Sea Salt Caramels

Welcome to Christmas Candy Fest 2010. Over the last few days, my girlfriend Paula and I made some delicious gift-worthy treats. When we were finished, we had 30 boxes of 5 different homemade candies and, yes, they were all fantabulous!…if I do say so myself.

So with my next series of posts, I’m going to share the triumphs, the heartaches and the recipes from this endeavor starting with one of my favorites, Sea Salt Caramels.

I still remember the first time I tasted homemade caramels. It was President’s Day Weekend 197? and I was staying with my mother at La Push Beach on the Washington State peninsula. La Push has become a tiny bit famous in the last few years because it is near Forks, the setting for the uberpopular Twilight Series. When I was a kid, my family would spend that cold wet holiday at the beach every year. It was peaceful, but the beach was windy and wild. Crashing waves littered the rough sand with driftwood the size of full-grown trees, no joke. One year, I made a “beach friend” and her mother prepared the caramels right there in their condo kitchenette. It was bitter cold outside, but the caramels smelled buttery and warm. We could barely wait for them to cool. This was my very first exposure to homemade candy.

In the last few years, I’ve made this recipe many times. Soft, sweet and just a bit salty, the caramels get wrapped like little dime-store candies. These petite packages make an easy and delicious gift.

Sea Salt Caramels
Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet

Print-Friendly Recipe

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for greasing
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • wax paper for wrapping

Makes 64 individually wrapped caramels

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter the parchment.

Bring cream, butter, and sea salt to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring just until sugar is dissolved. Then boil, without stirring, until the mixture just starts to turn color. At that point, you can swirl the pan a little to even out the color as it continues to darken. It’s done when the color is what you want for your caramel, maybe even just a shade darker because it will lighten when you add the cream mixture.

Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer (aka “Firm Ball” stage).

Pour into the prepared pan and cool 2 hours at room temperature. When cool and firm, pull it out of the pan using the parchment and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting the ends to close.

Now who gets to eat them?



  1. there is really nothing better than a homemade caramel. your recipients are very, very lucky to have you as a friend!

  2. sea salt caramels yum!

  3. Your photos are awesome. I made a load of caramels a few months back and they disappeared to family and friends at warp speed. The sugar thermometer seems to put a lot of people off – but they are quite easy to make.

  4. Beautiful and delicious! Thanks for taking the time to share!

  5. made these tonight… they are heavenly!! mmmm, thank

  6. Hi Heather!

    I made these tonight. They taste divine. But are not setting up correctly. I did use slightly oiled foil instead of parchment. Would that make a big difference in regard to them setting?

    I put them in the fridge to harden up more. Do you think that is a good move?

    Any advice would be helpful so I can salvage the yum treats!

    • Hmmmm. The caramels should setup when they come to room temperature. I’m not sure what’s happening with your batch, but I can tell you this. One time I made these in a hurry and forgot a step. After I added the cream, I forgot to simmer the caramel until it came up to the “Firm Ball” stage (248°F). The caramel tasted great, but it tasted like a great caramel sauce, they wouldn’t firm up. When I realized my mistake, I scraped all of the caramel back into a saucepan and reheated it until it reached the Firm Ball stage (248°F). Then, I poured it into a newly lined pan (oiled foil should be fine) and it set up correctly. I don’t know if this could be issue or not, but I hope they turn out in the end. 🙂 Best – Heather

  7. These look so good! Any idea on how long the caramels stay fresh? I want to make them as far in advance as possible for a family event. (Seriously, if I could do it a month in advance that would be great). Thanks!

    • My friend Paula kept some in the fridge for at least a month and says they were still fine, so I think you would be OK making them that far in advance if its entirely necessary. Let me know how they turn out! Best, H

      • Thanks! I will.

  8. My mom and I are making these right now! I’m sure I’ll share this link with my readers when I’m done because YUM!

  9. i’ve only got golden syrup, will that work as a substitute?

    • It probably will. The purpose of the corn syrup is to prevent the sugar from crystalizing during boiling. Because golden syrup is also made from cane sugar, I can’t be sure, but it’s only the cost of a little sugar and cream to find out, so you might as well give it a try. Let me know how it turns out. Best, H

      • Hi Heather,
        I actually had golden corn syrup, so they did turn out completely fine and delicious! Thanks for the recipe, just made another batch. The first ones were gone far too quickly.

        • Excellent! Thanks for the update. – H

  10. I have made these caramels for the last 3 years–often I jump around and try new recipes, but I have stuck with this one and have definitely gotten better with each batch. From experience, my caramels stay good for a long time (at least a month?) and I just keep them on the counter. They don’t usually last that long, but…they can. 🙂 Also, in a bout of absentmindedness, in the last batch I used a whole stick of butter (instead of the 5 TBSP) and it was salted b/c that was all I had, and they turned out to be the best yet!! I did not grease the parchment paper though, because I thought the extra butter would do the job. I’m not recommending adding extra butter, just saying it didn’t ruin the batch! Pay attention to the temperature!! I have made these too soft & too hard, but they still taste great in any form. I also used lavender sea salt in my last batch & the lavender taste was very subtle, but yummy! Thanks for sharing these delicious treats with us!

    • Thanks for letting me know about the butter. Glad that you like the recipe. I make a variation of it every week for Livin the Pie Life and it turns out everytime. One of my favorites. 🙂


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