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Salted Caramel Sauce

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Satisfy sweet and salty cravings with thick salted caramel sauce. Make it in 15 minutes. Spoon this rich luscious topping over ice cream sundaes. Drizzle it over cheesecake and triple chocolate brownies. Swirl it into homemade salted caramel ice cream. It’s also a classic caramel apple dipping sauce.

PIN SEA SALT CARAMEL SAUCE

Salted caramel sauce drizzling off a spoon into a glass mason jar.

UPDATED POST: This thick salted caramel sauce recipe was first published in June 2017. In 2022, this post was refreshed with minor recipe tweaks to ensure the excellent taste and texture is equal to the caramel sauce sold by popular brands. Updates include fresh photography, more detailed recipe instructions, better step-by-step images, and a user-friendly format.

This easy recipe comes together with just 5 ingredients plus water. It has a nappe consistency that clings to the back of a spoon before dripping down. At the market, this type of thick salted caramel sauce is sold in glass jars, not in squeeze bottles. It’s exactly like Mrs. Richardson’s Sea Salt Caramel.

Thick homemade salted caramel sauce in a glass jar with a spoon.

WANT A THINNER CARAMEL SAUCE? It’s easy to do with a simple recipe variation using the same ingredients and same process. View “Recipe FAQ” section for the exact recipe modifications. The thin consistency will be that of Ghirardelli Sea Salt Caramel Sauce sold in squeeze bottles at the market.

An awesome thing about this silky-smooth homemade caramel sauce: you control the level of caramelization. You make it the way you like it. The color of the mixture can be light blonde, golden brown, or a deep amber. It just depends on how long you let it cook (seconds, not minutes).

Thick Caramel Sauce drizzling down from a spoon into a glass jar.

This spoonable sea salt caramel sauce is a traditional topping for ice cream sundaes. But it’s also ideal for other foods, drinks and desserts. You’ll discover it’s the best caramel sauce for coffee. Its thick consistency makes it ideal for apple hand pies. Enjoy it as a rich caramel apple dipping sauce.

Thick salted caramel sauce in a mason jar with spoon.

INGREDIENTS

  • Granulated Sugar: This is the base of the salted caramel sauce. It provides sweetness and depth of flavor. Browning the sugar is what gives the mixture its signature caramel color and taste.
  • Water: Just a splash of this liquid thins out the sauces and helps prevents the granulated sugar from scorching.
  • Butter: Adds richness and flavor to the caramel sauce. Use a high-quality butter like Tillamook or the Kirkland brand from Costco.
  • Heavy Cream: Warm it in the microwave for 15 seconds to shed the cold. This is important to avoid a giant eruption on stovetop when you pour the cream into the hot pan with the rapidly boiling mixture.
  • Pure Vanilla Extract: Enhances the caramel flavor of the sauce.
  • Sea Salt: This seasoning balances out the sweetness in the caramel sauce. It makes it more delicious.
Ingredients for salted caramel sauce recipe.

RECIPE STEPS

RECIPE PREP: Pre-measure ingredients. Place them next to the stove with a whisk, pastry brush, and a ramekin of water for the pastry brush. Review all recipe steps and notes before beginning this salted caramel sauce recipe.

  • STEP 1: Add sugar and water to a medium saucepan. Don’t stir or whisk ingredients. Use a few gentle strokes or taps to assist the water with (mostly) soaking in. Place pot over medium heat. Brush interior of pot with a damp pastry brush. The water droplets from the brush will keep the sides clean to prevent hard bits from forming. As the sugar melts, large transparent bubbles will form. Do not stir. Gently swirl the pan.
  • STEP 2: Like a hawk, focus intently on the pot. The sugar will bubble vigorously. Patiently watch for the color to change, from transparent to a light-golden blonde. The color will continue to deepen super fast. Don’t allow mixture get any darker than a deep-golden brown or it will scorch. Remove the pot from heat.
  • STEP 3: Immediately, start slowly drizzling room-temperature cream into the pot while whisking vigorously. Use caution: The mixture will bubble and sputter like crazy. Giant billows of steam will rise from the pot. While still whisking, blow air (like blowing out candles) to disburse the steam away from you and the pot.
  • STEP 4: Add room-temperature butter to the pot. Whisk as it melts. Turn heat to medium-low. While whisking, cook about 2 to 3 minutes – just until caramel sauce bubbles vigorously. Remove pan from heat. Add vanilla and salt. Stir briefly, or swirl the pan to combine.

HOW TO STORE CARAMEL SAUCE: Carefully pour salted caramel sauce into a heat-safe jar and let it cool. Attach the lid and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

How to make caramel sauce recipe in 4 easy steps.

RECIPE FAQ

These are the most commonly-asked questions for making the BEST salted caramel sauce, and the most helpful answers for recipe success.

WHAT POT FOR MAKING CARAMEL SAUCE?

The best pot for making caramel sauce is a heavy (medium) pot to protect the mixture from scorching. A huge plus: if the pot has a white interior so it’s easy to see color changes in the mixture as they occur. If possible, avoid using a non-stick pot.

WHAT TYPE OF SALT FOR SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE?

This recipe works with a variety of different types of salt: sea salt, flaky sea salt, Himalayan salt, kosher salt, or table salt. If you’re unsure of the amount to add, start with 1/2 teaspoon or 3/4 teaspoon. Once the mixture cools, you can always add more salt to taste.

HOW TO MAKE REGULAR CARAMEL SAUCE?

Even if the mixture is not officially called u0022sea salt caramel sauceu0022, it will still need some salt to balance the flavors and tamp down sweetness. Salt helps caramel sauce become super tasty but not overly sweet. Reduce the salt in the recipe to 1/2 teaspoon.

CAN I DOUBLE THIS RECIPE?

No. This is not recommended. It would be much too hard to control the added volume on stovetop and keep it from scorching. It’s best to make several individual batches rather than double or triple this recipe.

HOW TO PREVENT BITTER-TASTING CARAMEL SAUCE?

Do not allow the caramel sauce to become a deep amber color. When the hot mixture reaches that point on stovetop, it has developed a bitter taste. And if left on the heat any longer it will scorch.

WHY ARE THERE HARD BITS IN MY CARAMEL SAUCE?

If water and sugar were stirred or whisked while heated, it’s likely some of the sugar crystalized forming hard bits. Or if the pot was too light-weight, it’s possible the sauce overheated and scorched while cooking. Jus scoop out the hard bits with a spoon and discard them.

HOW TO MAKE THINNER CARAMEL SAUCE?

Here’s how to make thinner caramel sauce: 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup water, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt. Use the same process outlined in the recipe.

HOW TO FIX OVERLY-THICK CARAMEL SAUCE?

Over-thickening can happen if the mixture is too hot when the cream is added. To thin it out, keep whisking until the consistency thins. If needed, whisk in additional heavy cream to thin it out.

HOW TO FIX LUMPY CARAMEL SAUCE?

Return the pot to stovetop. Over low heat, whisk the caramel sauce vigorously until it’s silky smooth.

HOW LONG DOES SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE LAST?

It can last up to 2 weeks when stored in an airtight container in the fridge. For longer storage, freeze in an airtight plastic container for up to 3 months. When ready to use, thaw at room temperature.

Glass jar of thick homemade caramel sauce.

desserts that deserve a drizzle

Enhance the flavor of these delicious desserts with a long thick drizzle of salted caramel sauce. Warm it up and spoon it on. Print your favorite recipes for later or pin them to Pinterest.

Lidded mason jar filled with homemade salted caramel sauce on a table with a spoon.

RATE THIS RECIPE ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Taste testers compared our salted caramel sauce to store-bought brands: Ghirardelli Sea Salt Caramel Sauce and Mrs. Richardson’s Sea Salt Caramel.

The flavor experts agreed this is the BEST-tasting homemade caramel sauce. It tastes exactly the same as famous grocery store brands. And in this time of skyrocketing grocery prices, many shared how much they appreciated this quick easy recipe that can save them time and money.

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com
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Spoon lifting caramel sauce from a jar as it drips downward.

Salted Caramel Sauce


  • Total Time: 15 Minutes
  • Yield: 1 Cup 1x

Description

This luscious salted caramel sauce is thick, rich and super tasty. Use it to top ice cream sundaes and brownies, or drizzle on the glasses and whipped cream of your favorite drinks.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, warmed in microwave for 15 seconds to bring to room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons butter (at room temperature), cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

RECIPE PREP: Pre-measure ingredients. Place them next to the stove with a whisk, pastry brush, and a ramekin of water for the pastry brush. Review all recipe steps and notes before starting.

  1. Add sugar and water to a medium saucepan. Don’t stir or whisk ingredients. Instead, use a few gentle strokes or taps to assist the water with (mostly) soaking in. Place pot over medium heat.
  2. Brush interior of pot with a damp pastry brush. The water droplets from the brush will keep the sides clean to prevent hard bits from forming. As the sugar melts, large transparent bubbles will form. Do not stir. Gently swirl the pan.
  3. Like a hawk, focus intently on the pot. The sugar will bubble vigorously. Patiently watch for the color to change, from transparent to a light-golden blonde. The color will continue to deepen super fast. Don’t allow mixture get any darker than a deep-golden brown or it will scorch. Remove pan from heat.
  4. Immediately, start slowly drizzling room-temperature cream into the pot while whisking vigorously. Use caution: The mixture will bubble and sputter like crazy. Giant billows of steam will rise from the pot. While still whisking, blow air (like blowing out candles) to disburse the steam away from you and the pot.
  5. Add room-temperature butter to the pot. Whisk as it melts. Turn heat to medium-low. While whisking, cook about 2 to 3 minutes – just until caramel sauce bubbles vigorously. Remove pan from heat. Add vanilla and salt. Stir briefly, or swirl the pan to combine.
  6. Carefully pour salted caramel sauce into a heat-safe jar. Let it cool completely. Attach lid and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. 

Notes

BEST POT TO USE: The best pot for making caramel sauce is a heavy pot to protect the mixture from scorching. It’s a big plus if the pot has a white interior so it’s easy to see color changes in the mixture as they occur. If possible, avoid using a non-stick pot.

HOW TO MAKE REGULAR CARAMEL SAUCE: Even if it’s not officially called “sea salt caramel sauce”, the mixture will still need some salt to balance the flavors and tamp down sweetness. Salt helps caramel sauce become super tasty but not overly sweet. Reduce salt in the recipe to 1/2 teaspoon.

CAN I DOUBLE THIS RECIPE? This is not recommended. It would be much too hard to control the added volume on stovetop and keep it from scorching. It’s best to make several individual batches rather than double the recipe.

  • Prep Time: 5 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: salted caramel sauce, thick salted caramel sauce, salted caramel sauce recipe

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE > JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Did you enjoy this how to make caramel sauce tutorial? Were you surprised at how quick and easy it is to make? How do you plan to enjoy this rich delicious topping? Share your thoughts below.

50 thoughts on “Salted Caramel Sauce”

  1. I’m just hoping for trouble shooting help – which part of the process determines how thick the caramel will be?

    I’ve made this recipe MANY times & I always follow the recipe (without water one) and though I read through and follow along every time my caramel is inconsistent. Sometimes nice & thick & sometimes much more thin! Hoping for as thick as possible as I use it for between cake layers!

    SOS!
    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hi Angelica! I’m so excited that you will soon be enjoying a scrumptious batch of salted caramel sauce. Unfortunately, Half & Half will not work. But when you’re at the store looking for “Heavy Whipping Cream”, just know that it’s the same exact thing as “Heavy Cream.” How the carton is labeled just depends on where you live. :-)

      Reply
      • Ok. I use heavy whipping cream often but don’t have any on hand, but i have plenty of half & half in the fridge. I was trying to avoid going to the store but since I’m so excited to try your recipe, I’m about to put on my shoes now! I’ll let you know how it comes out.

        Reply
  2. Tried this after two failed trials of other recipes. The instructions are so clear and it tastes absolutely divine!! Definitely my go to salted caramel sauce recipe!!! Thanks a ton!!! I tried the thicker version.

    Reply
    • Woo-hoo! Sandy, I’m super happy that your salted caramel sauce turned out so beautifully. Thanks so much for letting me know you achieved a great result. Your sweet comment has just made my day! :-)

      Reply
  3. I can’t get the sugar to cook correctly without water. I put it in a pan over medium heat but it “melts” on the bottom and edges and immediately turns amber while the rest of it is still granulated. The first time I let it go until it all dissolved but it was quite burnt. The next time I used the tip of a knife to try and move the clumps of sugar around and managed to dissolve it before it burned, but it was amber from the start, no transparent boiling phase. In fact the sugar never fully dissolved before I jumped ahead to add butter before it burned again. I then continued with the recipe (thick version) and while it tastes fine it’s quite dark (doesn’t bother me, just odd) and very thin even after a couple hours in the fridge. I’ve made caramel sauce many times before, always using water to boil the sugar, but I wanted a thicker sauce this time.

    What am I doing wrong? How do I get the sugar to dissolve without burning?

    Reply
    • Hello Skylar. I’m so sorry to hear that your sugar burned when preparing this recipe. As soon as I read your comment/question, I headed straight to my kitchen and pulled out the sugar and my old non-stick pan. I’d love to help you find a working solution so you can successfully cook up a yummy batch of salted caramel sauce. So this evening I cooked the sugar using a lower temperature as maybe this might solve the problem you’re experiencing. I took several new photos this evening while testing this out. I sent a personal email to you with the photos attached! I hope it helped. :-)

      Reply
      • Oops! You’re so quick I posted without seeing your response. lol! I’ll go check my email and try again. It’s a popular request so I’m sure an extra batch won’t hurt. ;)

        The last batch has a great flavor. Thanks for sharing the recipe! And for your fast reply.

        Reply
    • Update: the last batch did finally thicken. Still hoping for tips on melting the sugar without water. Thanks!

      Reply
  4. I love caramel in almost anything but drizzled over ice cream is divine! Your recipe looks easy to make and delicious too.

    Reply
  5. I have never been brave enough to attempt a caramel sauce before. I do love caramel though, it’s the perfect blend of sweet and salty!

    Reply
  6. Ugh Denay, why are you doing this to me??? Here I was trying to eat more healthy and now this recipe pops up. Well I guess I have to try it now ;) Love your content girl!
    Sending love from Austria, Theresa

    Reply
  7. Oh my goodness, does your caramel sauce look good! You’re right, I always equate caramel with summer. When I was a kid it was my favorite on homemade ice cream, and now that I’m all grown up, I love it drizzled on apples (ps: your food photography is beautiful!) x

    Reply
  8. You had me at caramel.I love a good tasty caramel and this is right up my alley. I’m going to try making this. I appreciate recipe that’s easy to follow. Thanks!

    Reply
  9. Wow, how fast is to do this yummy sauce! Love how it looks from your pictures, seems so creamy and delicious!

    Reply
  10. I always wanted to make salted caramel sauce at home. I want to make this asap. Thanks for sharing.
    XOXO

    Reply
  11. These are great! But honestly, I can’t get over the little amount of actual salt it takes to make the caramel ‘salted’! SO crazy, I definitely will file this recipe away.

    Reply
  12. I’m a huge fan of salted caramel sauce so I’ll be making this soon! I love how it’s simple with only 5 ingredients., and doesn’t take much work to make.

    Reply
  13. I love anything salted caramel based! like macaroons! I had never thought of a sauce but it’s a great idea! xx corinne

    Reply
    • Oh yes! Even though I can see flabby arms and dappled thighs through my too tight dresses, who can resist a little (or a lot) of salted caramel?! Love this post!!

      Reply
  14. Thank you for sharing this recipe and all of the tips! I love caramel, but have struggled to achieve the right consistency. Going to follow your advice and give this a try this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes :)
    xoxo,
    Liv

    Reply
  15. This is great! I never knew it only took 15 minutes to make caramel sauce! And those cookies look awesome. I pinned it to pinterest :)

    Reply
  16. After googling Salted Caramel Sauce, I came upon your post. This is just what I needed; thank you for sharing this amazing recipe! It’s on the menu to try this weekend.

    Reply
  17. I love experiments like that (that’s the chemist talking). I’d go for the water-less one it looks more like the caramel I am used to. Question: is the whisk you used a metal one or the one shown in the end of the post? What’s best?

    Reply

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