Soft and chewy homemade Salted Vanilla Caramels are simple to make and make an awesome gift to give over the holidays. Rich and creamy, it’s hard to eat just one.
While Kraft caramels are delicious, there is no comparison to these homemade salted vanilla caramels. Their buttery creamy taste will have you making these over and over again. I always try to have a batch in the freezer around the holidays to give to friends or as a hostess gift.
Caramels might sound a bit intimidating, but this recipe is easy to follow as long as you have a candy thermometer. If you don’t have one, you can still make them, you’ll just need to go by the color instead of temperature.
You’ll love this Sea Salt Caramel
These taste divine. Creamy and smooth with a hint of salt, and so much better than what you buy in the store. Along with butter, vanilla adds so much depth to a recipe. This recipe has two hefty tablespoons so you can really get the rich vanilla flavor.
You can also add some bourbon instead of vanilla to make things interesting. While I like bourbon, it can easily overpower a dessert, so add just a little.
Soft and Chewy Caramel Candies are the best!
- Creamy melt in your mouth treats
- They make a wonderful candy for a holiday cookie/treat exchange or a DIY gift for someone special.
- You can substitute bourbon for the vanilla
- Bite size so you can eat more than one!
Homemade Caramels Ingredients
- Light Corn Syrup – corn syrup comes in light and dark, the light refers to the color, not the calories, it’s almost clear. Dark corn syrup is made with molasses and has a much stronger taste.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk – made of milk and sugar that has been cooked down to remove the water, it’s thick, sweet and gooey.
- Vanilla – make sure you use real vanilla and not imitation, it really makes a difference in this recipe. If you want to add bourbon, still use 1 tablespoon of vanilla and add a tablespoon of bourbon.
- Pantry staples – butter, sugar and salt
How to make Salted Caramel Candies
To make caramels, you need a candy thermometer and a little patience. There are just two steps.
First bring the sugar and syrup to a boil and let it cook until it turns a beautiful amber color. This will take about 10 minutes. Stir at the beginning to combine the ingredients and then let it sit, just swirling in the pan until it turns amber.
Next add the sweetened condensed milk and butter and cook over low heat stirring constantly until it reaches 240º.
The vanilla/bourbon is added at the end and then pour it in a pan and sprinkle with flaky salt before it cools.
Once it’s cool you will want to refrigerate it for a little while so that it sets enough for you to cut it without making a sticky mess. Once they are cut and wrapped, you can store them at room temperature so that they will be soft and chewy.
Tips for making Salted Caramel Candies
What is firm ball stage?
To form hard candy, you will need to bring the candy mixture to a firm ball stage which is between 250º and 266º. Caramel is not heated over 245º.
What does 245 degree sugar look like?
When the caramel mixture reaches 240-245º it will be a beautiful amber color and will be slightly thickened.
Wrapping Caramel Candies
Wrapping caramel candies is not hard, but time consuming. I have found the best way is to use plastic wrap and wrap them when they are a little soft, not frozen. This will make sure that the plastic wrap clings to the candies.
Just cut the plastic wrap into strips twice the width of the candies and long enough to wrap around two times, about 3 inches by 4 inches. ( I just eyeball it) Once wrapped, you can freeze and the plastic will stay in place.
How to store Salted Caramel Candy
Vanilla caramels can be stored at room temperature and should stay fresh for a month or two in an airtight container. They will not go bad for about six months, but they will start to loose some of their flavor after a couple of months. You can freeze them to keep them even longer. Make sure you wrap them in plastic before storing.
Can homemade caramels be frozen?
Yes you can freeze caramels in a ziploc freezer bag. They will stay fresh for about a year if you vacuum seal them. Make sure to wrap them in plastic wrap before you freeze them.
Since they’re so small it feels like you are indulging without overdoing it.
How to use Homemade Caramels
This recipe for homemade caramels makes about 50 candies, enough to last a while. Try storing them in a cute airtight container on the counter for that 3 o’clock pick me up. If you’re like me and have a hard time eating just one, store them in the freezer and grab one when you need it. They only take a few minutes to thaw.
Try giving them to friends for the holidays, they make a great hostess gift, or end of the year teachers gift. I find that people prefer these little candies over getting cookies around the holidays. Once wrapped, place them in a clear decorated cellophane bag and tie the top with ribbon.
Caramel Candy Recipe FAQs
If you keep them in a cool, dark place or the freezer, they should not go bad. If you notice any discoloration or mold, then toss them immediately.
Caramel is typically gluten free as its made of sugar, vanilla, milk and salt.
Caramels can become hard if you cook them too long. You can try to soften them by putting them back in the saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water and letting them heat to 240º. If they are too soft, you didn’t heat them long enough. Try putting them back in the saucepan and heat a little longer.
Carmel refers to a place and not candy. However, many people refer to the soft caramel candies as carmel.
Caramel candies are made with butter, sugar and cream that when heated will form soft candies.
More holiday dessert treats
Adapted from Bon Appetit 2013
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Salted Caramel Candies
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
- ½ cup butter cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
- ½ teaspoon salt
- flaky sea salt for finishing
- Candy thermometer
- Lightly coat an 8×8 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 sides. Spray parchment paper.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, corn syrup, and ¼ cup water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook until it turns a deep amber color, about 10-12 minutes, swirling pan occasionally.
- Remove from heat and whisk in condensed milk and butter, it will bubble vigorously. Whisk until smooth. Fit pan with thermometer and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer reads 240º. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and salt. Pour into prepared pan, let cool. While still soft, sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate slightly once cooled to make cutting easier.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- If you want to add bourbon, add 1 tablespoon of vanilla and 1 tablespoon of bourbon.
- Refrigerate slightly to make cutting them easier but store them at room temperature after cutting.
- If the caramels get too hard it is because they cooked too long.
- If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you will have to go by color. They should be a deep amber color.
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