Learn how to make caramel from scratch with this easy recipe. Then also check out our recipe for salted caramel sauce.



  • STEP 1

    Tip the sugar into a heavy-based frying pan, stir in 4 tbsp water, then place over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and bubble for 4-5 mins until you have caramel. Take off the heat, then carefully stir in the cream and butter. Leave the sauce to cool, then tip into a squeezy bottle.

What is caramel?

Caramel is made by heating sugar, most often with water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and a chemical reaction takes place. This happens at around 160-180C making caramel quite dangerous to work with. At this point the sugar will have already dissolved if using water and starts to brown and take on different flavour notes. A good caramel should be taken to a deep amber colour and taken off and stopped cooking any further at the point where it is on the edge of burning.

What sugar is best to use for making caramel?

You should use refined white granulated or caster sugar to make caramel. Avoid using brown sugar or raw cane sugar as they contain impurities that inhibit caramelisation and also the already brown colour can make it harder to assess when the all important reaction is taking place.

What is the secret to making caramel?

  • Crystallisation and burning are the two pitfalls of caramel making.
  • Sugar likes to go back to its crystalline form and having a clean pan which is also large enough for the caramel to bubble up if you are adding cream is important.
  • If you stir caramel with a spoon then the spoon may also encourage crystallisation.
  • To avoid stirring caramel. Instead try simply swirling the pan in mini circles instead of stirring it. This will deal with both issues as the hot sugar will melt the crystals on the edge of the pan as well.
  • As the liquid evaporates you might see crystallisation happening on the sides of the pan. Using a wet pastry brush to moisten the inner edge of the pan can prevent sugar crystals forming.
  • Caramel gets very hot. Once it reaches the correct stage it needs to be cooled down immediately or it will get burnt.
  • There are a few different ways to do this depending on what kind of caramel you are making. If you are making a runny sauce then adding cream or butter, or even water will stop the heat rising. Chefs often fill a sink with cold icy water and dip the base of the saucepan into this to stop the cooking.
  • For the same reason, make sure all your ingredients are ready prepared to use before you start, so you can pour in the cream when needed without fumbling to find it in the fridge! When caramel turns a deep golden, it takes only seconds longer to become burnt!

How do I know when the caramel is ready to remove off the heat?

Look for visual signs - the mixture should be a dark golden colour and give off a nutty toasted aroma. If you have a sugar thermometer, it should have reached around 170C.

How to store caramel

After the caramel cools down, pour it into a lidded glass jar or heat proof container. If storing in the fridge, it may solidify as it cools, but you can heat it in the microwave or on the hob to loosen it again. Any stubborn sticky caramel left on the pan or a spoon can be boiled off by adding water and heating to dissolve it.

How long does homemade caramel last?

Caramel made with cream can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to 1 week. You can freeze it once cooled in a Tupperware container or freezer bag and it will last for 3 months.

Other ways to make caramel

There are other ways to make caramel. Some don’t use butter or cream and just use sugar such as the one in this traditional French floating islands with caramel sauce. A caramel sauce can also be made out of muscovado sugar and golden syrup which replicate the flavour of caramel which becomes even sweeter with the addition of a contrasting touch of sea salt. Try these waffles with banana and salted caramel sauce.

Uses for caramel

Looking for ideas on how to eat your caramel now you have mastered the technique? This easy caramel cake is a great showstopper.

Goes well with


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