Grandma’s Perfect Caramels

filed under: Candy on June 22, 2017

Soft, chewy, and melt in your mouth caramel is the perfect candy to set out for guests or gift-giving. With only a few staple ingredients and a little bit of time, homemade candy has never been easier.

Grandma’s Perfect Caramels

Grandma would never consider using a microwave for her caramels, and she was known across the county for how perfect hers were every time! When she shared her recipe (with me by her side) she would often use the “water” method where she would drop some hot caramel into the water and see how it would react. Over time she could simply look at the hot sugar and know, but it sure was a treat learning her wisdom by her side!

Seriously amazing homemade caramels!

How to Make Perfect Caramels

One of the biggest questions I get from people is how to get the perfect soft caramel. It all boils down to (no pun intended) achieving the soft ball stage during the cooking.  As sugar syrup is cooked and the temperature rises, the water begins to boil down and the sugar concentration increases.   At 240˚ Fahrenheit, the caramels are at the “soft ball” stage.  That means if you drop a small bit of the candy into cold water it will form a soft ball.  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, this cold water test can be used to see if your candies are ready.

Caramel Temperatures

It’s helpful when making candy for the first time to understand how quickly the structure of the candy changes based on the temperature achieved during boiling.  The following chart should help you if this is your first time making candy.

Thread Stage

230˚-235˚ -at this stage you will get a syrup consistency possibly something you could pour over ice cream.

Soft-Ball Stage

235˚-240˚ – Dropped into cold water, this will have the consistency of a soft flexible ball.  This stage is perfect for caramels or fudge.

Firm- Ball Stage

245˚-250˚ – Dropped into cold water this will have the consistency of a firm but, still slightly flexible ball.  This is also a good stage for caramels if you like them a little firmer.

Hard-Ball Stage

250˚-265˚ – Dropped into cold water this will have the consistency of a hard ball.  This is a good stage for rock candy or gummies.

Soft-Crack Stage

270˚-290˚ – Bubbles on top will become smaller, thicker and closer together.  Most of the moisture has cooked out at this stage.  Dropped into cold water, it will solidify into threads that will slightly bend and then break.  This is a good stage for saltwater taffy.

Hard-Crack Stage

300˚-310˚ – Dropped into cold water, this will form hard brittle threads that break when bent. This is best for toffee.

Tips for Old Fashioned Caramel

  • You will need a candy thermometer for this recipe.  If you don’t have one, you can order this one on Amazon.
  • Individually wrapping these in wax paper helps to keep the fingers from getting too sticky:)
  • These tend to get a little gooey if you leave them in a hot place.  Make sure to store them at a cooler temperature so they don’t melt!
  • Dip these in dark chocolate and cover them in sea salt for an extra special treat!
5 from 3 votes
Seriously amazing soft and delicious 'smack ya mama' caramels!
Grandma’s Caramels
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins

Soft, chewy, and melt in your mouth caramel is the perfect candy to set out for guests or gift giving. With only a few staple ingredients and a little bit of time, homemade candy has never been easier.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Grandma’s Caramels
Servings: 60 caramels
Author: Amanda Rettke
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup corn syrup
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the sugar, corn syrup, butter, and ¼ cup of cream.
  3. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously.
  4. While continuing to stir, add the remaining cream. Insert a candy thermometer and while constantly stirring, bring to the soft ball stage. Around 240°F, the sugar syrup will turn transparent and boil rapidly.

  5. When it hits 240°F, remove caramel from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into the prepared baking pan.

  6. While still warm, use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles that rise to the top. Allow cooling overnight.
  7. Use a thin knife or small offset spatula to loosen the caramel block from the pan. Transfer the block to a cutting board and cut into desired size and shape. Wrap individually in wax paper if desired.

Recipe Video

Seriously amazing homemade caramels!

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  • Nicole says:

    They look delicious. I’ll be trying this recipe soon

  • Gramma Rose says:

    Why use non-salted butter? Why not regular salted butter? Thanks!

  • Brenda says:

    Hi Amanda, is heavy cream same as whipping cream, or half and half, or table cream? thank you

  • Shirley says:

    You need to FIX your PRINT RECIPE. You click on the button and garbage starts to print and USE UP INK.

    • Josephine Bond says:

      You need to not yell at people in your comments.

  • Carol says:

    Have made these twice within the last week awesome! So easy. Second batch I used vanilla bean paste sooo good! Thank you

  • loreen chadwick says:

    want to try for popcorn balls

  • Kathleen Jones says:

    Can’t wait until make these caramels. Can’t wait to see other recipes.

  • debbie-anne ashton says:

    hello….they look so yummy! just wondering if there an alternative for ..corn syrup.. thankyou

  • Susan says:

    Can u line the pan?incidentally, your recipes ROCK

  • Rhonda says:

    So do you think you could add sea salt for sea salt caramel? Looks amazing

  • Claire says:

    Not sure what I did wrong but was so excited about making these and they are harder than rocks, not sure how I will get out of the dish

    • Amanda Rettke says:

      Oh No! However, there is a fix! If caramels are too hard, you can try placing them back in a saucepan, adding a couple of tablespoons of water and stirring until the thermometer reads 242°F. It should get back to that perfect soft texture you want!

  • Marie says:

    HI Amanda made these yesterday they are the best a little trouble to get out of pan,I will try parchment paper next time love your recipes.

    • Amanda Rettke says:

      SO glad you like them, Marie!

  • june says:

    Love that you are talking about caramels….typically make about 50 lbs every Christmas. My recipe is different than yours…but who doesnt love a good caramel❤️. Happy to see you talking about temping. I use both a thermometer and the water method.

  • june says:

    Marie…i use a silicone liner and they come out of the pan beautifully…just make certain you have a little overhang.

  • Angela Chiware says:

    Is there a substitute for corn syrup?

  • Christy says:

    This is the very best caramel candy recipe that I’ve ever tried! Thank you so much Amanda, super easy too! Big hit with family and friends.

  • Linda. Yon says:

    I Love your Candy recipes I’ve just Read them,
    Can’t wait to get
    Started making them! I’m gonna try ASAP
    STARTING Tomorrow Tks, 4 Sharing I’ll try your other ones
    When I’m finished w_
    The Candy ones 4 me & my eldest neighbors next door👍😻 I’ll let U know how it goes:

  • Robert Prazeres says:

    can you make caramel apples with this recipe ?
    thanks, Bob…

    • Amanda Rettke says:

      I haven’t tried that so can’t speak to its effectiveness.

  • Malissa Thornton says:

    Hi there! For your Carmel recipe, should I reduce the temperature by 10 degrees since I’m at 5000 feet altitude?

    Thank you!

    • Elizabeth Keeney says:

      Hi, Malissa! I work with iambaker and am happy to help with questions. Here are some high-altitude baking tips you could check out. Have a great day!