This quick and easy homemade salted caramel sauce recipe requires only four ingredients, is foolproof, and comes out perfect every single time. It’s absolutely divine on ice cream sundaes, apple pie, cupcakes, cheesecake, it 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!).
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 a 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!
How to make salted caramel sauce
Caramel sauce 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. Here’s a quick rundown of the process:
Sugar goes straight into the saucepan (no water!) and is melted over medium heat, while you stir constantly. The sugar may clump at first but it will all eventually melt.
Continue cooking until the melted sugar is a gorgeous amber color, then add the butter and whisk until it is completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream, then stir in the salt. Your caramel sauce is done!
Thermometer vs no thermometer
It is not necessary to use a thermometer when making this caramel sauce; simply using visual cues will work perfectly! The sauce may seem thinner than you’d expect when you’re done whisking everything in, but it will thicken as it cools.
In the past, I have used a thermometer to check the temperature and had success cooking to around 350 degrees F, but others have found that it overcooked the caramel, so I now recommend just going by how the caramel looks. I do this exclusively now, as well!
When making salted caramel sauce, the type of salt you use is super important! I highly prefer flaky sea salt, like fleur de sel or Maldon.
You can substitute regular table salt, but you have to cut the amount down drastically. If you are using regular table salt, use only 1 teaspoon.
Allow the sauce to cool for a bit in the pot, then pour into a glass jar or other airtight container and cool completely, then store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. You can gently warm it up in the microwave or on the stove before using it again.
You can also freeze salted caramel sauce in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight then reheat as desired.
How to use the caramel sauce
This salted caramel sauce quite literally goes with 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.
Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a medium (3 to 4-quart) saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium 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.
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.
Salt - I highly recommend using flaky sea salt like fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt. If you need to substitute table salt, use only 1 to 1½ teaspoons, or the sauce will be much too salty!
Saucepan - It is important to use a saucepan of at least 4-quart capacity. It will seem too big for the job, but when the butter and cream are added, the sauce bubbles up ferociously, and you need that space so it doesn't boil over.
Storage - The caramel sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. This recipe is not suitable for canning or long-term storage.
Freezing - The sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using it.
Reheating Instructions - 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.