Homemade Caramel Sauce

in Candy, Ice Cream

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

As I was anxiously watching the third batch of Fleur de Sel Caramel bubble itself up to soft-ball stage, I was sending prayer after prayer up the stainless steel chimney hood to the Gourmet Gods that the caramel would set properly. This was my third attempt. What if the caramel didn’t set up?

[Light bulb comes on]

Ooooh. So WHAT if it didn’t set? There, staring at me from the kitchen windowsill, were six very cute 1/2 cup jars that I’d picked up at World Market days earlier. I’d intended on making homemade dulce de leche to add to gift baskets but I didn’t want to boil the cans and the in-the-oven method I tried the day before went terribly wrong (that poor pie plate might never be the same). Just like that, the jars had been repurposed.

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

Thick and creamy and studded with tiny flecks of vanilla bean, the sauce is fantastic warmed and drizzled on a steamy mug of whipped cream-topped dark hot chocolate.

Salted Caramel Sauce

A sweet & salty caramel sauce with vanilla beans, perfect for serving over ice cream, swirling into brownie batter, and a hundred other uses.


  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces (at Christmas, I use the fancy European-style butter)
  • 2 tsp sea salt or fleur de sel
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. Use a knife and slit the vanilla pod in half along the length of the bean, stopping about 1/2 inch from the end (this way, the pod stays in tact for easy retrieval and disposal). Scrape each side of the pod with the knife and place the beans and pod in a small sauce pan.
  2. Add cream, butter, and salt to the sauce pan and warm until boiling.
  3. Turn off heat and set aside.
  4. Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a golden caramel.
  6. Pluck vanilla pod from the cream mixture and carefully add the cream mixture to the caramel (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.
  7. Pour into heat-safe glass measuring cup or dish (that can accommodate approx 3 cups). Let sit until cool.
  8. Pour into small glass jars and store in the fridge.
  9. Warm the sauce and use in dark hot chocolate, bread pudding, over ice cream and cheesecake, or on pancakes and french toast.


Yields: ~2 cups

Adapted from Sea Salt Caramels

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • good gracious, i hope that caramel in the picture didn’t go to waste!
    that’s a situation where licking the table is entirely appropriate…

  • sounds yummy!

  • Mike

    Looks tasty–did the vanilla flavor come through? I love adding fresh vanilla bean where ever I can…

    One thing I’m a bit curious about is why you’re heating the cream, etc prior to mixing in with the caramelized sugar (for the vanilla?)? I would think that warm/hot cream would run the risk of burning the caramel?

  • nice picture… looks really yummy I had thought about making some dulce de leche for gift baskets myself… have you ever tried to can it? (so there’s a longer shelf life)

  • a grace – don’t you worry, it did not go to waste 🙂

    Mike – there was a very nice vanilla-y flavor to the caramels sauce. Not center stage, but more than just subtle. I warmed the cream to put the vanilla pod to work for me. I don’t know how much risk there was in burning the caramel since the cream mixture was far cooler than the sugar mixture. I’m no candy maker, though 🙂

  • emma – I’ve never tried cannit dulce de leche. I’ve never made it with the intention of having it around for the long term 🙂

  • Kate

    You are a serious genius. I would never have been able to repurpose like you.

  • Deborah

    What a great idea!!

  • OMG! This sauce looks amazing! I’m experimenting with flavored dulce de leches – working on peanutbutter dulce right now. Have any tips for getting it right (to keep it smooth and pourable)? I’d appreciate any advice you can give. I’ll be back, over and over again! bk

  • BTW, where did you get those little jars? bk

  • mmmmm, i LOVE caramel…. my thoughts were the same as a.grace when i saw your post though… i was thinking about how much caramel might have been wasted for the photo! LOL

  • Thanks, Blake! PB dulce sounds *terrific*, but alas, I’ve had almost no success recently making my own. The boil-in-can method keeps the condensed-milk-turned-dulce pourable but it’s definitely not my favorite method because of the risk of the dulce bomb going off in the kitchen. The little jars came from World Market, I found them in the “canister” aisle.

  • Amanda

    I love your photo! It looks so decadent! Thanks for sharing.

  • What a great gift idea! I’m very happy to have discovered your blog. So many yummy things and such beautiful photos. I’ll be back for sure!

  • I haven’t been to the site in a while… it looks absolutely great!! And what a funny co-inky-dink, I just made dulce de leche as well. You’re looks great, I wish I had added salt to mine!!

  • You have a very nice blog, good post…keep up the good job

  • Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…… Love the addition of the salt, too.

  • Quick get me a bowl of ice cream!!! What a delicious looking picture. It’s just sad that you had to spill it. lol

  • Oh my that is just luscious looking caramel sauce. That is one counter top I would lick.