This homemade, easy caramel recipe is so simple, it’s scary. You only need 1 ingredient. I used a mini crock pot, but you can prepare this on top of the stove using a bit more vigilance and stirring. The only ingredient is a can of sweetened condensed milk. Place it in the mini crock UNOPENED! Fill the crock with water to submerge about 3/4 of the can. Plug in the crock. You’re practically done!
It’s really important that you DO NOT let the pot run out of water. In the mini crock this was not an issue and I let the can of milk heat slowly and steadily for about 2 hours. If you are working with a pot of water on the stove, be sure to keep the heat low with plenty of water in the pot at all times. If you let your pot or crock run dry the can will explode and I know you don’t want that! As it was, some of the caramel flew out of the can when I opened it – probably should have waited for it to cool somewhat before opening.
After 2 hours, the sweetened condensed milk had turned into a creamy sweet sauce, thick enough to coat a spoon and perfect as a base for vanilla, whiskey or bourbon sauce to drizzle over bread pudding, fruit or for some other fancy dessert. I wanted my caramel for dipping apple slices for the post trick or treating crowd at my house on Halloween, so I poured the still cream colored sauce directly into the mini crock (after removing the water). In another half hour or so with minimal stirring the sauce had turned thick enough for coating apple slices and the color had become the familiar golden hue pictured above.
If you’ve ever made caramel for dipping apple slices by melting individually wrapped store bought caramels, you know the hardest part is unwrapping all those little candies! This way, you know what’s in your caramel and you can control the color, consistency and flavor with cooking time. I did stir the caramel a few times once it was transferred to the mini crock from the can, but if you make it on the stove top, you’ll want to watch closely and stir frequently, if not constantly. Use the heaviest pot you have to ensure even heating, or better yet, use a double boiler. If caramel gets too hot, it can burn easily and surprisingly quickly.
If you have to go to the grocery to pick up a can of sweetened condensed milk, I suggest buying two or three cans to keep on hand for emergency dessert preparation! With a little time and low heat you can turn a dusty can from the pantry into a fancy dessert by drizzling this caramel sauce on ice cream, fruit, pound cake or other bread muffins or cookies you may have on hand. The caramel did not reach the state where I could wrap it in waxed paper or parchment and serve it as candy, but I may experiment with cooking the caramel longer to see if that’s a possibility. If it is, I may have to buy stock in Carnation or Eagle Brand, I’m a big fan of caramels!
You can buy Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, 14 oz (Pack of 6) online here through my affiliate link, or just see what the can looks like for easy reference when you’re in the store. I have used both Carnation and Eagle Brand in the past and have no preference. I linked to the Eagle Brand because it’s for a 6 pack which I plan to purchase myself now that I know about this process!