Soft Homemade Caramels – easy-to-make, smooth, buttery soft homemade caramels. A delicious treat everyone will love this Christmas!
I’ve looked for several years to find the best all-purpose caramel recipe. This homemade caramel recipe is the real deal, tried and true. After trying many caramel recipes, this recipe is by far the easiest most delicious caramel for eating plain, dipping in chocolate, using for homemade caramel apples or even making a caramel sauce for ice cream and more. It’s simple with only 4 ingredients (plus vanilla 😉 ) and the directions are straightforward. Follow my tips and tricks and you’ll have a batch of soft homemade caramels before you know it!
If you like this recipe, you may also like:
- Gourmet Caramel Apples
- No-Bake Snickers Cheesecake Bars
- Mini Chocolate Brownie Cups
- Dulce De Leche French Toast Bake
What’s the trick to perfectly smooth homemade caramels?
To make a perfectly smooth caramel, make sure all sugar crystals are dissolved. Here are a few tips you can use to help avoid crystallization:
- Don’t scrape the side of the pot during cooking. Refrain from scraping the sides of the pot with your spoon. scrape the sides of the pot, undissolved sugar crystals may stick to the sides and cause a reaction (sugar to crystallize) after you pour the caramel into the pan to cool.
- Wash down the side of the pot with water and a basting brush. As the mixture boils some sugar crystals my spatter up onto the side of the pot. Washing down the sides helps those crystals fall back into the pot to be melted. I wash down the sides multiple times throughout the process. I also wash down the top of the wooden spoon I use.
- Don’t scrape the pot after you pour out the caramel. Once the caramel is done you will pour it into a greased pan of your choice. Make sure not to scrape the sides of the pan when you pour the hot mixture out. If you are adamant about getting every last drop of that sticky sweet liquid gold, pour the mixture into the pan without scraping the pot, then scrape the remainder into a jar or other container/pan. Don’t mix them. It’s much more likely for the caramel you scrape out of the pan to crystalize. It only takes a single crystal to trigger a chain reaction and make your smooth caramel goodness go “grainy.”
What should I do if my homemade caramels crystalize, goes “grainy” or “sugary?”
Don’t fear, it can still be saved! This can happen to the best of us especially if you skip some of the tips listed above (scrape the side of the pan, don’t wash down the sides, scrape the pot when you pour the caramel). If your caramel crystalizes you can reheat the mixture which will remelt the sugar crystals. To do this, place the caramel in a clean pot (the one you made the caramel in would do just fine… just make sure it’s clean). Add 1/4 cup of water to the pot. Stir frequently and follow the tips above. Cook until the mixture reaches the desired temperature (typically around soft ball stage 235 degrees F.) The sugar crystals will melt during the cooking process. Your caramel may take on a darker amber color. This is normal.
What do I use to wrap my homemade caramels?
If you plan to share this caramel as a gift or on a treat platter, wrap individual pieces of caramel using waxed paper. For a small (0.5 x 0.5 x 1 inch) rectangle piece of caramel, I use a piece of waxed paper that’s about 3 inches by 4 inches. This gives me enough on each side to twist and seal the caramel inside to keep its freshness. You can also use parchment paper but it’s thicker quality makes it harder to twist the ends to seal. Place pieces in an airtight container to preserve freshness and keep the caramel soft.
How do you like to enjoy your caramel?
My favorite is plain Jane (unwrap and eat) or dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with salt. I’d love to hear about your favorite way to use or enjoy caramel. Leave me a comment.
Here’s the full printable recipe:
Soft Homemade Caramels
Easy-to-make, smooth, buttery soft homemade caramels. A delicious treat everyone will love!
- 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 lb dark brown sugar about 2 1/4 cups packed
- 1 cup salted butter
- 1 cup corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large pot add sweetened condensed milk, dark brown sugar, salted butter, and corn syrup. Cook over medium to medium-high heat. Stir constantly to avoid bottom from burning.
Mixture will begin to bubble and increase in volume. Avoid scraping sides of pan as this can make the caramel crystallize during the cooling phase (and go "grainy" or "sugary.") Using a calibrated candy thermometer, cook mixture to 234-238 degrees F or soft ball stage (depending on how soft you want your caramels to be).
You can test how soft or firm it is by dipping a spoonful into a cup of ice water to cool quickly.
Remove from heat and add vanilla.
Pour into a butter greased 9x13 inch pan. Pour quickly and DO NOT scrape sides of pan (this can cause the caramel to crystallize and go grainy also.
Once cooled, wrap individual pieces in waxed paper and store in an airtight container or bag. Will keep for several weeks if kept cool.
- You can wash sides of pan using a basting brush and water to help remove any sugar crystals that may have splashed onto the side of the pot. The water helps push sugar crystals back into the pot to minimize the possibility of crystallization (caramels going grainy).
- If you want to save ALL the caramel including what is left in the pan after pouring the majority into the 9x13 inch pan, scrape the remaining caramel into a separate pan or jar. The portion that was scraped is more likely to go grainy do to sugar crystals on the side of the pot.