When I was a kid, I was all about ice cream toppings.  You know, the kind that come in the jars from the grocery store?  Hot fudge, caramel, butterscotch, pineapple, etc. etc.  I would gladly use every one I could get my hands on.  My family didn’t keep them in the house too often but my nanny did and whenever I spent the night at her house, it was a special treat to have a bowl of ice cream drowned in my topping of choice.  For the past few years I’ve been so focused on making all varieties of homemade ice cream, toppings have fallen by the wayside.  This year, when the weather started warming up, I rediscovered my love of toppings through the beauty of a simple vanilla bean ice cream topped with this caramel sauce.  I’m honestly at a loss for words to describe how much I enjoy this stuff .  I guess I’ll just tell you that I ate it every night for dessert until the ice cream was gone, and then I made some more ice cream and we finished that too.  Of course you can do much more with this than put it on top of ice cream…you can mix it into frosting for some wicked caramel buttercream, dip apple slices, drizzle it over cheesecake or chocolate cake, stir it into coffee (stay tuned for that post), and the list goes on…


1 cup sugar
1¼ cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
¼ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract


  • 01

    Spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Place over medium-low heat, watching carefully.  When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently stir it towards the center.  Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, taking care not to over stir.  Measure out the heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream.  Set aside.  Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the sauce pan from the heat.  (To test the color, spoon a drop onto a white plate or bowl.)  Carefully whisk in half of the heavy cream along with the vanilla bean seeds.  The mixture will steam and bubble violently.  Stir until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream.  Stir in the salt and the vanilla.  If any sugar has hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth.

  • 02

    Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  If needed, it can be rewarmed in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.


  • I almost don’t need ice cream to go with this sauce it sounds so good!

  • This looks gorgeous! Definitely making this next time I make ice cream.

    I was terrible for ice cream toppings when I was little too. We used to get this chocolate sauce in a squeezy bottle (it tasted nothing like chocolate but I LOVED it) and sometimes I just used to squeeze it straight onto a spoon and eat it on it’s own without even bothering with the ice cream!

  • Oh, I bet this is amazing with the vanilla bean in it. I actually just made vanilla bean ice cream yesterday, and I love it with this caramel sauce. I’m definitely making another batch and adding the vanilla bean. Yum!

  • This sauce sounds amazing. Love the flecks of the vanilla. I’m afraid I would just eat all of this straight from the jar.

  • Paula B.

    I was going to make caramel sauce this afternoon to go with our dessert at “game night” this evening. I’ve been hesitant to try to make it and have researched so many recipes…and now here’s yours. Well, I’ll be trying this later today, serendipity!

  • Yum! I just made hot fudge sauce at home yesterday and it was beyond amazing. I need to make this next!

  • Oh yum – I need to use up my vanilla beans. This will be perfect!

  • Alexa

    Would it be wrong to shove my hand into that jar and then lick my fingers dry? This calls for an emergency trip to the grocery store!

  • This is EXACTLY what we needed on our ice cream last night. YUM

  • This sounds amazinggg!

  • I have been looking for a great recipe for a caramel sauce. Looks like yours is a winner! Not sure what a coarse salt is though… could I use a sea salt instead?

  • Annie

    Sea salt is one type of coarse salt. Enjoy!

  • Absolutely breathtaking. Caramel is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. Apples would be my first choice!

  • I could just drink this with a straw, yes?

  • Man this looks delish!!! And what wonderful pictures too-love your blog.

  • Um, yum! Looks amazing. I always love your pictures too, Annie!

  • I have a homemade chocolate sauce recipe that we love to drizzle on ice cream. But have been on the lookout for a caramel version for quite some time. I will totally be making this soon!

  • This looks fantastic!

  • Laura

    How long did it last in your house before it was all gone? I’m afraid I’ll eat it all in one sitting! :)

    In all seriousness, how long did you keep it in your fridge? A week or so?

  • Kristen

    Hi Annie! This looks sooo good. I was looking for something to give as gifts this holiday season…how long do you think it will keep? Thanks :)

  • Will you judge me if I eat mine with just a spoon and no ice cream? thanks for the recipe :)

  • kate

    how long does this keep in the fridge? thanks annie, I love your blog!

  • kate

    nevermind – just saw up to 2 weeks on Cook Like a Champion. thanks!

  • Annie

    I actually found a jar in my pantry that had been there for a couple of months, and it was still perfectly fine. So, at least that long, and I would imagine longer in the fridge!

  • Annie

    Laura, I had some in my pantry for a couple of months and it was still fine. So at least that long, if not longer in the fridge!

  • Hi Annie,
    This caramel sauce looks amazing. I love caramel sauce. Especially when it is homemade :)

  • That looks incredible! I’m afraid of what would happen if I had some of that in the house :D

  • Tracie

    This caramel sauce looks awesome! Have you ever canned/processed it to keep it longer? I just got done making raspberry sauce and canned it for gifts. Thanks!

  • I don’t think im going to wait for ice cream to eat this caramel sauce! haha :)

    Love your little jars! they are so cute and practical, where did you got them from :)?

  • I love vanilla caramels and make them all the time. I don’t know why I never thought to make a caramel sauce out of it. So thanks for the tip Annie! Also, I find that 5 grams of vanilla bean paste works perfectly if you don’t have any vanilla beans lying around or if they are too hard to find and you want to save them for a special recipe.

  • Megan

    Hi, I was wondering where you find your vanilla beans at. I made your vanilla bean ice cream last week and it cost me $8 for two vanilla beans!! I thought that was way pricy, but is that normal? The ice cream was great though!!


  • This sauce sounds perfect! Awesome recipe.

  • oooo, i think i was deprived as a kid as i never had caramel toppings (chocolate magic shell was my sauce of choice :) so maybe not that deprived…) and this looks magically wonderful! I have a feeling it would never make it as a topping though as i would guzzle it all straight from the fridge :)

  • Melissa

    I was looking for a real good recipe for caramel sauce just the other night…so now i have a good one Thanks Annie.

  • mmmm, caramel is my fav! Can’t wait to try this one out

  • Nicci

    I saw the posting yesterday after work and when I woke up this morning I decided it must be made today – which resulted in ice cream with caramel sauce for breakfast! It was really easy to make and very tasty. Thanks Annie!

  • This sauce looks out of this world amazing! I’m going to have to try it!

  • This looks just amazing!! I love anything caramel and the vanilla beans just take it over the top!! Would go great with the Vanilla Bean Frozen Yogurt and Chocolate Velvet Sauce that I am posting today on my blog! We could get together and make a turtle sundae or something yummy like that!! Do you have any toasted pecans lying around? That’s about all we are missing!! :)

  • I was going to suggest coffee! lol. Been looking for a good homemade caramel sauce for my afternoon iced latte. This will be perfect!

  • patti

    Hey there…I am collecting recipes for goodies I want to make for Christmas presents-how do you store this and how long do you think it will last if I add this to my gift giving list-I already know we will have to make it for us:)

  • Megan

    Hi, I was wondering where you find your vanilla beans. I made your vanilla bean ice cream last week, and spent $8 for two vanilla beans! Is that pricy or is that fairly normal? The ice cream was delicious though!!


  • Annie

    Please see the other comments, this question has been addressed. Thanks!

  • Annie

    See the Annie’s equipment section – I buy on Amazon.

  • Traci Howard

    I made this soooooooooooooo amazing sauce tonight and paired it with your Roasted Banana Ice Cream! OHHHHHHHHHHHH, the heavens opened up!

  • Annie

    Fabulous idea, I’m totally trying that combo!

  • The thought of this in a buttercream frosting actually just made my mouth water/stomach grumble. It looks SO good!

  • forget the ice-cream, all i want is a spoon so I can eat it out of the jar. looks so good!!!

  • stumbled! Had to!

  • Kristin

    I made this sauce last night, but am not sure if I took my sugar a few seconds past “deep caramel” or not. It doesn’t taste truly burnt – it is just very rich. I can’t decide if it’s usable or not.. I also had problems melting some of the sugar that had hardened after adding the cream. I probably didn’t let it get hot enough on low as I was afraid the sugar would continue to “cook” somehow. I’ve made caramel in the past and didn’t have any problems, but it was also a “wet” caramel vs. this “dry” version. I read up on David Lebovitz’s site with his tips on caramel making and that helped. I probably let the sugar get too amber…might need to give this another go.

  • Annie

    Yep, it sounds like you just overcooked the sugar a little bit. Believe me, I’ve done it many times. You have to be so careful because it only takes a few seconds for it to go from yummy caramel to burnt caramel. I’ve made both wet and dry versions and don’t find one more difficult than the other. I think it just needs a very watchful eye. Better luck next time!

  • Claire

    This is way healthier than the store-bought sauces because it does not contain the nasty preservatives and what not. ;) Like my justification? Delish!!

  • Annie

    Love it!

  • Kristin

    Hi Annie: I saw your comment above where you said you found some of this in your pantry — does this mean it does not have to be refrigerated? I made the caramel sauce last night but was going to eat it over vanilla bean ice cream tonight. I left the airtight jars of caramel out on the counter this morning and I’m wondering now if I should have refrigerated it or if it will be okay on the counter…thanks!

  • Annie

    Yeah, I kept my airtight jars in the pantry and the sauce still seems fine months later. Obviously I haven’t done proper testing or anything to know how long it officially lasts, etc. but we’ve been eating it and enjoying it without issue.

  • Yvonne

    Hi Annie,

    I made your syrup tonight and served it over some Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. It was delicious! I think I took it just a second or two over what the caramel should have come out like, but instead of being burnt, it lent it a darker aftertaste. We love it! I can’t wait to try to make a McDonald’s Iced Latte ripoff with it! ;) Thanks for the recipe!

  • Lisa J.

    Great recipe! Quick question. Where did you get the jar with the clasp? Thank you!

  • Annie

    Sur La Table

  • I just made this tonight, and it is fabulous! (And this is coming from someone who could easily pass up caramel!) The vanilla bean seeds really add so much depth and richness to it (and makes it look awfully pretty in the jar, too). Yum! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Anne

    Attempted to make this tonight but it was a major failure. First time I’ve ever had a problem making caramel sauce so I’m not sure what went wrong. The sugar refused to melt thoroughly and by the time that it did melt it was already past amber, so no surprise when the whole thing seized up immediately when I added the cream. Any tips on what I could do differently? I so want to make this recipe work because it looks so delicious!

  • Annie

    Anne, sorry, I’m not sure what to tell you! Maybe lower heat to start? I’ve made it multiple times myself with no issues so I don’t really know what it could be. Better luck next time!

  • Anne

    Just attempted this again and it came out perfect! Still have no idea what went wrong the first time but this batch is simply delicious!

  • Annie

    Great! Glad it worked out this time :)

  • Annie – do you think this would work baked in an apple (caramel) pie? Thanks

  • Annie

    I don’t see why not, but the only way to know for sure is to try and see. Sounds yummy!

  • Monica

    I’ve tried making this twice and it was a complete failure. I’m not sure why my sugar doesn’t melt. I had the heat on low, by the time the sugar seemed to be melting it was too dark and hard. I think I’ve given up on trying this one…

  • EmilyB

    I’ve tried several salted caramel recipes, and while they all turn out well and taste great, I really don’t like the way they ‘harden’ after the caramel sits for a while. I always have to microwave it to bring it back to a spoonable/drizzle-able (is that a word??) state; and as soon at it touches something cold, like ice cream, it becomes very hard and extremely chewy…does this recipe do that as well? If so, is there ANY type of caramel topping that stays in a liquid state all the time??

    Thanks Annie!

  • Annie

    I never have to do anything to this. It stays as it is seen in the photos.

  • Amy

    I tried making the caramel this morning and when adding the cream, mine completely seized up on me. I was exceptionally careful not to overstir and to not overcook. Not sure what happened but I won’t be trying this again, unfortunately.

  • Annie

    Caramel frequently seizes when you add cream, but that isn’t the end. You just have to keep stirring it over low heat until it smooths out again.

  • Lynne

    Looks yummy, Annie! And to those who say the cream seizes the caramel when added, you can also warm the cream in the microwave until it’s lukewarm before adding. 20-30 secs should do =)

  • Annie

    I’ve tried warming the cream myself and it never seems to help for me. Sometimes it seizes, sometimes it doesn’t, and it seems so arbitrary!

  • Annie, thank you for this recipe and your wonderful directions! This was the first time I was able to successfully make caramel – and now I think I’m hooked! :) This sauce is delicious!

  • Sara

    This is TO DIE FOR!!!! Made it last night and my kids were eating it by spoonfuls right out of the jar. So good! I absolutely LOVE your blog!

  • rebecca

    Hey annie! i made this yesterday and it was soooo good! my only problem was that it is really thick! almost like the caramel squares that you can buy to eat like candy, if its not warmed up, in the picture it looks really thin, if you added more cream would it loosen it up if i decide to make this again?

  • Annie

    It sounds like maybe it cooked a bit too long. You shouldn’t need more cream, but rather just a little less cooking of the sugar. Mine is not warmed nor does it have added cream in this picture. Good luck!

  • Sara

    I’m making this for gifts for Christmas. I see that you have lots of comments about shelf life and it’s OK to leave in the pantry for a few months. I’m wondering if you know anything about canning. Is it OK to can something that has cream in it? I’m also making my mom in-law’s amazing hot fudge which has evaporated milk in it, and am wondering the same thing. I just don’t want to give people a little added gift of food poising! I’ve tried searching the web for the answer, but can’t find anything.
    Thanks for your help!

  • Annie

    Never attempt to can something that was not expressly designed for that purpose. That could definitely be a disaster.

  • Ellen

    Do you use the rubber ring that comes with it? Or is it that more for canning things?

  • Annie

    Yes, I use it.

  • Leah T

    Okay, so I’m freaking out a little bit right now! I just made this vanilla bean caramel sauce and it is SO fantastic! I’m making a gift basket with your hot fudge, this caramel sauce, and your vanilla bean ice cream to exchange at a Christmas party this weekend. Thank you so much for all of your fabulous recipes!

  • Leah T

    Okay, so I’m freaking out a little bit right now! I just made this vanilla bean caramel sauce and it is SO fantastic! I’m making a gift basket with your hot fudge, this caramel sauce, and your vanilla bean ice cream to exchange at a Christmas party this weekend. Thank you so much for all of your fabulous recipes!

  • Kelley Godbold

    I think I must have done something wrong. My sugar really didn’t “liquify,” it got hard. Then somewhat less hard, then grainy. When I added the heavy cream, it turned into lots of hard chunks. I melted them back in, but the sauce was REALLY thin. I put them in the refrigerator, hoping that it would help them to thicken, and I haven’t checked on them yet. Is it supposed to be on the thin-side when it first finishes?

  • Laura

    Bought some jars to make the sauce for Christmas gifts; I started tonight. Mine seized on me, but I kept stirring over a med/low flame and eventually, the hunk of sugar dissolved. Initially, I felt a little panic-y when I saw that big hunk of browned sugar sitting in my very liquid-y sauce after I added the cream, so I had my son stir while I read over the comments here and after reading I realized that I would need to be patient and stir & stir until the hunk dissolved.The sauce thickened nicely, too. This sauce has a lovely flavor, like nothing from a jar found at the local supermarket. It’s worth it to make to enjoy at home or to give as a gift.

  • Rqp4

    I made the vanilla bean sauce so that I could make the salted caramel mochas and oh my word, the sauce turned our perfectly! I was hesitant to make it, but I’m so glad I did. Thanks for sharing a great recipe!

  • Dederka

    best thing ever – I made it 10 times or so. Everybody loves it and we eat it straight out of the jar. Thanks for this great recipe.

  • easy and delicious…gotta watch the caramel burning though!

  • I know that comments on a recipe not working often outnumber those that had success, it’s much easier to post about complaints instead of remembering to say it worked and thank you. That being said, it took me three tries to make this caramel successfully. With much online reading, and pure determination I finally won out. And it was so worth it. Just so you know, it was successful. Thank you for the recipe :)

  • Becky

    I buy mine at Costco – they come in 2 long tubes and thee’s usually 6-8 in each tube and they’re not too pricey!

  • Nina

    Very GoooooD!! The caramel was a big sugar clump at first but as previously commented keep stirring!! Worth it :)

  • Mustikarhu

    Are there missing ingredients here? No thickener, no margarine. Obviously I screwed up because mine doesn’t resemble caramel in any way.

  • Mustikarhu

    Are there missing ingredients here? No thickener, no margarine. Obviously I screwed up because mine doesn’t resemble caramel in any way.

  • Anonymous

    No, the recipe is correct. Sorry you had trouble!

  • Thanks so much, Annie! I’m having a hard time not eating this straight out of the jar. :-)

    If any of your readers are interested, I was able to make a just-as-delicious dairy free version of this (my daughter is milk protein intolerant.) I posted the adaptation here: http://www.madebybird.com/coconut-ice-cream-caramel-fudge-ribbons/

  • Elizabeth T.

    This caramel is deeeeelish!!! I made it to go with your caramel apple cheesecake pie recipe and this put it over the top! This being my first time ever making caramel, I thought for SURE I would burn it, but it turned out perfect. Thanks for the amazing recipe!!!

  • I just made mine today, and yes- I had to turn the heat back on and kept stirring it, since mine seized pretty bad. I finally got all but maybe a tablespoon of the sugar melted again- that tablespoon stuck to my wisk. I figured that small of an amount wasn’t going to hurt it, and I was right! It turned out a beautiful deep amber color and thickened just enough.

  • Liz

    The more cream, the more “sauce”-like it stays. If you don’t have enough cream, or if you use water instead, it will harden upon cooling, and is more of a caramel candy than sauce.

  • Denise Wesely

    Maybe check with your local county extension office’s home economist(?). Not sure that’s what they are called, but it’s the person who has all the information on canning. They would know.

  • Lydia

    This looks amazing! I can’t wait to make some. I was curious as to how long this can last in the fridge? I know some caramel lasts for months! Thanks!

  • annieseats

    Essentially indefinitely. Definitely longer than it takes for us to use it up :)

  • Lydia

    Great! Thank you :)

  • Brighteyedbaker

    I stopped cooking my caramel once it seemed like it was at the right point, and it was actually a bit lighter than I expected, so I don’t think I overcooked it. It was smooth, but as soon as it sat for a moment before I added the liquid, it hardened on the bottom of the pan. I added the liquid anyway and got a lot of the caramel flavor soaked up by setting it over the stove again, even though the caramel stayed stuck. It was delicious and didn’t taste burned at all, so I’m wondering why all of my caramel stuck to the pan. Is it because I waited a beat too long to add the liquid? Thanks for any suggestions; hope you can help!

  • annieseats

    To me it sounds like it probably was overcooked, despite the color. The higher the temperature, the more quickly the sugar will harden. The quality of your pan can make a big difference when making caramel, so if it wasn’t a great pan that could have played a role as well.

  • Thanks for the advice :) I’ll try cooking it less and see how that works.

  • Margaret

    This stuff should be illegal! I like to put a spoonful or two in my iced coffee. YUM!

  • Glburr

    Oh wow, this is a great recipe! I don’t know if this made a difference to the cooking time but I used raw sugar which is a coarser granule than normal white sugar. I found that it was the right colour as soon as it melted but it took forever! I will use an even larger saucepan next time. I love the fact I could make this myself on fully organic ingredients… Helps justify the extravagance. I can’t wait to use in your caramel coffee syrup recipe!

  • Jer

    How long will this last in the fridge?

  • annieseats

    Please see the FAQ page regarding food storage. Thanks.

  • molly

    This stuff is delicious! Thanks for the idea…and the sugar rush!

  • Francesca

    Tried this twice yesterday and both times the sugar didn’t melt properly – first time it melted, probably too quickly, and when adding cream it became completely stuck to the bottom like brittle. Second time, had on low heat, and took FOREVER, and still didn’t melt, so gave up and went back to my brown sugar/butter/cream version. Will try again using a different and larger pan and see if that helps…

  • annieseats

    Sorry to hear you had trouble. Caramel can definitely be frustrating. It may just take some practice, and I do think the quality/size of the pan can make a big difference. Good luck, I hope it works out better next time!

  • Kay

    Yum! Sugar seized on me as well but kept it going on med-low and it eventually melted down. Definitely worth the wait.

  • Kate Marie

    You either don’t mention WHEN to add vanilla extract or I COMPLETELY misread recipe. Can more extract be used if I can’t find vanilla beans?

  • annieseats

    Right here: “Stir in the salt and the vanilla. If any sugar has hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth.” Enjoy :)

  • Tiffany

    Annie, I made this and the caramel tasted. Little…burnt. I took forever to melt on med low so I did cook it on med high. Do you think that’s why? :(

  • annieseats

    If it tasted burnt, then it was overcooked. That’s the tricky thing with caramel. It can go from just right to burned in an instant. It’s happened to me many times. Just try again, maybe with a little lower heat next time and a very, very watchful eye!

  • mamy81

    I was skeptical of this recipe due to so many people having issues. However, I found this very, very easy to make. I hate saying “the best” but this really is the best caramel sauce I personally have made. I don’t carry vanilla beans so I subbed vanilla bean paste. And as soon as the sugar was completely melted I added the cream. I did not wait for a specific color. It truly, truly is delicious. Now tomorrow I make the caramel apple cheesecake pie.

  • annieseats

    Wonderful! So glad you enjoyed it. I totally agree that it is the best :)

  • andrea

    Made this last night, and was worried because i know how fickle sugar can be to work with, but wow. SO incredibly good! I did have to heat on low to dissolve the sugar chunks, which took quite some time (15 minutes perhaps, with constant stirring). Used it for salted caramel chocolate fudge, with extra on hand for ice cream.

  • Harriet B

    Wanted to add another positive comment — mine also seized up when I added the cream, but I turned the heat back on medium low and let it soften up and get totally liquefied before adding the rest of the cream. I think this may be one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth.

  • Shiyomi J

    Worked AMAZING! First time making caramel.
    Of course, I stood infront of the stove the entire time with it on low-heat. But it was worth the long wait and patience proves to be the winner here!

    Thank you for this lovely recipe!!!

  • annieseats

    Way to go! So worth it, right?!

  • Patti

    Have you ever made this into a salted caramel?

  • annieseats
  • Patti

    Ok, thank you. I was looking for a salted caramel sauce.

  • annieseats

    Oh, I see. Sure, you can make this sauce and just add more salt.

  • Cara

    Holy cow I just made caramel and didn’t screw up the recipe! Ha! So excited to turn this into the flavored syrup for my iced coffee! I love how many different DIY skills I have learned via your blog! :)

  • annieseats

    Woo! Way to go girl! So proud :)

  • Kensey Gosch

    I made this yesterday. When I added the cream, the sugar defintiely seized up. I put it back on the stove and still a big clump of sugar wouldn’t dissolve. However, I ended up just throwing the clump out – and what was left was still a DELICIOUS caramel! So all’s well that ends well. SO good!

  • Aisha

    I made the caramel and it tastes awesome but it’s not as thick as I thought it would be. What did I do wrong? How thick should it be?

  • annieseats

    It is fairly thin while still warm but thickens as it cools.