Easy Caramel Sauce Made With Milk

Easy homemade caramel sauce recipe poured on top of ice cream

The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

Prep: 1 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 16 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 1 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
117 Calories
2g Fat
26g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 117
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 2%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 5mg 2%
Sodium 48mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 26g 9%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 26g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 19mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 22mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Caramel sauce is a wonderful topping for ice cream, cake, pie, and bread pudding. While a typical caramel recipe calls for heavy cream, what if you don't have any handy? This easy recipe uses milk and butter instead, ingredients you're more likely to have on hand. If you want to make delicious caramel sauce without running to the store, this recipe will do the trick.

The key to creamy caramel sauce is to avoid stirring the sugar and water mixture once it begins to boil. Otherwise, you run the risk of it becoming grainy by incorporating sugar crystals from the sides of the pot into the mixture. Once the caramel forms and you add the milk, whisk to combine. Adding the butter at the end helps keep the texture creamy and soft.


Click Play to See This Easy Caramel Sauce Come Together

"Using milk instead of cream made this caramel sauce more of a household ingredient (plus no leftover heavy cream you don't have a use for!), and the addition of the butter made it luscious and creamy. I love putting caramel sauce on almost anything, so having this ready in the fridge is a complete win." —Tracy Wilk

Caramel sauce made with milk in a glass bowl
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/2 cup warm milk

  • 1 pinch kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Easy caramel sauce made with milk ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  2. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Put the saucepan over medium-high heat and cover the pan with a lid.

    Sugar and water combined in a saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii 

  3. Once the water has come to a rolling boil, remove the lid. Do not stir the caramel after this point. If your caramel is cooking unevenly, you can gently swirl the pot to even out the sauce.

    Water and sugar boiling in a saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii 

  4. Cook the caramel until it is a golden-brown color. Once it is a dark amber, remove from the heat and slowly add the milk while whisking. Be careful: The milk can boil up quickly when it hits the hot caramel. The caramel can also separate because the temperature changed too quickly.

    Caramel cooked until golden brown and milk is being whisked in

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  5. Once the milk has been added, gently warm the mixture over medium heat. Whisk the mixture together and boil for 1 minute until the sauce thickens slightly. Add the salt and stir the mixture until it is well combined and liquid.

    Caramel sauce returned to the heat to cook

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  6. Once the milk has combined with the sugar and becomes completely incorporated, turn off the heat. Add the butter and whisk to combine.

    Butter being whisked into the caramel sauce in a saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  7. Allow your caramel to cool before serving.

    Caramel cooling in the pot with a whisk

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii


  • By covering the sugar and water with a tight-fitting lid, condensation will build up and run down the sides of the pot, cleaning off any sugar that may have collected there. You also can use a wet pastry brush to wash the sides of the pot. If you skip this step, crystals may form on the edges of your caramel, causing the sauce to become grainy.
  • Before the caramel starts to darken, the bubbles will slow down, and the mixture will look thicker. This is when you should start keeping an eye on it. Caramel goes from light to dark very quickly, and burnt sugar doesn't make a good sauce. Once you can smell the sugar cooking, don’t walk away from the kitchen. At this point, cover the pot one more time for 1 to 2 minutes to ensure there won’t be any crystals.
  • Adding a pinch of salt to your caramel will actually make it sweeter because the salt counteracts the bitter notes of a deeply caramelized sugar.

Recipe Variation

  • You can always add more salt to make a true salted caramel. Add 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt for a gentle flavor or 1/2 teaspoon for a bold salted caramel sauce flavor.

What Can I Do With Caramel Sauce?

Use caramel sauce as a topping for ice cream, dunking pretzels or fresh fruit like apple slices, or drizzling on cheesecake, cupcakes, brownies, popcorn balls, and cookies.

What Is the Difference Between Caramel and Butterscotch Sauce?

Both caramel and butterscotch are made by melting and toasting sugar, often with a little liquid like water and/or cream. Caramel is typically made using white sugar, while butterscotch is made using brown sugar for a more pronounced buttery, toasty flavor.