This easy and delicious homemade Caramel Sauce is made with six pantry ingredients and only takes 10 minutes to make!
This caramel sauce is enjoyed as a topping on anything from ice cream to Better than Sex Cake. I also have a Homemade Caramel recipe that requires a longer cook time and is great for dipping Caramel Apples.
A spoon dripping caramel sauce into a glass jar full and some caramel spilling over the side of the jar.
It is so incredibly easy to make homemade caramel sauce, and you can store it in the fridge for weeks to use in lots of different ways (see my ideas below).
This caramel sauce is unique in that it uses brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. Doing so yields a richer flavor and cuts down on the cook time.

Labeled ingredients needed to make caramel sauce.
How to make caramel sauce:
1. Add butter, brown sugar, water, and salt to medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously until the butter melts.
Two process photos for cooking caramel sauce in a saucepan.
2. Once the butter has melted bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and ½ cup evaporated milk. Stir until smooth. Add more evaporated milk if you’d like a thinner consistency (the caramel will thicken as it cools).
Evaporated milk poured over caramel sauce cooking in a saucepan, then stirred together.

Store caramel sauce in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. Rewarm in the microwave for a few seconds, or over low heat on the stove.

To freeze, store in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Homemade caramel sauce in a glass jar with a hand towel on the side.

Consider serving Caramel Sauce with:

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A spoon dripping caramel sauce into a glass jar, with some of the sauce pouring over the side of the jar.
Prep 5 mins
Cook 5 mins
Total 10 mins


  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar , firmly packed
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk or heavy cream, or more, to thin the sauce


  • Grease the sides of a medium saucepan with oil or non-stick spray. Add butter, brown sugar, water, and salt to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the butter has melted.
  • Once the butter has melted bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5-8 minutes until golden brown and thickened (keep in mind it will continue to thicken as it cools). Stir as it cooks, particularly the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization.
  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and ½ cup evaporated milk. Stir until smooth. Add more evaporated milk if you'd like a thinner consistency. 
  • Store caramel sauce in a covered container or jar in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. Re-warm in the microwave for a few seconds, or on the stove over low heat.
  • Serve this over ice cream, apple crisp, or with caramel filled chocolate cupcakes!


Yields about 2 cups of caramel sauce.
Butter: salted butter can be used. Reduce salt to ⅛ teaspoon, or to taste.
For Salted Caramel: Use unsalted butter and replace salt with Sea Salt, adding extra salt, to taste.
Freezing Instructions: Store in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.


Calories: 251kcalCarbohydrates: 32gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 189mgPotassium: 47mgSugar: 32gVitamin A: 425IUCalcium: 31mgIron: 0.2mg

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Recipe adapted from

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RATE and COMMENT below! I would love to hear your experience.

I originally shared this recipe September 2015. Updated May 2020 with process photos and improved instructions and tips.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This caramel sauce is the best I’ve ever tasted 😭❤️ All the ingredients mesh into such a beautiful color and consistency. So easy to make and it’ll make your jaw drop on the ground!!!

  2. Hi! I just tried this recipe and it tastes really good. The only thing is that mine came out really “grainy”. What should I do, or what did I do wrong?

  3. Can this sauce be frozen?

    (Sorry about leaving same question for apple crisp – thought I was on this page.)

    1. It can be frozen for up to three months in an airtight container (NOT GLASS!). Place in fridge overnight to defrost 🙁

  4. Hi! this sounds delicious! I am making it right now and it looks to be very runny. The recipe says how to make it thinner, but what can i do to make it thicker? Please respond as fast as possible! I would really appreciate it 🙂

  5. 4 stars
    Sweet. Caramel was drizzled over a dollop of Alden’s Vanilla organic ice cream that nested atop your apple crisp; it was a family hit, even on a full belly. Could you tell me why the water is necessary and suggest modifications for a caramel flavor that is a little sharper, I guess meaning less sweet.

  6. Hi! Sounds delicious, but a couple questions before I try this.
    1. I’m confused on the measurement listed for the evaporated milk. It’s listed as … ‘1-2 – 3/4 cups evaporated milk’ .
    2. I took the butter to be regular salted butter, but then read through all the comments and noticed you say to use “Unsalted”. So, if I use regular butter – do not use additional salt, but if I use unsalted butter then add the salt?

    This sounds so delicious and I’d love to make it for Thanksgiving. I just want to make sure I understand everything since Thanksgiving is a few days away!

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Joanne, I hope you enjoy it! To answer your questions:
      1. you will use somewhere between 1/2 cup to as much as 3/4 cup of evaporated milk. As you’ll see in the recipe instructions, you start by adding 1/2 cup and add a little more if you need to.
      2. that’s right about the butter. If you use salted butter you don’t need to add all of the 1/4 teaspoon extra salt.
      Hope that helps 🙂

  7. 5 stars
    I was a little leery because it started to smell burnt, but it just added to the flavor!
    Also, I like to improvise, and I didn’t have evaporated milk on hand, but I did have sugar-free French vanilla coffee creamer so I used it instead, omitting the vanilla extract. DELISH!!!!!

  8. 5 stars
    I made this sauce for the first time today to fill cupcakes with. Well they were excellent thanks for the quick and easy recipe

  9. 5 stars
    Is it wrong to eat half the jar of Carmel off a spoon. Lol I’ve made this recipe several times now and it never lasts more than 2 days. That’s a beautiful thing

  10. 5 stars
    Hello!!! This tastes great! Added a little milk only so it wouldn’t be too thin. However, it seems that my sugar didnt melt? It’s a bit rough on the tongue and felt like there were granules and the butter has separated, you can see it accumulating on the top. Is it supposed to be like that? I made 1/2 recipe and added 3/4milk. Thinking if i should add more

    1. Hi Mia, It seems that the sugar didn’t dissolve as it should. Next time, try stirring it really well the entire time, scraping the sides of the pan as you go. Also, be sure to maintain the heat at medium–don’t fluctuate the temperature at all. Hopefully those things should fix the problem!

  11. 5 stars
    I made the apple crisp along with the caramel sauce! It turned out beautifully! And my kitchen smells so good now too. Thank you for sharing! My family loves it!

  12. What chocolate cake mix did you use it looks lovely & moist , can’t wait to try this recipe thanks.

    1. Unsalted butter. You could use salted butter too, just taste the mixture before you add the additional 1/4 tsp that the recipe calls for.

  13. i made the caramel sauce and I couldn’t even ruin it! It was so easy. I didn’t have the evaporated milk on hand so I used regular 2% milk and simmered it down to a cup. You couldn’t tell the difference.
    This was the first time I didn’t ruin the sauce.
    It does take a little time, and you have to stay with it, but totally worth it. So now I triple the recipe for the kids and my mom and it’s never gone bad.
    Something to definitely keep on hand!!!!!

  14. Just made this and it turned out super think but I think I know what I did wrong. I used margarine instead of butter. I knew better but it’s late……
    It does taste really good, though. It’s just that margarine has a lot of water added to it…
    I’m going to try again. I wonder how many people made this mistake?

  15. What is your secret to making the Carmel thick as pictured?! I follow the directions to a T but as soon as I add the milk it becomes thin as water – and I very carefully measure only 1/2 cup. I’ve made it twice now – boiling it longer the second time and still the same result. Do you pour in the milk & vanilla immediately or let it cool a little first? I would love any pointers because the taste is amazing!

    1. Hi Jen, Next time just add a Tbsp of milk at a time until you reach your desired thickness. Also, it will thicken as it cools 🙂

    1. Hi Mickey, if it’s too thin you probably just added a tiny bit too much milk. But that’s ok. Allow it to refrigerate and it should set up nicely.

  16. What could I substitute for the evaporated milk? I’m lactose intolerant. I love your recipes you post! Thanks so much. 🙂

    1. Hi Connie, any dairy-free milk, like soy milk, should work great! The evaporated milk’s purpose is to thin the sauce and make it creamy. 🙂 Hope you enjoy it!

    1. Add 1/2 cup of evaporated milk. If, after you stir in that much, you’d like the sauce to be a thinner consistency, add a little more evaporated milk.