This Caramel Syrup recipe is so easy to make, and really handy to have around in your fridge! It's perfect to use in cocktails, but it's also amazing in a mug of coffee or even poured over a stack of pancakes.
It's really nice to have this on hand in the fall and winter months! The warm caramel flavor just gives such a cozy feeling.
You really only need two ingredients for this recipe: sugar and water! It's that easy. If you want, you can add a little corn syrup in order to help prevent the mixture from crystallizing.
The most important thing to know about making caramel is that you should never heat the sugar in a non-stick pan. The non-stick surface often causes the sugar to crystallize, which basically means that your nice liquid caramel will become a mass of lumpy sugar!
Here's what you'll need to make the syrup:
- a heavy-bottomed saucepan (NOT non-stick!)
- a spatula or wooden spoon
- oven mitt or glove
- a glass bottle or other container for storage
- optional: a funnel to bottle the syrup
- optional, but recommended: a kitchen scale to measure your ingredients
- optional: an infrared thermometer to take your caramel to a consistent temperature each time you make it
In order to make this syrup, you'll start by cooking sugar until it caramelizes. There are two ways to make caramel on the stovetop: dry caramel, where you cook dry sugar until it melts, or wet caramel, in which you add a little water to the sugar.
Wet caramel is a little easier to control and helps prevent the sugar from burning, so that's what this recipe uses. Either way of doing things will work, though!
Heat the sugar
Start by placing the sugar into a medium size saucepan. You don't want to use too small of a pan, because the hot sugar mixture will bubble up later on in the recipe. Mix in the water and stir until the mixture comes together.
Turn the stove on to medium heat. Stir the mixture occasionally until the sugar is fully dissolved, and then stop stirring. Allow the mixture to come to a boil.
After it comes to a boil, keep a close eye on what is happening in the pot. The sugar will start to turn yellow and then will quickly get to a brown color.
Finishing the caramel
You can determine when the caramel is done in two ways: going by the color, or using a thermometer. This part is also personal preference based on how strong of a caramel flavor you like. The longer you let it brown, the darker it will get, and the deeper the flavor. If you take it too far, though, you do risk burning the sugar and getting a burnt flavor in the syrup.
If you're using a thermometer, the caramel will begin to brown around 320°F (160°C). Around 350°F (177°C) is probably what you would consider a dark caramel. If you go much higher than this, it will start becoming burnt and more bitter (higher than 375°F (190°C) up to 400°F (204°C)).
Once you feel you've gotten a nice caramel color or reached the right temperature, put on an oven mitt or glove and very carefully pour in the rest of the water. The mixture will spurt and bubble as soon as the water hits the hot caramel, so make sure you are standing back and there are no kids or pets nearby.
Once all of the water is added, stir everything together and remove the pot from the heat. If you want a thicker syrup, you can let it simmer for another few minutes until you get to the right consistency (but keep in mind that it will thicken a little bit when it is chilled).
Bottle up the syrup
Let the syrup cool in the pan, and then use a funnel to pour it into a clean glass bottle or other container. A mason jar with a spout lid works great!
How do you store caramel syrup?
Store the cooled and bottled syrup in the refrigerator, and it will last for about a month. Discard at any sign of mold growth.
If you make a big batch, you can fill up some small bottles and add your own labels to give out as gifts. Just make sure to note that it should be refrigerated for the longest life.
Hint: You can add a little bit of vodka or whiskey to this syrup to extend the shelf life if you intend to only use it for cocktails!
Can I make this into a sugar-free caramel syrup?
This recipe is easily made into a sugar-free caramel syrup for a low carb or keto diet. Here are the best options for substitution:
- Keto/Low carb diet - use allulose instead of regular sugar. Although erythritol will work too, allulose is the best option for taste and consistency. You can also try a mix of the two!
- Paleo diet - use maple sugar instead of regular sugar. You can also caramelize honey, although it is more difficult to tell when it is at the right color, so I recommend using the thermometer method.
There are lots of ways to change up and flavor this syrup! Here are just a few:
- Salted caramel - add a pinch of Kosher salt as the sugar heats up
- Vanilla caramel - add vanilla extract or vanilla paste when you add the water to the hot caramel
- Coffee or Tea caramel- add brewed coffee or tea to the hot caramel instead of water
- Fruit caramel - flavor the syrup by adding fruit juice or fruit syrup to the hot caramel instead of water
- Cream caramel - for a more creamy consistency, add heavy cream to the hot caramel instead of water. This will shorten its storage life to about two weeks instead of a month
How do I stop the caramel from crystallizing?
If you're having problems with the sugar crystallizing, here are a few things you can do to avoid it:
- Make sure you are NOT using a non-stick pot
- Add some corn syrup to the sugar and water mixture
- Add a small amount of an acidic ingredient, like cream of tartar or lemon juice, after the sugar dissolves
- Use a pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve any crystals that might form on the sides of the pan as the caramel cooks
Top Tip - Caramel Safety
Always remember that caramel is extremely hot! When sugar starts to caramelize, it is 320°F (160°C). This is much hotter than boiling water and can cause severe burns if you are not careful. To be safe, use a heatproof oven mitt or glove when adding the water to the hot caramel, and stand back from the pot since it may sputter up out of the pot.
- Heavy bottomed saucepan (NOT non-stick)
- Oven mitt
- Funnel (optional)
- 200 g sugar 1 cup (or 250g allulose - 1¼ cup)
- 240 g water divided (80g and 160g) - 1 cup, divided (⅓ cup and ⅔ cup)
- Add the sugar to the saucepan.200 g sugar
- Add 80 g (⅓ cup) of the water to the sugar and stir until the sugar is fully moistened.240 g water
- Place the saucepan over medium heat.
- Stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the liquid looks clear. Then, stop stirring and let the mixture heat.
- The mixture will boil and continue to boil until the water is fully evaporated.
- Once the liquid begins to turn yellow, watch it constantly.
- Use a thermometer to figure out when the caramel is done, or go by color based on your preference. I recommend stopping when the mixture has reached the 340°F (170°C) range, or a dark amber color.
- When the caramel is at its stopping point, put on an oven mitt and very carefully pour the rest of the water in. Do not try to pour it in all at once, but go a little at a time. The caramel will sputter and may splatter, so be extra careful during this step.240 g water
- Once all of the water is in, you can either let the syrup boil for a few more minutes (to thicken up) and then remove it from the heat, or you can remove it from the heat right away. Keep in mind that it will thicken more as it chills.
- Let the syrup cool and, using a funnel, pour it into a glass storage container or other clean container.
- The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for about a month. Discard at any sign of mold.