Easy recipe for salted caramel sauce using the best method by French food scientist, Raphaël Haumont. Salt is a flavour enhancer which makes this sweet sauce deliciously addictive. Served warm, it’s the best topping on all sorts of classic desserts.
Who Invented the Salted Caramel?
Fans of salted caramel have Henri Le Roux to thank. He created the CBS® (Caramel au Beurre Salé) in 1977 in Quiberon, the location of his first chocolate shop in Brittany (Bretagne). Brittany is The French region where salted butter is added to most local specialities. In fact, salted butter is so important there, that last year we even spotted graffiti saying “Together Against Unsalted Butter!”
Since Henri Le Roux invented it, salted caramel has been world famous, so he wisely registered it in 1981.
So, who would have known that salted caramel is a recent discovery? Now Henri Le Roux is all around France and appreciated as one of the top chocolate shops in Paris, known as Caramélier.
What is Salted Caramel Made Of?
Caramel is made out of three ingredients: sugar, salted butter and cream.
The French always use whipping or heavy cream (30% fat), not condensed milk. In this recipe, I prefer to use unsalted butter (due to varying qualities around the World which dose the salt differently). That way the salt is added separately and can be perfectly dosed.
What’s the difference between caramel and salted caramel?
It’s simple: salted caramel is made with either salted butter or with actual added salt. Speaking of which, please also use good quality butter. In this recipe I prefer to use good unsalted butter and dose the salt by adding separately at the end of cooking.
Why do we Add Salt to Caramel?
What is the point of salted caramel? It’s a flavour enhancer and, as long as good quality is used, it works a treat. For the best type of salt, use French fleur de sel. Can’t find French flower salt? Then Maldon or Celtic sea salt are also good.
Does it taste salty?
Well, there’s a good dose of salt in the caramel sauce. So, as the caramel is particularly sweet, the salt just takes on an intriguingly addictive flavour to it. The resulting taste is simply sublime. It’s sweet with salty undertones.
How to Make a Wet Caramel
Salted caramel sauce is reputed to be quite difficult to make as it’s quite finicky cooking the caramel first.
To give you an idea of making a wet caramel, first see my video and recipe for Crème Caramel or Flan.
Foolproof Easy Salted Caramel Recipe – Using Science!
This recipe is the easiest method for making salted caramel sauce. The sauce’s flavour is round and even creamier than the traditional way of caramelising the sugar first then adding the butter and cream afterwards.
This recipe method comes from French food scientist, Raphaël Haumont. I had the fortune of meeting him on the jury at the previous Amateur Pastry Competition run by Christophe and Julie Roussel in La Baule – he works with Thierry Marx and has even made Thomas Pesquet’s favourite French classic food to be enjoyed in Space! To give you an idea of how Raphaël beautifully explains making caramel, see his video of Allo Docteur for La Magazine de la Santé (it’s in French).
By cooking the butter and sugar slowly together to create a caramel, it creates the Maillard reaction – whereby proteins in the butter react with the sugar molecules. If you love science and food, I recommend reading his fabulous books. Raphaël further explains caramelisation in his book, Les Couleurs de la Cuisine.
How to Make Salted Caramel Sauce
- First heat the butter and sugar together, stirring constantly.
- When the butter melts and sugar dissolves completely, the mixture begins to mousse.
- Keep stirring as the mousse bubbles away until it starts to change colour and caramelise.
- As soon as it turns a deep golden caramel colour, add the cream (I like to slightly warm the cream first but it’s not crucial).
- Continue stirring until the sauce blends well together and add the flower salt (fleur de sel).
How Do You Thicken It?
This salted caramel sauce naturally thickens as it cools and when stored in the fridge. However, if you think that your sauce is a bit too runny, just simmer for a further 5-10 minutes.
What Goes with Salted Caramel?
Salted caramel sauce is best served warm. So, when ready to serve, spoon into a small pouring jug and reheat. Either reheat gently for a few seconds in the microwave or over a gentle heat for a few minutes in a saucepan. It goes so well with most seasonal winter desserts such as the following, including chocolate desserts:
- Dribble or zig-zag it over ice cream, waffles, or profiteroles (recipes in my book, Teatime in Paris).
- Great as a topping on French crêpes and rice pudding;
- Serve with chocolate ginger fondant cake or lava cakes;
- Delicious with any kind of apple desserts;
- Spoon on simple slices of tart apple (e.g. Granny Smith). The resulting taste with the salt and acidity of the apple is divine;
- Pour on French apple nougat tart, apple crumble cake, and this apple custard tart.
- Delicious with pear desserts: such as poached vanilla pears, chocolate pear fondant cake – plus be daring adding a little to a Pear Belle Hélène on top of the chocolate sauce.
How Long Does the Sauce Last?
Not only is it a handy sauce for all sorts of desserts, the bonus is that this salted caramel keeps for 3 weeks or up to a month if sealed well in the refrigerator. However, if truth be told, it doesn’t stay for long in our house.
It’s not just handy keeping in the fridge as a sauce – but if you have a batch already made, it’s so much quicker to make this Tarte Tatin.
Different Salted Caramel Flavours
Add your own touch of additional flavours to the caramel, to accompany or personalise your desserts. Add at the end of cooking, after adding the cream once the sauce comes together. Here are a few ideas:
- Vanilla: scrape out the seeds of a vanilla bean/pod or 1/4 tsp of vanilla powder or good quality extract;
- Coffee: Add a tablespoon of granulated coffee to the caramel for a perfumed coffee caramel;
- Citrus: Add the zest of an orange for extra zing – or excellent with limes, kumquats or lemon.
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 140 g (5oz/¾ cup) granulated sugar
- 75 g (3oz/1/3 cup) unsalted butter good quality
- 150 g (5.5oz/¾ cup) whipping cream 30% fat (crème fleurette) warmed
- 1/2 tsp 'fleur de sel' salt (or Maldon, Celtic sea salt)
- Weigh both the butter (chop up roughly) and sugar directly into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Weigh the cream in another pan, heat gently and set aside. Alternatively, heat in a glass in the microwave for 30 seconds (do not boil).
- Using a wooden spoon, stir both the butter and sugar constantly over a medium heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolves. The mixture should start to foam and bubble gently. Keep stirring until they turn a more golden, caramel colour - it should also start to smell like caramel. This should take about 10 minutes maximum.
- As soon as the butter/sugar are a nice deep golden/straw caramel colour (don't wait until it's amber, otherwise the sauce will be bitter), add the warm cream, stirring constantly. Turn down the heat, keep stirring until thickened and add the salt. After about 5 minutes pour directly into a sauce jug or into sterilised jam jars. Leave to cool then seal.
To thicken the sauce even more, reduce by simmering for another 5-10 minutes. Butter: I use unsalted butter in this recipe as good quality salted butter can be difficult to find outside of France. If you do have access to quality salted butter from Normandy or Brittany, then use it and omit the extra salt. How Long Can the Sauce Keep? The caramel can last for 3 weeks or up to a month if stored in a sterilised sealed jar in the fridge. Method of Cooking: This alternative approach to cooking the salted caramel sauce is thanks to food scientist, Raphaël Haumont. However, if you prefer to use the classic method, then first make a caramel by stirring the sugar with a tablespoon of water in a pan. Over a medium heat without stirring, leave until a caramel forms (about 10 minutes) then as soon as a golden caramel forms, lower the heat and add the butter then the warmed cream. Measures: Please note that all my recipes are best made using digital kitchen scales in precise metric grams. Both ounces (and cups) are given as a guide.
This post was first published 23 February 2011 but is now completely updated with more explicit step-by-step instructions, new images and a different method of initially cooking the sugar and butter together.