Homemade Caramels

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As I type this post I’m just finishing up my first day at a blogger conference called SNAP, in Salt Lake City, UT!  It’s been such a blast meeting bloggers I’ve admired from afar, in person, and learning so much about how to make this blog even better!!
There was a lot to do in preparation for SNAP, but one thing I did was attach my business cards to a little goodie bag with some of my Mom’s famous caramels to give out to friends and new acquaintances! What better treat to show off my love for cooking from scratch, right?!

So let’s talk caramels!  Homemade, perfectly soft and chewy caramels are my weakness!
My family usually reserves them for our special treat at Christmas time. We give them as neighbor gifts and always have a huge batch to enjoy ourselves!  But making them for SNAP made me realize how much I would love to have these little gems all year round! They are seriously the tastiest little caramels ever! “Melt-in-your-mouth delicious” is probably the best way to sum them up!  And the best part about them….you probably already have all of the ingredients in your pantry!
Homemade Caramels
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  1. 1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
  2. 4 cups sugar
  3. 2 cups light karo syrup
  4. 2 (12 oz) cans evaporated milk
  5. 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Generously butter a jelly roll pan (or a 9x13'' pan if you prefer thicker caramels).
  2. Add 2 sticks butter, sugar, and karo syrup to a large heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Stir over medium heat until mixture begins to boil, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Gradually add the evaporated milk, pouring it in slowly so that the mixture maintains a constant boil.
  4. Stir the mixture regularly, scraping the sides until it reaches a firm ball stage (about 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer). This part takes patience--it could take about an hour to get to the firm ball stage--but it's sooo worth it! (Also, I don't always trust or rely on a candy thermometer either--I like to test it the old fashioned way. Drop a spoonful of hot caramel sauce into a cup of ice water and mold it with your fingers into a ball. When ready it will feel firm and pliable, but still slightly sticky.) Once you reach 240 degrees F / the firm ball stage, remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
  5. Pour caramels into a buttered pan. Refrigerate until ready cooled and hardened. (Best if you refrigerate them overnight, or for several hours. They will be easy to cut and wrap) The caramel will seem hard in the fridge after they're set, but they should be soft at room temperature. Cut caramel into small pieces and, if desired, wrap like a tootsie roll in wax paper.
  1. *makes about 80 caramels, in a jelly roll pan
Tastes Better From Scratch http://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/
If you like this recipe you should try:
Homemade Brownie Truffles recipe on TastesBetterFromScratch.com These brownie truffles are dangerously addicting and SO easy to make!
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    • admin says

      You need to! There’s nothing quite like homemade caramels and of all people, I think you’d really appreciate them 🙂

    • admin says

      Oh no, well I really hope you will give this one a try! This recipe always turn out perfect for me!

  1. says

    I am do delighted you posted this recipe. Caramels can’t be found in Hong Kong. Now I can make my own at home. Have a super week! Take care, Bobbi

  2. Tori says

    I will say, I wish there was a picture of what it looks like when it’s ready to pull off the stove to cool. I think I’m getting close!

  3. Leslie says

    this is a wonderful recipe. How often did you stir? I found if I stirred too much, the temperature stayed around 230.

    • amanda says

      I also could not get the temp over 225 F and ive had it chilling for over 4 hours and it is still soft. It tastes good but I wish were firmer. (Wanted to cover them with chocolate) im afraid to recook the caramel after a previous comment said hers burnt when she tried to recook it. Any reason why my temp never got up? Yes I did increase heat too.

  4. tawny says

    So when you say firm ball, you mean all of the mixture turns into that? And if so, how hard is stirrng the vanilla in going to be?

    • says

      Hi Kathy, After they cool in the jelly roll pan you can refrigerate (put cling wrap over them) until you’re ready to wrap them. I wrap them in wax paper. Once they’re wrapped you can keep them at room temperature or in the fridge.

  5. Cyndy says

    I love making caramels too but found a recipe where you can make them in the microwave! So simple, so easy and only takes 15 minutes. Use the same ingredients in this recipe but microwave in 3 minute intervals. After each 3 minutes, stir well. After 15 minutes pour into a dish that has been covered with parchment paper. Cool and cut into desired shapes either logs or squares. Have fun!

  6. Emily says

    I have been looking for a good caramel recipe and I finally found it. I just made these today and they are amazing! Great recipe!

  7. says

    Ive been looking for the perfect simple caramel recipe, what I’d like to do is once its set, cut it and make ropes out of it to wrap around pretzel rods… would this particular recipe work? once it’s wrapped in the caramel, i plan on dipping it in chocolate, these are for gift giving … if you have time can you get back to me please
    thank you and thank you for sharing your recipes


    • says

      That sounds amazing! Yes, I think this caramel recipe would work great for wrapping around the pretzel rods–however, I wouldn’t quite cook it to “hard ball” stage but just a little less so that it’s easy to roll into ropes. Good luck!

    • Ruby says

      Hi, just wanted to say I made the caramels today and it turned out great and they are wonderful. I cooked them to the firm ball stage and they were a little chewy. Kind of reminds me of a Slo-Pok sucker. Next time I will not cook quite to that point. They are delicious and I will definitely use this recipe again. Thank you for sharing.

  8. kim says

    Hi, this is my 2nd try at making them, the first batch didn’t set and I cooked it for an hour. I’m on 30 min now and it’s still looking the same as the 1st batch what might I be doing wrong?

    • says

      Hi Kim, I’m really sorry they haven’t been setting for you. However, they do take a long time to cook, especially if your located somewhere with high altitude or humididty–they usually take me at least an hour…

  9. says

    Hi, I great recipie. I would like to make these.
    Would I be able to use ‘golden syrup’ I can’t find any Karo syrup in the UK :/


    • Ellen says

      You can get corn syrup from Amazon. It’s about £11 for 3 bottles. Golden syrup works but it makes it extremely sweet. If you don’t want to order corn syrup, then you can get glucose syrup from the chemist, which works as well as corn syrup. I have to order glucose syrup in though, Boots carries it at Christmas time, and also you can find it at cake decorating suppliers.

  10. Trisha Schuler says

    Just made these and my entire house loves them! Thank you for the recipe! Mine developed this layer of oil over the top when I poured them into the pan, I used paper towel to soak up the oil so no worries but is there a way to avoid this?

    • says

      Hi Tonje, do you have access to heavy cream? That would work as a substitute–just make sure to cook the caramels on a low temperature. It may take a little longer than normal, but cook them low and slow to ensure the cream doesn’t curdle.

  11. Danielle says

    I just got done making these! So good and easy. Only thing I will add, make sure your pot is bigger than you need and you can sub out butter rum oil for the vanilla for a new flavor, soooo good.

  12. Taylor says

    This recipe is really awesome, however, when I made them they didn’t turn out like I had planned. I was wondering if you coulld give me some advice on what to do next time. I followed the directions like they were written but after they had cooled and I had refrigerated them for a little while I tried to cut them and they were still too soft and I couldn’t get them out of the pan without messing them all up. I thought you may have an idea of something that I could do a little different. But other than than that they tasted amazing!!

    • says

      Hi Taylor, If they were too soft they just need to be cooked longer. You could even scoop the entire batch back into your pan and continue cooking it. Use the ice bath method to test it and make sure you reached firm ball stage 🙂 Glad you liked them though!

      • says

        I’ve been making caramels for years to give as Christmas gifts. Got the recipe from my red & white Betty Crocker cookbook, using the fast cook method they are ready in 1/4 the time. I also use a smaller pan so they are thicker.

  13. says

    I was so excited to find this recipe and set time aside to make it. I did everything by the directions, but I’ve never made anything like this before so I had no idea what firm ball stage was and is it really the right consistency. I boiled for 1 hour and decided it was ready but it never set up all the way. I decided to try to scrap it off and boil that batch again for another 30 mins and test it again. This time I did it on a low setting and watched it carefully, but I somehow managed to burn the sugar and now have chunks in my caramels haha. It tastes fantastic….but doesn’t look so pretty. I decided to put that batch into a mason jar and use it for ice cream topping and the next batch will be better. I plan to give these as gifts for Christmas! Thanks for the recipe!!

    • says

      Hi Meghan, I’m sorry it didn’t set up right for you. You were right to add the caramels back to the pot to cook them longer. Depending on where you live (altitude and humidity) they may take longer to set. Make sure to cook them on medium or medium-low heat and stir constantly so the sugar doesn’t burn. It can be time intensive, but the end result is wonderful!

    • says

      Is it cold or at room temperature? If it’s at room temperature and still hard as glass then it’s overcooked–sorry! I’ve never tried reheating it and adding milk–if you have the time you could try, but I’m not sure if it will soften it…

  14. Lauren Young says

    I made these on Monday and they taste delicious! The cost ended up being around $6.19. And I ended up with 143 caramels. I suppose my caramels must be smaller than what you cut out. My friends are addicted to them! I will be making them every Christmas! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  15. says

    Do you think these could be dipped in chocolate once they are refrigerated, cooled and cut into pieces and if yes, what chocolate recipe could you suggest?

  16. Amanda says

    I made these today using some of the caramel for Chocolate Turtles and it turned out AMAZING. I nearly didn’t have the patience, but in the end it totally paid off 🙂 I love caramel!
    Super excited as Turtles are my mom’s favorite and now she can have some gluten free ones ^.^

  17. jessica says

    Hi there, was looking forward all week to making these caramels. I was planning on finding a good recipe so I could cover in chocolate and give as gifts, this was my test batch but was really hoping I’d nail it so I could wrap and give these out as well. Unfortunately, I somehow ended up with a lumpy mixture. The only thing I can think of is maybe while pouring the evaporated milk I took too long and at some point it seperated. Also a few times the boil was more of a simmer while adding the milk so I stopped for it to boil again. I stirred it fairly regularly and once I noticed the lumps I busted out a whisk and was relentless until it reached the firm ball stage, hoping for a Christmas miracle that it would cook out. No such luck. They are in the fridge now because I just refuse to give up on these guys. Any pointers? Is it normal for it to smell like brown butter? Lol, Help!

    • says

      Hi Jessica, it sounds like your mixture curdled–which can happen if you don’t maintain a constant boil. A really great trick to fix the curdling is to stir in a pinch of baking soda while cooking. Hopefully you can try again and they’ll turn out great

  18. Ellen says

    I tried your recipe. Didn’t work. The mixture curdled, and then burned. They never got to hard ball stage, so had to throw the whole thing out. I’ve never had caramel mixture curdle before.

    • says

      Hi Ellen, the best way to avoid curdling is by making sure the mixture is constantly boiling. If you do have a problem with it curdling, a great trick is to stir in a pinch of baking soda while the mixture is cooking.

  19. Chan says

    Hi! I just wanted to say that I attempted to make this recipe today, and failed miserably! The caramel never got thicker, and I looked at other recipes that said you should let the sugar boil first that way your caramels won’t be gritty. REALLY wish I could have pulled this off, they looked great 🙁

  20. Mandi says

    I haven’t ever made this exact recipe, but I’ve made one similar to it for the last 15 years. I like to throw my wrapped caramels into Ziploc bags and freeze them. Then I get to enjoy delicious caramels year round.

  21. Veronica says


    I’m wondering what size you cut your caramels to, that yields the 80ct. I’m trying to gauge about how much of this recipe I would need to match a Kraft 14oz. bag of caramels, as I have recipes that call for those, specifically, by the bag. Theirs have about 50 pieces in a bag and are 3/4″ by 3/4″ at 1/2″ height. Thanks!!

  22. Chris Beecroft says

    I am from Australia and I have been trying to get a good recipe for caramels, however I cannot get kayro syrup can I substitute glucose the recipe also calls for evaporated milk can I use sweetened condensed milk?
    Thanks for your wonderful recipes.

    • says

      Hi Chris, I honestly couldn’t say about using glucose vs Karo syrup since I’ve never used glucose…I wouldn’t substitute sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk either, in this recipe. A better substitution would be half and half or heavy cream instead of evaporated milk.
      Also, I know many good caramel recipes use sweetened condensed milk, so you could try a different recipe. The ratios of sugar and butter would be different than this. Sorry to not be of more help!

  23. says

    I made these for a family gathering as I am in charge of desserts more often than not. I want to just say they were a total hit. I salted half of the pan while cooling with course kosher salt but next time will use pink Himalayan salt. I will also be adding this to my regular holiday treats as it was easy and tastes wonderful melts in your mouth…. Thank you for the sharing of this recipe…

    • says

      Hi Connie, I never use a candy thermometer (see my notes in step 4 about this). I use the ice water method to test the caramel and when it comes to a hard ball stage in the ice water It’s finished.

    • says

      Hi Kristi, I’m sorry the caramel is overcooked. You have to check it religiously as it get golden. I use the ice water method, since I’ve found using a candy thermometer to lead to harder caramels. Next time make sure to check it using the ice bath method–if you think it’s even getting close to the hard ball stage, remove it from the heat and pour it into your pan. If the caramels are too soft you can always add them back to the pot later and cook them longer, but you can’t fix overcooking them. I hope you get to try the recipe again because they’re delicious.

    • says

      Hi Karen, I’ve never tried freezing them, but they keep in the fridge very well for a looong time. You could make them and wrap them, store them (wrapped) in an airtight container in the fridge for several weeks.

  24. says

    I tried this recipe twice and both times it failed. I wonder if high altitude causes a problem. The first time the mixture had not reached more than 200 after 2.5 hours at medium heat. The next time after an hour at medium heat I started turning it up gradually but by the time it reached 240 on two different thermometers the butter had separated. I put it in the pan and into the fridge and the butter just formed a layer on top.

    • says

      Mandy, I’m so sorry to hear of your struggle! I have learned when making caramels to never rely on a candy thermometer. They’re not dependable when you have people cooking at different altitudes and climates. I ALWAYS rely on the ice water test, as described in the instructions. Spoon some hot caramel into a cup of ice water and try to pinch it together with your fingers in the cold water to test for done-ness. It should come together in a nice ball that’s not overly soft but not brittle.


  1. […] The Best Home Made Caramels. Wow! 5 Steps and 5 ingredients, does it get any easier (minus buying them from a store, which is never as much fun, and you house won’t smell pretty!). Reading through this recipe is pretty straight forward. Don’t get scared off with the part about the candy thermometer, keep reading, she givings you a different way to test! I am loving the fact that you can then wrap these up in wax paper, put them in a cute jar, and you have the perfect little gift! Or cute way to store in on your counter to impress your guests. […]

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