Caramel sauce has a lot of uses, but this homemade Caramel Syrup has even more! It's perfect when you want to add a touch of caramel sweetness to your coffee, tea, or cocktails and makes for a delicious drizzle over pancakes, oatmeal, and so much more!
I imagined that if I wanted caramel flavor infused into a recipe, I'd make a homemade caramel sauce. But when I was researching how to make a caramel Frappuccino, I realized that Starbucks uses caramel syrup. Of course, they also use the syrup in lots of other coffee recipes and in many instances, it makes so much more sense than a thick sauce does!
So, I immediately got to work on creating this caramel syrup recipe. I did a TON of testing and my main conclusion is that this syrup is absolutely PACKED with caramel flavor and is so delicious. But you have to watch it very closely. The difference between the perfect syrup and a burned syrup is merely seconds.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
You'll love this recipe because it will allow you to add caramel flavor to pretty much anything and everything you can think of.
It's also super easy to make... You follow the same process as you would for any simple syrup. But instead of lowering the heat to a simmer once the syrup is boiling, you'll keep it boiling until it caramelizes. You do have to keep an eye on it, but the process is so simple!
Even better? You only need 3 ingredients to make this syrup! All it takes is:
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract
If you don't have vanilla, this caramel syrup will still be delicious. And if you want to add a little salt, you can make a salted caramel version!
How to Make Caramel Syrup
The process is so easy and if you've ever made a simple syrup before, you'll know exactly what to do.
Just put the sugar and ½ cup water in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring occasionally.
Once the sugar has dissolved, let the mixture continue boiling without stirring.
Watch closely for mixture to turn a light amber color. It usually takes about 8-10 minutes for me, but it can go from light amber to being burnt very quickly, so be sure to watch closely.
This is the shade of amber I like to see for the best caramel flavor. I've made this syrup many times where I've let it get too dark and while it's still tasty, it will have more of a burnt flavor if it's too dark.
Once mixture is light amber, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly and carefully pour the remaining ½ cup water in.
The mixture will likely splatter and steam up, so stand back while pouring.
Add vanilla and stir well to combine.
Pour the syrup into a heat-proof bowl or mason jar and place in the fridge to cool completely.
The syrup will continue to thicken as it cools. See in the photo below how thick and syrupy it is? it almost looks like honey!
And once it cools, you're ready to add it to all kinds of things.
How to Use
Now that I have this caramel syrup in my life, I can't imagine how I ever lived without it! Dare I say, it's my favorite simple syrup I've ever made??
There are so many ways you can use it, but I had so many tastes of it right out of the jar as I couldn't get over how perfectly caramel flavored it was.
That said, here are my favorite ways to use it:
- Coffee Flavoring: The most obvious way to use this syrup is for caramel flavored coffee! This is great for adding to hot or iced coffee and also makes wonderful lattes, macchiatos, and Frappuccinos.
- Tea Flavoring: This caramel syrup is also delicious for adding sweetness and flavor to teas, both hot and cold.
- Cocktail Ingredient: Caramel can make for super fun dessert cocktails. But instead of using a thick and creamy caramel sauce or an ingredient like caramel schnapps, this syrup will easily blend right into drinks and add tons of caramel flavor. Use it in white Russians, mudslides, vodka sodas, and so much more!
- Cocktail Rimmer: I always keep simple syrup in my fridge to use when I'm garnishing my cocktail rims. Brush a little bit of this syrup on the rim of a cocktail glass and you can easily adhere sugar to the rim for all kinds of fun cocktails.
- Homemade Caramel Soda: If you want a fun mocktail or drink for kids, just add a little of this to a glass of soda water and you'll have instant caramel soda!
- Hot Chocolate: Stir some of this syrup into hot chocolate for a caramel hot chocolate.
- Ice Cream Topping: I love drizzling caramel sauce over ice cream, but this syrup also make an amazing topping!
- Pancake, Waffle, or French Toast Topping: Instead of maple syrup, try topping your breakfast treats with caramel syrup!
- Oatmeal or Yogurt Topping: Add a little sweetness to your healthy breakfasts by drizzling some of this on top.
- Cake Moistener: Lots of bakers brush their cakes with simple syrups to make them moister and to add some sweetness. Using this syrup will also add caramel flavor! I think it would be delicious on either vanilla or chocolate cake.
- Baking Ingredient: Add this to any recipe you want to add a little extra sweetness and caramel flavor to.
Variations on Recipe and Substitutes
Once you know how to make this easy caramel syrup, there are all kinds of things you can do with it to switch things up! Here are a few ideas:
- If you don't have vanilla extract, you can leave it out, but it does add a little more depth to the flavor.
- If you want salted caramel syrup, stir in a little bit of salt when you take the syrup off the heat.
- Combine this recipe with my apple syrup recipe to make a caramel apple syrup.
- Stir in some cocoa powder or chopped chocolate for a caramel chocolate syrup.
- Stir in some pumpkin puree for a yummy pumpkin caramel syrup.
How to Store
As with all my simple syrups, I recommend storing this one in an airtight container in the fridge. I think mason jars are the easiest way to store syrup, but you can also use Tupperware.
I especially recommend keeping a little stock of 16 oz. mason jars like you see pictured here (though keep in mind I made a double batch of syrup for these photos). I also love storing smaller batches in 8 oz. mason jars.
When stored properly, this caramel syrup should keep for about a month. If it lasts that long!
Where to Purchase
It's so easy (and in my mind, fun!) to make your own caramel syrup! But I also understand if you prefer to purchase a bottle of shelf stable syrup. There are lots of options for purchasing caramel syrups... Here are a few:
- Starbucks Caramel Syrup
- Monin Caramel Syrup
- Torani Caramel Syrup
- Holy Kakow Cafe Organic Caramel Syrup
- Jordan's Skinny Sugar-Free Caramel Syrup
More Simple Syrup Flavors
Once you've mastered this caramel syrup, you'll be able to quickly and easily make all kinds of simply syrups! Be sure to check out all of my flavors here. Below are just a few of my favorites, including:
What's your dream flavor of simple syrup?
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water, divided
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Put sugar and ½ cup water in a medium saucepan and bring mixture to a boil while stirring occasionally.
- Once sugar has dissolved, let mixture continue boiling without stirring. Watch closely for mixture to turn a light amber color. It usually takes about 8-10 minutes for me, but it can go from light amber to being burnt very quickly, so be sure to watch closely.
- Once mixture is light amber, immediately remove from heat and slowly and carefully pour remaining ½ cup water in. It will likely splatter and steam up, so stand back while pouring. Add vanilla and stir well to combine.
- Pour syrup into a heat-proof bowl or mason jar and place in fridge to cool completely. Syrup will continue to thicken as it cools.