The Washington Post

Go-To Salted Caramel Sauce

Go-To Salted Caramel Sauce 1.000

Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Feb 6, 2019

Cookbook author Martha Holmberg likes to take her caramel right up to the precipice . . . keeping it just this side of bitter. But if you like a sweeter, mellower caramel, stop the cooking a bit sooner. In any case, be sure you have your cream measured and ready to go, because the caramel will continue cooking and darkening, even once you’ve pulled it off the burner.

To read the accompanying story, see: How to make the best caramel sauce? Give it a bitter edge.

Make Ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to a month or frozen in a zip-top bag for up to 3 months.

1 cup

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 1 cup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream or creme fraiche
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter


Combine the sugar and water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir a lot at first to dissolve the sugar. Once it is dissolved, boil, undisturbed, until it begins to turn light golden. At this point, the water has cooked off and the sugar is starting to caramelize.

Continue cooking, carefully swirling the pan a bit so the caramelizing is even, until the syrup is a deep amber color, like the color of a strong iced tea; this should take between 8 and 12 minutes. This process goes very fast, so watch closely. You might see the tiniest wisps of smoke coming from the syrup, too.

Remove from the heat. Immediately add about 1/4 cup of the cream. The mixture is going to bubble and create a lot of steam. The caramel might seize up; this is all okay.

Add the remaining heavy cream or creme fraiche. Return the pan to the stove top, over medium-low heat; cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring with a whisk or heatproof flexible spatula until smooth and slightly thickened.

Add the salt and vanilla extract. Taste a cooled-off sample, and adjust with more salt or vanilla extract as needed. Finish by whisking in the butter.

Serve warm or cool; the sauce thickens as it cools, so to make it more pourable, just warm it up a bit.

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Recipe Source

From cookbook author Martha Holmberg.

Tested by Ali Sharman.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per 2-tablespoon serving: 190

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 10g 15%

Saturated Fat: 6g 30%

Cholesterol: 35mg 12%

Sodium: 80mg 3%

Total Carbohydrates: 26g 9%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 26g

Protein: 0g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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