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Homemade brown sugar caramels wrapped in wax paper in a white bowl

Brown Sugar Caramels

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Caramels are frequently on my candy making list, and I love giving away these dreamy, buttery Brown Sugar Caramels as holiday gifts! Homemade caramel recipes take time to make but are truly a gift from the heart.

Making caramels is not difficult, but getting the molten sugar to the proper temperature takes patience. The results are worth the wait!

Homemade Caramels wrapped in waxed paper in a white candy bowl

Brown Sugar Caramels

I’ve been in love with caramels since my first taste as a child. Whenever a gift of mixed chocolates made its way into our home, I’d elbow my little sisters out of the way, and zero in on the square-shaped caramels. And it turns out, this fondness for caramels runs in the family. Last year, my uncle sent me an old, splattered candy cookbook that used to belong to my grandfather. Besides yellowed recipe clippings nestled between the pages, there were handwritten notes about altitude adjustment next to the caramel and praline recipes.

Written in 1952, there were outdated instructions like, “Remove from the fire and pour on an oiled slab between oiled bars.” Huh? It was my intention to use this recipe for caramels as a tribute to my mom’s side of the family, but terms like “slack back” had me a wee bit nervous…as the candy-making process can be a bit finicky. So I decided against those in favor of one of my tried and true recipes. I’ve shared another caramel recipe on my blog, but this one has brown sugar as well as white sugar…giving an extra boost of caramel flavor.

Bowl of wrapped brown sugar caramels with an unwrapped caramel in the foreground

How to Make Caramel

These brown sugar caramels are made in a traditional manner. The sugar, corn syrup, cream, and butter are all heated in a large heavy saucepan, then cooked until the mixture reaches 250 degrees. At that point the pan is removed from the heat, vanilla extract is mixed in, then the molten hot caramel mixture is poured into a prepared pan.

  • Use a good, accurate candy thermometer. If your caramels don’t come to temperature, they will be too soft. If the mixture gets too hot, your caramels will be hard to chew.
  • Using corn syrup prevents the sugar from recrystallizing and becoming grainy. So if your recipe includes it, make sure not to leave it out.
  • Do not use a flimsy saucepan.  A heavy, high-quality pan that conducts heat evenly will give you better results.
  • A rapid increase or decrease in temperature while cooking will cause the butter to separate from the caramel as it cools (been there, done that). Keep your flame/burner temperature steady.
  • I use a silicone spatula that can take the heat without melting to stir almost continuously. Some recipes don’t require this constant stirring, so follow the directions on your specific recipe.
  • The sugars can vary, from plain white granulated sugar to all brown sugar to a mix of brown and white sugar, like in this recipe.
  • Have a book, TV or friend nearby to keep you company as getting your caramel mixture up to temperature can take up to an hour. 
  • PRO-Tip: Stirring is most important when melting all the ingredients together in the initial stage to prevent burning. After the mix starts boiling, you can stir continuously or just from time to time. But stay close to the pan to monitor the temperature progression. I had always stirred constantly until a reader let me know that she stopped doing so and the recipe still worked beautifully. Thanks to my generous readers for giving me tips and feedback!
  • If you only have cream on hand and no half and half, you can make it from cream and milk. PRO: Tip: To make a cup of half and half, mix together 2/3 cup of milk and 1/3 cup of cream!

Frequently Asked Questions About Homemade Caramel Recipes

Can I Substitute Brown Sugar for White Sugar When Making Homemade Caramels?

Yes, you can definitely substitute brown for white sugar when making homemade caramels. The brown sugar will enhance the caramel flavor even more!

Do You Stir the Sugar When Making Caramels?

It depends. Stirring helps prevent the recrystallization of the sugar in the mixture. Though with this recipe, the addition of corn syrup prevents any stray crystals of sugar from proliferating. BUT if you're making caramel sauce or a caramel without corn syrup, stirring becomes more important. And definitely stir the sugar when you're first melting the butter so nothing burns. My advice is to follow the instructions in the recipe. Note: I have one reader who has made these caramels numerous times and does not stir constantly.

How Do You Store Homemade Caramels?

Keep caramels away from moisture. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. Freeze caramels in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Brown Sugar Caramels wrapped in wax paper in a white bowl
Photo circa 2012

More Caramel Recipes You’ll Love:

This post was originally shared in December 2012. Photos and text were updated in 2019.

Brown Sugar Caramels

Brown Sugar Caramels

Homemade caramels with both white and brown sugar. Perfect for the holidays!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Yield 64 caramels

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions

  1. Line 8 x 8 inch pan with non-stick foil. Set aside.
  2. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine sugars, corn syrup, half and half, cream and butter. Cook over medium low heat, stirring, till candy thermometer reaches 250º. This may take up to an hour. At 250º remove pan from heat and add vanilla.
  3. Pour into prepared pan and let cool completely. Cut into small squares and wrap in waxed paper.
  4. Makes approximately 60.
  5. Tips for making caramels:
  6. Use a good, accurate candy thermometer...if your caramels don't come to temperature, they will be too soft. If the mixture gets too hot, your caramels will be hard to chew.
  7. Using corn syrup prevents the sugar from recrystallizing and becoming grainy...you don't want to leave it out.
  8. A rapid increase or decrease in temperature while cooking will cause the butter to separate from the caramel as it cools. Keep your flame/burner temperature steady. Be patient.
  9. I use a rubber spatula that can take the heat without melting to stir almost continuously. Some recipes don't require this constant stirring, so follow the directions on your specific recipe.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

32

Serving Size:

2 caramels

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 212Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 63mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 0gSugar: 27gProtein: 1g
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36 comments on “Brown Sugar Caramels”

  1. Lizzy, I just hopped over from Lora’s. Your brown sugar caramels are superb! I wish I could pop one into my mouth right now 🙂

  2. What a delicious treat! Perfect for the holidays!

  3. Caramel is one of my weaknesses…I must remember to get cream to make a batch of these tasty treats.

  4. Candies scare me. I haven’t attempted to make any yet. Maybe if I had a good thermometer.

  5. Hi Lizzy, since you move to another platform it takes a little longer to find you: all links take to your old URL, then you have to re-direct. Anyway, just wanted to let you know.
    Never made candies before, would be interesting to try and see this magic…. 🙂

  6. Love caramels! Liz, yours look PERFECT!

  7. The caramels look absolutely divine. I am going to check them out!

  8. Yummy! These look incredible 🙂 Nice choice for your guest post, me thinks

  9. Lizzy , I can’t view your holiday truffle cookies !

  10. Lizzy, I’m having trouble viewing you latest post! They do look wonderful…Truffle cookies sound totally delicious!

  11. I’ve been experimenting with caramels – my favorite candy. This is the WINNING recipe by far. It involves almost no thought. The only thing you have to be absolutely certain to do is use all the ingredients and get the temperature to 250 as instructed. You can even put sea salt on the top when they have cooled a bit. Truly delicious, soft but chewy. They don’t stick to your teeth.

    Three comments: 1) It doesn’t require constant stirring. The first time, I stirred nearly constantly until about the last 15 minutes. The second time I made them I just stirred occasionally after everything was melted. They came out just fine. 2) I started them on medium low as instructed and left them there. It took more like 90 minutes, but that just might be my stove. Since I was only stirring occasionally, I didn’t mind. 3) POUR THEM INTO A LARGER PAN. The first time I put them in 8×8 square as instructed. Those caramels were mighty big. The second time, I halved the recipe (didn’t have enough more a whole recipe but it’s very easy to divide). I stilled used an 8×8 and they came out less huge.

    • Thank you so much, Ruth, for your kind comments and wonderful feedback. I’m am glad you can get away without stirring—my arm gets quite a workout when I make candy. And I’m delighted you loved this recipe!

  12. Edible gifts are the best – so personal! I make honey caramels every year, but I’ve never tried making them with brown sugar. Love the idea!! Adding these to my holiday candy making!

  13. Caramels are one of my all time favorites, especially chocolate caramels. Great post with so much detail and great tips. 

    Wishing you and your family a joyous holiday!

  14. What a fun homemade edible gift to give during the holiday season. They look so professionally made and wrapped. Love it! 🙂 ~Valentina

  15. Dear Lizzy really I love these caramels are my favorite!!
    Merry Christmas dear Lizzy

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