Making caramel apples without corn syrup is surprisingly simple and, from start to finish, you can end up with this favourite autumn treat in under an hour. While making a caramel with corn syrup is certainly a more foolproof way, it’s simple enough to omit the liquid sugar and still have success.
Whatever your reasons for wanting a recipe without corn syrup, I’ve developed this recipe to help you out. It only uses a handful of ingredients and it’s also super easy to scale up or down depending on how many gooey, sticky caramel apples you want to make.
Here, I’ll outline all of the steps you need to follow along with potential pitfalls you may encounter if you want to make some of the best caramel apples of your life! It’s not as tricky as you may think.
How to Make Caramel Apples Without Corn Syrup
Before you start making this caramel apple recipe, it’s important that we have everything set up and ready to go. The recipe is easy, but it does require an attentive eye so having all your ducks in a row before you start cooking is essential.
So, start first by ensuring your apples are chilled! This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does aid in making this entire recipe easier as it helps the caramel set more quickly and prevents it from sliding off after dipping. Just keep the apples in the fridge after you buy them.
When you’re ready to start cooking, remove the stems from the apples and then spear them through the stem end with a popsicle stick, skewer or even a single chopstick (it’s a great way to use all of those extra chopsticks from takeaway!).
You want to ensure your stick is about halfway down the apple in order for it to be secure.
Also, line a baking tray with some parchment paper to act as a landing zone for after you dip your apples.
Finally, set a dish of water and a pastry brush next to your stove – you’ll use this to wash down the sides of the pan once the sugar syrup begins to boil.
Now it’s time to start making the caramel for the apples! And, like most candy recipes that I’ve covered ad nauseam on this website (such as my chewy caramel recipe, my peanut brittle recipe, my caramel popcorn recipe or even my candy apple recipe), we are going to start by thoroughly dissolving sugar into water.
Add your sugar to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and pour over a bit of cool water. If you are scaling this recipe for your needs, you generally need 1/4 of the weight of water relative to the sugar.
Set the pan over medium-low heat and, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, dissolve the sugar before allowing the mixture to come to a boil.
This step is made quicker and easier if you use caster sugar (also known as superfine sugar in some localities), however, you can use granulated sugar – just note that it will take longer to dissolve and you may need to be a bit more vigilant at preventing boiling before that.
The most important thing you can do when making this recipe is to ensure that you get this sugar completely dissolved before the syrup begins to summer.
Stir constantly and vigorously and, if you’re worried it may be heating up too quickly, don’t be afraid to take it off the heat. Generally, this step should take about five minutes.
Once your sugar has dissolved, you can safely bring the mixture up to a boil. As soon as you see the mixture begin to simmer, cease stirring altogether and brush down the sides of the pan with your pastry brush dipped in water. This gets rid of any sugar crystals that may have collected on the sides.
Allow the mixture to bubble, undisturbed, until you notice it begins to change colour. After about 10-15 minutes (it could also be sooner, so make sure you don’t walk away!), you will see the sugar syrup take on a pale honey colour.
After this happens, you will very quickly notice the caramel getting darker. How dark you decide to let it go is really up to you – just note that the darker the caramel the more complex the flavour will be. I, personally, like to cook it to a dark amber stage.
As soon as you reach the desired colour of your caramel, pour in some chilled cream and a good amount of salt. In general, use an equal amount by weight of cream to sugar.
This will ensure you get a very soft, chewy texture that’s not going to break or stick to your teeth when you bite into the apples.
Be careful when pouring in the cream. It will sputter and foam up so do not be alarmed, this is expected and completely normal. Once the cream is added, it’s time to stir constantly once again and continue to cook the caramel.
This is where you are going to want to use either a candy thermometer or an instant-read thermometer, if you have one. While stirring, cook the caramel until it reaches 250°F (120°C) – known as the hard-ball stage in candy making.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can add a small drop of the caramel to a dish of ice water. If it hardens into a firm yet pliable ball, then you’re ready to go.
Once you’ve reached this temperature, remove the caramel from the heat and then pour it into a heatproof bowl.
This serves two purposes – for one, it helps to cool down the caramel to make it suitable for dipping the apples and second, it’s easier to dip the apples in a bowl over a pan.
Allow the caramel to cool for a few minutes – you want the temperature to be at around 100°C before it’s ready for dipping the apples.
When you’re ready to dip your caramel apples, grasp each apple by the stick and submerge it into the caramel, ensuring that it’s evenly coated in caramel. Allow the excess to drip off of the apple before allowing it to set up on the prepared parchment paper.
Let your corn-syrup-free caramel apples cool completely before eating. If you want them to last for a few days, keep them in the fridge to prevent the caramel from sliding off.
- 6 small granny smith apples, thoroughly washed and chilled
- 1 cup (200g) caster sugar (see note 1)
- 1 cup (200g) heavy cream, chilled
- 1 teaspoon (5g) course sea salt (see note 2)
- Insert a popsicle stick, wooden skewer or single chopstick into the stem end of each apple until the stick is about halfway down the apple. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Set a small dish of water and a pastry brush next to the stove.
- Add the sugar to a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Pour over ¼ cup (60ml) of water and set over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, slowly dissolve the sugar. Ensure the sugar is completely dissolved before allowing the mixture to come to a boil. If you are concerned about the mixture heating too quickly, remove from the heat periodically until all of the sugar is dissolved.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring altogether and allow the mixture to come up to a boil. When the mixture begins to simmer, dip the pastry brush in the dish of water and wash down the sides to ensure there are no sugar crystals to collect on the sides.
- Allow the syrup to boil, not stirring but swirling occasionally to distribute the heat, until the syrup begins to turn an amber colour. The darker you allow the caramel to cook, the more bitter and complex the flavours will be. It is up to you, but keep in mind that the syrup can go from caramelised to burnt in an instant, so do be vigilant. This process should take about 15-20 minutes.
- Pour in the cream and add the salt. It will sputter and foam considerably so do not be alarmed. Stir constantly with a silicone spatula and allow the caramel to cook until it reaches a temperature of 250°F (120°C). Pour the caramel into a heatproof bowl.
- Allow the caramel to cool for about 5 minutes, or until it reads 212°F (100°C). Then, dip each apple into the caramel, allowing the excess to drip off before allowing it to cool and set on the prepared parchment paper. Allow the caramel to cool completely before eating.
1. I recommend using caster sugar (also known as superfine sugar) rather than granulated sugar as it does dissolve a bit quicker than granulated. However, if all you have is granulated, this is not a problem and you will still see success so long as the sugar is completely dissolved before the syrup begins to boil.
2. I highly recommend using the salt by weight because the volume of salt can vary from brand to brand. 1 teaspoon of table salt is going to be far more salt by weight than 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt. For best results, go by weight.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 326Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 334mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 4gSugar: 48gProtein: 2g
Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Making caramel apples without any corn syrup is a fun and easy way to throw together a delicious fall treat.
Are you looking to make caramel apples? Have any questions about this recipe? Let us know in the comments!