This quick and easy homemade salted caramel sauce recipe is foolproof and comes out perfect every single time. It’s absolutely divine on ice cream sundaes, can be used in any recipe calling for caramel sauce (hello, salted caramel chocolate chip cookie bars!), makes a wonderful hostess gift, and, most importantly, is delicious straight from the spoon (feel free to drop an extra spoonful in your coffee!).
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.
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 a 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, a step-by-step recipe, as well as a video to guide you through!
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 (I use this one) 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 with a bit of a nutty aroma. 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: I have received many comments that 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. I’ve made it many times completely by eye and when I deemed it done, checked the thermometer and it was always 345-352 degrees F. Yes, if you’re making candy and just drop the melted sugar at this point, it will harden. However, you’re about to add butter and cream to make it a sauce.
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 or coffee. 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!
Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a medium (2 to 3 quart) saucepan. 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.
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, it will be around 350 degrees F.
As soon as the caramel reaches its sweet spot, 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. Remove the pan from heat.
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.
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. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.
To reheat the sauce, remove the lid from the jar and microwave for about 45 seconds, then stir. It should be smooth and pourable, but not piping hot.
Do not substitute kosher salt or table salt for the fleur de sel flaky sea salt, as it will turn out much too salty!
This recipe is not suitable for canning or long-term storage, so it should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.