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Cooking Tips

How to Make Ten-Minute Microwave Caramel 

Homemade caramel sauce doesn’t have to be a project. With our method, you can whip up a batch whenever the mood strikes. Plus, flavor the caramel with interesting additions.
By and

Published Jan. 22, 2024.

A tawny drizzle of nutty-buttery caramel sauce always feels luxe. 

But many cooks shy away from making their own caramel. Though the process involves nothing more than melting sugar on the stovetop, it can be tricky.

The sugar must be heated slowly and carefully to avoid overbrowning or even burning—an all-too-easy occurrence even when you’re using a thermometer. Plus standing over a pot of bubbling molten sugar can feel intimidating.

Our microwave method eliminates these concerns. The sugar melts behind the closed door of the microwave; you don’t even have to stir it.

There’s no chance of burning the caramel, since we pull it from the microwave well before it’s fully caramelized and rely on carryover cooking to finish browning it on the counter. Stopping the cooking is as simple as stirring in hot cream. 

It’s so fast and easy, you can have a jar of stress-free caramel sauce ready for drizzling before your ice cream has had time to soften up for scooping. 

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How to Make Homemade Caramel Sauce in the Microwave

There are two common approaches to making caramel. With a “dry” caramel, sugar is heated alone. We prefer a “wet” caramel, where a small amount of water is added to the sugar, which helps the grains distribute, melt, and caramelize more evenly. We also add corn syrup and lemon juice, both of which help prevent crystallization that can create a grainy texture.

Note that for even heating without stirring, our microwave method only works with 1 cup of sugar. It will yield approximately 1¼ cups caramel. 

1. Stir 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons corn syrup, 2 tablespoons water, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon lemon juice together in 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup or glass bowl.

2. Microwave on full power until mixture reaches 320 to 330 degrees and is just beginning to change color, 5 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, heat ½ cup heavy cream to keep at the ready.

3. Remove caramel from microwave and let it sit on dry surface for 5 minutes or until it darkens to honey brown.

4. Stir hot cream into caramel a few tablespoons at a time (so caramel won't seize up), then add 1 tablespoon butter. Serve immediately, or if storing, cover and keep refrigerated. Warm chilled caramel briefly in microwave before serving.

Phases of microwave caramel
We pull the melted sugar from the microwave when it's just starting to brown. The caramel is done when it turns a dark honey color.
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4 Easy Ways to Flavor Caramel Sauce 

Simply stir the flavoring into the hot cream in step 4 before adding the mixture to the caramel.

Flavoring Amount

Miso     

2 tablespoons miso



Bourbon-Vanilla

1 tablespoon bourbon, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract



Malted Milk

2 tablespoons malted milk powder



Espresso

2 teaspoons espresso powder



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