Dessert | December 20, 2018

Soft Homemade Caramels Tutorial (regular, cinnamon and licorice recipe)

Soft chewy caramels are one of the very best holiday treats! I LOVE them and make a batch every single year. They are great to give as gifts, to share with friends and bring to all the parties and get togethers. They are extremely delicious and addicting! Once you eat one you cannot stop!!

caramels unwrapped

Making caramels is really easy- only a few ingredients and a few steps HOWEVER it can be tricky if you don’t do it right and don’t read all the tips below. So I’m making this post a step by step soft homemade caramels tutorial so you won’t mess up a thing!

wrapped and unwrapped caramels in cinnamon caramel and licorice flavors

How to make soft homemade caramels

Ingredients you need for caramels

  • sugar
  • corn syrup
  • butter
  • sweetened condensed milk
  • salt

butter, sugar, salt, sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup

In a heavy bottom pan combine all your ingredients on low and stir. When butter and all ingredients are combined and melted turn heat up to med. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly.

ingredients melting in a silver pan

Here are the most important tips.

1:What pan do I use for cooking caramels?

When making homemade caramels you want to use a heavy bottomed pan. A good quality heavy pan. DO NOT USE a cast iron pan. While cast iron pans are amazing for so many other dishes they retain heat which will over cook your caramels and basically make them rock hard. A too thin of pan will also cause easy burning and uneven cooking- causing the caramels to be rock hard.

2: What do I stir my caramels with?

You will stir THE ENTIRE TIME your caramels are boiling. Do not scrape the sides of the pans (bringing the sauce to the middle this can disrupt the sugaring process). If you remove your utensil out of the pan wash it off before re-inserting it back into the pan.

Your caramels are going to boil to a very high temperature (244 degrees F) You do not want to use a stirring utensil that will over heat and melt, or burn your hand. (I’ve totally done both before ha!)

These are some of my favorite utensils.

  • ALL time favorite! SILICONE. I love one piece silicone spatulas like the red one of the left.
  • My second favorite string utensil is the silicone/metal spatula on the far right. It’s perfectly shaped and heavy duty, you can find it at Sur La Table.
  • Third, any wooden utensil!

utensils for caramels silicone and wood.

3. How long do I cook my caramels for?

Starting on medium to medium high heat bring your caramels to a slow boil. Stirring the entire time until your caramels come to a golden caramel color. It’s almost impossible to guess when to take the caramels off the stove so it is IMPORTANT to use an accurate thermometer. The slightest degree can make a difference between soft chewy to hard candy caramels. You can use any of these three thermometers, however I don’t really recommend a candy thermometer unless you are desperate. Invest in a thermoworks.

  1. Candy thermometer– these are glass and pretty unstable. I’ve gone through so many of these that i could have bought two thermoworks thermometers. On top of that they are not the most accurate, so if you are using a candy thermometer as pictured far left, double check your caramels by using the cold water test. (Cold water test: in a small glass add ice and water, drop a large drop of caramel into the cup. When the caramel is cold that will be it’s consistency when it is cooled to eat. If it is too soft you know to continue cooking)                         
    three thermometers
  2. Thermoworks Chef Alarm. THIS IS THE BEST. Why? because it is the most accurate and the probe can attach to the side of the pan so you don’t have to keep checking back and forth.

thermometer probe attached to side of pan with clip

3. Thermoworks thermopen or thermopop. Either of these are amazing, and incredibly accurate. You do have to consistently check the temperature, and every time you remove the thermometer make sure to clean it off before re-inserting it, or you may cause the sugar to crystalize.

Why am I seeing darn brown flecks in my caramel?

If you are stirring and start to see dark brown flecks in your caramel then you are burning the bottom of your caramels. Immediately remove from heat, stir vigorously until the caramels have cooled down for a few seconds. Return caramels to stove top, with your heat turned down, but still boiling.

caramels cooked and cut

Cinnamon Caramels or Licorice Caramels.

Every year I grew up with a friend who would bring us regular, red, and black caramels… cinnamon,and licorice caramels. I loved EVERY ONE of them…even though I don’t even love black licorice the mix of the anise flavor with the creamy buttery caramel is like no other! You have to try these! Here is what you need:

  • black food coloring + anise extract (black licorice caramels)
  • red food coloring + cinnamon oil (cinnamon caramels)

anise extract black food coloring, cinnamon extract and red food coloring

Follow all the exact same steps and ingredients as above, but at the end when you remove from stove and add in your flavoring.

Pour caramels into a 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper (I love these precut parchment paper sheets).

caramels cooling in 9x13 pan

Let the caramels cool over night, or for several hours. When completely cooled cut into small squares.

Now it’s time to wrap these bad boys.

caramel. cinnamon and licorice caramels unwrapped

How to Wrap Caramels

  1. For caramels cut to the size about 1″ x 1″ I like to use pre-cut 6″x6″ wax paper sheets. They are really affordable and cut down your wrapping time by hours! If you make your caramels long and skinny you can get away with cutting the papers in half and doing 6″x3″.
  2. place caramels at one end of the sheet, in the middle and roll to the opposite end of the paper.
  3. Carefully and tightly twist one end 3 times.
  4. Carefully and tightly twist the opposing side 3 times, I like to twist it the opposite direction of the other side.

how to wrap caramels

You’re caramels are now completed!! and you are ready to devour and or share! These make a TON! Which is totally fine by me because I LOVE THEM!  I know you have one more question:

How long do homemade caramels last?

Caramels wrapped in wrappers and stored in an air tight container or zip-lock bag can stay fresh up to about 3 weeks. You just want to keep them protected from humidity and moisture. Store in pantry or even in your refrigerator!


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5 from 5 votes
caramels cooked and cut
Soft Caramels Recipe (regular, cinnamon and licorice recipe)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins

Step by step instructions for a no-fail, best homemade caramels of your life! Soft, chewy you wont be able to stop eating caramels. 

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: homemade caramels, soft caramels
Calories: 4632 kcal
Author: Desarae
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Wax or Parchment Paper 6x6 inches for 1 inch squares
  • 1 14 oz can Sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup White Karo Syrup
for Cinnamon Caramels
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon oil (for Cinnamon Caramel)
  • 3/4 tsp red food coloring make sure it has no taste
for Black Licorice Caramels
  • 3/4 tsp black food coloring (for Licorice Caramel)
  • 4 tsp anise extract
  1.  Combine all ingredients in heavy pan.

  2. Cook on medium heat and stir constantly. (CONSTANTLY) until it reaches 244 degrees

  3. Take off stove and if desired add the oil and food coloring 

  4. For Licorice Caramel: 1 tsp anise oil or licorice oil and black food coloring

  5. For Cinnamon Caramel: cinnamon oil and red food coloring (but make sure it has no taste) 

  6. Pour into a 9x13 pan lined with parchment paper. Cool completely before cutting 

  1. Make sure you stir caramels with either a wooden spoon or a spatula that can stand hit temps (silicone). 

  2. Try not to splash on the sides when you are stirring. DON'T SCRAPE the sides back into the caramel. Scrape only the bottom of the pan. If you bring the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan back into your candy it will 'sugar' and become crunchy and hardened in areas instead of smooth when it is all done. 

  3. Put your candy thermometer into the candy after it has boiled for a bit and started to change colors don't drag it around because scraping the metal to metal together can also sugar your candy. Once you put the thermometer in you have to keep it in until it is done, don't take it out and put it back in unless you clean it.

  4. As an added measure double check your caramels by using the ice water method. Drop a bit of caramel in ice water, dump water out and test the texture of your caramel. If it doesn't form a soft ball the caramel needs to cook longer. If it is firm remove immediately from heat. If it is rock hard it is overcooked for the soft caramel method.

  5. Keep the heat on a medium heat and if you start seeing little brown specks in your candy take it off the heat immediately and turn it down. That is the candy scorching. Otherwise cook until the candy has reached desired temperature or texture.

Recipe Notes

Caramels wrapped in wrappers and stored in an air tight container or zip-lock bag can stay fresh up to about 3 weeks. You just want to keep them protected from humidity and moisture. Store in pantry or even in your refrigerator!

Nutrition Facts
Soft Caramels Recipe (regular, cinnamon and licorice recipe)
Amount Per Serving (3 caramels)
Calories 4632 Calories from Fat 1665
% Daily Value*
Fat 185g285%
Saturated Fat 116g725%
Cholesterol 488mg163%
Sodium 3106mg135%
Potassium 54mg2%
Carbohydrates 795g265%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 792g880%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 5675IU114%
Calcium 147mg15%
Iron 0.4mg2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


25 thoughts on “Soft Homemade Caramels Tutorial (regular, cinnamon and licorice recipe)

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  1. Hey! I really like to try your recipe…but i need to ask you whats means the “C” in the “2 C Sugar” in the ingredients list.
    Thank you!!

      1. I have kept mine for weeks and they will stay nice and soft. (they were wrapped as shown in the post) The caramels should stay soft as long as you don’t cook the sugars too hot, or crystalize the sugars etc (read tips section on blog post). If I know that I’m going to be storing them, I like to keep them in the fridge though, so if you are make them a week in advance or something just stick them in the fridge when you have them all wrapped.

  2. 5 stars
    I loved everything about these caramels and I have tried many recipes without success. The reason I tried this recipe is because “soft” caramels are a must with my family. One concern I had is that my caramels were a bit sticky. They are fine after being refrigerated but I am hesitant to mail them as gifts for fear that will be too gooey. Any suggestions as to how to make them just a bit firmer?

    1. To make them “harder” you will just want to boil them to a higher temperature. On your thermometer it often labels where “soft ball” “hard ball” etc temps are. I believe this recipe’s temp is a little higher than soft ball so just boil till its reached the desired hardness. You can always double check by using the cold water method described in post too.

    1. They take hours to cool. I like to just let mine sit over night. Obviously, if you make them in a smaller pan they will be thicker and will take longer to cool, or a bigger pan will be thinner and cool faster :) and yes! You can cool them in the fridge.

  3. I made these recently and they turned out grainy. We stirred constantly and didn’t scrap the sides, only scraped the bottom. They tasted great just the texture was off. Any suggestions for next time I would greatly appreciate thanks.


  4. 5 stars
    WOW, these caramels look absolutely delicious! So simple to make, I cant wait to enjoy these! Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Hi I was wondering if you could replace the sweetened condensed milk with heavy whipping cream? It’s what I have on hand. Thanks in advance! Happy holiday season!

    1. I know there are recipes that call for heavy whipping cream instead of sweetened condensed milk. I’m not sure if the proportions are correct though? if you try it let me know how it turns out!

  6. I don’t know what I did wrong, by mine came out light colored. I kept waiting for them to turn caramel colored, but it had reached 240 degrees and I was afraid of overcooking. Have you ever had this happen? What might I have done wrong?

  7. Has anyone tried the licorice variation? My husband loves soft strawberry flavored licorice and I’ve tried a few different recipes to make it for him, but none have really worked.

    1. Hey Tabatha, what flavoring do you use when you make them? do you use an anise oil? Maybe its in the quality of the oil? I’ve noticed different oils I’ve used over the years have different potency- sometimes my licorice caramels are strongly flavored other times the flavor is barely noticeable.