Grandma’s Perfect Caramels are soft, chewy, and melt-in-your-mouth caramels sprinkled with sea salt for 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! I also have homemade English Toffee that you will want to share (or enjoy all to yourself)!

Seriously amazing homemade caramels!

Ingredients & Substitutions

Sugar: Granulated sugar is the sweetener in the recipe.

Corn Syrup: Light corn syrup adds sweetness and helps prevent the sugar from crystallizing. It contributes to the smooth texture of the caramels.

Butter: Butter contributes rich flavor and a smooth consistency to the caramels. Using unsalted butter allows better control over the overall saltiness of the recipe.

Heavy Cream: Heavy cream (heavy whipping cream) is divided and added two separate times in the recipe. It adds creaminess and richness to the caramels.

Vanilla: Vanilla extract enhances the flavor of the caramels.

Sea Salt: Sea salt is sprinkled over the caramel for a contrasting flavor. You could leave that off if preferred.

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 determine 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 if this is your first time making candy.

Thread Stage: 230°-235°F -At this stage, you will get a syrup consistency possibly something you could pour over ice cream.

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

Firm- Ball Stage: 245°-250°F – 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°F – 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°F – 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°F – Dropped into cold water, this will form hard brittle threads that break when bent. This is best for toffee.

Seriously amazing homemade caramels!

Tips for Old Fashioned Caramel

  • For best results, use 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:)
  • Homemade caramels 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!
  • Add nuts before pouring the caramel mixture into the pan for caramels with a nutty crunch!
  • Wrap caramels to give as a sweet treat!

How To Store Homemade Caramels

To store homemade caramels, first, make sure they are completely set. Next, cut them into bite-sized pieces. To prevent them from sticking together, wrap each in wax paper. Place the wrapped caramels in an airtight container. They will last for up to 2-4 weeks in a cool, dry place at room temperature.

Seriously amazing soft and delicious 'smack ya mama' caramels!
5 from 3 votes

Grandma’s Caramels

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
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.


  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups (511.5 g) light corn syrup
  • 1 cup (2 sticks / 227 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups (476 g) heavy whipping cream divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • sea salt, for sprinkling


  • Line an 8-inch baking dish with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar, corn syrup, butter, and ½ cup heavy cream.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Do not leave unattended, and adjust the heat as needed to prevent the mixture from boiling over.
  • While stirring, add the remaining heavy cream. Continue stirring and, using a candy thermometer, bring the mixture to 240°F, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  • Immediately use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles that rise to the top. Let sit at room temperature overnight to set. Or, chill it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  • Once set, remove the caramel from the pan and cut into pieces. Wrap individually in wax paper if desired.

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Meet Amanda Rettke

Amanda Rettke is the creator of I Am Baker, and the bestselling author of Surprise Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes for Every Occasion – With a Little Something Extra Inside.Over the course of her 15+ year blogging adventure, she has been featured in and collaborated with the Food Network, New York Times, LA Times, Country Living Magazine, People Magazine, Epicurious, Brides, Romantic Homes, life:beautiful, Publishers Weekly, The Daily Mail, Star Tribune, The Globe and Mail, DailyCandy, YumSugar, The Knot, The Kitchn, and Parade, to name a few.

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