Easy Homemade Caramel Sauce

Quick and easy Homemade Caramel Sauce is thick, gooey, and made with just FIVE ingredients in FIVE minutes, perfect for apples, brownies, ice cream, or as a gift!

Easy Homemade Caramel Sauce with text overlay.


 

If you enjoy this recipe, you'll also love easy homemade Chocolate Syrup, Strawberry Syrup, and Cinnamon Syrup!

I'm SO excited to bring you today's post, featuring one of my personal favorite, all-time most-popular recipes...quick and easy Homemade Caramel Sauce!

In my opinion, Caramel Sauce is akin to the nectar of the gods. It complements a variety of other flavors, it turns even health food into a decadent treat, and it's pretty darn tasty with no other accompaniment than a straight-up spoon.

Caramel Sauce in a glass Mason jar.

Quick & Easy Caramel Sauce

But...how to make Caramel Sauce?! Well, you won't believe how easy it is using this recipe.

There's no candy thermometer, no persnickety directions, and no extended stirring.

There are just five simple ingredients that transform into gooey, sticky, buttery Caramel Sauce in about five quick minutes. And it's amazing!

Caramel Sauce being poured into glass jar.

Ingredients

Let's take a moment to analyze those five simple, yet critical, ingredients, shall we?

  1. Butter. Say it with me...everything is better with butter. (And bacon. Maybe dip your bacon in this caramel sauce???)
  2. Brown sugar. In my younger days, I used to babysit a little girl who would hop up on the kitchen counter and eat lumps of brown sugar straight out of the jar when her ever-observant childcare provider wasn't looking. (Why yes, she was a tad bit energetic. Why do you ask?) Years later, I tried a lump of straight brown sugar myself. I totally get it now, kid.
  3. Heavy cream. AKA, the key to rich, silky caramel. Yum.
  4. Vanilla extract. Make sure you use the pure stuff here. I'll share the brand I'm obsessed with in the Tips & Tricks section below.
  5. Salt. Salt (I prefer using fine sea salt) complements caramel beautifully. The end.

Quick Homemade Caramel Sauce ~ how to make yummy, thick caramel sauce with just five ingredients in five minutes...a perfect recipe for apples, brownies, ice cream, cheesecake, or as a gift! | FiveHeartHome.com

How to Make It

Most homemade caramel recipes call for cooking granulated sugar until it reaches a specific temperature and, well, caramelizes. The caveat is that it takes awhile and it's easy to burn the sugar if you're not monitoring it closely.

This recipe relies on brown sugar for the same caramel-sauce-end-result but in a fraction of the time. And the best part? It's easy to make, but not so easy to burn!

  1. Simply melt some butter.
  2. Add brown sugar and stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Add cream and stir for 2 more minutes.
  4. Mix in vanilla and salt.

And you're done! It really is that quick and simple.

Allow for Cooling Time

There is just one small problem. Those five minutes I mentioned do not include the time it takes for said homemade caramel to cool sufficiently enough to eat it by the spoonful without singeing your mouth.

This stuff is pretty molten when it first comes off the stove! In fact, you may be concerned by how thin and almost watery it appears. Don't be!

Once the caramel cools to room temperature, it will set up to the perfect consistency. And once you refrigerate it, it will thicken even more.

Close-up of coated whisk.

Since you will naturally want to taste test as soon as your caramel is done, however, my advice is to scoop some out on a spoon, set it on a plate for a few minutes until it comes to a reasonable temperature, and then sample away. After all, let's be rational here. If you burn your tongue right off the bat, you're not going to be able to taste the rest of it anyway!

Ways to Enjoy It

So what do you do with your marvelous Homemade Caramel Sauce now that you've spent a whole five minutes of effort on it?

Well, it's perfect as a dip for fresh apple slices, and if you're feeling particularly benevolent, you can even use it to fashion an after-school snack of caramel apple nachos for your eternally grateful kiddos. (Flashback to my little apple nacho bandit back in 2013...)

Using it as Caramel Dip for apple slices.

After you've test driven this caramel sauce with apples, might I suggest next pouring it over a classic bowl of vanilla ice cream?

Drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

It's also delicious drizzled on bread pudding, apple cake or pie, cheesecake, pumpkin waffles, gingerbread pancakes, or even sweet potatoes! And let's not forget brownies...

Close-up of brownie drizzled with caramel sauce.

And finally, this Caramel Sauce is a delicious addition to so many other scrumptious recipes, from Caramel Apple Cheesecake Dip to Caramel Brulée Coffee Creamer to Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding to Caramel Apple Cider. Yum, yum, yum, and YUM.

Gift Giving

Just as exciting as all of those mouth-watering options? Caramel Sauce makes a fabulous gift!

With the holidays coming up, I'm always looking for homemade gifts that are quick to make and economical, but that I know will actually be used and appreciated.

I mean, who wouldn't love a jar of homemade caramel sauce? It's a hostess gift that will guarantee that you're invited back, or it's a thoughtful gesture for your neighbor, your child's teacher, the mailman, or anyone else to whom you care to extend some holiday cheer.

As much as I love a plate of Christmas cookies, Homemade Caramel Sauce is a treat that's just a little bit different. It can be enjoyed right away or saved for a special occasion. Indeed, it's the gift that keeps on giving.

Homemade Caramel Sauce in a jar with a gift tag.

This recipe is a keeper and I hope that you end up loving it as much as I do!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a carton of vanilla ice cream and a jar of caramel goodness calling my name. 😉

Helpful Tips, Tricks, & Equipment

  • Use real butter here...no substitutions! Salted butter is recommended for this recipe but unsalted would work as well.
  • Also use good quality vanilla, because you really do taste it in a recipe like this. Lately, vanilla has been more expensive than usual because of a global vanilla bean shortage, but Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract remains my favorite brand. It just has the best darn flavor...forever and ever, Amen.
  • You can use either light brown or dark brown sugar in this recipe. The caramel sauce will just turn out lighter or darker depending on which you choose, and it really comes down to personal preference. The caramel sauce shown in the photos in this post was made with light brown sugar. And the caramel sauce featured in the video was made with dark brown sugar.
  • Be sure your saucepan is deep enough to account for the bubbling caramel that may rise up the sides of the pot as it cooks.
  • The caramel sauce will be thin when it is done cooking. DO NOT PANIC! It will thicken up nicely once it completely reaches room temperature, and even more so once chilled.
  • If you wish to gift this caramel sauce, just make sure you can keep it chilled while doing so. For example, you could transport it in a small cooler and gift it when you know the recipient has access to a refrigerator.
  • Recommended applications of caramel sauce: as a dip for apples, stirred into coffee, or drizzled over ice cream, apple pie, brownies, cheesecake, bread pudding, pancakes, waffles, sweet potatoes, and more...or eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon. 😉
Caramel Sauce being poured into jar.

Easy Homemade Caramel Sauce

Quick and easy Homemade Caramel Sauce is thick, gooey, and made with just five ingredients in five minutes...perfect for apples, brownies, ice cream, or as a gift!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 32 (1-tablespoon) servings (recipe yields approx. 2 cups total)
Calories: 69kcal
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Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan set over medium-low to medium heat, melt the butter. Mix in the brown sugar and stir for 2 minutes. Mix in the heavy cream and stir continuously for 2 more minutes (the sauce should be gently bubbling, so adjust the heat, if necessary). Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla and the salt until well incorporated.
  • Pour the hot caramel sauce into a jar and allow it to cool completely. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Video

Notes

  • Be sure your saucepan is deep enough to account for the bubbling caramel that may rise up the sides of the pot as it cooks.
  • The caramel sauce will be thin when it is done cooking, but it will thicken up nicely at room temperature, and even more so once chilled.

Nutrition

Calories: 69kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 38mg | Potassium: 12mg | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 160IU | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 0.1mg
Made this recipe? I'd love to see on IG!Mention @FiveHeartHome or tag #FiveHeartHome!

Post originally published on November 15, 2013, and updated on October 4, 2017.
Recipe adapted from Food.com.

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195 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    The comment that said this is "epic" hit the bullseye! This recipe is EPIC, FABULOUS, COMPLETELY MIND BLOWINGLY DELICIOUS! I've made this at least 8 times and every time I make it, I can't believe how good it is. It's one of those things that hits your mouth and your eyes pop open and you are left speechless. This recipe is so easy, too. I shared it with my MIL and she made 4 batches to use in a jar tres leches recipe for a big crowd. It was the finishing touch that was the crown jewel of that dish. It's amazing on cheesecake, on a spoon, on apples, and fabulous on white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. I would give this 10 stars!

  2. Wow! This recipe is epic. Easy, quick and the perfect combination of flavors. For a beautiful ending to a family meal I offered scoops of vanilla ice cream, apple slices, chopped pecans and English Toffee Bits. Everyone added the warm Carmel sauce to suit their personal taste.

  3. 5 stars
    I was looking for a super-quick caramel sauce to add to our lunch & cheer up my child after a hard back-to-school morning of homeschooling. This was wonderful! Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Deanna. This caramel sauce should be stored in the refrigerator. And yes, it's great drizzled over sliced apples! 🙂

    2. 5 stars
      Followed the instructions exactly, and this turned out perfectly! I did rewarm slightly before serving with some fresh honeycrisp apples... delicious 🤤

  4. 5 stars
    OMGEEEE! This recipe is absolutely 💯% the best above the rest that I've tried and considered. Simple, quick, and ooohhhh sooo delicious. I printed this one out for keeps which I normally don't do, but I just didn't want to have to search for it again. However, I went a little wild and made several batches to use up some heavy whipping cream and since it's so easy I now have it remembered. For the salt I used sea salt and slipped in a tad bit more on the last batch. Boom! Love it! Thank you for sharing this miracle recipe.

  5. 5 stars
    Thank you for such a good recipe.i just attempted to make caramel using white sugar for a caramel cream pie and not only did it take forever it got messed up when adding the butter so had to toss it. Spent almost 45 minutes in it. Thankfully I have used your recipe tons of times and I know it is great and easy so I will be using it to make the pie instead. Silly me for trying to make the harder version when yours is perfect 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    Perfectly sweet. We did find timing not clear but by double checking with thermometer solved it. Start the 2 minute timer after bubbles appear and gently boil for 2 minutes. We went to 220° F, about 3-5 minutes total cooking each step. Not gritty and no separation.

  7. Do you think this would work for dipping whole apples? I was going to make caramel apples for my daughter's school. (Sliced apples might be better if I can find a way to give each child their own dipping container.)

    1. Hi Melissa! This caramel is great for dipping apple slices, but I'm afraid it isn't thick enough to make actual caramel apples...the caramel wouldn't stick to the apples nor set. The chewy homemade caramel typically used for caramel apples is likely made with corn syrup and a different ratio of sugar to butter. Hope that helps!

  8. Hello! This looks so good. I don't have heavy cream but I do have half and half... do you think that would work well?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Amie! I'm sorry I can't advise, but I've only ever made this recipe using heavy cream. I'm afraid that half-and-half would result in a thinner caramel sauce.

  9. 5 stars
    Made this today to give as gifts with orchard apples in what I'm calling a "because I have my sh*t together right now- and who knows what will happen in December" gift. 2 things excited me. 1- My big batch used exactly 1 box of butter and one bag of sugar- nice even proportions! 2- I put it in the fridge over night- and it looked just a little separated this morn do I decided to give it a whip up in my stand mixer- and it made it this fluffy, creamy, magical thing. I hope it lasts!

      1. Hi Angelle! I haven't tried it, but I don't really think that this recipe would work as written using dairy-free substitutes. I did find you a vegan recipe for caramel sauce that sounds similar, though (with different proportions)...hope it helps! 🙂 >>>https://wallflowerkitchen.com/vegan-caramel-5-minute/

      2. Hi Angell, you actually use coconut milk if you like. Just chill the coconut milk ( not cream of coconut) upside down in the fridge, I leave it overnight but it will set in a few hours. Then turn can right side up open & scoop only the solid cream from the top of the coconut milk. You can also use this as whipped cream substitute if you whip it like regular heavy cream. It works beautifully.

  10. 5 stars
    I use this caramel recipe every week as the base for my husband's homemade creamer, that I think I also adapted from your site. 😉

    1. So happy to hear that, Cheri! And yes, my Caramel Coffee Creamer starts with this caramel sauce. 🙂