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. Plus, they store well in the freezer for up to 12 months, so you can easily make them ahead of time.
Making homemade caramels is not difficult, but getting the molten sugar to the proper temperature takes patience. The results are worth the wait!
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Written in 1952, there were outdated instructions like, “Remove from the fire and pour on an oiled slab between oiled bars.”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.
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 6-12 months.
Photo circa 2012
More Caramel Recipes You’ll Love:
- Caramel Apple Bars from Snappy Gourmet
- Mini Vanilla Flans
- Caramel Corn Recipe
- Microwave Caramel Sauce Recipe
- Caramel Espresso Bars
- Soft Chewy Cream Caramels
- Caramel Stuffed Rice Krispie Treats
- Caramel Apple Pie
This post was originally shared in December 2012. Photos and text were updated in 2019.
- 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
- Line 8 x 8 inch pan with non-stick foil. Set aside.
- 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.
- Pour into prepared pan and let cool completely. Cut into small squares and wrap in waxed paper.
- Makes approximately 60.
- Tips for making caramels:
- 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...you don't want to leave it out.
- 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.
- 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.
Serving Size:2 caramels
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 212Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 63mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 0gSugar: 27gProtein: 1g