Homemade Caramel Sauce

This post may contain affiliate sales links. Please read my disclosure policy.

This easy homemade caramel sauce only requires 3 simple ingredients and 10 minutes of your time. Its irresistible flavor and nutty aroma will make you want to put it on everything from cheesecake, cake and cupcakes, to ice cream and cookies. Skip the store-bought stuff. This is so much better.

The Best Homemade Caramel Sauce Recipe

Caramel sauce is one of those things that can seem a little intimidating – until you actually try it for the first time. And then as you make it more, you realize it’s actually super easy and quick to make. There are just a few things to keep in mind so that you are successful.

This recipe has been on my site forever and is easily one of the most used and loved recipes. Now, you’ll find step-by-step images that walk you through the process, as well as a video where I walk you through the whole process! What has always been easy is now even easier with all my guidance. And trust me, you want this recipe. It’s always a hit!

And in the interest of serving everyone and having options, I also have my Salted Caramel Sauce and Brown Sugar Caramel Sauce, which are both fabulous and 100% deserve your attention.

A jar of caramel sauce with a spoon on it.

Why Make Caramel Sauce From Scratch?

From scratch is almost always better in my opinion. Caramel sauce is no exception. Here’s why.

  • Better flavor. Homemade caramel sauce has incomparably better flavor than store-bought renditions that are often sickly sweet and lack flavor.
  • Consistency. Making caramel sauce from scratch means you have control. Store-bought sauces are often very thin and don’t work well for all uses. They are typically in the section with ice cream toppings, because they work well for that, but not as well for other things. This homemade caramel sauce is perfect for all kinds of desserts.
  • It’s quicker and surprisingly easy. Sure you could run grab a jar of caramel sauce from the store, but that would take you at least 20 minutes. This homemade version only takes 10 minutes of active time (plus some for cooling) and the instructions are super easy to follow.

What You’ll Need

You’ll only need 3 ingredients to make this super simple, quick, and easy homemade caramel sauce. Here they are. Be sure to scroll to the recipe card below for precise measurements.

  • Sugar – Just regular granulated sugar here.
  • Butter – Unsalted butter at room temperature is best (you can add your own salt later, if you like). You want to be sure that the butter is at room temperature or even a bit warmer. You could even melt it! The big thing here is that the melted sugar is SUPER sensitive to temperature changes. If you add butter that is too cold, the caramel will seize up into a hard rock.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream – Make sure it’s at room temperature. Again, the caramel sauce is sensitive to dramatic temperature changes. This should be at least room temperature. You could even warm it up a touch. I often do that, just to be same. Especially in the winter when my home is cooler. Don’t replace this with milk or half and half, you need the extra fat content to get a creamy texture. Other milks will thin it out too much.

How to Make Homemade Caramel Sauce

Caramel sauce really is simple to make. The first step is to melt the granulated sugar. It’s a somewhat slow process, but easy. Allow it to caramelize, then stir in the butter and incorporate it (it may take a minute). Finally, add the heavy cream. That’s it! You’re done. But as simple as it is, it can be tricky. Here’s the step-by-step process to help ensure your success.

  • Melt the sugar. Pour the sugar into a pot (I recommend a light colored pan, so you can see the color of the caramel sauce) and heat over medium heat. Stir the sugar until it has melted completely and has turned a deep, amber color. You’ll notice the sugar really clump up at first, then slowly begin to melt. Keep stirring as it melts, so that no part of it burns while the rest is still melting.
Side-by-side images of sugar in a pot going from clumpy to almost melted.
Side-by-side images of sugar going from almost fully melted to nice and brown.
  • Remove from heat. Once melted and the right color, stop stirring and remove the caramel from the heat.
  • Add butter. Add the butter (be sure it’s room temperature or warmer) to the sugar and whisk until smooth. It may take a minute to fully incorporate and can look a little stringy. It will bubble up a lot, so be careful.
  • Add the cream. Slowly pour the heavy cream (be sure it’s room temperature or warmer) into the caramel and whisk until smooth. Again, it’ll bubble up a lot, so be careful.
Whisking heavy cream into hot melted sugar and butter to make caramel sauce.
  • Cool. Pour the caramel into a jar (ideally the one you plan to store it in) and allow it to cool for about 10-15 minutes before using.

Do I Need a Candy Thermometer?

One of the great things about this caramel sauce is that you do not need a candy thermometer. Once your sugar is melted and turned a lovely amber color, it’s ready to go. You will also notice a lovely, nutty aroma. The longer you cook it, the deeper the color and the caramel flavor. Just use your eyes and best judgement and you’ll be set.

How Do You Know When Caramel is Ready?

You will know your caramel sauce is ready when the sugar has fully melted and reaches a deep amber color. Once it gets there, remove it from the heat immediately. If you want a slightly richer caramel, you can allow it to cook for a bit longer, but keep a very close watch as caramel can go from beautiful golden brown to burnt very quickly.

Why is my Caramel Sauce Thin?

This caramel sauce is quite thin when it first comes off the stove and is very hot. The warmer is it, the thinner it is. The cooler it is, the thicker. And then when it’s cold, it’s quite firm and hard. You can use it at different consistencies depending on what you’re using it for. I often let it cool completely in the fridge, then warm it up in the microwave in 10-15 second increments, stirring between each, to get it to the consistency I want.

Overhead image of caramel sauce being drizzled into a jar.

Tips for Success

Caramel can be a little tricky but don’t be intimidated. You can 100% do it and do it well. Just keep these simple tips in mind and you’ll be on your way.

  • Room temperature ingredients. This one is the most important. It is extremely important not to add cold butter or cream to your melted sugar unless you want rock-hard caramel sauce. Be sure they are at room temperature (or warmer!). You can even melt the butter a bit and warm up the cream. I often do that in the winter, when my home is a little cooler.
  • Don’t use too much heat. You don’t want parts of the melted sugar to cook too quickly while other parts are still melted. Aim for medium heat and err on the side of caution. If it seems like the sauce is cooking too quickly and not everything is melted, turn the heat down a bit.
  • Keep it moving. In order to prevent the sugar from burning, keep the caramel sauce moving as it cooks. I like to use a silicon spatula or a wooden spoon.
  • Keep an eye on the sugar. This recipe melts the sugar using the “dry method” (just sugar, nothing else). This means that the sugar is very susceptible to burning. So keep an eye on it and don’t walk away from the stove. No potty breaks allowed in this process!
  • Slow and steady. When adding the cream, I find it helpful to add just a bit at a time until the caramel starts to thin out. Then you can add the rest.

Ways to Use This Easy Caramel Sauce

Honestly, you can use caramel sauce on just about any sweet thing (and even some savory). Here are a few of my favorite ways to use it, though. What are yours?

  • As a dip. Warm this sweet sauce up and serve it with apple slices or other fruit, graham crackers, homemade chocolate chip cookies, or churros. You could even dip savory treats. Pretzels or potato chips would be tasty.
  • Over dessert. Whether it’s a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a slice of apple pie, cake, or even cheesecake (check out my library of delicious cheesecake recipes for inspiration), this caramel sauce is the perfect way to top off your favorite dessert.
  • Popcorn. Drizzle some caramel sauce over popcorn for a salty-sweet treat.
  • With breakfast. Caramel sauce is the perfect way to sweeten up breakfast. Use it in lieu of (or in addition to) maple syrup over your favorite pancakes, waffles, or French toast. Try my Overnight Cinnamon Apple Baked French Toast Casserole or these Thick and Fluffy Banana Pancakes.
  • In another recipe. I use this caramel sauce all the time in other recipes. Want to try some for yourself? Check out the section below titled “More Recipes With Caramel To Try” to get started.

Can I Use This For Caramel Apples?

Unfortunately, this particular caramel sauce is a bit too thin to work for caramel apples. It won’t cling to the fruit properly. You could try reducing the amount of heavy cream in the recipe to make it thicker. Just because this recipe won’t work for classic caramel apples, that doesn’t mean you can’t dip slices of apple into the caramel for a similar effect.

Drizzling caramel sauce into a jar.

How to Store Caramel sauce

  • Refrigerator. Once the sauce has cooled to room temperature, seal it in an airtight container (I like to use a glass mason jar) and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
  • Freezer. Allow the sauce to cool completely before sealing it in a freezer-safe airtight container. You can store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge before using.
  • To reheat. The sauce will be quite stiff when you remove it from the fridge. I suggest heating it in the microwave in 10-15 second increments, stirring between each, until it reaches the consistency you want it at. It will get thinner as it gets warmer.

More Recipes With Caramel To Try

It’s fall and, to me, that means caramel season. Once you get this caramel sauce down, you’ll be dying to use it in all sorts of recipes. In that spirit, here are some of my favorite caramel-inclusive sweet treats.

Watch How to Make Caramel Sauce

Read Transcript

clock clock icon cutlery cutlery icon flag flag icon folder folder icon instagram instagram icon pinterest pinterest icon facebook facebook icon print print icon squares squares icon
Drizzling caramel sauce into a jar full of it.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

  • Author: Lindsay Conchar
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: About 1 1/2 Cups
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: American


This easy homemade caramel sauce only requires 3 simple ingredients and 10 minutes of your time. Its irresistible flavor and nutty aroma will make you want to put it on everything from cheesecake, cake and cupcakes, to ice cream and cookies. Skip the store-bought stuff. This is so much better.


  • 1 cup (207) granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp (84g) unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy whipping cream, room temperature


  1. Pour sugar into an even layer in a large pot. I recommend a light colored pan or pot so that you can see the color of the caramel sauce while it cooks.
  2. Heat the sugar over medium heat, stirring with a heat-proof silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until melted. The sugar will clump up first, but will eventually completely melt. This should take about 10 minutes. Be sure not to turn up the heat to help it melt faster. Slow, even heating helps everything melt fully without some parts burning before others have fully melted.
  3. Once the sugar has melted, stop stirring. You can allow to cook until the sugar has turned to a little darker amber color to get a deeper caramel flavor, if you like. You should notice a nutty aroma. The change in color will happen quickly, so don’t let it go too long or get too dark or it’ll burn. Remove caramel from the heat.
  4. Add the butter (it should be at room temperature or warmer) and whisk until combined. The mixture will bubble up, but keep whisking until all the butter has melted and combined. It may look a little stringy at first, but it will come together.
  5. Slowly pour the heavy cream (it should be at room temperature or warmer) into the caramel, whisking constantly, and stir until well incorporated. It will bubble up again, so be careful. I find it can help to add just a bit at a time until the caramel starts to thin out, then you can add the rest.
  6. Cool for about 10-15 minutes before using. Store leftovers in a jar with a lid. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.


If you’d like to add salt for a salted caramel sauce, you can add up to 1 teaspoon of salt.

Be sure the butter and heavy cream are at room temperature or warmer or your caramel sauce will seize. 


  • Serving Size: 1/4 cup
  • Calories: 298
  • Sugar: 33.9 g
  • Sodium: 97 mg
  • Fat: 18.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 33.9 g
  • Protein: 0.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 52.9 mg



About Lindsay

I'm a wife and a mom to twin boys and a baby girl! And I've got a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the treats!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29