This soft homemade caramel recipe honestly makes the best homemade caramel candies I’ve ever had! Homemade cream caramels are the best kind of candy I can think of!!! And this this is one of those candy recipes that tastes like they came straight from the candy shop!!!
Every year this is my favorite thing to make for family and friends to enjoy. Who doesn’t love getting caramel candy treats? So often I’ve made this favorite caramel recipe during the Christmas time of the year that it’s become a family tradition!!
I love making chewy caramels for my family and to give as small packaged gifts to my friends and neighbors! It’s so fun to share the sweet treats and folks have begun expecting a little bag of caramels to enjoy.
These homemade caramels only take a little bit of work and only a short bit of time to make too!! You’ll want to save this one in your file of easy recipes. Let’s get started on your journey to make these caramels today!!!
There are only a few simple ingredients needed to make these dreamy creamy caramels!
You’ll need unsalted butter, not margarine or “fake” butter!
Sweetened condensed milk is also needed to make this caramel candy, not evaporated milk! It’s easy to confuse the two so make sure to use sweetened condensed milk.
The third main ingredient in this great recipe that will give you wonderful caramel flavors is brown sugar. It doesn’t matter if you use light or dark brown sugar! Whichever you have in your pantry is fine!!
The fourth ingredient needed to make these chewy caramels is dark corn syrup. Make sure to use the dark corn syrup rather than light corn syrup to give the caramels the rich caramel color!
A few optional ingredients that you may want to sprinkle or drizzle on the top of the finished caramels is a little sea salt, melted dark chocolate, or melted milk chocolate!
Supplies needed to make this Soft Homemade Caramel Recipe
If this is your first time candy making you’ll need to invest in a candy thermometer! This inexpensive kitchen tool lets you measure the perfect temperature to know when the caramel reaches the firm ball stage!
The firm ball stage will actually give you softer caramels vs. firm caramels, which is what you want so that they can easily be cut and wrapped in the next supply…wax paper!!
You’ll also need a heavy saucepan. Make sure that it’s a large saucepan or large pot, as this recipe makes a large batch!
Making the Soft Caramels
I have such a soft spot for these soft caramels! And making them the old fashioned way in a heavy sauce pan on the stove takes me back to candy making with my mom when I was a little girl!
Line the baking pan with foil. Grease the foil with 1 tablespoon soft butter.
I like to use a plastic bag over my hand to easily butter the foil! No mess!!!
In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat melt 1 cup butter. If you like to melt butter on the stove over lower temperatures you can use low heat to melt it.
Add 2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and 1 cup dark corn syrup to the melted butter mixture. Turn the heat to medium heat (not medium-high heat!) and stir it all together with the wooded spoon other large spoon.
The important part is to make sure to combine the sugar with the liquid ingredients very thoroughly!
Continue to cook the mixture over medium heat. Stir constantly, but don’t scrape the sides of the pan or the bottom of the pan. Those areas might just cook a bit hotter and you don’t want any burnt pieces mixed in with your caramels!
Firm Ball Stage!
It will feel like a long time but eventually the mixture will begin to boil. Continue to stir. Every few minutes stick the tip of the thermometer into the boiling sugar mixture to check for just the right temperature of 250 degrees f. This will be the hard ball stage needed for perfect soft, chewy caramels!
To double test that the mixture has reached the correct temperature you can perform an ice water test on the boiling sugar mixture! Place a few ice cubes in a large glass of cold water. I have this on hand before I start the cooking process!!
I really like to use this cold water test to know when my caramels are the right temperature and are done cooking!
Let a few drops of the caramel mixture drop into the ice water. If the caramels aren’t done yet they’ll only be at the first stage, which is the soft ball stage when caramel drops look like strings in the cold water. The drops should form a firm ball and not be runny or stringy.
You want firm balls of caramel!
Finishing the Soft Homemade Caramel Recipe!
Once the mixture has boiled to the hard ball stage (250 degrees f.) remove the pan from the stove.
Carefully pour caramel mixture into the prepared baking pan which you’ve already lined with buttered aluminum foil. Be very careful not to get any of the hot mixture on yourself!! Pour slowly onto the middle of the sheet.
You can carefully spoon any leftover mixture from the saucepan onto the baking sheet, but don’t scrape the bottom of the pan! This is just in case any of the mixture has started to burn, you don’t want it ruining your batch of caramels.
Let the caramel mixture cool to room temperature.
Once cooled you can add optional topping if you’d like! You can sprinkle a little sea salt all over the caramel layer and/or you can drizzle melted chocolate all over the cooled caramels.
You can also dip the cut caramels into melted chocolate! And sprinkle with sea salt when cooled. Yummy!!!
If adding chocolate to the cooled caramels, you’ll need to let the chocolate cool and set before the yummy caramels are ready to cut and wrap!
Cutting and Wrapping the Caramels
Once the caramels are at room temperature you can easily lift out the aluminum foil with the caramel layer on top of it. Place the caramels directly on top of a cutting board with the aluminum foil facing up. Slowly peel off the aluminum foil.
Use a large sharp knife to cut the caramels. A sturdy pizza cutter will work well for cutting the caramels also. Cut the caramels into big pieces or small pieces, whichever you prefer!!
I like to cut mine into pieces the size of a tootsie roll. I’ve found this size is easy to wrap and make the batch seem to go further!
Cut about 3 inch by 3 inch pieces of wax paper. Place a cut caramel in the middle of one side of the paper and roll it up. Then twist each end of the wax paper to hold the caramel inside.
You can also wrap your cut caramels in parchment paper if you prefer!
It’s a bit of a trick to get the right size wax paper and technique, but after a few caramels you’ll figure out the size of paper that works best for you!
How to Make Homemade Caramels in the Microwave
The hardest part of making any homemade caramel recipe is cooking the mixture to the correct temperature without the sugars starting to burn. So a few years ago I started making this recipe in my 1000 watt microwave and it’s soooo much easier! Here’s how to make this soft homemade caramel recipe in the microwave.
Use a Large Microwave-Safe Bowl
Instead of using a large heavy saucepan to cook the caramel mixture you’ll use a very large heavy bowl. I use my largest glass mixing bowl that just fits inside of my microwave.
Place the butter in the bowl and melt the butter in the microwave for about a minute or so until it’s fully melted.
Then thoroughly stir in all the other ingredients (brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk and dark corn syrup).
Cook the Caramel Mixture in Increments
Microwave the mixture on high for five 3-minute increments and one 2-minute increment.
After each 3-minute increment remove the bowl and quickly give the mixture a thorough stir.
Then place back in the microwave and cook on high for another 3 minutes.
You’ll repeat this process until the caramel mixture has cooked for a total of 17 minutes.
Test the temperature of the cooked mixture after 12 minutes. Again, the caramels will need to get to 250 degrees f. which will be the firm ball stage in an ice water test.
Depending on the strength of your microwave, you may need to increase or decrease the microwave cook time. But the 3-3-3-3-3-2 minute cooking process works perfect for me and produces perfectly done caramels every time without the mixture burning!
Here is a quick video showing me stirring the ingredients of the soft homemade caramels as they cook in the microwave!
When you make the caramels on the stove you need to be careful not to scrape the side of the pan in case there’s any burnt parts.
But when you make the caramels in the microwave there’s no need to worry about any of the caramel mixture going to waste inside the bowl. You can use a spatula to get every bit of caramel gooiness out of the bowl when you pour it into the buttered and foiled baking pan!
These soft homemade caramels would be lovely served with a Salted Caramel White Russian Cocktail!!! Yummy!!!!!
So the next time you’re craving a sweet treat, you can make this soft homemade caramel recipe!
If you’re looking for other sweet treats check out my other dessert recipes!
Soft Homemade Caramel Recipe
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- 1 cup butter
- 2 1/4 cups brown sugar packed
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup dark corn syrup
- 1 Tablespoon butter softened
- 2 Tablespoons sea salt
- 4 ounces chocolate melted
- Line a 15" x 10" x 1" baking pan with aluminum foil. Grease the foil with 1 tablespoon softened butter.
- In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 cup butter.
- Add brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and corn syrup.
- Cook and stir until candy thermometer reads 250°.
- Pour into prepared pan (don't scrape saucepan).
- Cool before cutting into tootsie roll sized pieces. Wrap in waxed paper. Store in cool place.
- Makes about 2 1/2 pounds of caramel candy.
- Melt butter in extra large microwave-safe bowl.
- Add brown sugar, milk and syrup. Stir well.
- Cook in 3 minute increments for a total of 15 minutes, stirring between each increment.
- Cook an additional 2 minutes.
- Pour caramel mixture into prepared pan. Scrape sides of bowl with spatula.
- Cook, cut, wrap, enjoy!!
- OPTIONAL: Sprinkle cooled caramels with sea salt and/or drizzle melted chocolate over caramels. Or dip cooled, cut caramels in melted chocolate. Allow chocolate to cool before wrapping.