemon juice, orange juice or apple cider in place of the heavy cream. This will make a bright caramel sauce that will temper some of the sweetness. I usually finish the gastrique with a touch of butter just for the added silkiness and to round out the flavor. Be sure to reduce the salt if changing out the dairy.
  • Infuse the caramel sauce: This is ideal for adding flavors like whole cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean pods (spent), or other unexpected spices. I usually make the sauce, add the spice or vanilla bean, reheat both together, and then remove from the heat and cover to infuse. Taste as you go because some spices can be more overpowering than others.
salted caramel sauce dripping from spoon.

How to use Homemade Caramel Sauce

How to Make Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

Step 1: In a small saucepan combine cream, butter, vanilla and salt. Bring just to a boil over medium heat and set aside.

Step 2: Heat a heavy bottomed pot with high sides over medium high heat. Begin by sprinkling the granulated sugar over the bottom in a thin layer, when that begins to melt, sprinkle some more. Keep sprinkling until all the sugar is in the pot. As parts begin to melt, gently stir with a wooden spoon and break up any clumps that form.

If, despite your best efforts, you still have undissolved sugar pieces when your caramel reaches dark amber, don’t fret, just strain them out with a sieve. Worse things have happened in pastry.

Step 3: Continue to stir to distribute the sugar into any hot spots and use the already melted sugar to melt the rest. Once the sugar has melted stop stirring and swirl until a dark amber color is achieved.

If you have a hard time telling the color of the caramel, tilt the pot towards you so that there is only a thin layer. I find it easier to see that way. A medium amber is a perfectly acceptable color but I like to take mine to deep amber color, which is right when it starts to smoke but before it smells burnt.

Step 4: Remove from the heat and place on a trivet or folded towel. Slowly pour in your cream/butter mixture while constantly whisking. You don’t want to add the cream too fast or it will bubble up aggressively and could burn you. Don’t fear, just keep whisking.
Step 5: Once all the liquid is incorporated, pour into a heat safe bowl (glass, ceramic, pyrex, metal are all fine). Allow to cool to room temperature then pour into the storage container of your choice.

How to Make a Wet Caramel

You can make this recipe using the wet caramel method by adding ¼ water and ¼ cup light corn syrup. The corn syrup is optional but really helps avoid crystallization.

  • Step 1: In a small pot combine cream, butter, vanilla and salt. Bring just to a boil and set aside.
  • Step 2: Pour the sugar into a heavy bottomed pot with high sides. Shake to distribute sugar in an even layer over the bottom. Pour the water around the edges and stir to hydrate the sugar. Stir carefully so that no sugar gets on the sides of the pot. If you did get sugar on the sides, don’t worry. Dip a clean pastry brush (or folded paper towel) in water and wash the sugar off. Don’t be concerned with the amount of water because it will all evaporate anyways.
  • Step 3: Pour the corn syrup into the sugar water mixture and turn on the burner to medium high. Allow the sugar to come to a boil before you disturb it. Gently swirl the pot but do not stir! This will allow you to redistribute the caramel around the pot and control the hot spots.
  • Step 4: Continue to cook and occasionally swirl until a dark amber color is achieved.
  • Step 5: Remove from the heat and place on a trivet or folded towel. Slowly pour in your cream/butter mixture while constantly whisking.
    Step 6: Once all the liquid is incorporated, pour into a heat safe bowl.

Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip

There is a sliding scale of acceptable caramel flavor. From the very light in color and light on taste to the almost burnt, dark, sultry caramel that I prefer. I add the butter when the sugar turns a deeper, rich amber color and there is just the slightest hint of burning scent when you waft the vapors (just like they taught in middle school chemistry).

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store salted caramel sauce?

Cool completely then store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a month, refrigerated for up to 2 months or frozen forever. It will gradually lose its fresh taste, so try to use it within a few months.
If storing frozen, simply thaw at room temperature or in the fridge. You can also microwave at 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring between with a silicone spatula.

Can you make a larger batch of caramel sauce?

Yes, you can absolutely make a larger batch. You are limited by the size of your pot. Be sure to account for the caramel bubbling up when the cream and butter are added. I don’t need to tell you what happens if you don’t. That being said, I prefer to make large batches of caramel with the wet caramel method because it is more consistent.

Lastly, you must account for carryover cooking when making large batches of caramel. It will continue to caramelize as it cools. I suggest pouring it into a long, flatter container like a baking dish that will increase the surface area and thus allow it to cool faster.

A quick explanation of the wet vs dry caramel method

The only critical difference between the wet and dry caramel method is the addition of water and sometimes light corn syrup or glucose to the sugar before caramelization in the wet method. It is imperative to swirl, never stir, a wet caramel.
Using the wet caramel method allows you to make large batches with more control, and it allows you to do other things while the sugar syrup cooks. This is critical in a professional kitchen!

Why do you put butter in caramel sauce?

There are 3 reasons to put butter in caramel sauce: it makes the sauce looser, adds flavor and creates a silky mouthfeel.

Why is my caramel sauce grainy?

Caramel sauce can be grainy if the sugar mixture seized while caramelizing, if the sugar wasn’t cooked long enough (it was too light), or if the butter/cream mixture was added to cooled sugar syrup.

Do I need a candy thermometer for caramel sauce?

You do not need a candy thermometer for caramel sauce. A thermometer will tell you when you’ve reached the caramel stage but it is better to make caramel sauce by sight. The color of the cooking sugar will tell you everything you need to know.

If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!

The Best Salted Caramel Sauce spilling over side jar
4.99 from 60 ratings

Salted Caramel Sauce

A thick, easy Salted Caramel Sauce recipe that you can make in under 15 minutes! Just 5 ingredients for the best caramel sauce you’ve ever tried! Use in bars, tarts, and cakes, or use it as a topping!
Prep: 2 minutes
Cook: 13 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 18 people

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

Dry Caramel Method

  • In a small pot combine cream, butter, vanilla and salt. Bring just to a boil and set aside.
  • Heat a heavy bottomed pot with high sides over medium high heat. Begin by sprinkling the granulated sugar over the bottom in a thin layer, when that begins to melt, sprinkle some more. Keep sprinkling until all the sugar is in the pot. As parts begin to melt, gently stir with a wooden spoon and break up any clumps that form.
  • Continue to stir to distribute the sugar into any hot spots and use the already melted sugar to melt the rest. Once the sugar has melted stop stirring and swirl until a dark amber color is achieved.
  • If you have a hard time telling the color of the caramel, tilt the pot towards you so that there is only a thin layer. I find it easier to see that way. A medium amber is a perfectly acceptable color but I like to take mine to dark amber which is right when it starts to smoke but before it smells burnt.
  • Remove from the heat and place on a trivet or folded towel. Slowly pour in your cream/butter mixture while constantly whisking. You don’t want to add the cream too fast or it will bubble up aggressively and could burn you. Don’t fear, just keep whisking.
  • Once all the liquid is incorporated, pour into a heat safe bowl (glass, ceramic, pyrex, metal are all fine). Allow to cool to room temperature then pour into the storage container of your choice.

Wet Caramel Method

  • You can make this recipe using the wet caramel method by adding ¼ water and ¼ cup light corn syrup. The corn syrup is optional but really helps avoid crystallization.
  • In a small pot combine cream, butter, vanilla and salt. Bring just to a boil and set aside.
  • Pour the sugar into a heavy bottomed pot with high sides. Shake to distribute sugar in an even layer over the bottom. Pour the water around the edges and stir to hydrate the sugar. Stir carefully so that no sugar gets on the sides of the pot. If you did get sugar on the sides, don’t worry. Dip a clean pastry brush (or folded paper towel) in water and wash the sugar off. Don’t be concerned with the amount of water because it will all evaporate anyways.
  • Pour the corn syrup into the sugar water mixture and turn on the burner to medium high. Allow the sugar to come to a boil before you disturb it. Gently swirl the pot but do not stir! This will allow you to redistribute the caramel around the pot and control the hot spots.
  • Continue to cook and occasionally swirl until a dark amber color is achieved.
  • Remove from the heat and place on a trivet or folded towel. Slowly pour in your cream/butter mixture while constantly whisking. You don’t want to add the cream too fast or it will bubble up aggressively and could burn you. Don’t fear, just keep whisking.
  • Once all the liquid is incorporated, pour into a heat safe bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature then pour into the storage container of your choice.

Video

Notes

Yield: 2 cups
Flavor Tips – For a deep rich caramel that isn’t too sweet, take the sugar syrup to a very dark amber. It will begin just smoking.
Variations – You can make this recipe using the wet caramel method by adding ¼ water and ¼ cup light corn syrup. The corn syrup is optional but really helps avoid crystallization.
Storage – Cool completely then store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to a month, refrigerated for up to 2 months or frozen forever.

Nutrition

Calories: 121kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 100mg | Potassium: 11mg | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 224IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 0.02mg
Course: Candy & Chocolate, Dessert
Cuisine: French
Calories: 121
Like this? Leave a comment below!

Before You Go

I hope you enjoyed this professional chef tested recipe. Check out our other delicious, chef-developed dessert topping and sauce recipes!

The BEST Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

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185 Comments

  1. So this turned out absolutely beautifully, but unfortunately WAY too salty. I wish I had thought about the volume difference of flaked versus fine or coarse sea salt. I even made another batch with no salt and added it to the ultra-salty batch and it is still unbearably salty. Off to make a third batch in hopes to save the first two. Disappointed, but hopefully others can learn from my mistake! It may be beneficial to add a comment in your recipe about others adding significantly less salt if using coarse or fine sea salt. 🙁

    Overall great recipe, and easy to make. My own silly mistake ruined it :/

    1. Hey Kayla! I’m happy both batches turned out beautifully but I’m disappointed about the salt. I’ll test it with fine sea salt and see what my suggested measurement would be. I would try 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt but I wouldn’t use coarse sea salt because I don’t think the granules would dissolve completely. I waited just a touch too long one time and the flaked sea salt didn’t dissolve. Thank you so much for sharing your experience so we can all learn and I can improve my recipe! I hope the third batch solved it – on the bright side, you are now a caramel pro!! 🙂

  2. First time success thanks to your detailed instructions. I laid everything out first, swirled, whisked and it worked! A couple of sugary blobs left behind in the pan is all.
    It tastes fantastic and is headed for the top of chocolate lava cakes and coffee ice cream tonight.
    Thank you for instilling confidence. I read your instructions maybe half a dozen times before I took the plunge.

    1. I am so happy to hear that, Ann!! There is nothing quite like homemade caramel! I am seriously so happy that my instructions helped you! Since I wrote that, I went to culinary school so I have been meaning to go back and update that post with even more helpful hints! Enjoy your chocolate lava cakes and ice cream! They sound perfect!

  3. I got hit with major sugar cravings earlier and searched pinterest for all things sweet and gooey and delicious, and came across your recipe. I’ve always been scared to try make caramel sauce myself but the need got too great and your instructions were so clear and detailed, I got confident and ran out to get some cream and a (huge) tub of tin roof! Everything went exactly like your description (until I dropped the butter spoon into the caramel) and the sauce came out perfectly!! Living in South Africa, I wouldn’t know where to start looking for fleur de sel, and just used coars-ish sea salt. Unfortunately, it seems like my salt settled at the bottom of the pan (a discovery I made while practically licking the bowl), was I meant to use a fine/table salt?
    Thanks so much for this amazing share though, I’ll never be satisfied with the store-bought kind again!

    1. Haha! I am soooo happy to hear that your caramel came out (almost) perfectly! I absolutely love this recipe! I have dropped my spoon too, but fortunately the caramel was saved! As for the salt…I have a few thoughts on salt. I never use table salt in my baking because it it processed and tastes completely different than sea salt. Maldon salt is a very high quality sea salt with thin flakes that melt very quickly into the caramel. I have used regular sea salt but I used fine texture. If the crystals are too large then they won’t dissolve and you will have salt at the bottom. The other mistake that I made with salt was adding it too late so the caramel wasn’t hot enough to dissolve the crystals and I just got pieces of salt in my caramel like you. I add it immediately after the butter. You can put it back on the heat to dissolve it too but the longer you cook your caramel, the thicker it will be after cooling! I hope that helps!!! Happy baking!

  4. I love this recipe, is there anyway to keep the same recipe but make it into candy squares? I feel so lucky to get this one right I just want to stick with it:)

    1. Hi Beth! I have often wondered the same thing. The only thing you can do is try! To make caramel candies, you just put the caramel back on the heat after adding the butter and sugar and continue to cook it until it reaches 235 F (soft ball stage). Pour it into a grease pan or little molds if you have them. This recipe has a lot of butter and cream, which is the only reason I can fathom that you could not make it into caramel candies. Good luck! Let me know if it works because I want to make some!

    1. Hi Mae! I have never tried to freeze caramel sauce, but I don’t see why you couldn’t. The general rule is 1-2 weeks in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer!

  5. I just made this sauce and it is so yummy in the tummy! Here are a few things I learned, 1) read the directions at least 5 times, 2) read them once more, 3) Swirl that pan! my sugar went a little lumpy but I kept on swirling and they melted out, 4) the sauce turned out a little thinner than I like, 5) I may need to drink the stuff! (Can you get drunk on caramel sauce)
    All kidding aside, I did read the instructions many times and followed them as you wrote them. Getting the method down right is the most important step. And yes I poured some in a glass and I am sipping it as I clean up! Forget the spoon!

    1. LOL! I will have to add your #1 and #2 suggestions to my list! Hilarious! And so true
      If the sauce is too thin, you can cook it longer and it will thicken up. And there is no shame in drinking salted caramel! I do it all the time 🙂

  6. Hi, I tried making the caramel and it had some hard pieces, I was able to take them out but the caramel didn’t thicken enough it is like a thick liquid. I think my butter wasn’t at room temp, can you melt the butter putting it in. Can I cook it longer to help it thicken. Also was I supposed to cook it longer after I added the cream and butter. Thanks

    1. Hi Jeanie! Those hard pieces are from the sugar seizing most likely from adding cold butter. Sugar naturally wants to recrystalize so if any sugar crystals on the spoon or side of the pan fall into your caramel it also may create lumps of sugar. The same thing happens when you add cold butter and cream to the hot sugar; the cold will shock the syrup and chill parts of it creating crystals. Sometimes you can keep heating it and the crystals will dissolve but often it’s best just to strain it.
      To achieve the caramel sauce consistency in the photos, I did not need to keep heating it. If you do keep cooking it, it will continue to thicken. Hope that helps!!

  7. Hi Lindsay
    Thank you so much for allowing me to use your photo for my caramel sauce. I have now properly credited the photo with a link to your site. Thanks once again.
    Best wishes