Homemade Caramel Apples
Let’s make homemade caramel apples! We’re using a totally from-scratch caramel sauce recipe that is absolutely delicious, coats the apples perfectly, and sets up beautifully. Enjoy the apples as-is or use one of the many ideas for garnishing provided below. This is such a wonderfully festive fall treat and a fun activity to do with kids!
Welcome to the October BEB Bake-Along recipe!
Growing up, I adored caramel apples and although I only ate maybe one per year, I was always excited to try a different flavor.
As an adult, I fell in love with all of the different flavors at Rocky Mountain Fudge Factory (their “apple pie” version became a fast favorite of mine) and while I have made shortcut versions with caramel candies in the past, I was long overdue for a truly homemade, honest-to-goodness, from-scratch recipe.
The wait is over!
What you need to make caramel apples
The list of ingredients and supplies isn’t long at all, which makes this a fairly straightforward project to tackle at home!
Here’s what we need:
- Lollipop sticks or fruit skewers
- Ingredients for caramel (sugar, water, salt, heavy cream, and vanilla)
- Candy thermometer
- Heavy-bottomed saucepan (I recommend a 4-quart saucepan)
- Slow cooker if you want to keep the caramel warm (for a caramel apple-dipping party!)
- Baking sheet lined with parchment paper
How to prep the apples
The choice of apple is totally up to you! Feel free to use your favorite variety, but tart varieties like Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Cortland, McIntosh, Empire, and Jonathan apples are a great contrast to the sweet caramel.
Whichever you choose, it’s important to wash the apples well (scrub with your fingers) and dry them off. This helps to remove some of the waxy coating that is found on apples, which can cause the caramel coating to slide off the apple.
Once the apples are washed and dried, be sure to refrigerate them until they are thoroughly chilled, at least a few hours, but preferably overnight. Using chilled apples helps the caramel to set quickly once the apple is dipped, again helping to keep it from sliding off the apples.
Making the perfect caramel coating
One of the biggest pitfalls when making homemade caramel apples is getting that caramel coating juuuuuust right. Too thin and it slides right off the apples; too thick and it’s hard to dip, clumpy, and not very attractive!
We already talked about how prepping the apples properly (washing them and chilling them) can go a long way in caramel-dipping success.
Let’s discuss some other keys to making picture-perfect and absolutely delicious caramel:
- Temperature is everything: We cook the caramel to 246 degrees F, but 245 to 250 degrees is an acceptable range. This is referred to as “firm ball” stage of candy-making, which means it will hold its shape at this stage, but is still soft and somewhat sticky. This is what we want! It needs to stick to the apple, but set smoothly, and still yet be soft enough to bite into and chew. This temperature range achieves all of that!
- You control the caramel flavor! Once the sugar syrup comes to a boil, you will look for it to turn a light golden brown for traditional caramel flavor, but you can let it go a bit darker if you like a more bitter caramel flavor. Once it reaches your desired color, THEN you add the heavy cream and start keeping track of the temperature.
- Let it set: As soon as you dip the apples, let the excess caramel drip off then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Wait for the caramel to set completely before refrigerating for storage or dipping again if you plan to do an extra coating of melted chocolate.
While I do have a separate homemade caramel sauce recipe, it’s not super conducive to coating apples. To get the perfect texture for dipping apples here, we use equal amounts of sugar and heavy cream, no butter, and make sure we get it to that all-important temperature range. So while my homemade salted caramel sauce is awesome for many, MANY things, I don’t recommend it for dipping apples.
While these are absolutely fantastic plain with just the caramel, you can go all-out with extra toppings and decorations! Here are some ideas:
- Chopped peanuts
- Mini chocolate chips
- Mini M&Ms
- Chocolate drizzle + sprinkles
- White chocolate dip + cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
- White chocolate dip + finely crushed Oreo crumbs
- Dark chocolate dip + toffee pieces
What is your favorite version?
More delicious recipes with apples + caramel combo
- Apple Cider Caramels
- Salted Caramel Apple Cake
- Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie
- Old-Fashioned Apple Dumplings
- Salted Caramel Apple Pie
- Caramel Apple Bundt Cake
Join the BEB Bake-Along!
To tackle homemade caramel apples and bake along with me this month, simply do the following:
- Make the caramel apples! I’d love to hear how you’re planning to decorate them or if you’ll go the straight caramel route!
- Snap a picture and either share it on social media (#BEBbakealong on Instagram or Twitter), upload it to the BEB Facebook group, or email it to me.
- Check-in on Instagram and Facebook throughout the month to see everyone’s caramel apples and cheer each other on!
- You can view all past bake-along recipes here.
I would absolutely love it if you gave these a try; if you do, please stop back and leave a rating and let me know how you liked them! ENJOY! 😍
Homemade Caramel Apples
For the Apples
- 8 to 10 Granny Smith apples (small to medium in size), washed, dried, and chilled
- Lollipop sticks
For the Caramel
- 2⅔ cups (529 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (240 ml) water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2¼ cups (540 ml) heavy cream, chilled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Candy thermometer
- Stick a lollipop stick into the center of each apple and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Return to the refrigerator while you prepare the caramel.
- Affix a candy thermometer to the side of a large, heavy saucepan.
- Stir together the sugar, water, and salt in the saucepan. Place over medium heat and whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to a rolling boil, then stop whisking.
- Allow the mixture to boil until it turns a light golden brown, swirling the pan occasionally to assess the color, then slowly and carefully add the heavy cream (the mixture will bubble up ferociously).
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly with a rubber or silicone spatula, until the mixture reaches 246 degrees F. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Dip the apples in the caramel and return to the parchment-lined baking sheet, or roll in desired toppings. Allow the caramel to set completely, about 45 minutes. At this point, you can garnish further or serve. The caramel apples can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 week.
- Equipment: Lollipop sticks or fruit skewers / Candy thermometer / 4-quart saucepan) / Slow cooker (if you want to keep the caramel warm for a caramel apple-dipping party!)
- Garnishes: See post above for multiple options other than plain caramel.
- Storage: The caramel apples can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.
[Photography by Dee of One Sarcastic Baker]