Caramel apples are such a fun and delicious treat to make at home! Learn how to make homemade caramel apples with my step-by-step photo tutorial and best tips for success.

caramel apples with crushed oreos, nuts, and crushed candy bars

Welcome to your complete guide to making homemade caramel apples!

If you’ve only made caramel apples by melting down a bag of individual wrapped caramels, then this post is for you! Caramel apples made with homemade caramel candy are a million times better and they’re actually quite easy. I’m sharing everything you need to know— from detailed instructions, lots of tips, and even some FAQs.

I love to make caramel apples with family and friends in the fall, as it’s such a classic combination of sweet and salty flavors and everyone always has so much fun. Homemade caramel apples also make great gifts or favors (we gave them away at our wedding!).

ingredients for homemade caramel apples

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Apples
  • Heavy cream
  • Granulated sugar
  • Butter
  • Light corn syrup
  • Vanilla extract
  • Salt
  • Craft sticks
  • Toppings as desired

Toppings Suggestions

Caramel apples are definitely tasty enough on their own, but adding toppings is even more fun and delicious! Here are a few ideas:

  • Chopped nuts
  • Chopped candy bars like Heath or Butterfinger
  • Mini M&Ms
  • Toasted coconut
  • Crushed Oreo cookies
  • Sprinkles

starting to make the caramel sauce and apples with craft sticks

How to Make Homemade Caramel Apples

Here are step-by-step instructions for how to make caramel apples. For the most success, please also read all of my tips below before starting.

1. Prep apples. Wash apples thoroughly, remove stems, and insert craft sticks into the tops. Keep nearby, along with a sheet of wax/parchment paper, and make sure all toppings are ready.

2. Start caramel sauce. Add cream, sugar, light corn syrup, and butter to a heavy-bottom saucepan and melt over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil, then insert a candy thermometer.

3. Cook caramel to 248°F. Stir caramel occasionally over medium heat until it reaches hard ball stage, or 248°F. The mixture will go from pale to golden as it cooks, and stirring helps the caramel cook evenly. Do not let it burn, turn down heat if needed.

cooking caramel sauce for caramel apples

4. Stir in remaining ingredients. Immediately remove caramel from heat and whisk in 1 tablespoon heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk until smooth.

5. Dip apples into caramel. The caramel will start setting up immediately, so you have to work quickly! Dip apples into the caramel, rolling them around until completely covered.

6. Add toppings. If adding toppings, quickly roll caramel apple in the toppings until covered.

7. Let cool. Place caramel apples on wax or parchment paper to set up completely. Let sit for about 30-60 minutes, or transfer to the fridge if you’d like them to set up sooner.

caramel sauce ready for dipping apples and rolling in toppings

Tips for Making Homemade Caramel Apples

  • Plan ahead to work quickly! Candy making isn’t specifically hard, but you do have to pay attention. Read this recipe completely and have all ingredients and supplies ready to go before starting. This way there are no surprises or slow-downs.
  • Use wax-free (not shiny) apples so the caramel will stick easily. I can usually find them in the organic section of my grocery store. If you have wax-covered apples, soak them in a sink filled with 4 inches of water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon baking soda, and scrub clean.
  • Any variety of apple will work for this recipe, but I like to use firm tart apples like Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Gala.
  • Yes, you really do need a candy thermometer! It’s the only way to ensure the caramel will set up properly. Here’s the one I use (it’s programmable and beeps when you’ve reached the proper temperature).
  • If you are planning to add toppings, use two people if you can. One person to cover the apples with caramel, and one to roll in toppings, making it easier to finish the apples before the caramel is too hard for dipping.
  • If the caramel hardens before you’re done dipping, whisk it over low heat for a few minutes, adding a teaspoon or two of heavy cream to loosen it up if needed. The more cream you add, the softer the caramel will be so add it sparingly.
  • Keep caramel warm in a slow cooker. You can store prepared caramel in a slow cooker preheated to the low setting (do not put it in a cold slow cooker) until you are ready to dip apples. This is perfect if you plan to make caramel apples as a party activity. Stir it occasionally to make sure it stays smooth.
  • The caramel apples are best the day they are made, but will keep at room temperature for several days.

caramel apples with toppings on wax paper

Caramel Apple FAQs

  • Can I substitute ___ for ____? Most likely no. Making caramel is basically chemistry at work and substitutions will not yield the same results. I have only tested the recipe as written.
  • Why is the caramel running off of the apples into a puddle? The caramel was not cooked to the proper temperature of 248°F.
  • Why is the caramel hard and cracking? The caramel was overcooked past 248°F.
  • Why is the caramel full of bubbles? The caramel was stirred too vigorously while it was cooking, incorporating air. Stir only as needed to prevent burning.
  • Uh oh, the caramel hardened in the pot before I finished dipping the apples! You worked too slowly. See my tip above for loosening hardened caramel and work more quickly to finish.

More Caramel Recipes to Try

Fall in love with these other recipes using homemade caramel!

caramel apples with crushed oreos, nuts, and crushed candy bars

Shop Tools for this Recipe


Recipe was originally published October 2013.

Homemade Caramel Apples

Homemade caramel apples are an easy, fun, and delicious fall treat! For the most success, read full recipe post, tips, and FAQs before starting.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream (240 grams)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (28 grams)
  • ¼ corn syrup (85 ml)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 small apples , washed thoroughly
  • 6 wooden skewers or craft sticks

Toppings (optional)

  • Chopped nuts
  • Chopped candy bars
  • Crushed Oreos
  • Mini M&Ms
  • Toasted coconut

Instructions

  • Insert craft sticks into the tops of the apples and keep them nearby. Lay out a sheet of parchment/wax paper out. Have toppings (if using) ready to go.
  • In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine 1 cup of cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup over medium heat. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth and mixture begins to boil.
  • Insert a candy thermometer and let mixture cook to 248°F or firm-ball stage, while continuing to stir occasionally. Mixture will caramelize and turn golden brown as it cooks. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn't burn.
  • As soon as it reaches 248°F, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the 1 tablespoon cream, salt, and vanilla extract. Mixture will bubble violently at first. Stir until smooth.
  • Working quickly, immediately begin dipping the apples, letting the excess caramel drip back into the pan. Roll the apples in the toppings, if using. Set the dipped apples on the parchment or wax paper and let sit for 30-60 minutes.
  • The caramel apples will keep stored at room temperature for 2 days, but are best the day they are made.

Nutrition

Calories: 396kcal, Carbohydrates: 60g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 64mg, Sodium: 212mg, Potassium: 224mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 52g, Vitamin A: 798IU, Vitamin C: 9mg, Calcium: 37mg, Iron: 1mg
Have you tried this recipe?I’d love to hear about it! Leave a review below or take a photo and tag it on Instagram @completelydelicious with #completelydelicious.