Are you looking for a fantastic chewy caramel recipe without corn syrup? Well, you’ve come to the right place. It can be disheartening when you want to make caramels but find that nearly every recipe out there calls for corn syrup or glucose syrup. Though this syrup can really help with preventing crystals from forming when cooking a caramel, it isn’t actually a necessary ingredient to make a killer caramel — in fact, it isn’t even a traditional ingredient!
Where I live in Tbilisi, Georgia, corn syrup isn’t even available and I would have to special order it from abroad in order to have it. This was frustrating at one point when I was making a caramel for a recipe and continually had problems with it crystalizing and seizing.
After two or three failed batches of caramel, I took to the internet to find out how to prevent this from happening. Much to my chagrin, every tip I found insisted that I needed to add corn syrup or cream of tartar, another ingredient unavailable in Georgia.
Rather than giving up, I set my mind to figuring out just how to make caramel without corn syrup or cream of tartar and through a bit of trial and error, I’ve developed it.
So if you’re looking for a great chewy salted caramel recipe without corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, cream of tartar or any other odd add-ins, then look no further. In fact, this caramel recipe only uses four ingredients and yields an extraordinary result.
How to Make Caramel Without Corn Syrup
The reason corn syrup is an ingredient that features so heavily in caramel recipes is that it helps prevent the sugar from crystalising and your caramel from seizing.
Sugar crystals are the bane of any caramel’s existence and will ruin your caramel in an instant, so it makes sense that cooks over the years have devised some shortcuts to prevent this from happening. It’s the same reason why you will find cream of tartar in so many recipes, as well — the acidity prevents crystals from forming.
But the good news is, you absolutely can successfully execute a caramel recipe without corn syrup. It just takes a little extra attentiveness and no half measures – you have to watch that caramel like a hawk while also making sure not to do anything that will result in crystals forming! And once you get the technique down, you can make any caramel-based candy without corn syrup – like peanut brittle or caramel corn!
Keep in mind that this recipe uses a wet caramel method, as opposed to the dry caramel method I use in my caramel sauce recipe.
First things first, however, you need to prepare your mold where your caramels will cool down. I recommend using a 22x11cm (8.5×4.5in) loaf pan for this. In order to easily release the caramels once they’ve cooled down, I fashion a bit of a parchment sling in the pan.
Grease your loaf pan with butter or cooking spray. Then cut two pieces of parchment so that they are the same width as the long side of the pan and the short side of the pan but longer than the sides so you can use it as a handle. Lay these into the pan so that they’re overlapping, and then brush them with more butter or cooking spray. Set the pan aside until needed.
To begin this caramel recipe without corn syrup, pour your heavy cream into a small saucepan and add your butter. Melt the butter into the cream, remove from the heat, pour into a jug and set aside (but keep it close to the stove!) until needed.
Now, you need to actually make the caramel that is the basis of these chewy caramel candies. This is where you can easily mess up if you do not heed my advice.
In a medium saucepan over the lowest flame possible, add your sugar and 60ml of water (about 1/4 cup). Stirring constantly with a heatproof silicone spatula, gently dissolve the sugar.
This is the absolute most crucial step to the caramel recipe without condensed milk or corn syrup, you HAVE TO ensure that all of the sugar is dissolved before it comes up to a boil. This will take a bit of time but do no rush it or your caramel will be ruined. This is the same thing you must do when making the syrup for my marshmallow recipe.
Once your sugar is dissolved, bring the mixture to a gentle boil. AS SOON as the mixture has started to boil, stop stirring. Remove your spatula and brush down the sides of the pan with some water to wash off any sugar that has begun to crystalise on the sides of the pot. Increase the heat to medium and allow to bubble.
This is where your patience will be tested. The sugar can take a while to caramelise (much like caramelising onions for French onion soup!) but once it begins taking on even a shade of colour, it can go from pale to burned in a flash. So make sure to monitor the mixture intensively, just DO NOT stir it — this will cause it to crystalise!
After about 10-15 minutes (but it could be sooner depending on a number of factors), you will notice your caramel begin to take on a honey colour. Keep an extra attentive eye on the caramel at this point. In the next few minutes, you will notice it beginning to darken in colour.
As soon as you see the caramel reach a dark amber colour with the slightest whisps of smoke emerging from the top, turn off the heat. If you have a candy or instant-read thermometer, you want to pull it when it reaches 175°C (350°F). However, if you want to know how to make caramel without a candy thermometer, then just rely on these visual indicators.
Now, pour in your cream and butter mixture while stirring constantly with the same heatproof spatula. It will sputter and foam up a lot, so do not be alarmed. Then, add your salt. Keep stirring and return to the heat. At a medium flame, cook the caramel (stirring constantly now!) until it reaches 120°C (250°F), this will take about 5-10 more minutes.
If you don’t have a thermometer, keep a dish of cold water nearby and drop a spoonful of the caramel in there. This will call it to instantly harden and you can gauge the consistency.
We’re cooking the caramels to what is referred to as the firm ball stage. This means that when dropped in water, the syrup will form a ball that won’t flatten when you pick it up but it is still very malleable.
Once you reach this stage, remove your caramel from the heat and immediately pour it into your prepared loaf pan. Set aside in a cool place and allow the caramels to cool for at least 3 hours (or overnight) until the caramels are completely cooled through and firm.
Using the sling, pull the caramels from the pan once they’re cooled and remove the parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, cut the caramels into 16 even squares and sprinkle with a generous dusting of a flaky sea salt like Maldon or fleur de sel.
You can then wrap the caramels individually in wax paper or store them in an airtight container. Enjoy!
Chewy Salted Caramel Without Corn Syrup
These chewy candies are very sweet, decadent and relatively easy to make. So long as you have the patience, you can whip up these delicious caramels in your sleep!
- 125ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream
- 100g (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 200g (1 cup) sugar
- 8g (1 teaspoon) salt
- Flaky sea salt, for garnish
- Brush a 22x11cm (8.5x4.55in) loaf pan with melted butter or spray with cooking spray. Cut two pieces of parchment to fit the length of both sides of the pan. Place them in the pan, overlapping, so they form a sling. Brush these with butter or cooking spray as well. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter into the heavy cream. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over very low heat, pour 60ml (1/4 cup) of water over the sugar. Stirring constantly, slowly dissolve the sugar in the water, ensuring that the sugar is completely dissolved before it comes to a boil.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, wash down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent any sugar from crystalizing. Once the mixture has come to a boil, stop stirring and allow to boil until the sugar mixture reaches a deep amber colour and an instant-read thermometer registers at 175°C (350°F). Do not stir the mixture at all once it has come to a boil.
- Turn off the heat and, stirring constantly, pour in the butter and cream mixture along with the salt. It will sputter, foam and steam at this point so do not be alarmed. Stir until well combined and return the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 120°C (250°F).
- Remove from the heat and pour into prepared loaf pan. Allow to cool until completely cooled and set, at least 3 hours and up to overnight.
- Once cooled, remove from the pan and, using a sharp knife, cut into 16 equal pieces. Garnish with flaky salt and serve.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 120Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 197mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 13gProtein: 0g
Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
As you can see, it is completely possible to make delicious chewy salted caramels without corn syrup. In fact, once you get the hang of it, you will be able to make these in your sleep.
Have you been looking for a caramel recipe without corn syrup? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!
This recipe looks awesome! I am so glad to know I can make caramel naturally without corn syrup! Could I (After the caramel cooled) did these in melted chocolate? would that mess up anything?
Hi Therese, I’ve never done it but I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be able to dip them in chocolate afterwords 🙂
Can this be doubled or tripled?
I’ve not doubled it myself, but it should work out just fine. I would recommend using a bigger dish as a mold, however.
You really should add vanilla as thee last step. Most people would call for 1tsp for this recipe, I used 2 when I made it last week . I then dipped them in chocolate and I used just a basic grinder size for my salt. It was a hit. Hands down the most popular thing I made.
Glad it worked out for you, Tracey!
Looking forward to trying this recipe. Thanks for posting it! I love the taste of pure caramel, without corn syrup, vanilla, or even much butter/cream, really — but in order to make the texture more manageable, this looks like a winner.
Hope it works out great for you!
All caramel cooks who describe the candy process warn (like your life depended upon it) against sugar crystalizing. They say this happens because sugar particles remain on the sides of pan. I’ve never seen any recipe that suggests what would seem to me a simple solution: once the sugar is dissolved, carefully pour it to another clean pan that has no lingering sugar on it and continue the process to a bubbling state. Wouldn’t that solve the age old problem?
Any kind of agitation of the sugar syrup (once the sugar is dissolved) could also promote crystallisation, so pouring the syrup into another pan isn’t a solution, unfortunately. It’s the same reason why you should not stir the syrup once the sugar has dissolved, either.
These are fantastic! I used the caramel for Sweet Georgia Browns with pecans on the bottom and chocolate on the top. They were a huge hit with my family!
So happy you liked the recipe, Heather! Your Sweet Georgian Browns sound delicious 🙂
The recipe I currently make uses corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk as well as half pound of butter salt & vanilla. I would like to not use corn syrup. I will have to make a batch and see if my customers would like the change.
Thank you for the recipe, I will make it again. I love it and so others that I shared with. I only let it cool for 2 hours and cut it if not it will be too hard.
So glad you enjoyed it!
I’m excited to try these! I was delighted to find a recipe that doesn’t use corn syrup…thankyou so much!
Hope you enjoy, Naomi!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!! It’s already hard to avoid corn syrup in the USA because it’s added to everything here (government subsidizes corn production.) I very fondly remember making caramels often as a child with my grandma and it has always been my favorite treat. I’m so happy you shared a way to do it without corn syrup and also explained the chemistry behind it. Thank you so much!
Thanks so much for your kind words, Amber!! I’m so happy you liked this recipe 🙂
Just made these, still cooling on the counter…it was really easy, I noticed some crystals on side of pot during sugar boiling and continued to wash sides of pot with brush and water, didn’t see any crystals in end product but we will see once they have cooled.
I plan to use these for salted caramel thumbprint cookies. Thank you for all the tips!
So happy this worked out well for you, Mary!
Can I use brown sugar for this recipe? And skip the browning of the sugar and just make sure it dissolves and doesn’t burn?
No, this recipe won’t work with brown sugar. You need to take the time to caramelise the (white) sugar in order for these to turn out properly.
A learning curve because everyone’s stove heats a little differently. I noticed yours was gas, mines electric probably not as consistent as gas, but once you figure out what works ,it’s a game changer. Smaller pan stopped my crystallization issue and I skipped the pastry brush method the next time and it worked out just fine, I even had some crystals on the side but didn’t have any issues. Thank you so much for sharing ,many compliments !,,
I’m so glad this worked out well for you! I have an electric stove now and it is a bit different than my previous gas one, but every stove is different and it is definitely impossible to account for all of the variables. I’ve also made caramels on an induction stove and it took a fraction of the time of both gas & electric! Thanks again for your kind words 🙂
I have condensed milk but no corn syrup. Do I need to adjust the sugar if I use condensed milk? And does it matter if my butter has salt?
I’ve never tested this recipe with condensed milk so I can’t say how it will work out – I would suggest following this recipe as written and not using the condensed milk 🙂
I tried to get the melted sugar and water up to 350 as directed, but the mixture burned. What is wrong?
At 175C/350F the syrup should not be burned, but rather at a medium-amber stage. I’m wondering if your thermometer is not calibrated properly? In the initial phase of caramelising the sugar syrup, it may be best to rely on the visual indicators rather that a temperature reading.
I just tried a second batch, keeping the heat very low with a very gentle boil, waiting for the sugar and water mix temp to get to 350. It has gotten to 280, but now the mixture is crystallized sugar despite me not stirring at all. I didn’t stir while dissolving the sugar and I didn’t stir while waiting for it to come to temp. I might be feeling a little bit frustrated, but am still interested in what went wrong.
It sounds as if either your sugar was not completely dissolved when the mixture came to boil or there was some crystallization on the sides of the pan than fell into the syrup and caused your entire batch to crystallise. I know this can be frustrating but I promise it gets super easy once you get the hang of it and know what to look for 🙂
Could I use sucralose or stevia instead of sugar to make this recipe sugar free?
No, unfortunately you need to use real sugar in order to make caramel.
Well, something definitely went wrong somewhere. My candy thermometer was set to beep at me at 320F or something- it was definitely lower than what you had. But at roughly 300F or so the syrup at the center of the pan started to look worryingly dark and it smelled like it was starting to burn. The edges also managed to grow about an inch of crystal when I wasn’t looking. I put the cream/butter in and used a whisk to stir it while it tried to get back up to temp. Miraculously, the crystals dissolved back into the rest of the candy.
While I was stirring, I didn’t fully trust the thermometer, so I tested a dollop and found it harder than I wanted. I poured it into my molds before it got to the recommended temperature. They’re still resting.
I tested a bit of caramel that didn’t make it into the mold. So far it doesn’t taste burned…
Still, I’m not sure how my thermometer managed to be off by THAT much. I’ve used it to make candy before without issue. Maybe the crystalization interfered with the convection process so that the syrup in the middle stayed put and burned? I’m pretty darned sure it wasn’t the saucepan, I used enameled cast iron- it doesn’t get a lot more “heavy bottomed” than that.
I attempted this as a “get well soon” gift for my mom. She broke her arm this week and was pretty miserable. Caramel is her favorite I think. Hopefully this doesn’t wind up being a “rip your fillings out” candy.
My first speculation is that there were some undissolved sugar crystals in your syrup after it came up to a boil along with some hot spots in your pan that cause some scorching and uneven cooking. Cast iron retains heat incredibly well but it doesn’t actually heat that evenly, so this may have been where an issue arose. This isn’t really a “set it and forget it” type of recipe and needs constant vigilance and observation – especially in the initial caramelisation phase. In fact, I don’t even use a thermometer in that initial stage and rely solely on the visual indicators.
I hope that the end result turned out alright and sorry for your troubles with the recipe!
I made this recipe times 6 last night (so yes it can be at least doubled or tripled lol) and it turned out beautifully! Followed the recipe except I did add vanilla in with the salt.. I used a 6 quart heavy bottomed stock pot and a 9×16” cake pan to pour it in to. It has set up overnight just fine, now to cut and wrap them-so yummy, thank you for the recipe!!
Got them all wrapped up today-lovely texture, tastes fabulous, great recipe!
Could this be made with half and half, also known as blend or 10% cream?
Looks like a yummy recipe.
I’ve not tested this recipe with half & half but I do think it should work fine 🙂