Homemade Caramel

Creamy Homemade Caramel is thick, rich, and velvety. It’s perfect for incorporating into desserts, drizzling over ice cream, topping cheesecake, and so much more!

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Creamy, thick Homemade Caramel is super simple and easy to whip up. It only requires 5 ingredients and can be made in about 20 minutes. The caramel can be used warm as a sauce and is great for drizzling on ice cream, pies, or cakes. It will thicken and become stiffer after chilling which is perfect for filling cupcakes, tarts, and spreading on top of cheesecake. You won’t want the store-bought caramel sauce once you taste this!

Ingredient Notes

  • Sugar: Granulated sugar is essential since the base of caramel is caramelized sugar.

  • Water: You only need a little of this as it will eventually evaporate off. It helps create a syrup with the sugar to get it boiling.

  • Butter: Adds richness and helps thicken the caramel.

  • Heavy Cream: Another essential ingredient for caramel – this is what makes it creamy.

  • Vanilla Extract: Adds flavor that perfectly compliments the caramel notes.

How to Make Homemade Caramel

Cook the Sugar 

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat. Brush down the sides of the pan with water, using a pastry brush to help prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Place a lid on and allow the sugar to cook undisturbed – no stirring! 

Caramelize the Sugar

Swirl the pan as the sugar starts to caramelize. It will turn yellow at first and continue to get darker. Remove from the heat once the sugar turns a dark golden amber color.

Add the butter & cream

Carefully add the butter to the caramelized sugar and whisk it in. The mixture will bubble up and release a lot of steam, so be careful not to burn yourself here. Once the butter is incorporated, slowly stream in the cream while whisking then stir in the vanilla extract.

Strain & Chill

Use a fine mesh sieve to strain the caramel into a heat-proof container. Serve the caramel warm or allow it to cool in the fridge and thicken.

Homemade Caramel FAQs

How long does homemade caramel keep?

Store the caramel in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to 2 weeks.

How can I make this into salted caramel?

Add ½ teaspoon of flaky sea salt (like Maldon brand) after straining the mixture (otherwise the flaky pieces will get caught in the sieve) and just like that, you’ve got salted caramel!

Can I reheat the caramel?

Yes, once the caramel has set up, simply heat the caramel in the microwave for 15-20 increments, stirring in between. Drizzle the warm caramel on ice cream or serve alongside desserts!

How will I know if the sugar is crystallizing?

Sugar crystals will start to form in small clumps on the side of the pan. Those can contaminate the whole mixture and when you look closely, you will see a cloudy white layer with thin glassy crystals across the top.

What can I do if the sugar crystallizes?

Adding more water to the sugar mixture will help dissolve the sugar crystals and can bring back the mixture if it crystallizes. The additional water will evaporate off anyway so it should not affect the the thickness of the caramel in the end. Start with slowly drizzling in 1-2 Tablespoons of water across the top, adding a small amount more as needed until the sugar crystals dissolve. The sugar should boil clear and translucent once the sugar crystals are gone.

Do I need a candy thermometer to make caramel?

No, this recipe does not require a candy thermometer. I prefer to use the color of the caramel as a gauge to know when to pull it off the heat and add the butter and cream. This can take some practice, as the caramel can go from the perfect color to burnt very quickly. Look for a deep golden amber/copper color.

Tips for the Best Homemade Caramel

  • Prep your ingredients and tools. Before you start cooking the water and sugar mixture on the stove, you’ll want to make sure that you are prepped for the steps that follow, as you need to work quickly once the sugar reaches a dark amber color. Allow your butter and heavy cream to come to room temperature. Measure these out and cut the butter into small cubes. Also, have a small cup of water and a pastry brush ready so you can brush down the sides of the pot. You’ll need a whisk as well.

  • Don’t walk away. Caramel needs your full attention because it can crystallize or burn very quickly. Once the sugar starts to caramelize and turn golden, leave the lid off so you can keep a close eye on the sugar as it deepens in color.

  • Brush down the sides. Brushing down the sides of the saucepan with water is the key to keeping your sugar from crystallizing. Any sugar on the sides of the pan will start to form tiny crystals and crystalize the whole mixture. Keep a lid on the pot in the beginning to help dissolve any sugar crystals that form on the sides.

Baking Tip: Weigh Your Ingredients!

I highly recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients rather than using measuring cups because it is the most accurate way to bake. Weighing your ingredients will give you more consistent results with your recipes and a better success rate, every time. Using a scale also saves you dishes which means easier cleanup! I provide gram measurements in all my recipes and this is the scale I love to use.

More Ways to Use Homemade Caramel

If you make this recipe and love it, be sure to leave a comment below. Happy caramel making!

Homemade Caramel

Creamy Homemade Caramel is thick, rich, and velvety. It’s perfect for incorporating into desserts, drizzling over ice cream, topping cheesecake, and so much more!
Author: Rachel
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Yield 1.5 cups


  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (60mL) water
  • 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
  • ½ cup (120mL) heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Combine sugar and water in a small stainless steel saucepan and place over medium heat. Brush down the sides of the pan with water using a pastry brush, to prevent the sugar from crystallizing.
  • Place the lid on and allow the mixture to cook undisturbed (don’t stir!). Check frequently on the sugar and brush down the sides of the pan with water as needed. The mixture will be cloudy at first, then boil and become clear, before starting to carmelize. Swirl the pan occasionally once the sugar begins to caramelize.
  • As soon as the sugar reaches a deep golden amber color, remove it from the heat.
  • Once off the heat, carefully add the butter and whisk until combined. Slowly stream in the heavy cream while continually whisking. The mixture will bubble up vigorously when adding the butter and cream but will settle once incorporated. Stir in the vanilla.
  • Pour the caramel through a fine mesh sieve into a heatproof container.
  • Use the caramel warm or chill in the fridge to thicken.


*For thicker caramel like I use in my Salted Caramel S’mores Tart, only add 1/3 cup (80mL) heavy cream.
*For salted caramel, add 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon brand.
Did you make this recipe?Be sure to tag @sweetkitchencravings on Instagram!


I’m Rachel

I’m the dessert lover, recipe developer, and content creator behind Sweet Kitchen Cravings. Here you’ll find classic yet special recipes that are sure to impress your loved ones!

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