Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
Salted caramel sauce is the coolest kid in class, am I right? It’s the quarterback of the football team… the head cheerleader. When salted caramel is at a party, everyone wants to be there. While food crazes like macarons and cake pops are certainly deserving, I think salted caramel has some serious staying power. There is nothing about the combination of sweet and salty that will ever go out of style. I have completely embraced the salted caramel phenomenon; some of my favorite recipes include: Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars… Salted Caramel Popcorn, Pretzel & Peanut Bars… Salted Caramel Brownies… Sweet and Salty Brownies… Salted Caramel Cashew Bark… Sea Salt Caramels with Vanilla Bean… Salted Caramel Ice Cream.
The salted caramel possibilities are truly endless, especially when you have a no-fail, go-to homemade salted caramel sauce recipe. I’ve found the simplest method to be the best when making caramel sauce. In 15 minutes, and with only four ingredients, you can have smooth, creamy, salty caramel sauce. Below you will find tips for making the best caramel, and a step-by-step recipe with photos.
Caramel can be intimidating, but the more you make it, the more you will get a feel for the look and the smell, and it will become second-nature. For those just starting out, here are a few tips:
- Stir the sugar initially to help it to melt evenly, but stop once it has completely melted to keep it from seizing.
- If you’re new to caramel-making, you may find a thermometer will help to guide you. The caramel should reach 350 degrees F on an instant-read or candy thermometer. If you aren’t able to obtain a thermometer, you can use visual cues for doneness. The caramel should be a deep amber color and should have just started to smoke. The line is very fine here. If you don’t cook it long enough it will be too sweet with little depth of flavor, but cook it too long and it will be burnt and unusable. Once you’ve done it a few times and see the color and can experience the smell when the thermometer hits 350 degrees, you will have a better idea of how to eyeball it when you don’t have a thermometer.
- Be sure to use a saucepan that is larger than you think you might need. When you add the butter and the cream, the caramel will bubble up violently.
[Note: Many of you have commented that you think 350 degrees F is too hot to make a caramel sauce, however, I’ve tested and re-tested and compared to other recipes and have confirmed that yes, you want to hit 350 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.]
Now that you have a jar of the most amazing salted caramel sauce, what can you do with it? The short answer? Anything and everything!
Drizzle it over ice cream. Swirl it into brownies and cheesecakes. Use it as a dip for apple slices. Stir a spoonful into hot chocolate. Put it in pretty jars and give it as gifts. Whip it into buttercream frosting. Eat it by the spoonful. There is no judging when it comes to salted caramel!
Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
This easy salted caramel sauce will change your life! It’s perfect to keep in the refrigerator for ice cream sundaes, or package it up and give it as gifts!
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
- 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt)
1. Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a heavy saucepan, with a capacity of at least 2 or 3 quarts. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. You’ll see that the sugar will begin to form clumps, but that’s okay. Just keep whisking and as it continues to cook, they will melt back down.
Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
2. Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, cook the sugar until it reaches 350 degrees F.
(The lighting doesn’t depict the color perfectly in the photo above, but if you look to the left side, you will see there is some darker caramel underneath – this was the predominant color at this point.)
3. As soon as the caramel reaches 350 degrees, add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will once again bubble up ferociously.
Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel and whisk to incorporate.
5. Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour into your favorite glass jar and let cool to room temperature. You can refrigerate the sauce for up to 2 weeks. You’ll want to warm the sauce up before using.