Homemade Caramels


Of all the candies I make, probably the top favorite of all among recipients is a tender, soft, golden brown caramel.  It is one of my favorites, too.

Caramels are simple to make, requiring only two things for constant success: a calibrated candy thermometer and a nice, dry day.  Today I made a short ton with the humidity in Dallas around 41%.

While there are a myriad of recipes out there, it is very important for you to understand that caramels must be cooked slowly to allow the sugars and milk solids to caramelize.  The longer and slower they cook, the darker the color and richer the flavor.   And there is nothing I can think of that is worse in taste than a caramel that has been cooked too fast and is scorched with a resulting resonant flavor of burnt sugar.  Yuk!

The recipe I offer here I have made countless times and for many different applications, such as pecan logs, Turtles and caramel apples.  Unlike some caramel recipes, this one will produce a soft caramel that will not stick to your teeth.  Also, this recipe brings the sugar solution to its proper temp and then adds the preheated milk, which prevents curdling, prevents the mixture from boiling over, and develops a much smoother texture.  The caramels are rich and absolutely delicious, and an easy delight to share among friends and family.

Caramels (Makes about 180 pieces)

2 cups whipping cream

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 cups light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

Tempered chocolate for dipping, if desired

Line a 12×17 inch jelly roll pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, fitting the foil well into the corners and sides.  Butter the foil very well, coating the entire bottom and sides.  Set aside.

In a 1-quart saucepan over low heat, combine the cream and the condensed milk, whisking very well to blend.  Allow the cream mixture to become hot, stirring often, but do NOT allow the mixture to boil.

Meanwhile, in a tall 4-quart saucepan, combine the corn syrup, water and sugar.  Stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar, bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  If sugar crystals appear around the edge of the boiling surface, wipe the pan sides with a damp (not wet!) pastry brush.

Clip on your calibrated candy thermometer and reduce heat to medium.  Continue to boil gently until the syrup-sugar solution reaches 250 degrees (F).  Add the butter and pour in the warm cream mixture.  The temperature of the solution will immediately decrease.  Stir constantly to blend the mixture, then occasionally until the mixture reaches 244 degrees (F).

Remove from heat and carefully pour the hot caramel into your prepared jelly roll pan, tilting the pan to even the mixture.  Do not scrape the pan — even though scraping will not cause crystallization the stuff on the bottom of the pan has cooked longer, is tougher and will leave hard spots in the batch.

Leave the caramel completely alone for 24 hours at room temperature.  This waiting period not only reduces the stickiness, but makes the candy much easier to cut. (Once the caramel has cooled and the pan is no longer warm, cover the pan with plastic wrap.)

Lift the hardened caramel from the pan using the edges of the foil.  Using a clean, sharp knife, cut the caramel into approximate 1-inch pieces.  (If the caramel begins to stick to the knife, rinse the knife well under hot water, dry and butter the knife, then resume cutting.)

At this point, you may dip each piece into tempered chocolate and allow them to rest on a wire rack for 4-6 hours until the chocolate has hardened.  Store these dipped caramels on sheets of waxed paper in an air-tight container, at room temperature, for up to one month.

For plain caramels,  wrap each cut piece in a 4-inch square of plastic wrap, twisting the ends tightly.  Store the wrapped caramels in an air-tight container, at room temperature, for up to one month…if they last that long.


If you like nuts in your caramels, pour a layer of chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc. into your prepared jelly roll pan before pouring in the caramel.

Want to make caramel apples?  Merely twirl apples on a stick into the mixture, instead of pouring it into a pan.  Place the coated apples on a waxed paper lined sheet and place into the refrigerator for one hour to harden, then wrap each apple well in plastic wrap, tied with a bow to seal.  Be certain to consume these as quickly as possible (no more than 3 days) to enjoy the best flavor of the apples.  

This same recipe can be poured into a buttered 9-13 inch dish, allowed to cool for 24 hours, cut into 1×4-inch logs, then rolled in minced pecans to make pecan logs.  Wrap each log in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to one month.  The logs may also be cut into 1/2-inch slices, wrapped in plastic, etc.

This caramel be poured by hot spoonfuls onto a grouping of whole pecans (place in a triangle or “X” configuration), allowed to harden, then cover the caramel with a dollop of tempered chocolate to make Turtles.  Store on waxed paper sheets in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to one month.


~ by eheavenlygads on November 29, 2007.

27 Responses to “Homemade Caramels”

  1. I am always leary of trying a new recipe so I made this in a half batch. It turned out wonderful. I made bear claws using the caramel recipe and my husband said it was better than the ones I bought in Atlanta for $14.95 a lb.

  2. OMG! My mouth is watering just reading this. I can imagine how I’ll feel after I taste one!
    Saw your site at http://pischilein.typepad.com/. It was made for her friend going through Chemo.

  3. Pure Delicious Awesomeness! By far the best caramels I have ever had. Thanks for the recipe. I’m excited to try some others on the blog

  4. Thank you so much! My best friend and I have been looking forward to making homemade caramels and your recipe and suggestions will be our guide!

  5. lol im going to attempt to make fresh carmels because they are so irresistable lol

  6. Hi there
    I really would like to try your caramel recipe…. it sounds scrumptious. Could I substitute another ingredient for the corn syrup. I’m on a strict low salicylate diet and am unable to have corn syrup. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated as I can’t eat many sweets, especially commercial ones. I need to start learning to make my own treats and sweets now!
    Hope to get a response soon,

    • Regrettably, I don’t know of any substitute for corn syrup (because of the type of sugar it is), but perhaps someone else will have an idea.

      • I saw a response to a different caramel recipe where someone only had half as much corn syrup as needed, so replaced the rest with honey and they came out very good. They then tried it with just honey and it also apparently worked. I don’t know for certain though, not having done it myself, but it might be worth a try if you can have honey.

  7. These are delicious!

  8. I am a novice and tried this in Colorado Springs, elevation is about 6000 feet. If you try this at altitude, you need to use a lower temperature. If you lower the temperature by one degree for every 550 feet above sea level, it will not burn like me first batch!

  9. I made this recipe to use with caramel apples and it was very good. I did add some vanilla at the end for extra flavor. I had to let the caramel cool quite a bit before it would stick to the apples, but it was very yummy! Thanks!

  10. Will these mail well? They look delicious and I want to make them, and I was wondering about sending them to a friend as well.

  11. I have made this several times, and find that it is so sweet, creamy and delicious, it has become my “GO TO” recipe for caramels. I haven’t made many before, and aside from the time it takes to make, they turn out delicious, thanks.

  12. i’m not sure what i did wrong, but i cooked slow and brought it to 244 degrees, but they are super soft (too much so) and they just don’t have the proper caramel taste or look. my thermometer is right on the money, the cream didn’t boil so i’m scratching my head… could the humidity have done something? it was snowing out and 28 degrees… can someone email me? soulman1015@nyc.rr.com…. thanks.

    • Humidity was definitely your enemy. While snowy weather beckons me to the kitchen every time, I learned long, long ago to forget trying to make anything that is humidity-sensitive. Caramels are especially so. There’s just too much water in the air to prevent you from reducing the water in your solution.

      • I stumbled across your site today looking up recipes to make various candy bars and I’m very excited to try some of your techniques.

        My mom and I have made caramels for Christmas every year for years in the Pacific NW and have done it on many a rainy day (is there another kind of day here?). I suppose our success must be attributed to using the cold water test once the thermometer told us we were close. But I’m happy to share for those who don’t get low humidity days that fantastic caramels are quite possible even with high humidity. I can’t speak to other candymaking as I’ve little experience with anything else.

        Now to try your recipe, I’ve never tried a method that cooked the syrup that high before cooking again with the butter and cream. I can almost taste the caramely goodness…

  13. Can this recipe be converted to caramel sauce and canned? If so, how would you go about it and what kind of shelf life would the sauce have?

  14. this is the BEST caramel recipe that I have come across. thank you for sharing.

  15. The best caramel I’ve ever tasted! Thank you.

  16. I followed your recipe exactly, made it on a day with little humidity, stirred it just like you said…and guess what…it turned out beautifully!!! Everyone loved it!! Thanks so much!!

  17. I have looked for years to find the perfect recipe for caramels and cannot wait to try your’s this Christmas

  18. I made these on sunday, let them sit for 24 hours and just finished wrapping them up. I think humidity might have been my enemy because they never properly set, so I couldn’t quite dip them in chocolate, but i twisted them into wax paper and now they look (and taste) deliciously DIY. The humidity was around 70% and I followed all the instructions…. so maybe that was it? In any case they are so amazingly tasty. Planning on giving them away as little gifts.

  19. I will be making these for the 4th year this weekend and can’t wait! I had a co-worker ask me for the recipe today so I am spreading it around. I haven’t ruined a batch yet and hoping to add some nuts and maybe even make some turtles this year. Thanks for the great recipe!

  20. I made these yesterday for a holiday exchange party, and they were a hit! This is absolutely a delicious recipe. I am a caramel connoisseur….these are incredible! I used raw sugar and organic European-made butter. These are melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness!

  21. I can only find heavy whipping cream. Is that the same?

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