Filed Under: Candy | How To | Videos

How to Make Caramel Sauce

By Tessa Arias
July 25th, 2017
4.73 from 11 votes
4.73 from 11 votes

How to Make Caramel Sauce WITHOUT a thermometer or any special equipment. Takes just 15 minutes and is SO much better than store-bought. Follow the video to see exactly how it's made.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Deeply sweet and I love adding sea salt for salted caramel. Homemade caramel sauce is no joke 1,000 times better than the store-bought variety.
Texture: Lusciously thick and rich.
Ease: Much easier than you probably think. If you’ve never made it before I’ve included everything you need to see and know to make a successful batch of caramel!
Appearance: Who wouldn’t want to receive a jar of this liquid gold?!
Pros: Fun and satisfying way to make a homemade goodie.
Cons: Caramel can be a little tricky to clean. If you get any stubborn sugar or caramel stuck to your pot simply pour some water into it and bring it to a boil. It’ll dissolve anything!
Would I make this again? I’ve made this recipe countless times.

How to Make salted caramel sauce WITHOUT a thermometer or any special equipment. Takes just 15 minutes and is SO much better than store-bought. Follow the video to see exactly how it's made.

When I was in culinary school we spent days on caramel, candies, and other sugar work. It’s all very detail-oriented and the smallest change in temperature can make a huge difference.

Don’t start making candy if you have to use the restroom, because you cannot walk away from the stove even for a few minutes! I learned that the hard way.

Luckily there is a way to make caramel sauce that is super streamlined and simple, with no special equipment required. This caramel sauce recipe, which you can add salt to for salted caramel sauce, actually comes from my cookbook Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich.

How to Make salted caramel sauce WITHOUT a thermometer or any special equipment. Takes just 15 minutes and is SO much better than store-bought. Follow the video to see exactly how it's made.

I included it as a sort of bonus recipe for readers who really wanted to amp up their ice cream sandwiches. Caramel isn’t just good with ice cream, it’s good on EVERYTHING. And knowing how to make caramel sauce is a trick that’ll always come in handy.

Seriously, this stuff is liquid gold and you’re going to want to drizzle it all over cheesecake, brownies, cinnamon rolls, apple slices, swirl it into your favorite baked good batters, or even a spoonful inside your morning coffee. You’ll probably just want to eat it straight up with a spoon. What’s your favorite way to indulge in caramel?

Crystallized caramel sauce can usually be rescued! Just melt the chunks of hardened caramel back into the sauce over a very low heat, then strain with a fine mesh strainer before using.

Below is a quick video showing you just how easy it is to make your own salted caramel.

If you make and enjoy this caramel sauce, be sure to snap a picture and share it on Instagram, tagging #handletheheat, so we can all see your creations!

This post was originally published in February 2014 and updated with new photos.

4.73 from 11 votes

How to make
Homemade Caramel Sauce

Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
How to Make Caramel Sauce WITHOUT a thermometer or any special equipment. Takes just 15 minutes and is SO much better than store-bought. Follow the video to see exactly how it's made.


  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons (71 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel or flaky sea salt (optional)


  1. In a medium dry saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar melts and begins to turn a deep golden color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter until melted. Whisking constantly, gradually add the cream. Whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  2. The caramel may seize. If clumps of sugar form, continue heating on low heat until they melt back into a smooth sauce. Remove from heat and pour through a fine strainer into a heatproof container. Stir in the salt if using. Let cool until warm and thick. Use or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Let come to room temperature or warm in the microwave before using.

Recipe Video

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Tracey — December 31, 2021 at 12:27 am

    Amazing thanks Tessa! Will be a topping for your cheesecake bars for NYE! Delicious.

  2. #
    Katie — December 7, 2021 at 7:14 pm

    This is so much better than store bought! Thank you!

    • #
      Emily — December 8, 2021 at 4:36 pm

      Glad you loved this recipe!

  3. #
    MeKenzie — November 24, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    Wow. Amazing salted caramel recipe. Can’t wait for my family to try it at Thanksgiving tomorrow!

  4. #
    Julina — October 6, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    Foolproof and yum

  5. #
    Janis — September 17, 2021 at 7:29 am

    Can this caramel sauce be used to make caramel apples, or is it too thin?

    • #
      Emily — September 17, 2021 at 10:49 am

      Hi Janis! It’s a little too thin for that, though dipping the apples into the caramel sauce or drizzling it all over apple slices is absolute heaven!

  6. #
    Natalie — January 25, 2021 at 9:06 am

    This recipe is amazing and simple too. First attempt and its perfect

    • #
      Tessa — January 25, 2021 at 2:19 pm


  7. #
    KC Schwartz — January 22, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    So I tried this recipe and it turned out really burnt. I used a stainless steel pan to make it in I kept waiting for every single bit of the sugar to burn the golden color. Just wondering if it doesn’t all have to be dissolved before you move onto putting in the butter. Im gonna try again! As soon as I get more cream!

  8. #
    Donna D Lewis — December 11, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    Tessa makes everything seem so easy. Well, guess what? This recipe IS! Just made my first batch of caramel ever and following her directions it turned out delicious! So. Should I just drink it or wait till it cools and make my own caramel apples?

    • #
      Tessa — December 14, 2020 at 1:38 pm

      Ooh caramel apples sound amazing! So glad you tried this recipe out.

  9. #
    Trang — August 31, 2020 at 9:24 am

    Hi Tessa, I usually premake caramel sauce for cooking. But no matter how careful I am or how long I wait, the sugar always seize and crystalized around the rim right above the already melted sugar. How do I avoid this or help it melt back into the sugar without over burning the sugar that had turned golden brown?

  10. #
    Sharon — June 25, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    I tried to make this twice. First time it took about 15 minutes to melt and the final product tasted burnt. Then I tried it again in a bigger pot so the bottom surface was bigger, hoping that would work. Nope. It took 10 minutes to melt and the final product still tasted burnt. I’m typically a pretty good cook and have no idea why mine took so much longer to melt.
    Going to buy some caramel sauce tomorrow for your cheesecake. I give up.
    I wasn’t planning on putting a rating on it but it won’t let me post the comment without.

  11. #
    Sue Ann Larson — January 5, 2020 at 5:47 am

    Can I substitute regular sea salt for flaky?

  12. #
    Lynette — December 13, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Could I use brown sugar?

  13. #
    Lynette — December 13, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Could I use brown sugar?

  14. #
    kris — November 27, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Hi! Should I use cold heavy cream or let it come to room temp?

    Thank you!

    Trying this recipe for Thanksgiving dessert 🙂

  15. #
    Naomi — November 26, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    This was so easy and sooooooo good. Why would anyone buy caramel sauce. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

  16. #
    Chelsea — July 9, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Looking forward to trying this recipe!! Question though; how do you think this caramel recipe will behave when baked into a cheesecake? Do you think it will be sturdy enough? Thanks!

  17. #
    Sandy — April 12, 2019 at 5:26 am

    I made this sauce yesterday. I was a bit frustrated by my process, but in the end I was successful and it is delicious! You see, I have an electric stove. The process is much harder. My sugar took at least 15-20 minutes to get to a syrupy point. When I stirred in the butter and cream, it was ridiculously clumped. But I got out my whisk and persevered. It smoothed out very nicely after I put it back on the burner. But there was quite a bit in the bottom and sides of the pan that I couldn’t get to mix in. I would definitely say it was worth the process though!

  18. #
    David Wynn — December 15, 2018 at 6:42 am

    As a tip, I keep a large bowl or casserole dish filled with ice water when I am melting sugar for a safety precaution. As you know, the heightened danger when cooking sugar is its ability to keep burning when it touches skin. By having the ice water available, I am able to immediately cool the sugar if it were to accidentally contact my skin. Thanks for all you do. Impressive website.

  19. #
    Susan — September 17, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    I was just wondering if it is a good idea to double or triple the recipe?

  20. #
    Cybele — April 22, 2018 at 7:55 am

    Looks like a delicious, straightforward Andy streamlined recipe for caramel. What’s the yield? Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  21. #
    Alane — January 7, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    It took two tries for me. I think the first time I cooked the sugar too long (thought it was supposed to be a deep brown :o\) and the sauce ended up having a weird burnt taste. The 2nd time I cooked the sugar just until it melted and was brown then took it off the heat, and it turned out just fine. So, lesson learned, be careful not to over cook the sugar!

    Thanks so much for sharing your recipes!!! :o)

  22. #
    Lilly — October 14, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Have you tried using honey to make this caramel sauce? Was wondering if you could substitute it for the sugar?

  23. #
    Sandy — October 18, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Oh my! I just made this caramel sauce this afternoon. I’ve never had the process go so smoothly — both literally and figuratively! I can’t wait to serve this later this week on cheesecake when our family gets together for dinner! Thanks so much for making it so simple, Tessa. 🙂

  24. #
    Cori Dary — October 17, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Hi Tessa! I made this caramel sauce recipe yesterday for the salted caramel apple sheet cake, which was absolutely amazing. When I made the caramel sauce, it tasted bitter. I still used it for the cake because I figured with all the sugar in the glaze everything would work out fine. But, I want to know how I can make the sauce better. I’m guessing that I overcooked it, but I removed the sugar from the heat as soon as it was dissolved and there was nothing burnt in the pan. My sauce looked quite a bit darker than yours too. Thanks in advance for the help! You’re great!

  25. #
    plasterer bristol — May 12, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Mm delicious, this turned out just right. Thanks for sharing.


  26. #
    Brindy — December 25, 2015 at 12:49 am

    Hi Tessa I’m a big fan of yours as are all my weekly tasters ( husband, kids, brothers, and sister in law). I made this caramel sauce nondairy and it came out finger lickin good. I subbed marg for the butter and nondairy whip topping for the heavy cream. ( not very healthy, I know, but I make it up in other areas, like mime made organic baby food.) I was just wondering if it would be possible to freeze the sauce, I’m a big freezer person. Thank you again

  27. #
    Laurel — July 4, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Oh boy, I really need new glasses or something.
    Everything was going well, up till the cream. I went a-whiskin’, and at first it seemed smooth, but as I finished pouring in the cream it seized. I followed your tips, got it all but a bit melted back together, then added my fleur de sel and it tasted amazing! Can’t wait to put it over some apple crisp a la mode!
    Well I’m just rereading your recipe now, and NOW I see you only put HALF a cup of cream plus one tablespoon–I used a whole cup. *facepalm*
    Oh well, it still tastes so good; it just probably won’t thicken much. I’ve got it for next time though. 😀

    • #
      Tessa — July 5, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Awh man!! I’ve definitely done stuff like that more times than I can count. At least you’ll never do that again 😉

  28. #
    Susan Westfall — February 25, 2015 at 6:58 am

    I am loving your site and the recipes. I have not made any of them yet but I am collecting them for the day that I will. After all this time I am turning into my Mommy who read recipes and cookbooks the way most people read books. I inherited her cookbooks-some I kept and some I have passed to my children. All of my daughters have developed what my oldest calls “the family illness”-collecting books (all kinds) and kitchen gadgets.

  29. #
    Oliver — January 13, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Ok after reducing it again to a thick sauce, I swirl in the butter. It was looking the same as your picture but as I tasted it, it has no caramel flavor. I think the lemon juice killed it.

    • #
      Tessa — January 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Hi! Not sure why you used lemon juice – I don’t call for it in this recipe!

  30. #
    Oliver — January 13, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    The Lemon Juice reacted with the cream and curlded it. It’s now watery and the scrambled egg looking cream is floating on top. I’m straining it and reducing it.

  31. #
    Oliver — January 13, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    The lemon juice reacted with the cream and it curlded!!!!

  32. #
    Lyndsay Johnson — December 19, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Thanks so much for posting this!! The video was so helpful. I made a vegan version with Earth Balance and Almond Milk (I have a dairy allergy). My first batch was less thick than yours, but I am going to keep working with it. It definitely takes a few times to learn when to take the sugar off the heat without having an overcooked taste. But this method works better than all the others I have tried. I love that it doesn’t crystalize in the fridge. YUM!

    • #
      Tessa — December 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Wonderful, Lynsday! Thanks for your helpful tip for making the recipe dairy-free.

  33. #
    IRENA — November 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    vypadá to skvěle, zítra hned zkusím, vřele děkuji za recept

  34. #
    Laura R — July 30, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    An ice cream snack attack led me to this recipe and it turned out so great and it really is so easy! I recently stumbled upon your site and I absolutely love it, thanks for all the awesome recipes!

    • #
      Tessa — July 30, 2014 at 8:23 pm

      That’s so awesome! Thanks so much 🙂

  35. #
    ash — July 22, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    hi i m going to try this can we make it with whole milk instead of cream? plz do answer

    • #
      Tessa — July 23, 2014 at 7:24 am

      No, you should use cream! The caramel needs the fat from the cream.

  36. #
    Hannah — May 4, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    For anyone who was wondering about making this vegan, I used almond milk and Earth Balance and it turned out great!

    • #
      Tessa — May 6, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing! Good to know.

  37. #
    Amy R. — February 27, 2014 at 11:46 am

    This sauce is fabulous and I love how easy it is! It will replace the difficult caramel filling I was making for the Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcake recipe from a Pinterest recipe. Your recipe tastes the same but is much easier. This caramel sauce was a huge hit on the Ice Cream Sundae Bar I had for my church dinner last night. Thank You and keep the great recipes coming!

  38. #
    Gaby — February 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    You make it look so easy! Homemade caramel is the best!

  39. #
    Crystinna — February 12, 2014 at 10:07 am

    I’ve been making caramel sauce for years and never knew about straining it! Does tempature alter if I use an anodozied pot to stainless? The videos are great by the way 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — February 15, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      Probably a little! I know my anodized pot takes longer to heat than my stainless one.

  40. #
    Florian — February 12, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Concerning making a non-dairy version, I think that almond milk should work fine. I recently made a caramel sauce with whole milk instead of heavy cream. I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute almond milk in this step. If you can find it, califia makes a very creamy almond milk that’s really good.
    I melted the butter and milk together in a sauce pan and then whisked the warm milk/butter into the caramel once it had reached a pale yellow/gold. Instead of turning the heat of, I left it on and thickened the sauce further. The caramelization continues in this step, which is why I added the milk/butter earlier than Tessa’s recipe asks for.

  41. #
    Kevin @ Closet Cooking — February 12, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Homemade is the best and so easy!

  42. #
    Amy — February 12, 2014 at 7:26 am

    This looks like one of the simpler caramel recipes I’ve seen (no candy thermometer, yay!). Is there any way to make it non-dairy? I know almond milk is not a great sub for heavy cream, but can it be done? I think I could use Earth Balance instead of the butter, it’s the heavy cream that has been my stumbling block (in part because I also have to avoid soy and corn, so most non-dairy creamers are a no-go.

    • #
      Tessa — February 12, 2014 at 8:45 am

      I’ve never attempted to make a non-dairy caramel but you could certainly try. I can’t think of any particular reason why it wouldn’t work! If you do try it out please let me know how it goes, I’m sure other readers would love to know if it’s possible!

  43. #
    Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness — February 12, 2014 at 4:35 am

    THANK YOU! The other day I was planning my weekend recipe creations and I wanted to do caramel sauce but I had never done it before…and now I know how! 🙂

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