Homemade caramels are perfectly soft and chewy.  They are so easy to make and are great for gifts for friends and neighbors or just for your family to enjoy! 
  Homemade caramel candies some wrapped and some unwrapped. |
So let’s talk caramels! Do you know there is a difference between caramel and carmel?  Caramels are these scrumptious little candies that you are hopefully planning to make today.  Homemade, perfectly soft and chewy caramels are my weakness, and this is a treasured family recipe.

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!

The ingredients for these caramels are very simple. Butter, sugar, karo syrup, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract. However, the key to creating magic–that amazing rich caramel taste and texture–is in the cooking process. These can’t be rushed! Read my tips below, for making perfect caramels, every time.

Side by side images of cooked caramels in a sheet pan and caramels cut into small pieces.

Once you pour them into a jelly-roll or 9×13” pan, allow them to cool completely. You can refrigerate them for a long time. I usually refrigerate them until they are nice and cool, pull the whole pan of parchment paper out onto a cutting board, and then cut them into small squares. They are much easier to cut when they are cold.

A hand using a tool to cut caramels into small squares.
They are seriously the tastiest little caramels ever! “Melt-in-your-mouth delicious” is probably the best way to sum them up!
 Homemade caramels cut into squares, with three wrapped in wax paper.
Tips for perfect caramels:
Slowly stir in the evaporated milk:
It is imperative that you add the evaporated milk just a little bit at a time, taking about 15 minutes per can, to stir it in, so that the mixture maintains a constant boil the entire time. This is a really simple, easy step, but if rushed, you can ruin the caramels.
*If you add the evaporated milk too quickly, the sudden change in temperature of the caramels will cause them to curdle.
Maintain steady heat:
Maintain your burner/stovetop at medium heat. Again, you don’t want any drastic changes in temperature as you cook the caramels.
Candy Thermometer vs. Ice Water Test
I personally don’t trust candy thermometers. Unless you take the time to calibrate yours and make sure it’s correct, they can often times be “off”. And, depending on your location (altitude and humidity) 238 degrees F may not be the perfect temperature for you.

The best (and easiest) way I’ve found for success in any location, is using the ice water method. Drop a spoonful of the hot caramel into a cup of ice water. Mold the caramel with your fingers into a ball. You will know the caramels are ready when they feel pretty firm and pliable.



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Prep 10 mins
Cook 1 hr
Total 1 hr 10 mins
Add to Meal Plan



  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups light corn syrup
  • 24 ounces evaporated milk (2 cans)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Line a 9x13'' pan or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. (If you don't have parchment paper you can generously butter the pan.) Either size pan will work--9x13'' will yield thicker caramels.
  • 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.
  • Gradually add the evaporated milk, one can at a time, taking about 12-15 minutes PER CAN to slowly add it, while stirring constantly. You want to make sure the mixture maintains a constant boil, otherwise your caramels can curdle.
  • Stir the mixture constantly, scraping the sides occasionally until it reaches a firm ball stage (about 240-245 degrees F on a candy thermometer). It takes patience and time, but it's sooo worth it! (Also, I don't really trust or rely on a candy thermometer--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 pretty firm and pliable, but still slightly sticky.) 
  • Once you reach 240-245 degrees F / or the firm ball stage, remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
  • Pour caramels into prepared pan. Refrigerate until cooled and hardened. (Best if you refrigerate them overnight, or for several hours. They will be easier 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.
  • Try these dipped in chocolate or pretzel rods.


Don't miss the tips and tricks for this recipe listed above in the post!


Calories: 94kcalCarbohydrates: 17gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 34mgPotassium: 26mgSugar: 17gVitamin A: 90IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 24mg

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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
    I love your recipe! You were right – patience is key and cooking at even temperature. If I didn’t refrigerate; would they set at room temperature? Thank you for this recipe and I know my family will enjoy for years to come!

  2. Could I make these, freeze them and then melt them later if I want to add them into cupcake batter or as a drizzle over cupcakes?

  3. 4 stars
    I made a half batch just putting all the ingredients but vanilla into the saucepan over medium heat.
    Stirred occasionally until it was starting to get candylike, then pretty close to constantly.
    Once it was in the general range I added vanilla & CBD then dumped it into a pie pan lined with parchment paper.
    Waited until it was cool enough not to melt plastic wrap, covered ut, and put it in the fridge.
    Cut them a couple of hours later.
    Worked great

  4. 5 stars
    I needed to calm down after a trying day fighting to get my package of Pecans delivered. Got them. And wanted to make some caramel. I did not want to try and find my recipe. Found yours and with 5 stars 189 votes I was in. Besides standing and stirring for nearly two hours was just what I needed to calm down and have one thing to focus on and that was making great delicious Carmel. I tell you it was worth every minute. I did however mix evaporated milk with heavy whipping cream. I love your recipe great way to destress after work. Thank you so much.

  5. 5 stars
    My grandson asked out of the blue if we could makes caramels. And yes, it’s CARE-ah-mels. This recipe is foolproof using a big old enamel cast iron pot. A nonstick pot of even professional quality will not produce the result you want. I added my evaporated milk all at once and didn’t suffer. Three teachers and a neighbor received little gifts of it today and there’s plenty more to share. Just don’t, whatever you do, say CAR-mull. That’s in California, pronounced car-MELL.

  6. 5 stars
    Best caramel recipe ever. I have tried several recipes and after using this one, there is no need to look for any others. They do take time but so worth it. Printed and saved as my go to recipe. Thank you for sharing.

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