Introduction: Caramel Recipe

Picture of Caramel Recipe

My mother makes epic soft caramels, and I'm pleased to share with you her secret:  Aunt Glady's Caramel Recipe.  

The recipe as handed down to me is sparse, but contains all necessary information.  In an effort to make it slightly more accessible to those of you who might be new to candy-making, I'm including my own comments on the techniques here-in.

Even if you've never made candy before in your life, you will enjoy this recipe.  It's simple, as long as you follow along closely, and put your faith in a quality candy thermometer.   I highly recommend a digital one like this which I got after making this Instructable, but since prefer!

Be advised - once you share these caramels, you will be overwhelmed with requests for more!

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter ( 1 cup / 2 sticks)
  • 1 lb. light brown sugar (a whole box!)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts (opt)


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Step 2: Pan

Picture of Pan

Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or butter.  I used a casserole dish because that's what I had.  Then, to make it easier for me to lift out the caramels later, I lined the pan with waxed paper (buttered parchment would also work).

Buttering the tray before adding the paper helps keep it from slipping around while you're pouring in the hot caramel mixture.

Since I wanted to try making half of this recipe with nuts, I sprinkled them on half of the surface.

Step 3: Cook

Picture of Cook

In a large pot over high heat, bring cream, corn syrup, sugar, and butter to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved.

Continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture reaches 248oF (120oC),
firm-ball stage on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes.

Step 4: Pour

Picture of Pour

Remove from heat and immediately stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  It's gonna act like a volcano when you do this, so be prepared to jump out of the way of wayward caramel splashes.

I also like to stir in a dash of salt at this point because I love salty + sweet.  If you're adding nuts to the whole batch, stir them in now too.

Pour into the prepared pan and let stand uncovered for 24 hours on a heat-safe surface.  (If you leave it on a painted wood surface, it will cause the paint to bubble!  I mean, so I heard.  I wouldn't make such a silly mistake)

Step 5: Cut and Share

Picture of Cut and Share
Aunt Glady's Caramels have a very specific wrapping procedure to them, that I learned by my mother's side.   I hope these pictures illustrate the technique I have spent all these years perfecting.
  • Cut the caramels into small squares.  A pair of kitchen shears is great for this.
  • Cut a square of waxed paper and center a small caramel on it.
  • Bring two opposite edges of paper up to meet above the center of the caramel.
  • Fold the edges together downward until they rest snugly against the caramel.
  • Fold the remaining two edges under.
  • Cut the caramels and wrap them in waxed paper to share.
This is by far the most time consuming (and fattening) step!

When giving as gifts, consider presenting them in a festive paper cone.  Enjoy!


RachaelP22 (author)2017-12-04

Note to others - this recipe does not work if you substitute butter with coconut oil! (I took the risk because I had done this substitution before successfully) I ended up with rock hard caramels, but they are SO good anyway! Not sure if they'll still work in the Samoas recipe..

cloud.ortiz (author)2017-09-22

i like this recipe it sounds delicious, plus my teacher might make this carmel.

Carlos Cabrera (author)2017-04-05

I will try the recipe. Thank you very much for such a wonderful gift.

craft-and-crochet (author)2016-08-14

I'll make these for my mom's birthday! Thanks for posting!

todate (author)2015-12-20

Btw, how much is a "can" (ref. "1 can sweetened condensed milk")

MarlysU (author)todate2015-12-22

A can of Sweetened Condensed Milk is 14 oz....

vicki.babcock.92 (author)2015-03-07

Might be a good recipe, not sure yet. First of all, you list Sweetened Condensed Milk in the ingredient list, but when it comes to the instructions, you say to bring 'cream', corn syrup, sugar and butter to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.....which is it, 'cream' or sweetened condensed milk? Also, you list vanilla in the ingredients, but nowhere in the instructions does it tell you when to add the vanilla!! I'm going to go ahead and give this a try because it sounds really good, but in the future, might want to re-read your recipe and instructions before posting!

vicki.babcock.92 if you didn't have 5 steps in this recipe, you needed to see the 2nd page. that's where we find out about the vanilla addition. (I can't help with the condensed milk/cream thing.)

kmholperin2 (author)2014-12-12

I use tin foil to line my pan and butter it generously.

ripsup (author)2013-07-21

So I made a batch yesterday and they taste amazing. I've got 1 problem though that maybe you can shed some light on, the wax paper isn't coming off that I poured it over. Is this normal and you just have to spend a ton of time picking at the bottom to get the paper off or did I miss something that makes it easily pull off?

Ron0Fez (author)2012-12-06

Love the recipe!!! We are having a hard time with the wax paper sticking to the caramel even with Pam spray, any suggestions?

jenelope (author)2010-12-16

I made 300 of these last weekend. The good news is, they're fabulous. The bad news is, they've spoiled me for store-bought caramel. The other bad news is, I have to figure out how to individually wrap 300 caramels in three days.

dvhuerta2 (author)jenelope2012-11-08

its going to be hard to explain but i'll try xD but what i do is take out a long piece of wax paper cut it into 3-4 long strips (depends on how wide the paper is) place the caramels in the middle of the strips and place the caramels about an inch apart from each other then roll up the caramels in the wax paper and cut between the caramels and tape or fold the ends of the wax paper to seal the caramels in the wax paper.... i hope that help again its hard to explain with out pictures or a video x3

scoochmaroo (author)jenelope2010-12-18

That is the worst part! We need to come up with a quick, clever way to handle unwrapped caramels.

clubagreenie (author)scoochmaroo2012-08-16

A quick way to handle 300 caramels? Eat them.

jenelope (author)scoochmaroo2011-01-20

I figured out *my* best way: I drafted my parents into doing it when they arrived at my home for the weekend while I was still at work. They had them all wrapped by the time I got home! Let's just call it payback for giving up my bed.

Anyway, every single person who tried them loved them. They were a huge hit as a Christmas party favor! But now I think I may have spoiled other people for store-bought, too, and spending hours stirring caramel may become something I have to do on a regular basis.

Saturn V (author)scoochmaroo2010-12-18

Easy way to handle caramels you can't wrap: eat them!

xtux (author)2012-11-08

Looks like bacon.

bowow0807 (author)2010-07-26

this was an awesome recipe i tried it and it was delicious and the vanilla flavoring i used was a bit different but when i gave it to my friends they found it somehow extremely addictive ,they described it as an coffee-ish taste to begin with then good caramel taste then the after taste then a lonely feeling do you know what made it that way? maybe i just used moderate qaulity ingredients instead of high quality

scoochmaroo (author)bowow08072010-07-26

Cool! I don't know about the reactions your friends were having, but my entire family feels the same way about them. I think it's the time spent caramelizing the ingredients that brings out the richness of flavors. This is a great recipe to experiment with different extracts too! I'm glad you enjoyed it :D

bowow0807 (author)scoochmaroo2011-05-08

oh yeah can i also try to make the caramel a little bit firmer? and im also gonna try using regular cream to replace the condensed milk because my friends also said that it tasted like "yemma" a local treat that is like a slightly crunchy and flaky outside and a extremely sweet condensed milk and sugar mix on the inside. and im also gonna try to coat them in chocolate. ill tell you how they come out.

NinjaMama (author)bowow08072012-04-05

If you use regular cream, find a regular caramel recipe. This is a "shortcut" recipe and condensed milk takes less than half of the cooking time that cream will. Cream is added in different increments at different times in the traditional recipe.

hdaniel-1 (author)2011-05-06

Hey, nice recipe! :)
I only have one question: What if we don't have corn syrup where I'm from? What can I use instead?

barbi15 (author)hdaniel-12011-05-22

I am pretty sure you could use agave syrup, if it's available to you. HTH

NinjaMama (author)barbi152012-04-05

Dear Barbi, candy requiring a specific chemical/ sugar reaction not the best to sub anything in. caramel is a sensitive recipe, anyhow. Here's a bit from "All About Agave":
"Agave nectar may substituted for part or all of the sugars or liquid sweeteners in many recipes. Experimentation may be necessary when substituting for sugars in recipes containing precise chemistry - for example, cooked candies and some baked goods. Candy recipes like toffees and nut brittles rely on chemical reactions provided by refined sugars which may be disrupted by substitutions. It may be possible to substitute, but ratios could take some tinkering to produce optimum results."

One should follow this to the letter to learn, after that, you'll be making a dozen different flavors of delicious caramel in no time..Think Jalepeno and Huckleberry!

Mamma5 (author)hdaniel-12011-05-31

If you're in the UK, use Glucose syrup, if not then google it!

SabineT (author)hdaniel-12011-05-09

Yep, I'd like to know this, too. No corn syrup here either. Any ideas?

sunshiine (author)2011-12-21

These look so delicious! I loved the wrapping idea! Anyone receiving this for a gift will certainly appreciate the thoughtfulness! Thanks for sharing!

ssmoochy (author)2011-06-05

still cooling, but I'm definitely getting a condensed milk taste out of them. Not really bad considering I LOVE the taste of condensed milk, but I am wondering if I managed to mess things up.

Mamma5 (author)2011-05-31

I'm going to make these with my children. They look fabulicious xx
I looked up "corn syrup" and was pleased to discover that here in the UK we would use GLUCOSE syrup instead!

javajunkie1976 (author)2011-04-08

How could I modify this to make it vegan? I personally don't care, but the people I work with are vegans (aka prey. At least to us that aren't and like to tease them.)

mmeekins (author)javajunkie19762011-04-11

I make this vegan, you can use soy cream or coconut milk instead of real milk. and vegan margarine instead of butter. <3

javajunkie1976 (author)mmeekins2011-04-14

Thanks, I appreciate it.

Toffy (author)2011-02-05

I forgot to say that I really loved the way you packaged them in the colorful packaging. Did you make the boxes?? Very nice way for gifting the caramels. Thanks for sharing.

Toffy (author)2011-02-05

This looks like a great recipe. I will have to try it. What size is your pyrex dish? That would be helpful to know. When I made caramels years ago, I put the caramel on the end of about a 3 1/2 to 4" square of which I folded under on starting edge, so the caramel would not get caught in the paper. Layed my hand on the caramel and rolled it to the end of the paper, then twisted the ends tight. That worked fast for me. It is just another way to do it. I could wrap all the caramels quickly, then twist all ends after the wrapping was done. 300 caramels in that batch....?? Wow.

mathews98 (author)2010-11-23

How long do they last?

DaveySprocket (author)2010-11-19

That's how we used to wrap our sandwiches to take to school :)

jenelope (author)2010-11-18

I'm thinking about making these as a party favor for a family Christmas party. My Mom's best friend always used to send us home from her big party with a handmade ornament or fudge or a box of homemade candy. It was such a gracious thing to do. Anyway, can you tell me approximately how many caramels the recipe yields? Just trying to get an idea of how many batches I'm going to need to make for our crowd. I'm thinking an assortment might be nice. Perhaps salt caramels, pecan caramels and some chocolate-dipped caramels.

Rakanishu (author)2010-06-21

All I can say is NOM.

mcorbin (author)2009-12-23

 Soooooo like my grandmother's recipe! Even the finished product wrapped in waxed paper looks the same. 

One year I got so excited, because I found Christmas patterned wax paper. Had to make a batch of caramels for it.

I'm glad people like you are still making homemade candy. 

LiMiT-L3sS (author)mcorbin2010-03-29

Me toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

GeekyGirl1103 (author)2010-03-16

I've only made caramels using one recipe, and it's completely different from this one. The other one takes a few hours of stirring, so it's kind of a pain. :P Thanks so much for this. <3

HollyHarken (author)2009-12-24

It looks like you have a tiny kitchen based on your photos of your stove.  You sure do amazing work in such a small space. I've made a few of your recipes and they've always come out great.  Thanks for being such a creative and generous poster.  I have subscribed to you because you always have great recipes. 

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas.  I'm happy that it snowed last week and I get a white Christmas:). 

scoochmaroo (author)HollyHarken2009-12-24

Oh, why thank you!
I DO have a tiny kitchen!! It's got a half-sized range, a half-sized dishwasher and a scaled down fridge.  It's San Francisco!

Merry Christmas to you as well, and I'm glad you're safe and warm for the holidays.

cptbingo2000 (author)2009-12-23

Is it pretty easy to cut the squares with the shears?  I would think it would be a sticky mess.

scoochmaroo (author)cptbingo20002009-12-24

It's easy.  There's enough slipperiness to the caramels that they don't stick to the shears.  Must be all the butter!

pjamestx (author)2009-12-23

Very nice!  I can see the wrapping being the hardest part.  "One for the wrapper, one for me... two for the wrapper, one.. two... for me" :)

gustavo.leal (author)2009-12-23

Its IMPossible to find unsweetned condensed milk in brazil, can I use the sweetned one?

scoochmaroo (author)gustavo.leal2009-12-23

In fact, I've never seen unsweetened condensed milk here either!

Jayefuu (author)2009-12-23

Awesome photos as usual scooch! These look delicious.

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