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Salted Caramel Sauce

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Make sweet salted caramel sauce at home! With only 5 ingredients, this easy caramel sauce recipe is the perfect topping for pretty much any dessert. Use it on cakes, cookies, brownies, ice cream, and more!

Easy Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

Salty, sweet, and buttery salted caramel brings the most irresistible flavor to every dessert it touches. From butterscotch cake to caramel pecan cheesecake done up with salted caramel, the thought makes my mouth water.

With endless ways to use it, this versatile, pourable homemade caramel sauce is the perfect sauce to keep on hand for all of your dessert needs. It’s a simple, quick caramel sauce made with only 5 ingredients and without a candy thermometer. Ready for drizzling in under 20 minutes!

Why You’ll Love This Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe

  • Super simple. Making caramel sauce from scratch might sound like you’re reaching for Willy Wonka’s job, but it’s surprisingly easy! All it takes is 5 ingredients and a handful of simple steps to make salted caramel from scratch. 
  • No fancy kitchen equipment. Many salted caramel recipes require a candy thermometer, but not this one. This no candy thermometer salted caramel only needs your eyes, and nothing else! It thickens as it cools to create a rich, silky, pourable consistency.
  • Customizable. The best part about making your own caramel sauce is that you can adapt this recipe to be as salted or unsalted as you’d like. 
  • Versatile. Put this salted caramel sauce on everything! Use your homemade caramel as a topping for just about any dessert. I include some easy serving suggestions in the section later on.
Overhead view of a spoonful of salted caramel held over a jar.

Ingredient Notes

These are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe, along with some notes. Scroll down to the recipe card for a printable ingredients list with detailed amounts.

  • Sugar – Granulated sugar forms the base of the caramel sauce. As the sugar cooks it caramelizes, creating the flavor for the sauce.
  • Heavy Cream – Adding room temperature heavy whipping cream creates a pourable consistency. I recommend sticking with full-fat whipping cream, light whipping cream, or double cream. Don’t use milk, which will thin out the sauce.
  • Vanilla – To enhance the flavor. For best results, use real vanilla extract rather than imitation vanilla.
  • Butter – I use salted butter to amp up the sweet-salty contrast. If you’d prefer a less salty caramel sauce, feel free to use unsalted butter instead.
  • Salt – Flaked sea salt, like Maldon salt, is my favorite for flavoring homemade salted caramel. You can also use kosher salt or table salt. Use as little or as much as you’d like to adapt the saltiness to taste.

How to Make Salted Caramel (No Candy Thermometer!)

To make your very own salted caramel sauce, you need a medium-sized saucepan, a wooden spoon, and the simple 3-step process below. Find the printable instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

  • Melt the sugar. The first step is to caramelize the sugar. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, dissolve sugar in warm water. Bring the pot to a boil, swirling gently every few minutes (do not stir!). Keep boiling until the mixture darkens in color.
  • Add heavy cream. Next, take the pot off the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Return the sauce to the stove and boil for about 1 minute.
  • Finish and cool. Finally, take the sauce off the heat and stir in the vanilla, butter, and salt. Once everything is smooth and combined, transfer the sauce to a heat-proof bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until cool. You’re ready to get pouring!

Remember to be careful when cooking on the stove. The hot caramel may splatter. If you have a pair of kitchen gloves, go ahead and use ’em. See the next section for more helpful recipe tips.

Tips for Success

You’ll find that making homemade caramel sauce isn’t complicated, but it does take a bit of attention to detail to get right. Here are my final tips to ensure your salted caramel sauce turns out successfully:

  • Do NOT stir. Stop stirring as the caramel sauce comes to a boil. Stirring risks the sugar recrystallizing. If this happens, you’ll need to start over with fresh ingredients (not ideal!). Instead, gently tip the pan from side to side as needed, and use a pastry brush dipped in water to wet down the sides of the pan if you see any sugar crystals start to form.
  • Watch the sugar closely as it boils. While you shouldn’t stir your sugar syrup, don’t leave it unattended. There is a fine line between deep caramel flavor and burnt sugar. Take the mixture off the heat when the color hits a deep golden/copper brown and the mixture becomes fragrant. Caramel burns easily, and if it gets too dark, it’ll taste bitter.
  • Mind the bubbles. Don’t be surprised when the mixture bubbles up quite a bit after you add the heavy cream. Make sure that the saucepan you use is large enough, and stand back in case of splatters.
  • My caramel separated, what did I do wrong? If your caramel sauce separates or seizes up right after adding the heavy cream, it’s likely the cream was too cold. If this happens, just proceed with the recipe, whisking vigorously. The heat should bring it back together. 
  • To cool the caramel faster, pour it into the bottom of a shallow baking dish instead of a bowl (a 9×13-inch baking dish works perfectly). In a shallow pan, the sauce usually cools within an hour in the fridge.

What Is the Texture Like? 

As it comes off the heat, your caramel sauce will look liquid, and it’ll set up as it cools in the fridge. This caramel sauce is on the thinner side so that it’s pourable. To make the consistency thicker, reduce the amount of heavy cream by ¼ to ⅓ cup. 

Note that this recipe does not translate to homemade caramel candies. These require different ratios of ingredients.

A spoon drizzling salted caramel sauce into a jar.

Easy Variations

Once you’ve mastered the art of making salted caramel, try these easy variation ideas:

  • Make regular caramel sauce. Reduce the amount of salt to ½ teaspoon, enough to enhance the flavor. I don’t recommend leaving it out altogether.
  • Bourbon caramel sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of bourbon to the sauce at the same time that you add the butter, salt, and vanilla.
  • Cinnamon. Try adding ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon or to taste.
  • Vanilla. Use real vanilla beans and scrape the seeds into the heavy cream. Let the cream steep a little and then add it to the sugar syrup as directed.

Ways to Use Salted Caramel Sauce

If you’re wondering what to eat with salted caramel, the possibilities are endless. Maybe you can’t add it to everything, but it’s close enough. And it’s always delicious by the spoonful, too!

You’ll love using caramel sauce in desserts like apple crisp, as a topping for waffles, pancakes, and cinnamon rolls, or as a caramel dip for apple slices. I’ll get you started with some easy recipes that you can try, but feel free to browse the blog for more dessert inspiration.

A spoon drizzling salted caramel sauce over a bowl of ice cream.

How to Store

  • Refrigerate. Wait until your caramel sauce is cooled before pouring it into a glass jar or airtight container for storage. Properly stored, this salted caramel sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 
  • Reheat. To reheat this caramel sauce, warm it in the microwave or on the stove before using.
  • Freeze. Yes, you can freeze salted caramel! Store the cooled caramel in an airtight container and freeze it for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge or at room temperature before reheating and/or serving.

More Sweet Sauces and Toppings

A jar of salted caramel sauce with sauce dripping down the side, next to a spoon.

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: about 1¼ cups


Make versatile, pourable salted caramel sauce with only 5 ingredients! This easy homemade caramel sauce is the perfect topping for all of your favorite desserts.


  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt


  1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan whisk together the sugar and water. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking until the sugar is fully dissolved into the water, do not allow it to boil until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Once dissolved, increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Do not stir, but simply give the pan a light swirl every few minutes. Use a wet pastry brush to wet down the sides of the pan if you start to see any crystals form on the side of the pan. Boil until the color turns to a medium dark amber color, and watch closely as the caramel can burn quickly.
  3. Once the desired color is reached, remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the heavy cream, whisking continuously until combined. Return the sauce to the stove, cooking over medium-high heat, and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly until smooth. Boil caramel mixture for 1-2 minutes, reducing heat if it starts to bubble up high.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, butter, and salt until fully combined. Pour mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until cool, about 2-3 hours. It will thicken as it cools.



  • Store leftover caramel sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  • This is a thinner, pourable caramel sauce. To make it thicker, reduce the amount of heavy cream by ¼ to ⅓ cup.
  • Flavor add-ins: 1 tablespoon of good bourbon can be whisked in with the butter, salt, and vanilla at the end. Another fun addition to try is a bit of cinnamon, start with ¼ teaspoon and adjust to taste. You can use vanilla beans to flavor your caramel sauce. Just scrape the inside seeds from a split bean and whisk them into the heavy cream before adding it to the sugar mixture.
  • Use caramel sauce on desserts, with apple slices, or on waffles and pancakes. 
Nutrition Information:
2 tablespoons
15.4 g
196.3 mg
6.6 g
15.4 g
0 g
0.4 g
19.7 mg
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

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