Who knew that making homemade caramel apples was so easy? Now we know and we think you should find out too!
Homemade caramel apples are the perfect Fall treat! The sweet, complex flavor of caramel paired with delicious apples is hard to beat. There’s no need to head to the fair or spend a lot at a gourmet shop either, we’re going to show you how to make this sweet treat at home.
Scroll down to read more about how it all comes together or click here to jump straight down to the recipe.
What Are Caramel Apples?
We’ve been talking a lot about candy apples. Now it’s time to turn to their gooier cousins, caramel apples. Caramel apples are simply whole apples that are covered in delicious caramel sauce. They are super popular in the fall, especially around Halloween.
The basic procedure is the same for candy apples, just with different ingredients and a different cooking temperature. Head over here for a step-by-step guide to making candy apples, with pictures so that you have a better idea how to do the below recipe.
Best Apples To Use
So, what kind of apples are the best to cover with caramel? You can use whichever variety you’d like, but I find that they are best with a tart apple, like Granny Smith to balance the sweetness of the caramel sauce. Browse more apple variety suggestions for caramel or candy apples.
Look for small to medium apples that are firm and round for the best results. You’ll want to thoroughly wash and dry the apples before you get started. (If they’ve got a waxy coating, wash in hot water.) While not required, it can also be helpful to chill the apples in the fridge so that the caramel sets better.
How To Make Homemade Caramel
While we did test with various store-bought caramels, you really can’t beat homemade.
For the homemade caramel coating, what you do is stir together heavy cream, corn syrup, unsalted butter, and sugar and then heat it in a heavy bottomed saucepan on high until it’s bubbling.
Then keep heating it on high until it reaches 244-248°F (the firm ball stage of candy-making). Note that I don’t find this to be a dark enough caramel. I advise you to use a spoon to push aside the frothy bubbles at the top of your pot (carefully) and check the color of the syrup underneath. If it’s really pale, let it go a bit longer. It’s going to be fine if you caramel reaches the hard ball stage (think nougat) between 250-266°F.
When the caramel is the right color and temperature, remove it from the heat and (again, carefully!) add a bit more heavy cream and some vanilla. Swirl it around.
Making Perfect Caramel Apples
While the caramel is cooking, put parchment paper on a baking sheet. Avoid wax paper or aluminum foil here, they don’t work as well. Spray it with baking spray.
Insert caramel apple sticks through stem end of your washed and dried apples. You want the sticks at least halfway into the apples. You can go further than that if the sticks you’re using are long, but make sure you don’t poke through to the other side!
Wait for the caramel to stop bubbling. Then hold an apple by the stick and roll it in the sauce. You may need to tilt your pan to make the sauce deep enough to coat the apple. Once coated, hold the apple over the pan and shake gently to remove excess sauce. If you want to add extra toppings, now is the time.
Place the apple stick up on the prepared baking sheet until it has hardened. Repeat with remaining apples. If you don’t use all the sauce, it can be refrigerated and then reheated gently to coat more apples or to be drizzled over ice cream.
Gourmet Caramel Apple Toppings Ideas
Okay, so if you really want to get fancy, after you dip apples in the caramel, go ahead and add a little something extra to them. (This is especially nice if you’re giving them as gifts!)
Try finely chopped nuts, sprinkles, a drizzle of melted chocolate, or toasted coconut flakes. Get creative and let me know what you come up with in the comments.
I can’t wait for you to try this homemade caramel apple recipe!Print
- In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan mix together 3/4 cups of the heavy cream, the corn syrup, butter, sugar and vanilla. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and make sure the tip is in the syrup but not touching the bottom or side of the pan.
- Heat on high over high heat until it reaches between 244-248°F. At that point, use a spoon to carefully move away some of the light froth on top to see the color of the syrup below. If it’s a dark enough caramel color for you, like peanut butter is ideal, remove it from the heat. If not, let it heat a bit longer until that color is reached.
- Remove from heat. Carefully add the remaining 1/4 cup cream and the vanilla. Swirl gently to combine.
- While the caramel is cooking, put parchment paper on a cooking sheet. Spray it with baking spray.
- Wash and dry the apples. Insert sticks through stem end. If the sticks are long, go ahead and push them all the way into the apple, without going through the other end. if they’re shorter, halfway into the apple works.
- Wait for the caramel to stop bubbling. Then hold an apple by the stick and roll it in the sauce. You may need to tilt your pan to make the sauce deep enough to coat the apple. Once coated, hold the apple over the pan and shake gently to remove excess sauce. (At this point you can dip your apple in toppings like nuts and sprinkles, if desired).
- Place the apple stick up on the prepared baking sheet until it has hardened. Repeat with remaining apples. If you don’t use all the sauce, it can be refrigerated and then reheated gently to coat more apples.
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This post originally appeared in September 2016 and was revised and republished in August 2023.