Just about everybody loves caramel candies. The chewy, gooey, buttery decadence is unrivaled, especially when the caramel is still slightly warm. And of course, what goes better with apples in the fall than a fresh homemade caramel sauce (a homemade caramel without corn syrup!)?
And like most anything else, they’re usually better (’cause they’re fresh) when you make them yourself. If you’ve never tried to make homemade caramel without corn syrup, you really should give it a shot. It’s super easy (really, all you do is boil the mixture to a certain temperature), and you get to control (i.e. exclude) any ingredients that you don’t want. You should know by now that I don’t post recipes that require a whole lot of slaving away in the kitchen, and I’m not going to start with this one!
I checked out the ingredients of two common caramels and found things like hydrogenated oils, soy protein, lots of artificial colors (who knew you needed Red, Blue and Yellow to make that lovely shade of brown?), corn starch, and artificial flavors (why enjoy the real caramel flavor when you can have fake?). Umm, thanks but no thanks, candy makers. I like my food to be non-fake. Even if I am making homemade caramel candy…
Homemade Caramel Without Corn Syrup
For our basic homemade caramel candy, we’re using butter, sugar, cream, honey, pure vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt. And looking at that list of ingredients, you know something good is coming out of it, no matter what form it takes 🙂 Make sure you use the highest-quality ingredients that you can get your hands on!
Because I’m not a big fan of corn syrup, we’re replacing it with the honey here. It acts in a similar manner, but it’s a real ingredient, not something that came out of a factory.
All you need to do is combine the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Make sure you stir frequently to keep it all from scorching.
You’ll need a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature – if you want to use this for dipping apples or topping ice cream, remove from the heat at 230 – 235 F. If you’re using it to make homemade caramel candy, 245 – 250 F is better. The lower the temperature, the softer it is when it cools.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 1 cup raw honey
- Splash of vanilla extract
- 2 pinches of sea salt
- In a medium saucepan (leave yourself some room, because this will froth up a bit while it's boiling), combine the sugar, cream, butter, and honey.
- Bring to a boil while stirring, then reduce to a strong simmer.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer reads about 250 F (I experimented a bit with exact temps, and it didn't make any difference if you're within a degree or two; obviously, if you're at 240 F, you'll get a thinner result).
- If you want caramel for dipping, remove from heat at around 230 and add the vanilla and salt then dip away (after it's cooled of course)!
- While this is boiling, line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and spray a little oil on the paper. Alternately, you could just oil the pan, but the paper makes it a TON easier to remove the caramels to cut.
- Remove from heat, then quickly stir in vanilla and a pinch of salt.
- Pour the caramel into the pan, then let cool for at least several hours (after about 10 minutes, you can sprinkle them with another pinch of sea salt to get a nice sweet 'n salty thing going).
- After they've cooled, remove the parchment paper to a cutting board, and cut into 1-inch squares (long knife or a pizza cutter works well).
Extra-Special Bonus Recipes:
Maple Walnut Caramels
Substitute 1 1/2 cups brown sugar for the regular sugar and 3/4 cup maple syrup for the honey; cook as per the original instructions. After removing from heat, stir in a dash each of cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and ground cloves, and 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted walnuts. Pour and let cool.
Chocolate Coconut Caramels
Prepare the basic caramel recipe. Toast 1 cup of shredded coconut, and spread half of it on the parchment paper. When it comes time to remove from heat, stir in about 8 ounces of dark or bittersweet chocolate (a decent-sized bar works; I didn’t actually measure mine and it turned out fine). Pour the caramel mixture onto the parchment, then sprinkle the remaining coconut over the top. Let cool.
The next time you’re have a craving for some caramel, try this homemade caramel without corn syrup – it’s easy, delicious, and all natural (even if it’s not exactly a health food)!
Ooo. Think they will hold up to being dipped in melted chocolate after they cool/are cut?
Sure, if they’re cooled off, if you’re just dipping them, you should be fine (unless you’re holding them in the hot chocolate for an extended period of time). They have a higher melting point than chocolate. That sounds really good, I like that idea!
Geri Valentine says
Going to make caramel candies.
Do you just use white sugar? Do you think sucanat or coconut sugar would work just as well?
We generally use an organic cane sugar, but have used other sweeteners as well, with no issues. I wouldn’t anticipate any problems with any type of real sugar – I’d stay away from fake stuff, since it’s structurally different.
🙁 I made them but they didn’t set. Going to put in freezer and see if I can cut them then, otherwise I guess I’ll have to pull out the ice cream.
I had that happen with one batch – I actually just threw the entire mess back into the pot, reheated and cooked to a few degrees higher than I went the first time. Turned out fine the second time around!
Mary Kate says
Is raw honey necessary, or could it be regular organic honey?
Whatever you’ve got! We happen to have bees and I don’t process our honey, so that’s just what we have available. But any honey would be perfectly fine!
Mary Kate says
Oh, okay, thank you very much! I’m especially excited to try this out for the holidays because my mother cannot have corn products, and caramels are her favourite sweet treat, but since most recipes require corn syrup it’s usually a no go. Thank you for the recipe!
Donna Falco says
I made these! Thank you for the recipe! They are amazing good. I have made boiled candies for decades, but most involved corn syrup. Then diet restrictions against corn, so I was looking for a recipe for Christmas, and wanted caramel for drizzling over some truffles I worked up. I made a trial run with your recipe, not to drizzle, but just to see if it would even set up. I was skeptical that it would firm up enough, so I cooked it to a very hard ball, just shy of hard crack stage. Boy did it set up. It was ready to cut while still warm. And the flavor is just DELICIOUS! I will do this recipe again, cooking to very soft ball stage, pouring some up for drizzling, then returning the rest to heat until it is just getting to hard ball stage, for a chewy caramel. But the ones I made yesterday! Yum! Thanks again!
Donna Falco says
UPDATE: I made the recipe a second time, cooking it to just barely forming a soft ball in cold water, and poured off about 1/3 to drizzle on my Salted Caramel Mocha Latte Truffles. The rest I cooked to almost hard ball stage…a firm soft ball, if you will. These caramels set up perfectly, cut and handled easily, and TASTE DELICIOUS! Thanks for a wonderful recipe! My mind is already spinning with ways to use this to make other candies! (Millionaires!!) As a note: after pouring off the third to drizzle, I allowed it to cool, stirring frequently, until a good consistency (not too thin) for drizzling. It was sticky as fly paper on those truffles, at first, and took the coarse salt well once I enlisted my daughter to sprinkle with salt right behind my drizzling…had to work quickly on that part to insure the salt would stick. The truffles we’re a huge hit. Thanks!! Joyful Christmas to you!
I heard that lemon juice works well to stop crystallization. So what do you think of omitting the honey and using a few drops of lemon juice? I want to avoid corn syrup but I don’t want to use honey.
I’ve never tried it, but I’ve seen the same. Go ahead and add a couple drops and let us know how it turns out!
Melissa Shook says
Is it possible to make this caramel (for dipping) and can it in mason jars? If so, how long is it good for?
I can’t speak for canning it and it being shelf-stable. Maybe, because it’s mostly sugar, but there’s also dairy, so I wouldn’t chance it unless you talk to an expert. I do keep it in a jar/bowl in the fridge, and it’ll keep for at least several weeks there, probably longer, although it can start to crystallize a bit over time.