Specialty Treats

The BEST Homemade Caramels

Buttery soft and chewy caramels that are very easy to make with simple ingredients! No candy thermometer required!

How to make homemade caramels

This caramel recipe is easy! While a candy thermometer helps, you don’t need one! We grew up using this recipe for years without a thermometer. With a couple tricks, you can have the best, fool proof caramels! What make this caramel recipe amazing is the brown sugar! It provides such a rich flavor and the molasses in the brown sugar helps create a perfectly soft chewy texture.

What you need:

  • Corn syrup
  • Butter
  • Brown sugar
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Sea salt flakes (optional)

How to make:

It’s simply just combining the ingredients above, and mixing constantly for about 10 minutes. Then pour into a 9×13 pan greased with butter. I like using parchment paper and greasing that because it’s easy to pull out of the pan and cut into rectangles or squares. 

I love using this 9×13 USA pan because of it’s square edges. It makes amazing square caramels even in the corners, unlike a glass pan.

Making caramels without a candy thermometer

If you have a candy thermometer, great! Use it! I have and love this one. Using a thermometer gets you consistent results every time and they’re not that expensive, so if you’re going to be making caramels or donuts or melting chocolate, etc. many times. It’s definitely worth it! 

But, honestly, it wasn’t until recently that I got a candy thermometer. I grew up not ever using one. My mom makes these caramels EVERY CHRISTMAS and never used one. She uses a couple tricks to help know when it’s ready. 

With caramels, if you cook it too little, it can be soft like a sauce and if you cook it too long, it can be hard as a rock. Finding that middle ground is key. Here’s how…

-If you’re using a thermometer, the caramels should get to 245 degrees F. Remove instantly and pour into prepared pan. 

-If you’re NOT using a thermometer, before you start cooking, prepare a glass of ice water and keep it close by. Then begin cooking. After you see the first “bubble” in the caramel as it begins to boil, set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer is up, you have about a 3 minute window to watch the caramels for “doneness”. You’ll notice the caramel has thickened and deepened in color. Drizzle a bit of caramel in your glass of ice water. Take it out with your fingers, and feel it. Try to push it together like a caramel. If it’s soft but coming together like a ball of caramel, it’s ready! Take it off the heat instantly and pour into prepared pan. 


How to cut and wrap caramel

After cooling for a few minutes, you can sprinkle on flaky sea salt if you wish. Just don’t sprinkle it on RIGHT away as it will melt into the top of the caramel and loose the pretty visual. 

If the caramels are soft to cut and getting messy, chill your caramels in the fridge for about 30 minutes and then try cutting again. 

You can wrap the caramels in square cello papers or cut parchment paper. 

They’re AMAZING dipped in chocolate too! Cool and cut the caramels, then dip in melted chocolate. Add sea salt or an additional chocolate drizzle on top. Such a fun gift! 

The BEST Homemade Caramels

Lori Vaughn
Buttery soft and chewy caramels that are very easy to make with simple ingredients! No candy thermometer required!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Cooling Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins


  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 cup butter (not margarine!) + more to grease pan
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk


  • Prepare a 9x13" pan by lining it with parchment paper and greasing it with softened butter.
    If you're not using a candy thermometer, prepare a cup of ice water and set aside.
  • In a medium sized pot, combine all of the ingredients above on the stove over medium heat. Stir together using a silicone spatula.
  • After the first bubble appears as it heats up, set a timer for 10 minutes. During this 10 minutes, stir constantly to avoid scorching the pan. The caramel should be at a constant small simmer with bubbles.
  • If you're using a candy thermometer, the caramels should get to 242-245°F.
    If you're not using a candy thermometer, you can use this trick to know when the caramels are done. Drizzle a small amount of caramel in the cup of ice water. Pick it up with your fingers. It should come together like a soft chewy caramel. If it's still too runny, keep cooking your caramel. (And keep stirring!!) Try again 1 minute later. Once it comes together in a ball and is soft and chewy-like, the caramels are ready.
  • Pour into prepared pan. Let cool for a few minutes, then top with flaky sea salt. Finish cooling, then pull the parchment paper out of the pan to make it easy to cut into squares or rectangles. If it's too soft or tricky to cut, you can chill the caramels for about 30 minutes, then try to cut again.
  • Dip in chocolate or wrap in cello wraps or wax paper squares. These stay good for a whole month. Easy to have around the holidays and easy to ship to loved ones!


This post may contain affiliate links, which means I earn a very small commission when you purchase an item using that link, but at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting my kitchen! All opinions and recommendations are always 100% my own. 


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[…] – this caramel recipe is a modified version of my family’s all time favorite traditional caramels. The main difference is that I like to cook this caramel for just a tad less to make them easier to […]

1 year ago

Great content! Keep up the good work!


[…] You can use the homemade caramel recipe listed below (it’s just a modified half batch of these famous family caramels), or you can use my favorite salted caramel sauce. And if you want to simplify this step, you can […]