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Homemade Caramel Sauce

There’s something wonderfully old-fashioned about the flavor of caramel, the warm sweetness, and tickly way it feels in your mouth and throat.  If you have never made caramel before you might it’s a scary concept. Caramel is in fact nothing more than melted (almost-but-not-quite-burnt) sugar that becomes a sweet and rich sauce – and it’s gluten-free! All you have to do is stay on top of it, and pull it from the heat once it becomes that glorious deep color.

Caramel Sauce pouring onto vanilla ice cream.

How to Serve Caramel Sauce

The most classic use for caramel sauce is poured over bowls of ice cream.  It’s also a treat of a topping for cheesecake, brownies, or cake (try it on this Chocolate Banana Cake!) or put out in little bowls to dip apples slices into. 

Yellow pitcher of Caramel Sauce pouring over ice cream.

How to Make Caramel Sauce

Combine ¼ cup water and 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan.  Place over medium low heat and heat until the sugar is dissolved, picking up the pan by its handle and swishing the liquid in the pan gently from time to time.  DO NOT STIR (this is hard, I know, being a person who feels the need to do something to the food that is cooking on the stove).  

When the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat to medium high, bring to a boil, and let it bubble away until it turns golden brown, swirling from time to time, about 12 minutes (no stirring!). 

When it has reached a deep, rich, golden amber color, but absolutely before it starts to burn (the color develops quite quickly at the end and darkens a bit further after it comes off the heat; pay close attention), take it off the heat, and slowly, gradually whisk in the heavy cream.  Add a bit of vanilla and salt. Cool the mixture; it will thicken considerably as it cools. 

Caramel Sauce in a yellow pitcher.

How to Make Caramel Sauce: Creamy and rich, this incredibly easy sauce will turn a bowl of ice cream (or a brownie) into a dessert to remember.

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Caramel Making Tips

There are a few things to keep in mind when you are making caramel. 

  • One is that you can’t stir it while it is cooking, otherwise it will crystallize.  
  • Also, you have to let it get deeply golden in color, because that’s how it becomes not just sugar and water, but true caramel (it really smells like caramel when it’s ready).  The color will deepen just a bit after you remove it from the heat, so take it off the second you feel like it’s approaching the color you’re looking for.  The whole thing is a little lesson in self-restraint while you are making a product that ultimately elicits not an ounce of self-restraint.
Spout of a pitcher covered in caramel sauce.
  • Be very careful when making caramel of any kind.  Melted sugar is hot.  Like, hot hot. Like don’t-learn-this-the-hard-way-hot.  You do NOT want this touching your skin, or the skin of anyone around you, so be sure to be of sound mind as you make caramel and tell the kids to go away; it’s not the best thing to tackle if you’re in a multi-tasking frame of mind.  And don’t be tempted to taste it right away or you will certainly burn your tongue!

How to Store Homemade Caramel Sauce:

Caramel sauce can be refrigerated for a week.  It will be quite thick; bring to room temperature or heat gently before serving.  

Spoon in a bowl of ice cream covered in caramel sauce.

Also try: Strawberry Topping for Cheesecake and Chocolate ganache for other topping options!

Other Uses for Caramel Sauce:

And make extra and share it with a friend!

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How to Make Caramel Sauce

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Cooling time: 20 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 12 People
Creamy and rich, this incredibly easy sauce will turn a bowl of ice cream (or a brownie) into a dessert to remember.

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions 

  • Combine the water and the sugar in a small saucepan. Place over medium low heat and heat until the sugar is dissolved, picking up the pan by its handle and swishing the liquid in the pan gently from time to time (see Note). DO NOT STIR (this is hard, I know, being a person who feels the need to do something to the food that is cooking on the stove). When the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat to medium high, bring to a boil, and let it bubble away until it turns golden brown, swirling from time to time, about 12 minutes (no stirring!).
  • When it has reached a deep, rich, golden amber color, but absolutely before it starts to burn (the color develops quite quickly at the end and darkens a bit further after it comes off the heat; pay close attention), take it off the heat, and slowly, gradually whisk in the heavy cream, which will cause the mixture to bubble up and sputter, and maybe get lumpy for a minute; don’t be scared. Whisk until it is well combined and smooth, and add the vanilla and the salt. Cool the mixture; it will thicken considerably as it cools.

Notes

Um, melted sugar is hot. Like, hot hot. Like don’t-learn-this-the-hard-way-hot. You do NOT want this touching your skin, or the skin of anyone around you, so be sure to be of sound mind as you make caramel and tell the kids to go away; it’s not the best thing to tackle if you’re in a multi-tasking frame of mind. 
Makes about 1 ½ cups sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 132kcal, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 22mg, Sodium: 54mg, Potassium: 20mg, Sugar: 17g, Vitamin A: 292IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 13mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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