My homemade Caramel Candy has the perfect soft and chewy, yet sturdy texture. Enjoy yours plain or coat in chocolate for an indulgent treat! Recipe includes a how-to video!
The BEST Homemade Caramel Recipe
I’m so pleased to share my absolute favorite caramel recipe with you today! It’s simple (a bit time consuming, yes, but very straightforward) and yields incredibly perfect caramel candy. The caramels have a rich flavor balanced with just the right amount of salt and vanilla. You are going to love them!
These caramels are soft, but not so soft they melt in your hand. They’re sturdy enough to hold their shape while still being chewy (but they don’t stick to your teeth obnoxiously like peanut brittle!).
I love topping my caramel candy with sea salt (reminds me of my salted caramel frosting), but they also taste great dipped in melted chocolate. I’m linking my favorite cellophane wrappers below (they’ll last forever!) so you can wrap yours up just like a candy shop!
I highly recommend watching the video below before getting started. I include lots of tips and visuals that I think you’ll find helpful, even if this isn’t your first candy recipe.
What You Need
Seven simple ingredients and a little patience are all you need to make my caramel recipe:
- Light brown sugar. I know brown sugar is not a typical caramel ingredient, but I promise it adds such a beautiful flavor to this caramel recipe. I don’t recommend substituting this for more granulated sugar; if you do, your caramel candy won’t turn out properly. If you really must use all granulated sugar, stop cooking when your caramel reaches 240F (115C).
- Evaporated milk. Do NOT use sweetened condensed milk! The cans look similar, but evaporated milk is what you need (sweetened condensed milk does have a place in caramel, I use it in my Millionaire’s shortbread, but not here).
- Heavy cream. Whipping cream or double cream will also work.
- Vanilla. We will add the vanilla after cooking to preserve its flavor. Now would be a great time to use your homemade vanilla extract, if you have some!
SAM’S TIP: Line your pan with parchment and leave a little extra on the sides as a “sling” so removing your caramel candy is a breeze! I love using this trick for brownies too.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Caramel Candy
- Melt the butter – Cook the sugars, milk, cream, corn syrup, butter, and salt over medium heat until the butter melts.
- Bubble and boil – Attach your candy thermometer and keep cooking and stirring as your caramel boils.
- Just keep stirring – Keep stirring constantly as the caramel gets darker and reaches 240-243F. This will take quite a long time, it consistently takes me an hour from start to finish, but your mileage may vary.
- Add the vanilla – Once at the proper temperature, remove the caramel from the heat and add the vanilla extract.
- Pour it out – Carefully pour the hot caramel into a parchment lined pan and let it cool completely until set, preferably overnight.
- Cut and enjoy! Use a sharp knife to cut the caramels into squares or rectangles. Top with sea salt or chocolate, if desired, and enjoy!
SAM’S TIP: It’s so important to have patience with this caramel recipe (and pretty much every other candy recipe!). Don’t crank up the heat at any point during the cooking process or you could ruin your caramel. Making homemade caramel candy does take some time, but the final result is so worth it!
Frequently Asked Questions
Because it’s so sturdy, this caramel recipe pairs nicely with chocolate! I’d recommend a semisweet or dark chocolate to contrast the sweetness of the caramel, but you can always use milk chocolate if that’s what you like. Whichever you use, make sure to let your caramel set completely so you can cut it in nice squares for dipping.
I highly recommend using a candy thermometer for this caramel recipe, but you can always use the old-fashioned way to test if the caramel is ready. To do this, drop a bit of the caramel mixture in cold water; it should form a ball that holds its shape unless you deliberately press/re-shape it. Depending on the chart you consult, this temperature is either just below or just over the threshold for “firm ball” stage.
Really though, a candy thermometer is best and will give you best results and makes candy-making so much easier. I’ve linked to the one that I use (and love) in the “Equipment” section of the recipe card below.
Unfortunately I don’t have a good substitute here. Corn syrup (not to be confused with the high fructose kind!) is used in many candy recipes, and in the case of this caramel recipe, it’s critical for the proper final texture.
This caramel candy would make a great homemade gift alongside toffee or candied pecans!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Homemade Caramel Candy
- 1 ½ cups (300) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (100 g) light brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 ½ cups (354) evaporated milk this is the equivalent of one 12 fl oz can
- 1 ½ cups (354 ml) heavy cream
- ¾ cup (255) light corn syrup
- ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Maldon sea salt for sprinkling optional
- Line an 8” square pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine sugars, evaporated milk, heavy cream, corn syrup, butter, and salt.1 ½ cups (300) granulated sugar, ½ cup (100 g) light brown sugar, 1 ½ cups (354) evaporated milk, 1 ½ cups (354 ml) heavy cream, ¾ cup (255) light corn syrup, ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon salt
- Turn stovetop heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently (I like to use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, it makes it easy to scrape the bottom of the pot and ensure nothing burns), until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.
- Attach a candy thermometer to the side (make sure it is not touching the bottom of the pot and is suspended about halfway in the caramel) and stir constantly until mixture reaches 240-243F (115-117C). This will take some time, it usually takes me an hour of stirring!
- Once mixture reaches temperature, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Immediately pour into prepared pan and allow caramel to cool completely (several hours or overnight) before cutting and (and topping with sea salt, if using). Caramels may be cut and individually wrapped in strips of wax paper or cellophane wrappers, I linked to the wrappers that I used in the “Equipment” section above.
StoringStore in an airtight container (or wrapped in wax paper or cellophane!) at room temperature. Caramels will keep for several months.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
This is going to be a stretch but I am so desperate to make caramel, but does any one know if I could use oat milk in this? If I had known I’d be craving these, I would’ve saved the last bit of heavy cream I had.
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Sara! Unfortunately we don’t think these will turn out with oat milk 🙁
Made these last night and they are INSANE. My boyfriend can’t stop eating them.
I used an old school candy thermometer but saw Richard’s comment about it going rock hard, so I also used my meat thermometer. When the meat thermometer read 240, I pulled it and it was PERFECT! You can kind of tell when it reaches the right point because it pulls like taffy.
I will never buy store bought caramels again, and mine only took about 30 minutes of stirring. Thanks for the delicious recipe, Sam!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Thanks for the review, Jillian! We are so happy the caramel was a success for you ❤️
As I love caramel I could not wait to try to make them. Stirring for over an hour watching and drooling over them. I used an old school candy thermometer to reach 140° ( so I thought) poured into the pan and watched it turned rock solid. Disappointed to say the least, well that disappointment changed quickly when I tried cutting the solid mass breaking into small pieces Popped a few into my mouth OMG absolutely delicious. Accidentally made hard candy been munching on it for week. invest in a digital thermometer unless you want some hard candy Which is incredibly good. Can’t wait to try the new thermometer.
The digital thermometer really is a game changer here. I’m glad you still enjoyed it. 🙂
Sam, can a good half and half be used instead of the heavy whipping cream? I’m gearing up to stir and stir! Thanks!
I haven’t tried it to say for sure, but I’d be hesitant to do it in the candy. Candy can be so finicky as it is. I’d hate to tell you it’s ok and have you go through all of the effort to make it and it doesn’t turn out. 🙁
5 Stars, Sam!! I went to food store before I made it….no cream of any sort to be had. Since I was really ready to tackle it, I proceeded with a really rich half and half. It worked and the candy is delicious and a perfect texture. It does take one hour of stirring. I sat on a bar stool next to stove. I got sore in my shoulders and my husband stirred until I glanced over and he was barely moving. I jumped up, thanked him and took back over. No scorching here! I didn’t have course salt so I used my Himalayan pink salt. Perfection! Thanks for this AMAZING recipe!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much! I’m glad you caught your husband before your caramel burned!
Can I use sugar syrup instead of corn syrup?
Hi Simcha! Unfortunately that won’t work here. 🙁
I can’t even deal with how amazing this caramel is! So nutty and buttery! So easy to make! It took me about an hour of stirring as well; I made it through listening to Christmas music. I can’t wait to gift these. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!
I made these caramels recently and they were DELICIOUS and the texture was WONDERFUL! I cut them into squares and dipped them in chocolate. This recipe is by far the best recipe I have used to make homemade caramels. I plan on making another batch before Christmas. They do take some time, but they are definitely worth it!
I am so glad you enjoyed them so much, Mary! :0
Can’t rate yet cause haven’t made. Sam, I read instructions. Am I correct that it can take 1 hour cooking time on medium? I’ve never made caramels before. Thanks!
Hi Susan! You are correct. It can take quite some time to reach the proper temperature, but it’s so worth it. 🙂
Thanks for reply. I’m going to make it. Years ago, I had pear trees. I made pear butter (like apple butter). I stood and stirred and stirred. Broke down and parked myself on the counter next to stove. I sat and stirred like an automated machine for literally hours. My arm was numb, my hands were numb and my bum was numb! People I gifted to it were wowed and requested more. Needless to say, I never made that again! Call me Scrooge…. I have tuff skin! 😜
Hi Sam – thanks for all the great recipes! Lots of caramel recipes specify NOT to stir or else you’ll get crystallization. Do you know why this is different. (I’m scared to stir and now scared not to!)
Hi Sue! It’s never been an issue here. The corn syrup used here helps with the crystallization. Each recipe is different and with some of mine you do have to be careful about stirring so it’s always best to follow the recipe rather than just use the same method with every recipe. 🙂
These look delicious!
What kind of chocolate do you recommend for covering the caramels?
Hi CJ! If you want to do it easily I would use Ghirardelli melting wafers. They are sold in all varieties and personally I prefer dark chocolate. 🙂
This recipe sounds great and I can’t wait to try it! But I have to tell you, I purchased the Sugar Spun Run apron from your website and I received it today. The quality is excellent and it fits perfectly! I will be using this a lot this holiday season baking your recipes.
Thank you for all you do and Happy Holidays to you and your family.
Yay! I’m so glad you like the apron! 🙂
Can I use light cream in place of canned milk?
Hi Chris! I wouldn’t recommend it here. 🙁