Homemade Caramel Syrup

Homemade Caramel Syrup
The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Total: 17 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Yield: 3/4 cup

It is surprisingly easy to make caramel syrup from scratch, calling for just sugar, water, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt and taking less than 20 minutes to prepare. It adds a rich sweetness to drinks, including your morning coffee or evening cocktails. The syrup can also be drizzled over breakfast food and desserts, such as pancakes, French toast, and ice cream.

This caramel syrup recipe works well with both raw and white granulated sugars. Which sugar you use determines the syrup's color as well as the underlying taste. Raw sugar creates a darker syrup with a slightly richer flavor, while white sugar produces a softer flavor and golden syrup.

In general, caramelizing sugar to create candy or sauce can be tricky because it requires high heat and it can burn easily. When making syrup, however, water is added, which makes caramel syrup more forgiving, though it does require your undivided attention. Take care to regulate the heat, watch the syrup as it cooks, and stir constantly except when it's boiling.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar (raw or white)
  • 1/2 cup water (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Homemade Caramel Syrup
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  2. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the sugar and 1/4 cup of water.

    Making Caramel Syrup From Scratch
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  3. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves, 8 to 10 minutes.

    Making Caramel Syrup From Scratch
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  4. Turn up the heat to medium-high, cover, and boil for 3 minutes.

    Making Caramel Syrup Coffee and Drink Sweetener
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  5. Remove from heat. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of water in a slow stream, stirring constantly.

    Making Caramel Syrup From Scratch
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  6. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt.

    Making Caramel Syrup for Drinks and Food
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  7. Let the syrup cool completely, then transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

    Homemade Caramel Syrup
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  8. Use the caramel syrup in beverages or over food and enjoy.

    Homemade Caramel Syrup
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

What's the Difference Between Caramel Syrup and Sauce?

Caramel sauce is a popular topping for ice cream and other desserts. It is thick, creamy, and most often includes butter and milk. Although made in a similar way, caramel syrup is most often dairy-free (including this recipe) and designed to be runnier so it pours rather than drips from a spoon.

Tips

  • Be careful when the syrup is at the boiling stage. When removing the lid and adding the extra water, there is a lot of steam that could burn your skin.
  • As the caramel syrup cools, it will thicken slightly; once refrigerated, it will reach the consistency of maple syrup. So don't worry about cooking the syrup until thick as you risk burning it.
  • If a thin film forms on the top of the syrup while it cools, simply skim it off with a spoon.

Recipe Variations

  • For a thinner syrup, add 1/2 cup of water after boiling the syrup.
  • Add a little more salt—up to 1/2 teaspoon—to create a salted caramel syrup.
  • While it's cooling, add a cinnamon stick or two to the syrup for a cinnamon-caramel syrup. Remove the cinnamon before bottling.

More Ways to Use Caramel Syrup

Although the most common use for caramel syrup is as a coffee sweetener, it's also tasty in a variety of food and drinks. For instance, it is a fantastic sweetener for spiced teas like chai and a key ingredient in cocktails like the salted caramel martini. It can also add a dark, rich sweetness to apple cider drinks, either warm or cold, or create caramel-sweetened milk. Use it as an ice cream topping or add it to the blender for a caramel milkshake. The syrup will also work as a substitute for maple syrup on top of your favorite breakfast dishes, and can sweeten up desserts like pound cake (add to slices on the plate). Just keep in mind that since it's runnier than glazes and sauces, it will get soaked up quickly and can result in soggy baked goods.