I am a complete and utter devotee to the deliciousness that is salted caramel. Actually to be fair I don’t think I can honestly say I know anyone that isn’t a fan, especially when you make perfect salted caramel.
It is a godly creation of absolute good that can turn even the most stubborn frown upside down.
The problem is of course how many times you end up going back to lick the spoon – again, and again, and again!
So in this loving tribute, I give you everything you could possibly need to know about creating this holy offspring of sugar, butter and cream.
What Is Salted Caramel?
In case you haven’t already worked it out, I am a huge fan of salted caramel. I mean I literally could add it to ANYTHING!
To keep things simple, I’ll explain that salted caramel is basically a special mixture of sugar, butter, usually cream, and salt – usually sea salt!
While salted caramel sauce is quite popular these days, from what I gather, the origin story of how it came to be so popular goes back to the 1990s when American chefs started to experiment with mixing salty with sweet.
When they added salt to chewy caramel candies, salted caramel was born.
Bear in mind, a lot of popular dishes don’t have a set origin story and this is what just one website said so I have no way of validating whether or not it is true.
Anyway, over time it went from being a gourmet, rare ingredient to gradually becoming more and more mainstream and can be found in most shops and supermarkets as a sauce, and is a popular flavour for ice creams, sweets, cupcakes, cakes, macarons, cookies and more.
How To Make Perfect Salted Caramel
Basic salted caramel is actually not too tricky to put together and comes from a very simple list of ingredients, so why it can still be so expensive in some shops remains a bit of a mystery.
I’m going to cover two recipes – one will be an easy salted caramel recipe, the other a slightly more deluxe one.
Easy Salted Caramel Recipe
This recipe only takes about 10 minutes plus cooling time and has a nice short list of ingredients.
- 200g caster sugar
- 100g salted butter, softened
- 120ml double cream
- About 1/2 to 1 tsp sea salt
- Heat your water and caster sugar in a thick/heavy bottomed saucepan on a medium heat
- Eventually the sugar will start to soften and then melt into a sticky brown liquid. Continue stirring. If you don’t stir, the sugar will start to burn a bit. If this does happen, it doesn’t matter too much – some people prefer the flavour of salted caramel slightly burnt anyway!
- Add in the butter and continue stirring (be careful because it will splatter) until the butter is fully melted and combined with the sugar
- Gradually drizzle in your double cream, and again, continue to stir.
- Bring the mixture to the boil, and allow it to boil for 1 minute.
- Remove from the heat, allow to cool and stir in your sea salt.
That is basically it. The longest single step is the waiting for the sugar to melt in the saucepan, but the whole process is very easy!
Nigella’s Salted Caramel Recipe – Sort Of
I think it is a bit sacrilegious to take the recipe of a vastly more experienced chef and baker, adapt it and then proclaim it as better – but that is exactly what I am doing.
Nigella Lawson’s salted caramel recipe is the first one I ever made and to this day it is still the best recipe out there as far as I’m concerned, but I made one tiny tweak which in my own humble opinion made it a bit better.
For “my” version of Nigella’s Salted Caramel you’ll need:
- 75g best-quality unsalted butter
- 50g soft light brown sugar
- 50g caster sugar
- 50g golden syrup
- 125ml double cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or powder (this is the bit I added in myself – sorry!)
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel or other sea salt
- Melt together your butter, brown sugar, caster sugar, golden syrup and vanilla in a saucepan, swirling it occasionally.
- When it is fully melted and combined, drizzle in your cream and sea salt and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Cook for another minute or so and then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
A Couple Of Important Notes
With both of these recipes, if you want a thinner caramel sauce, add a bit more cream and bear in mind that it will thicken when it cools.
Also make sure you adapt the salt to your own taste.
And finally, according to Nigella, salted butter is often lower quality as the salt is added to hide rancidity.
I haven’t personally had any issues swapping between salted and unsalted but it is something to bear in mind.
Other Salted Caramel Variations
The great thing about caramel is that various keen foodies, and kitchen adventurers have tried to adapt the recipe and there are plenty of different variations of salted caramel for you to try now.
Salted Caramel Without Cream
Hang on a minute! Before you go any further, don’t go thinking that this is suddenly a healthy version of salted caramel – there is still no shortage of butter and sugar to attack your waistline.
But whereas you might usually have butter and sugar lying around the house, not everyone has a ready supply of cream in their fridge so this is for if you want to make some when you don’t have cream to hand!
You’ll need (based off our easy caramel recipe above):
- 200g caster sugar
- 100g softened butter
- 200ml whole milk
- 1/2 to 1 tsp sea salt
To make your caramel sauce without cream:
- Melt your butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat
- When it becomes an amber brown liquid, add in your milk and bring to the boil.
- Simmer for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly but stirring continuously so that the mixture doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Your caramel sauce will be a little bit thinner without cream, which is why I recommend simmering it for a bit longer to help cook it down a bit and thicken it.
Salted Caramel With Condensed Milk
This is a shockingly easy version – it takes much longer but it is basically one ingredient, which is one can of condensed milk!
All you do is fill a saucepan with water, bring it to the boil, place an unopened can of condensed milk in the water (it should be fully covered by the water) then cover and simmer for 3 hours.
Turn the can over every 20-30 minutes to stop it scorching and top up the water as needed.
After 3 hours, remove from the water, let cool and you’re good to go.
Of course this takes much longer than making it with sugar, butter and cream, and it doesn’t have the same rich, deep flavour of making it from scratch, but you can put it on one ring on your stove and let it simmer away.
Plus it saves you messing around with weighing ingredients, getting proportions right, and dealing with molten sugar.
Salted Caramel Without Butter
This is one version I have not yet tried – without butter. Personally I find it hard to imagine it tasting anywhere nearly as good, but apparently successful recipes for salted caramel without butter do exist.
The best one I could find also has the benefit of no cream either – so it is lower in fat, but it is higher in sugar.
- 200g caster sugar
- 300ml whole milk
- 1/2 to 1 tsp sea salt
To make salted caramel with no butter:
- Heat the milk in the microwave. It should be hot, but not boiling.
- Spread your caster sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a thick bottomed saucepan and place on medium heat. It should start to melt within 12 to 15 minutes but keep a close eye on it from 10 minutes onwards.
- Once the sugar has started to melt, use a heat proof spatula to move the sugar around so that any unmelted parts reach the bottom of the saucepan so they can also melt.
- As soon as the sugar has fully melted, remove it from the heat and stir in half of your warm milk. It will start to bubble. Stir quickly and once the bubbling has stopped, stir in the remaining milk.
- Because of the temperature difference, some of the melted sugar my clump and solidify. If it does, return it to the heat and continue stirring to soften the sugar again.
- If you want your caramel to be thicker, continue to cook and stir on low heat for 10-15 minutes.
- Once done, remove from the heat and place in a heat proof container and chill in the fridge before stirring in the sea salt.
Sugar Free Salted Caramel
I didn’t think it was possible for a recipe that relies on sugar as such a key component to be made without sugar, but it actually is! And the results are pretty impressive.
If you are on a low carb diet or ketogenic diet or even just watching your sugar intake, this could be a great alternative for you.
For sugar free low carb salted caramel you need:
- 120g unsalted butter
- 125ml double cream
- 10-15g xylitol or erythritol (xylitol is sweeter but erythritol has virtually no calories)
- 1/2 to 1 tsp sea salt
The method for this one is slightly different as neither xylitol or erythritol melt quite so easily:
- Melt your butter in a saucepan over medium heat and let it start to turn brown.
- Add in your double cream and stir to combine and then lower the heat and simmer for a minute or so.
- Add in your sweetener, and stir to help dissolve it.
- Remove from the heat and stir in your sea salt.
- This one will thicken a lot more when it cools so it is best used fresh, but if you want to store some, then just remember you may need to heat it a bit before using it in future.
Raw Vegan Salted Caramel
As butter and sugar are dairy, they don’t feature at all on a vegan diet. And with a huge proportion of vegans also being health conscious, refined sugar is usually off the menu as well.
But some absolute geniuses have come up with a brilliant way of making caramel with dates! So it has all natural ingredients, no refined sugar and is dairy free!
You do need a high speed blender to get the dates all blended into a smooth texture, but this recipe can be made in seconds and stored for ages!
For raw vegan salted caramel:
- 6 medjool dates, pitted
- 100ml to 150ml water (the more water you use, the thinner the caramel)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp vanilla powder or vanilla bean paste
To make raw vegan salted caramel:
- (Optional) Soak your dates overnight in your water
- Add your dates, water, vanilla and sea salt to a high speed blender and blend into a smooth sauce.
- That is literally all there is to it!
If you need a high speed blender – which is extremely handy to have for general health and nutrition and not just for salted caramel, here are my recommended ones:
If Your Caramel Doesn’t Turn Out Right…
I think we have given you enough easy and more complicated options for making caramel sauce that at least one of them should turn out right.
However if the worst should happen, fear not. Good quality salted caramel is really not that hard to find, if you have to resort to buying it.
Uses For Salted Caramel
So up to now I have covered off all the ways I can think of to make salted caramel. And they are all delicious – all the ones that I have tried anyway.
So now let’s get on to how to use this incredible divine golden creation in your own kitchen!
Caramel Sauce For Ice Cream
If you’re using your salted caramel as an ice cream topping, you want something that is quite thin and runny so that it drizzles perfectly.
If you are using the standard sugar – butter – cream recipe, I would personally remove the mixture from the heat before adding the cream and then stirring in the cream.
This will stop the sugar from fully caramelising and will leave you with a thinner mixture, which is perfect for drizzling with.
Caramel Sauce For Coffee
I am not personally one for having either sugar, butter or cream added to my coffee (In fact personally I have my coffee strong, unsweetened and black).
To be fair I am not sure there are many people who would go for butter in their coffee – although that is also a growing trend.
So how do you make caramel sauce for coffee with the caramel flavour but without the butter or the cream?
It is pretty easy.
You take 1 part caster sugar to 1 part boiling water. Melt the sugar in a saucepan as you would normally, add in the boiling water, keep stirring until fully blended and cook for another 30 seconds or so to thicken it into a syrup.
Then remove from the heat and allow to cool. It should give you a sticky syrup.
Salted Caramel Filling
Salted caramel filling is good for putting in the centre of cupcakes, macarons or stuffing in the middle of cookies.
The trick is to get a caramel that is runny enough to actually work with but also thick enough to hold it’s shape.
And for that it does depend entirely on what you’re using it for.
- If you want to use it as a salted caramel filling for cupcakes, I would recommend making quite a thick caramel (in other words cook it for a bit longer) but using it while it is still warm so that it is easy to pipe into the centre of your cupcakes. When it cools it will then thicken up enough that it won’t drip everywhere when someone takes a bite.
- As a macaron filling, let it cool and get quite thick.
- If you want to make caramel stuffed cookies (and the recipe for this is below!), I would recommend getting your mixture as stiff as possible (make caramel candies if you need to), freezing your caramel in individual portions and then when they are hard, wrapping your cookie dough around them!
- If you are using it as a cake covering in a layer cake or something to that effect, you’ll be fine with “ordinary” (for lack of a better word!) caramel that is thick enough to not drip everywhere but thin enough that it actually still acts as a sauce!
Salted Caramel Dip
To be honest, making salted caramel dip is really no different to making ordinary salted caramel sauce and the same method applies.
All you need to do is adjust the thickness based on what you are using it for.
I have seen some ideas that have made me drool using it as an add-on to chocolate fountains, just for dipping fruit, for dipping chocolate, pretzels and I have also seen salted caramel fondue.
To be honest, if your caramel tastes good, go with whatever you want!
How To Make A Thick Caramel Sauce
I think I have covered this one off enough times already but just to be absolutely clear, a thick caramel will come from one of two things:
- Using less milk or cream when cooking
- Cooking for longer
How To Make Perfect Salted Caramel Recipes
I think that is enough theorising and conjecture about salted caramel. Let’s actually start using it.
I have rounded up the absolute best salted caramel recipes I could find and bundled them into one giant section of this already massive post!
How To Make Perfect Salted Caramel Chips
Ok so admittedly I don’t have any specific recipe for caramel chips (or caramel “bits”) to hand. But if you want to replace your chocolate chips with caramel, this is a pretty good one to go with.
All you need to do is get yourself some natural cocoa butter, melt it down, stir in your caramel and allow it to set. Once it’s set, chop it up and you’ve got perfectly usable caramel chips.
Bear in mind that the sugar content will be lower and the dairy content higher in these than they would be in normal chocolate chips, so will probably melt a bit more easily.
Just something to bear in mind for if you do want to swap them in for chocolate chips.
Also if you’re planning on using a salted version, I would just sprinkle the salt over your finished bake at the end rather than stirring it into the bake as the flavour may get lost otherwise.
Salted Caramel Cookies
These melt-in-your mouth sugar cookies with salted caramel are absolutely stunning!
Salted Caramel Chocolates
I am a little bit speechless with this salted caramel chocolate cup recipe. It is so easy to make – and yes, a few shortcuts and store bought ingredients are involved, but it is worth it!
Salted Caramel Cake
This is one of those cases where no words are needed and the picture says it all. This is quite possibly one of the most decadent desserts I have ever seen in the history of forever!
Salted Caramel No Bake Cheesecake
The addition of pretzels and popcorn give this creamy dessert an extra crunch and a bit more of a salty kick.
Salted Caramel Cake Pops
If you can make salted caramel cake, you can make salted caramel cake pops!
Salted Caramel Cupcakes
Delicious moist vanilla cupcakes, topped with caramel, some Swiss meringue buttercream and then even more caramel!
Caramel Filled Cupcakes
Yeah so I may need to lie down after seeing these ones. I love the idea of caramel filling in cupcakes but I think I could well end up eating those whole in one big mouthful so I wouldn’t even enjoy the filling properly!
Caramel Filled Brownies
If you just heard a loud thud, that was me fainting. Enjoy…
Even More Recipes
We are constantly finding and adding new recipes on our Pinterest page, including this board which you will find below…
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