Homemade Soft Caramels

When I was about eight years old, my friend’s mom made homemade caramels. She gave me a little tin full of soft caramel squares wrapped in plastic wrap for Christmas. I would savor each one, letting it melt in my mouth and seeing how long I could make it last. They were like little nuggets of candy heaven to me, and I looked forward her gift every year.

Ever since then, I’ve compared every other caramel I’ve tried to the ones my friend’s mom made for me. My mom had asked for the recipe from my friend’s mom years ago, but it looked a little too complicated, so I had never tried making them myself. This year, I decided to give it a try, and I’m so glad I did! It did take me a couple of tries to get it right, but in the end I had achieved what I was hoping for. This recipe makes the creamiest, smoothest caramels, and I’m a bit of a caramel fanatic if you can’t tell! I’m wondering if the taste stands out from other caramel recipes to me because these are made with all cream instead of butter?

Homemade Soft Caramels - the creamiest, smoothest homemade soft caramels I have ever tasted, and I'm a bit of a caramel fanatic!

The first batch I made turned out too hard. I almost didn’t try again, but my sweet husband said I should, and even ran out to get more heavy cream and Karo syrup for me. The second time I made sure to bring the liquid caramel to just a tiny bit below soft ball stage on my candy thermometer, and I actually used two thermometers at the same time to make sure mine was accurate. I also tried dropping a bit of the liquid caramel into very cold water when I thought it was done. If it easily gathers under the water into a ball with your fingers, and then flattens when removed from the water, it has reached soft ball stage.

Homemade Soft Caramels - the creamiest, smoothest homemade soft caramels I have ever tasted, and I'm a bit of a caramel fanatic!

These caramels do take some time. You have to stand at the stove and stir for a good 30-40 minutes while waiting for them to come up to temperature. And wrapping them takes a bit of time too. Maybe enlist the help of a buddy and turn on your favorite Christmas movie while you work. I cut 3 inch inch squares of parchment paper, rolled them up, and twisted the ends tightly.

Having said all that, it was definitely worth the effort to me, and it makes A LOT of caramels. I filled Christmas tins with my beloved homemade soft caramels and gave them to neighbors, teachers, and family members. I also ate an incredible amount myself. I’m seriously amazed that my pants still zip.

Homemade Soft Caramels - the creamiest, smoothest homemade soft caramels I have ever tasted, and I'm a bit of a caramel fanatic!

Homemade Soft Caramels
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups light Karo syrup
  • 4 cups whipping cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. In a large heavy bottomed pan over high heat, mix together sugar, Karo syrup, 2 cups of whipping cream, and salt. Stirring constantly and using a candy thermometer, cook until the mixture reaches 235-240 degrees.
  2. Add one more cup of cream, and stir constantly until it reaches 235-240 degrees again.
  3. Add the last cup of cream, and stir constantly until the caramel reaches 235-240 degrees.
  4. Pour into a 9x13 pan and an 8x8 pan lined with parchment paper, and allow to cool overnight or at least 4 hours at room temperature.
  5. Cut into small squares (if it sticks to your knife, try using a plastic knife) and wrap with parchment paper squares, twisting each end to secure the wrapping. I found it was easier to cut them when they were slightly cooler than room temperature.


  1. Carrie says

    I make caramels all the time. My trick for cutting them (after years and years of buttering my knife) is to use a pizza cutter if you have one large enough. Seems to slip too quickly for the caramel to stick.

    • says

      I know! I was really disappointed when my first batch was clearly not edible. And when you are waiting for them to come up to temperature, you start to wonder if you thermometer is defective! Just keep stirring and stirring and stirring… I will definitely make these again, but I’m going to have to restrict myself to once a year or I will be limited to yoga pants only.

  2. jason says

    We made these caramels last night and they are delicious. The problem we ran into was it came out as basically a caramel sauce. How could I harden them up or come up with more of a permanent form?
    I added ingredients at 235 as directed.

    • says

      Hi Jason, glad you like the taste of the caramels. Sounds like they needed to boil just a bit longer. Sometimes they will firm up if refrigerated. Hope this helps :)

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