Four homemade caramel apples on a white plate
Desserts

Homemade Caramel Apples

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I just love these homemade caramel apples. The sweetness of the caramel combined with the tartness of the apple and the crunch from the nuts is pure heaven on a stick.

What do you think of when you think of homemade caramel apples? Maybe you think of a comfort fall treat? Maybe you think of childhood memories of trick or treating and that one house always gave them away? Or maybe you think of the vendors selling them at pumpkin patches, corn mazes, etc.?

I definitely have fond memories of eating them growing up. This step-by-step recipe will show you how to make homemade caramel apples from scratch. They are so delicious! And with the leftovers, you can make yummy soft caramel candies. If I can do it, you can do it. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Gather the ingredients

Several ingredients in bowls on top of a wooden table including apples, brown sugar, butter, etc.

In order to make homemade caramel apples you need just a handful of easy to find ingredients:

  • Apples – I like to use Granny Smith, because they are tart, and one of my favorite if not my favorite apples. But you can use whatever kind of apple that you like.
  • Brown sugar – You may use either light or dark brown sugar.
  • Butter – Salted or unsalted.
  • Salt – Cut the salt in half if using salted butter.
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Corn syrup
  • Vanilla extract
  • Nuts – These are optional, and there are other optional ingredients like chocolate, sprinkles, shredded coconut, etc. That can go on the caramel apples when they are made.
Homemade caramel apples with nuts on them.

Tools

  • Heavy bottom 3-quart pot or larger
  • Caramel apple sticks, bamboo skewers, wooden flat popsicle sticks, etc.
  • Sheet pan
  • Parchment paper or a silicone baking mat
  • Wooden Spoon or silicone spoon
  • Knife
  • Basting brush
  • Cake knife, optional
  • Candy thermometer

Step 2: How to make homemade caramel apples from scratch

Several granny smith apple with sticks in them on a sheet pan.

Begin by prepping the apples. Again you can use whatever apples that you like. Wash the apples with really hot water. If you have the time, boil some water, put the apples in the water for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove them from the water and then dry them really well.

Why wash the apples with hot water? Washing the apples with hot water removes the film of wax that covers the apples. If you are using homegrown, you won’t need to worry about it. But most store-bought apples here in the States have the wax on them.

If you don’t take the wax off, the caramel won’t stick as well to the apples.

Take a special caramel apple stick or just use a bamboo skewer or wooden popsicle stick. I usually just sharpen bamboo dowels with a knife, haha.

Stick the apples in the core. This might take a bit of force, but it isn’t too difficult.

Set the apples on a sheet pan lined with a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat.

*NOTESome recipes call to put the apples in the fridge or the freezer to get really cold, and others say to leave them at room temp. I have tried both ways and either works fine.

Step 3: Make the homemade caramel

Pot with butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, salt, and corn syrup in it.

Time to make the caramel from scratch. In a deep 3 quart or larger pot, add the sugar, salt, butter, heavy whipping cream, and corn syrup. Don’t use a skillet, it isn’t deep enough and the caramel is liable to overflow which would not be fun.

TIP: If you can use a pot with a heavy bottom, this promotes more even cooking.

Set the pot on the burner and set the heat to medium, 350 F/176 C. Stir continuously with a wooden or a silicone spoon until the butter melts and it barely starts to bubble, this will take 10 minutes or so to get to this point, maybe a bit longer, the time usually varies every time I make it.

Hand brushing down the sides of a pot with homemade caramel in it.

Then brush down any sugar crystals that are clinging to the sides of the pot with a damp basting brush. If you leave them there, they may burn, and disrupt the caramel. So if you can, brush them down. I find with my enameled dutch oven, I don’t have as many crystals form as I do with my stainless steel pot.

Now don’t stir the caramel anymore. Just let it sit and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the temp reaches 235 to 245 F. (112-118C). This is the softball stage. I usually let it go closer to 245 F. I find the caramel turns out a bit better and clings to the apple a little better.

Stainless steel pot full of finished homemade caramel.

Once you reach the proper softball temperature, turn the heat off and remove the pot. Let it cool for a minute or two and then pour in the vanilla extract and gently stir it in, don’t stir it quickly, that will add unwanted bubbles.

NOTEYou really need to use a candy thermometer. It is just too hard to tell when it is at the correct temp. They are fairly cheap and come in super handy.

Step 4: Cool the caramel and dip the apples

Hand dipping an apple into homemade caramel.

Allow the caramel too cool, I usually pour it into a pyrex bowl, because it is easier to dip, but you can leave it in the pot as well, and then just tilt the pot when dipping.

Let the caramel cool to right around 190 F/88 C. This is the ideal dipping temperature. If the caramel is too hot it will be too runny and only add a thin layer of caramel, and then pool at the bottom, which is no fun.

Hand scraping off the homemade caramel from the bottom of a dipped apple.

Dip the apple in the caramel, then allow the excess to drain off. Use a butter knife or cake spatula and scrape some away from the bottom of the apple and scrape up a bit from the bottom. The caramel on the upper part will drain down a bit with gravity covering the bottom. At this point, you can also dip the caramel apple in a bowl of chopped nuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, etc.

Homemade caramel apple being dipped into a bowl of nuts.

Place the dipped homemade caramel apples on a sheet pan lined with a silicone baking mat or a piece of parchment paper. Do not use wax paper. Sometimes I will even lightly spray the top of the parchment paper with cooking spray, but that isn’t necessary.

Six dipped caramel apples sitting on sheet pan.

Put the pan of caramel apples in the fridge and allow the caramel to set for 45 minutes to an hour.

This recipe makes enough for 8 to 10 apples depending on the size of the apples.

How to make soft caramel candies from leftover caramel?

Pan with parchment paper and caramel spread on top.

If you have leftover caramel, most likely you will, you can make awesome homemade soft caramel candies. Just pour the leftovers onto a pan lined with parchment paper. Then place it in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes.

Several cut up pieces of soft caramel candies on a piece of parchment paper.

Once cooled remove it from the pan and place it on a cutting board, but keep the caramel on the parchment paper. Cut up the caramel into little squares. If the caramel is too hard to cut, allow it to warm up a bit at room temperature and it will soften nicely.

You can wrap the homemade soft caramel candies with caramel candy wrappers, little pieces of parchment paper, or just leave as is. Just don’t stack them, they will stick to each other.

Step 5: Cut and serve the homemade caramel apples

Sheet pan with six homemade caramel apples on it.

Remove the homemade caramel apples from the fridge and allow them to sit for 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature.

While you can just bite into them, I am guessing your dentist will prefer you not to eat them that way, haha. Just cut down the sides with a knife and then slice them into bite-sized pieces. Easier to eat them this way anyway. But hey, I am not stopping you from biting into them! 🙂 Enjoy!

Tip (Decorating them): You can also dip the set caramel apples in chocolate, or drizzle chocolate on them, add sprinkles, etc. Have fun with it, or just leave them plain or with nuts only.

How long do caramel apples last?

If you store them in the fridge in an airtight container they will last for about a week. These do not freeze that well. The homemade caramel candy can last several months at room temperature, stored individually wrapped, or in layers with parchment paper in between and placed in an airtight container.

Homemade Caramel Apples Troubleshooting

Three failed homemade caramel apples

Why did my caramel pool at the bottom? Why is the caramel so thin on the apple? These are common occurrences when making caramel apples at home.

I purposely made some that didn’t work out. If you run into the issue of the caramel not sticking to the apple or is very thinly covering it and just pooling at the bottom a few things could have happened:

1. The wax wasn’t washed off completely of the apples. You really need to use hot water and then dry them well to get that wax off.

2. The caramel was too hot while dipping. The best dipping temp is right around 190 F/88 C.

3. The caramel wasn’t cooked long enough, it needs to be between 235 F and 245 F. (112-118C). Make sure to use a candy thermometer!

Those three factors are usually the culprits, for failed homemade caramel apples. 🙂

Homemade caramel apples pin for Pinterest
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Here are some other caramel related recipes you may like:

Caramel Rose Apple Pie

Caramel Sauce

Homemade Caramel Popcorn

Snickers Crisper Copycat Recipe

Oreo Twix Bars

Homemade Caramel Apples

I love these homemade caramel apples with caramel made from scratch. They are absolutely amazing. And there is usually leftover caramel that can be turned into soft caramel candies!
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Cooling Time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs
Course: Candy, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Halloween, kids, soft, sweet
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 462kcal
Author: Matt Taylor

Equipment

  • Heavy bottom 3-quart pot or larger
  • Caramel apple sticks, bamboo skewers, wooden flat popsicle sticks, etc.
  • sheet pan
  • Parchment paper or a silicone baking mat
  • Wooden spoon or Silicone Spoon
  • Knife
  • Basting brush
  • Cake knife, optional
  • Candy Thermometer

Ingredients

  • 8 to 10 apples any kind that you want, I use Granny Smith
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar either light or dark (400g)
  • 1/4 cup butter unsalted or salted (56g)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2g
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 360ml
  • 1 cup of corn syrup 340g
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 5ml
  • Nuts optional

Instructions

  • Soak the apples in really hot water, boiling if possible, for 20 to 30 seconds. Then dry them really well with a towel. This will remove the wax.
    Remove the stems and stick the apples with the stick about halfway down. Place on a sheet pan.
  • In a deep heavy bottom 3 quart or larger pot, add the sugar, salt, butter, heavy whipping cream, and corn syrup.
    Set the pot on the burner and set the heat to medium, 350 F/176 C. Stir continuously with a wooden or a silicone spoon until the butter melts and it barely starts to bubble, this will take 10 minutes or so to get to this point, maybe a bit longer.
  • Then brush down any sugar crystals that are clinging to the sides of the pot with a damp basting brush. If you leave them there, they may burn, and disrupt the caramel.
  • You don't stir the caramel anymore. Just let it sit and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the temp reaches 235 to 245 F. (112-118C). This is the softball stage. I usually let it go closer to 245 F. I find the caramel turns out a bit better and clings to the apple a little better.
  • Once at that temperature, turn the heat off and remove the pot to the adjacent burner. Let it cool for a minute or two and then pour in the vanilla extract and gently stir it in, don't stir it vigorously, that will add unwanted bubbles.
  • Now allow the caramel too cool, I usually pour it into a pyrex bowl, because it is easier to dip, but you can certainly leave it in the pot as well, and then just tilt the pot when dipping.
    The best dipping temperature is right around 190 F/88 C.
  • Dip the apple in the caramel, then allow the excess to drain off. Use a butter knife or cake spatula and scrape some away from the bottom of the apple and scrape up a bit from the bottom. The caramel on the upper part will drain down a bit with gravity.
    At this point, you can also dip the caramel apple in a bowl of chopped nuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, etc.
  • Place the dipped caramel apple on a sheet pan lined with a silicone baking mat or a piece of parchment paper. Do not use wax paper.
    Once done with all of them. Put the pan in the fridge and allow the caramel to set for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Remove the caramel apples from the fridge and allow them to sit for 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature. Just cut down the sides with a knife and then slice them into bite-sized pieces. Or feel free to take a bit out of one. Enjoy!
  • Now if you have leftover caramel, you can make yummy soft caramel candies. Just pour the leftovers onto a pan lined with parchment paper. Then place it in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes.
    Once cooled remove it from the pan and place it on a cutting board, but still on the parchment paper. Cut it up into little squares. If the caramel is too hard to cut, allow it to warm up a bit at room temp.
    You can wrap them with caramel candy wrappers, little pieces of parchment paper, or just leave as is. Just don't stack them, they will stick to each other.

Video

How to Make Caramel Apples | Easy Homemade Caramel Apple Recipe

Notes

list of nutritional facts for caramel apples
NOTE: The nutritional facts including using all the caramel. Chances are you will have some leftover, so the calories will be lower. 
NOTE: Some recipes call to put the apples in the fridge or the freezer to get really cold, and others say to leave them at room temp. I have tried both ways and either works fine.
TIP: If you can use a pot with a heavy bottom, this promotes more even cooking.
NOTE: You really need to use a candy thermometer. It is just too hard to tell when it is at the correct temp.
Tip: If you store the caramel apples in an airtight container in the fridge they will last about a week.
Tip: You can also dip the set caramel apples in chocolate, or drizzle chocolate on them, add sprinkles, etc. Have fun with it, or just leave them plain or with nuts only.
Troubleshooting:
If you run into the issue of the caramel not sticking to the apple and just pooling at the bottom a few things could have happened.
1. The wax wasn’t washed off of the apples. You really need to use hot water and then dry them well to get that wax off.
2. The caramel was too hot while dipping. The temp needs to be right around 190 F/88 C. for dipping.
3. The caramel wasn’t cooked long enough, it needs to be between 235 F and 245 F. (112-118C)
Those three factors are usually the culprits, for failed caramel apples. 🙂
 
 

Do you like this recipe? Share and Pin it! Please give it a rating and comment down below, I really appreciate it. If you make it tag me on Instagram @inthekitchenwithmatt. Also, sign up for the newsletter so you won’t miss out on any of my new posts and recipes.

36 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is a really good post. I have made caramel apples in the past and they are one of my least consistent recipes. Sometimes getting the caramel to just the right texture is tricky. Even if my thermometer says it’s good, it’s not always the right consistency. I think the humidity may have affected the texture.
    Anyway, I love that you gave troubleshooting suggestions and I love that you gave the suggestion for caramels for the leftover caramel.

  2. Hihi….the things Matt won’t do with his hands and kitchen? How did you even come up with this recipe? I love it.

  3. Blair Villanueva

    5 stars
    Wow, this treat looks awesome and easy to make. I remember we used to grab this during our visit to Sovereign Hill.

  4. This definitely looks like a recipe that I would be willing too try! Maybe I’ll attempt making it sometime this week. Fingers crossed it turns out as delicious as yours!

  5. 5 stars
    Simple, but how delicious it is. My daughter has a sweet tooth, she will be delighted with this delicacy!

  6. Candy Apple Caramel. Love this. Simple and easy. Thanks for share.

  7. 5 stars
    I’ve never made this before, but will try this recipe definitely. I’am crazy about caramel things.

  8. This would be perfect to make for Halloween!
    Maybe not as good for the kids to get while they are trick or treating, (if the kids can even do that in 2020) but this can be the fun but healthy snack!

  9. 5 stars
    Awesome idea for a great and unique recipe. This looks so cool and definitely kid’s will love. It looks so delicious and tasty and the best part is that it’s a healthy food.

  10. My mom made these every year when I was growing up and we loved them. I’ve never made them myself but will try thanks to your easy recipe.

  11. OMG caramel apples are my favorite of all time. I would love to try to make them myself!

  12. 5 stars
    I have never tried making caramel apples before. I want to try this recipe with the kids. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

  13. 5 stars
    These look so amazing! When you say homemade, you mean it! You even made your own caramel.

  14. These caramel apples look so yummy! The added nuts make it look even more delicious!

    Kileen
    cute & little

  15. 5 stars
    I could live off of these all season long! I’m so happy to be able to make them at home now versus going to the store. The price always seem to get higher each year.

  16. 5 stars
    Thanks for helping me out! Just a few days ago, my daughter came home with a caramel apple she and her friend had excitedly bought at a local farm market, because she said neither of them had even tried one. Ummmm … what?? How did my daughter (who’s 18) have this gaping hole in her childhood?? So, yeah … a homemade caramel apple recipe that’s foolproof and delicious clearly is in order here! Thanks for coming to the rescue! 😉

  17. 5 stars
    These are incredible! A good caramel apple is one of the best treats of a fair/festival and autumn! My favorite things. 🙂

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