There is nothing more quintessential of fall than making a big batch of homemade caramel. And what to do with all of that caramel? Homemade caramel apples!

Caramel apples being dipped in toppings

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Of course you could use a jar caramel sauce from the grocery but… did you know that making caramel sauce is super simple? Like 4 ingredient simple? Seriously!

A basic caramel sauce can be made in under 20 minutes and only requires granulated sugar, water, heavy cream, and salt! This is the real deal caramel sauce and you are going to want to make it all the time.

An apple being coated in caramel

The Best Apples and Toppings to Use for Caramel Apples

The best type of apple to use for caramel apples is the one that you enjoy the most! Since the apples aren’t baked, it truly only depends on your apple preference. Grannny Smith’s are popular because they’re tart which pairs nicely with the sweet caramel. Honeycrisp is another great favorite of mine.

When it comes to toppings, you really can’t go wrong! Some of my favorites include Reese’s, chopped hazelnuts, and sprinkles. I like the crunchy texture to go with the smooth caramel.

Toppings for caramel apples: sprinkles, chopped hazelnuts mixed with chocolate chips, and chopped Reeses.
Caramel apples dipped in sprinkles, nuts and chocolate
Yield: 6 Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples Recipe

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

This homemade caramel apples recipe couldn't be easier with a quick caramel sauce and toppings!

Ingredients

  • 6 Apples
  • Toppings (see ideas list below)
  • 400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 227 grams (1 cup) water
  • 470 grams (2 cups) heavy cream
  • 2 tsp Morton kosher (use 4 tsp if using diamond kosher salt)

Instructions

  1. PREP THE APPLES: prepare your apples by giving them a rinse and drying them thoroughly. Remove the stems and insert a skewer into the area where the stem was. Make sure the skewer goes at least halfway through the apple.
  2. PREP THE TOPPINGS: gather any toppings you want to use. For larger items like candies, cookies and, nuts chop them to a fine to medium chop. Larger pieces will have trouble staying on the apple.
  3. PREP THE CARAMEL SAUCE: Before starting this recipe measure out all of your ingredients and gather anything you need so that once the sugar starts caramelizing you are ready to go. It moves quickly. It would also be wise to have a bowl of ice water nearby just in case the sugar spatters.
  4. In a heavy gauge saucepan at least 3 quarts in size (you can use a bigger pan, but do not use a smaller pan) add the sugar and the water. Gently stir to completely saturate the sugar, being careful not to splash sugar granules up the side of the pan.
  5. Turn the heat on to medium. The sugar will start to dissolve in the water and will come to a boil. As the mixture boils, the water will begin to evaporate off and the liquid sugar will start caramelizing. Stay close by because when the caramelization process happens it moves very quickly. Do not stir during this process or you risk re-crystallizing the sugar resulting in a gritty texture. If the sugar is caramelizing unevenly, gently swirl the pan to even out the color.
  6. Once the sugar smells nutty and is a deep golden brown, carefully pour all of the heavy cream into the pan and stir vigorously. The mixture will bubble up quite a bit, so a long handled spoon or spatula is your best tool here.
  7. Add the salt and continue cooking and stirring the mixture until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes.
  8. Use a candy thermometer to reach 250°F (121°C). This will take at least 20 minutes.
  9. Remove the saucepan from the heat and and allow the caramel to cool to about 215°F (101°C) before dipping your apples.
  10. Dip your apples into the caramel and swirl it around to coat all sides. Go almost all the way to the top leaving about 1" of visible apple.
  11. WITHOUT TOPPINGS: Place coated apple on a piece of wax or parchment paper and let set.
  12. WITH TOPPINGS: after dipping, immediately dip the apple into your toppings. Place on a piece of wax or parchment paper and let set.
  13. STORE: loosely cover coated apples and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Notes

To Reheat: Put the sauce in a heat proof bowl and set over a pan of boiling water (this is called a double boiler). Make sure the water is not touching the bowl. Stir until the sauce is warmed through. Alternatively, heat in the microwave at 50% power in bursts of 15 seconds, stirring in between. 

Caramel Variations: 

  • Salted Caramel: Use up to 4 tsp of Morton Kosher Salt
  • Vanilla Cinnamon Caramel Sauce: After the sauce has reached the desired texture, add 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon.
  • Vegan Caramel Sauce (aka Coconut Caramel Sauce): Replace the heavy cream with full fat coconut milk.
  • Bourbon Caramel Sauce: After the sauce has reached the desired texture, stir in 2 TBSP bourbon off the heat.


Topping Ideas:

  • Candies: M&Ms, Reese's, white or dark chocolate chips, butterscotch chips
  • Cookies: Oreos
  • Nuts: peanuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts
  • Shredded coconut
  • Sprinkles
  • Pretzels

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Closeup of caramel apples