These dreamy, buttery Brown Sugar Caramels make wonderful holiday gifts! Homemade Caramels take time to make but are 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 a Caramel Recipe 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.

Why You Must Make

  • Adding brown sugar gives a deeper caramel flavor to these candies.
  • It’s a tried and true recipe with tips for success.
  • They’re absolutely irresistible and make wonderful holiday gifts.

Ingredient Notes

  • Kitchen Staples – Sugar, Brown Sugar
  • Light Corn Syrup – This ingredient gets a bad rap, but is crucial in preventing the sugar in the recipe from recrystallizing. If you’ve ever had grainy caramels, it’s because the melted sugar recrystallized, reverting back to its original form.
  • Half and Half – A mixture of equal amounts of milk and cream with 10-12% milk fat.
  • Heavy Cream – Also known as whipping cream with 36-40% milk fat.
  • Butter – I use salted butter as it won’t make the caramels taste salty. Salt is a flavor enhancer in both sweet and savory recipes and desserts without salt can taste flat.
  • Vanilla Extract – Make sure it’s real vanilla extract, not artificially flavored
Bowl of wrapped brown sugar caramels with an unwrapped caramel in the foreground.

How to Make

  1. Prep the pan for the caramels and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the vanilla and cook as directed until the mixture reaches 250º. This can take up to an hour, so be prepared.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan and cool.
  5. When cool, cut into squares and wrap.

Expert Tips

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.

  • PRO-Tip: 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.
  • PRO-Tip: Using corn syrup prevents the sugar from recrystallizing and becoming grainy. So if your recipe includes it, make sure not to leave it out.
  • PRO-Tip: 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). PRO-Tip: 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 equal parts heavy cream and milk.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 recipe 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.

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

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

Brown Sugar Caramels

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

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

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.
  3. At 250º remove pan from heat and add vanilla.
  4. Pour into prepared pan and let cool completely. Cut into small squares and wrap in waxed paper.
  5. Makes approximately 60.
  6. Tips for making caramels:
  7. 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.
  8. Using corn syrup prevents the sugar from recrystallizing and becoming grainy...you don't want to leave it out.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Notes

Once the caramel cools, cut it into squares and wrap in wax paper or foil wrappers.

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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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.