Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce: If you’ve never made caramel sauce, you haven’t lived! It’s a MILLION times better than store-bought caramel and takes less than 15 minutes to make!

Hide your spoons, people!

This vanilla bean caramel sauce is completely impossible to resist spooning over everything! If it weren’t such a sacrilege to tempt children with sugar in exchange for eating their vegetables, this would be the ultimate temptation. 

You may need to keep this stuff on the top shelf of the fridge tucked way in the back if you plan to actually use it for anything. Otherwise you run the risk of it mysteriously disappearing. 

I’m even having a hard time keeping it away from myself!

How to Make Homemade Caramel Sauce

To make this homemade caramel sauce recipe, you only need 5 simple ingredients: sugar, heavy cream, vanilla beans (optional), vanilla extract, and salt.

You’ll heat the sugar in a saucepan until it turns to liquid and cook the liquid sugar until it turns amber in color. You don’t need a thermometer for this caramel recipe. Just keep your eyes on the sugar to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Then you’ll whisk in some of the cream and vanilla beans (if you’re using them). The mixture will bubble up furiously in the pan so be careful! Whisk in the rest of the cream and vanilla beans, a pinch of salt, and the vanilla extract.

And that’s it! The sauce will look really thin but it will thicken as it cools into the luscious caramel sauce you see here.

Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

This sauce is no joke! It’s rich and smooth and hits on every single reason why you fell in love with caramel sauce as a kid in the first place. When chilled, it’s a thick sauce that can be dolloped or swirled into brownie batter. 

When slightly warmed, it’s pourable or spoonable for drizzling over ice cream (brownies a la mode anyone?), peach cobbler, or a slab of warm apple pie and it can be added to frosting for genius creations like these caramel frappuccino cupcakes.

If you’ve still never made homemade caramel sauce, what the heck are you waiting for? Please make this your first attempt! It takes no more than 10 minutes to make and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll never ever go back to buying jarred, store-bought caramel sauce again. 

And wouldn’t it go just awesomely on an ice cream sundae with some of that hot fudge sauce that you’re making at home now?

vanilla bean caramel sauce

Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce Recipe

Yield: about 1 ¼ cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Cooling Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Vanilla bean caramel sauce is a must-have recipe in your kitchen repertoire. Pour it over ice cream, brownies, and pie, or swirl it into cupcakes and cheesecake. It's a MILLION times better than store-bought caramel and takes less than 15 minutes to make!


  • 1 cup granulated sugar or vanilla sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (in addition to the ½ tsp below) if you don't have a vanilla bean
  • ¼ tsp coarse salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract


  1. Measure the heavy cream in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and add the seeds of the vanilla bean; set aside.
  2. Spread the sugar out in an even layer in the bottom of a heavy saucepan. Heat the pan to medium-low and when the sides of the sugar begin to liquefy, start slowly stirring the sugar together until all of the sugar has melted and only liquid remains. (Lower the heat to low if the sugar or liquid sugar begins to brown too quickly.  If the sugar clumps, turn the heat to low and let it melt - try not to stir it so it has a chance to heat up slowly.) 
  3. Once the liquid reaches a deep amber color (you can check this by dropping a little onto a white plate), remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour half of the heavy cream and vanilla been seeds down the side of the pan and whisk it vigorously into the hot liquid. Take care - the hot liquid will bubble violently! Whisk in the remaining heavy cream and seeds and then the salt and vanilla extract and whisk the mixture until the cream has fully incorporated itself. If the sugar rehardens into clumps at this point (like mine did - lots of sugar clumping went on that afternoon), put the pan back over medium-low heat and whisk the mixture until the sugar melts back into the sauce and the sauce is completely smooth. This may take a couple of minutes but it will come together - be patient.
  4. Let the sauce cool for a few minutes on the stove then transfer it to a heatproof container (mason jars work great for storing this sauce). Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.


adapted from David Lebovitz via Annie's Eats

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