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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 Sauce

  • 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 flaked 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, 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 Salted Caramel Sauce

How to Make Salted Caramel Sauce

Use these instructions to make the perfect caramel sauce every time! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

Step 1: In a small pot combine cream, butter, vanilla and salt. Bring just to a boil 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 dark amber 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 air tight 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.

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.

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 58 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
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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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Recipe Rating




183 Comments

  1. First time I made salted caramel and it turned out amazing. Thank you for the easy peasy recipe!

  2. I think adding butter to this recipe was a bad idea not only for healthy reason but also because it makes the salted caramel taste way too buttery. I had to add a lot of vanilla essence to get rid of the buttery smell. Sugar, brand name heavy cream, salt and vanilla essence is all you need to make the best salted caramel.

    1. I’m sorry you find the flavor and smell of butter so offensive! I think the French would disagree. Butter has other properties other than flavor here, but you can certainly make it with out.

  3. HELP!

    1. I’m using kosher salt which is bigger chunks of salt than fleur de sel, as far as I know. I CANNOT get it to dissolve, no matter when I add it or how long I stir. It just sinks to the bottom.

    2. When I follow the instructions exactly in melting the sugar, it almost always burns right away… I see amber coloured bubbles burst through the granulated sugar and then it’s basically burnt. I’m having the hardest time finding the right temperature to melt the sugar on my gas stove. The only thing that has worked is to put it on super low and stir constantly (instead of medium high and just swirl the pan).

    1. Hi Bridget! Fear not, you’re in luck. I actually just did two different video tutorials on caramel. Plus a new post with more tips. You are making a “dry caramel” so you may absolutely stir it. There will be parts that will burn before others and that is totally normal – just keep moving the unmelted caramel to the hot spots. The melting and caramelizing sugar will melt the rest. You can also try the wet caramel method in the video.

      As for the salt. I now exclusively combine the butter, cream, salt and vanilla in a small pot and then bring that just to a boil. Then set it aside and it will be ready when your caramel is. That way there is no pesky undissolved chunks of sugar or seized caramel from too cold of cream. Fleur de sel are larger piece but they (generally) more easily dissolved than kosher salt. You can’t go wrong with heating it with the wet ingredients

  4. 5 stars
    Do you think I could do half brown sugar and half white? Also, would this thicken/harden up enough to pur over a white cake as a frosting?

    1. HI Beth! Brown sugar does not have the same properties as white granulated sugar, so, no it won’t work with half and half in the way you want it to. It will create a syrup but it will be a bit grainy unless hot. It will thicken up to pour over cake but it will have to stay cold or it will begin to run. I would also pour it onto a frozen cake. Happy baking!