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Use bourbon or leave it out of this simple homemade caramel sauce recipe. Use it for ice cream, cookies, cakes, and more!
Is your mouth watering? Or are you turning your nose up at the thought of bourbon in your caramel sauce?
I’m in the first boat, but I know there are probably some of you in the second one…
BUT! BUT! Guess what?
We can both sit in one happy boat together because the difference between homemade caramel sauce and homemade bourbon caramel sauce is literally just the addition of bourbon.
So… If you don’t want it, leave it out! And now we ALL get to learn how to make our own caramel sauce at home, bourbon or no bourbon.
How’s that boat looking now? Dripping in caramel sauce or what? Let’s get this caramel party started!
To be perfectly honest, I can’t believe it’s taken me over 5 years to put homemade caramel sauce on my site.
I’ve been making it FORRRREVVVVERRRRRR. I can remember making it for the first time in the first kitchen we ever had together for our first engaged Thanksgiving… And that was 2012.
So. Sorry! I’ve been holding out on you far too long.
Have you ever made caramel sauce? It sounds scary, but I can assure you it’s not. And don’t worry– I have some tips to insure you have major success.
So are you ready?
Maybe we should talk first about exactly what caramel sauce is so you can better understand exactly what we’re looking to do here.
WHAT IS CARAMEL?
Caramel is simply cooked sugar (hence the word “caramelized”), taken juuuuust to the edge of burning before it’s stopped then mixed with butter and heavy cream.
Cooking the sugar brings all the flavor, and the butter and heavy cream bring all the texture and creaminess. It’s a flavor trifecta!
Other components that we’re bringing to the caramel table today are sea salt and bourbon. Whether or not you want salted caramel sauce will dictate how much sea salt you throw into your finished product.
You definitely can’t leave it out completely, because all that sugar needs some saltiness to offset the sweetness. See notes in the recipe!
WHAT DOES MAKING CARAMEL LOOK LIKE?
I mentioned all of this beginning with cooking sugar. Yes, it’s that simple.
The progression of cooking sugar starts out as a champagne color, moves to light brown, then to light amber, then finally to dark amber.
Once it reaches that deep amber color, you add sliced, room temperature butter. Since you’re to do this immediately after the sugar is ready, I only have a photo of the butter in the amber sugar. You can see the color you’re aiming for.
The butter will melt as you whisk and the mixture should be smooth and bubbly.
After you whisk in the butter and it’s all melted, drizzle in the heavy cream while whisking.
Although your heavy cream will be at room temperature, it’s still much cooler than your sugar and butter mixture, so everything will bubble up rapidly.
This is ok and it’s what you want to happen! Keep whisking.
Once all of the heavy cream is in, add the salt and the bourbon.
As stated in the recipe, these two ingredients may be to taste. Pay attention to the recipe and adjust as needed.
WHAT DO I USE BOURBON CARAMEL SAUCE FOR?
Put your caramel sauce on anything, really. Ice cream, cookies, bananas, apples, use it as a filling for cakes or cupcakes, drizzle it over a pie (or hand pies) or cheesecake…
Or, my favorite… Give it as a gift!
Several years ago, I gave homemade salted caramel out to friends and family and it was a huge hit. Another huge hit was gifting homemade vanilla extract. Love those homemade baking ingredients.
I hope you’l try out your own caramel sauce at home and liven it up a bit with bourbon if you’re feeling saucy. It’s dabbling in the candy world without a candy thermometer and just enough skill to make you feel like a BA.
But I promise, it’s crazy easy. I might even venture to call it foolproof.
Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (60mL) water
- ¼ cup (57g) butter (salted or unsalted)1 room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
- ½ cup (120mL) heavy whipping cream2 room temperature
- 1 teaspoon sea salt3
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons (15-30mL) bourbon4
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Use a heat-resistant spatula or whisk to stir frequently. Sugar will start to turn colors as it cooks. Keep a careful eye on the color to determine when it's done. The progression is champagne color to light brown to light amber to dark amber. When it is dark amber (a golden/red brown), remove from heat.
- Immediately but carefully add the butter. Mixture will start to bubble, but stir quickly with spatula or whisk to incorporate the butter as it melts.
- When all of the butter is melted, slowly drizzle in the heavy cream while continuing to stir or whisk the mixture. It will bubble rapidly. This is ok.
- Once all of the heavy cream is incorporated, add the salt and bourbon to your liking. Allow to cool before using (it will thicken as it cools). Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 1 month. Bourbon will settle to the bottom, so stir before using each time. Heat in microwave or on the stovetop before using. Caramel will be fine at room temperature for a day or two if it needs to travel. Caramel may be frozen, up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator and warm as needed.
- Butter: salted or unsalted butter is fine in this recipe. No changes to salt in recipe necessary.
- Heavy cream: this is the same thing as whipping cream. Either is fine for this recipe, but do not use milk.
- Salt: use regular table salt, kosher salt, or sea salt. I prefer “fine sea salt.” If using a larger, coarser salt, add 1 teaspoon, taste, and add more if necessary. If you are concerned about too much salt, add ¾ teaspoon, taste, and add more if desired. Do not leave salt out completely. If you don’t want “salted” caramel sauce, reduce to ½ teaspoon.
- Bourbon: leaving out the bourbon in this recipe will give you plain ol’ salted caramel sauce. Two Tablespoons gives a very strong bourbon flavor. If you’re worried about too much of a bourbon flavor, start with ½ Tablespoon, taste, and add more if desired.