This homemade caramel recipe makes great caramel for coating candy or candy apples. It’s better than the caramel that you buy in the store and is way easier than unwrapping a million little caramel squares. It’s easy and leaves lots of room for variations.
The Basic Homemade Caramel Recipe
- 1 lb brown sugar
- 1 cup (two sticks) butter
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon butterscotch flavor
Care needs to be taken to assure that there are no sugar crystals in your candy as you make it. A few sugar crystals will cause the entire batch to caramelize. The following instructions will help avoid crystallization.
- Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the sweetened condensed milk and syrup. When the mixture is hot, add the sugar and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved.
- Wash the sides of the pan down with a soft spatula dipped in water until there is none of the mixture on the sides of the pan. This is to ensure that all of the sugar crystals are washed into the pan and dissolved. Check to make sure that there are no remaining sugar crystals by rubbing a little of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger. You should feel no gritty sugar.
- With no sugar crystals in your pan, turn up the heat and cook the mixture while shirring until the candy reaches 250 degrees as registered on a candy thermometer. Remove it from the heat and stir in the flavor.
- Immediately pour out the caramel into a glass or metal bowl. Allow the caramel to cool to 180 degrees for dipping apples.
Variations on Homemade Caramel
Using the recipe above, you can make your homemade caramel with a variety of flavors. The basic caramel recipe is made with butterscotch because it’s our favorite. However, you can use any “warm” flavor—a flavor that complements caramel. (Fruity flavors such as strawberry or blueberry do not go well with the richness of caramel.)
Consider any of the following:
Vanilla Caramel Recipe (For Caramel Apples or Candy)
Make this vanilla caramel with 1 teaspoon of our French Vanilla Flavor (or equal) instead of butterscotch flavor and 2 1/2 cups of granulated sugar instead of brown sugar.
Banana Caramel Recipe (For Caramel Apples)
Make this banana caramel with 2 teaspoons of our Banana Flavor (or equal) instead of butterscotch flavor and 2 1/2 cups of granulated sugar instead of brown sugar.
(Updated from October 9, 2015)