How to Make Caramel

Make almost any dessert or snack better with this DIY caramel sauce.

This incredibly rich, yet simple, sauce will take your favorite desserts to a whole new level of deliciousness, and with steps this easy, there's almost no reason not to try it.

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1 Gather Your Ingredients

Get your ingredients ready before you begin, because once you start, things move fast. You’ll need: 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1/4 cup water, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 3 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 

Equipment-wise, you’ll need a heavy-bottomed pot, a spoon and a whisk. 

You can use a candy thermometer for added assurance, but with caramel, visual cues can often be a better indicator than temperature.

2 Dissolve the Sugar in Water

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and has begun to boil. Once the sugar has completely dissolved (it should look clear), you can stop stirring and let the mixture boil undisturbed. 

If you're using a candy thermometer, attach it to the side of the pot so that the bulb of the thermometer is submerged in the sugar, but not touching the bottom of the pot.

3 Allow the Mixture to Caramelize

As the sugar mixture boils, the water will evaporate and the mixture will start to change color. This color change signals the caramelization process, which gives caramel its deep, rich flavor. 

If sugar crystals build up on the walls of the pot as the mixture boils, brush the sides with a wet pastry brush to dissolve the sugar back into the pot.

4 Remove the Sugar from the Heat

When the sugar mixture reaches a deep amber color, that's when it's time to stop (about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat level). If you're using a candy thermometer, the sugar should reach about 340 degrees F. 


The sugar can go from amber to burnt in the blink of an eye, so make sure to watch it closely once it starts to change color.

5 Add the Cream

Carefully pour the heavy cream into the caramelized sugar and whisk until the mixture is smooth. The hot sugar will really bubble when it comes into contact with the cream, so pour with caution.

6 Add the Butter & Salt

Lastly, add the butter and salt, and whisk until smooth. For added flavor, you can also stir in some vanilla extract. 

7 Serve & Enjoy

If you just can't wait, the caramel can be used immediately, but beware of the temperature. Nothing burns your mouth worse than molten sugar. Drizzle the good stuff over dessert bars, pies, breads, pudding, ice cream and even coffee.

Find more helpful how-tos here »

Plus: Get a full recipe for caramel apples » 

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About Budget Bytes

Beth from Budget Bytes is a food lover and a number cruncher who dishes up healthy recipes on her blog that won't put a huge dent in your wallet. She is the author of the cookbook, Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half, and she also works as a microbiologist in a hospital laboratory. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.