Caramel Simple Syrup

Sweeten your coffee and cocktails with homemade Caramel Simple Syrup! This easy sweetener is better than the one served at your favorite coffee shop.

a bowl of caramel candies with a jar of caramel syrup

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Raise your hand if you love caramel anything! Me too.

From caramel popcorn to chocolate-covered caramels, if it has caramel in it or on it, you can sign me up.

Caramel Simple Syrup recipe

I recently discovered a new-to-me local coffee shop in our new neighborhood.

My favorite part about their menu is the plethora of flavored lattes, but they’re not too sweet at all. I am working my way through the list of fancy coffees. My new favorite is their salted caramel latte.

But I can’t live that lifestyle all the time! Since we already have a Nespresso machine at home, and I knew I needed to learn to make this treat on my own.

Enter caramel syrup. Yes, you can buy it. But the store-bought bottles are sugary and often contain artificial flavors and corn syrup.

If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate that you can make this easy caramel syrup from the comfort of your own kitchen, and with only a few ingredients that you probably already have on hand.

a bowl of caramel candy and a jar of caramel syrup

What is simple syrup?

Simple syrup is a liquid sweetener that can be used to sweeten drinks. Made with only sugar and water, this easy mixture is a must for coffee, tea and cocktails.

If you’ve ever tried to stir sugar into a cold drink, you’ve probably noticed your ice melts faster than the sugar. Simple syrup is the easy solution — hardly any stirring is required!

It also has culinary uses, as simple syrup can be poured over treats like ice cream sundaes, pancakes and french toast. Cake decorators often brush it on cake layers to keep them from drying out.

Simple syrup can easily be flavored with herbs and spices, such as mint or lavender.

This caramel syrup recipe is less than “simple,” however. Because of the high heat and watchful eye required to make it, it’s definitely a more advanced syrup recipe. But don’t let that stop you from trying it!

caramel syrup dripping off a gold spoon

Caramel syrup vs. caramel sauce

Though they sound similar, caramel syrup is quite different than caramel sauce.

Homemade caramel sauce is usually made with heavy cream and butter. The consistency is thick — think of the stuff you’d drizzle over vanilla ice cream or apple pie.

Caramel syrup, on the other hand, is a thinner liquid that’s ideal for stirring into drinks. It’s much runnier than caramel sauce. It still tastes like caramel and has that same caramel color. Plus, it’s dairy-free!

Both are somewhat tricky to make, as caramelizing sugar to make syrup, sauce or candy requires high heat and the mixture can burn easily.

sugar, water and vanilla extract

Ingredients

Caramel simple syrup is made with three simple ingredients: sugar, water and vanilla extract. Well, four if you decide to make salted caramel syrup — in which case you’ll also need a big pinch of salt!

Sugar

Since we are making caramel syrup, it’s important that we use white, granulated sugar or pure cane sugar.

If you use brown sugar, you will wind up with a butterscotch syrup instead. There is a slight difference in the flavor, so if you’re looking for a caramel taste, stick with white sugar.

Water

I prefer to use filtered water for my simple syrups because the pure, filtered state of the water helps the finished syrup last longer.

However, you may use bottled water, tap water or the water from your fridge.

Vanilla Extract

Because it’s common in many baking recipes, most people already have vanilla extract on hand in their pantries.

My go-to is Nielsen-Massey’s vanilla extract, but any brand will work well!

Salt

If you’d like to make a salted caramel simple syrup, you will want to add a pinch of salt to your syrup while it’s warm so the salt can dissolve.

I keep sea salt on hand in my kitchen, but a pinch of table salt will work too. Be sure to stir it in thoroughly until it dissolves, then taste it. Repeat until your desired saltiness is achieved!

a jar of caramel simple syrup

Tips for success

To be honest with you, caramel syrup is harder to make than classic simple syrup. However, it can be done.

To be successful, focus on your syrup and don’t have any distractions. It’s very, very easy to turn your caramel syrup into burnt sugar syrup, which is not ideal. (Though it still can be tasty if you like the flavor of burnt things — trust me).

As soon as the caramel syrup turns an amber color, remove it from the heat immediately. It will still cook a little more after you remove it from the heat, which makes it that much easier to burn. Once it’s burnt, you can’t save it and you’ll have to start over. (Ask me how I know!)

This recipe makes around ¾ cup of syrup, but I wouldn’t double it until you’ve mastered this recipe.

How to make homemade caramel syrup

Here’s how to make this caramel simple syrup:

  1. Combine ¼ cup water and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until dissolved, about 5 minutes or so.
  2. Turn the heat to medium-high. Cover and boil, about 3 minutes. Remove the lid and stir consistently until the mixture is a light amber color.
  3. Remove from heat immediately, then stir in remaining ¼ cup water and vanilla.
  4. If desired, add a pinch of salt for salted caramel syrup.

Bring to room temperature, then store it in an airtight container, like a mason jar, in the fridge. It will last up to 1 month.

How to make Salted Caramel Syrup

To make salted caramel simple syrup, add a pinch of sea salt while the mixture is warm, but not hot. Give it a taste, and add more salt if desired.

a jar of caramel simple syrup with candy caramels

How to use caramel syrup

You can mix this delicious caramel syrup into lots of drink recipes, with and without alcohol. It’s the perfect way to add a little bit of caramel flavor.

Stir it into hot drinks like coffee, a latte or even hot chocolate. My favorite is a caramel macchiato.

Caramel syrup is also great in cold drinks like cold brew coffee or an iced latte. You could even make a caramel coffee soda, which is a delicious, bubbly, iced drink.

It works with tea, too. Try stirring it into a drink made with chai concentrate.

You can, of course, use it in a cocktail to add caramel flavor! You can use it any time that classic simple syrup sounds good. It would work well in bourbon and rum drinks especially, such as an old-fashioned or a Manhattan.

Caramel is a great complement for apples. Try it in the fall in some caramel apple cider add some flavor to an apple cider mule.

Don’t forget that you can gift it to a friend who likes to make their own coffee drinks or cocktails.

More cocktail and coffee syrup recipes

If you like making homemade syrups for coffee and cocktails, try one of these recipes:

a jar of caramel simple syrup

Caramel Simple Syrup

Yield: ¾ cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

This dairy-free caramel simple syrup is delicious when stirred into cocktails and coffee drinks.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup water, divided
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt, for salted caramel syrup

Instructions

  1. Combine ¼ cup water and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until dissolved, about 5 minutes or so.
  2. Cover and boil, about 3 minutes. Remove the lid and stir consistently until the mixture is a light amber color.
  3. Remove from heat immediately, then stir in remaining ¼ cup water and vanilla.
  4. If desired, add a pinch of salt for salted caramel syrup.
  5. Stir in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Notes

Focus on your syrup and don’t allow any distractions. It’s very easy to turn your caramel syrup into burnt sugar syrup.

As soon as the caramel syrup turns an amber color, remove it from the heat immediately. It will still cook a little more after you remove it from the heat, which makes it that much easier to burn. Once it’s burnt, you can’t save it and you’ll have to start over. (Ask me how I know!)

This recipe makes around ¾ cup, but I wouldn’t double it until you’ve mastered this recipe.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 ounce
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 80Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 46mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 0gSugar: 21gProtein: 0g

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