Mom’s Homemade Caramels (A Christmas Tradition)

5 from 9 votes

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These Homemade Caramels are definitely my favorite caramel. They make your house smell amazing and they taste like Christmas to our family!

Homemade caramels in a bowl

A True Christmas Tradition

We have so many Christmas memories of wrapping these homemade caramels in wax paper for our neighbors. The house would smell like sweet caramel, the kitchen would be covered in pots and bowls, Christmas music would be playing… and we would be cutting up pieces of wax paper and wrapping these caramels like elves in Santa’s sweet shoppe. Of course when our mom wasn’t looking we would pop one or two (one less to wrap and a quick sweet treat — win-win). We always looked forward to making homemade caramels each year when we were little, and now our own kids look forward to it too! It is a true family tradition that has made its way through generations.

Easy Homemade Caramels

These homemade caramels are definitely my favorite when it comes to caramels, nothing else even compares. Plus, they are SO easy. You can even memorize the recipe by heart. It only takes 4 ingredients and 2 of everything (2 sticks, 2 cups…)! It is SO easy to memorize! My mom doesn’t even have this recipe written down – she knows it by heart (we all do) and it is perfect EVERY time. All you have to do is remember:

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups Karo (corn) syrup
cut caramels in a pan

Homemade Caramels Without A Candy Thermometer

We recommend using a candy thermometer for this recipe, but if you don’t have a candy thermometer or are just old-school, you can always do the “soft ball stage test”. Using a clean spoon, carefully take a little of the cooked caramel and drop it into the bowl of very cold water. Reach into the bowl with your hands and see if the caramel can be molded into a soft ball. If it’s pliable and soft, the caramel has reached the soft ball stage (234 – 240 degrees F).

How To Make Salted Caramels

If you are wanting to take the traditional homemade recipe just one step further, try stirring a splash of vanilla in with the caramel before pouring it into the pan. Then sprinkle some pink Hawaiian sea salt or coarse Kosher salt over the top after you have poured it into the pan and it has cooled for about 15 minutes. That way the salt will stick to the top and not get absorbed into the caramel. SO GOOD.

Homemade salted caramels in a pan

How to Wrap Caramels

The easiest way to wrap homemade caramels is to wait until they are mostly cooled before cutting them into pieces. I have found that they are easiest to wrap when they have reached room temp. Cut the caramels with a sharp knife (or scissors) into approximately 1″ x 1 1/2″ pieces and wrap them in wax paper approximately 3″x3″. Wrapping them diagonally to get full coverage, and then twisting the ends to seal them.

Wrapped caramels in a dish

More Ways to Use this Caramel Recipe

  1. Caramel Apples- Place cold apples on a candy stick and dip into the caramel while it is still hot. Place on wax paper and allow to cool. If the caramel mixture is too thin, allow it to cool for another minute before dipping again. 
  2. Chocolate Dipped Caramels – After caramels have cooled, dip in melted chocolate and allow to harden. Wrap and refrigerate.
  3. Dipped Caramel Pretzel Bites– Place a homemade caramel between two pretzels and dip in chocolate. These are a HUGE crowd pleaser!

Your Homemade Caramels Questions, Answered:

Q. My caramels are too soft! What went wrong?
A. Your caramels didn’t get up to the correct temperature. It need to be 240-degrees F before removing from the pan. You can place the caramel back in the pan and re-heat to bring up to temperature if needed.

Q. Are Homemade Caramels Gluten Free?
A. YES! These homemade caramels can be enjoyed by those with gluten allergies or requiring a gluten-free diet.

Q. Do homemade caramels need to be refrigerated?
A. No, they can cool to room temperature and remain at room temperature after being cut and wrapped. 

Caramels wrapped and placed in a storage bag

Q. How long do homemade caramels last?
A. Up to 3 weeks at room temperature. Just keep in an airtight contained to keep moisture out. 

Q. Can homemade caramels be frozen?
A. YES. After wrapping the caramels individually (so they don’t stick together) place them in a Freezer zip-top bag and freeze for up to 6 months. To thaw, just place at room temperature for a couple hours until soft and ready to eat. 

Pieces of Christmas Caramels wrapped in wax paper on a plate.

Christmas Candy Recipes

We LOVE all the candy recipes around Christmastime. Especially our unique recipes like our Christmas Charcuterie or our Chocolate Orange Cookies. Here are more of our favorites:

Caramels wrapped

Mom’s Homemade Caramels

5 from 9 votes
These homemade caramels are definitely my favorite caramel. They make your house smell amazing and they taste like Christmas to our family!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course candy
Cuisine American
Servings 100




  • Combine all ingredients in a large pan. 
    Corn syrup being poured into a pot for caramels
  • Stir and bring to a boil and continue boiling until candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees. 
    Caramel being cooked in a pot
  • Pour into a large, greased cookie sheet and cool. 
    Caramel pouring into a pan
  • Once cooled cut into bite size squares and wrap in wax paper.
    cut caramels in a pan

Nutrition Information

Calories: 67kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 1gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 22mgPotassium: 4mgSugar: 9gVitamin A: 127IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 5mgIron: 1mg

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About the author

Emily Walker

Emily lives in Meridian, Idaho, with her husband, Beau, a physician assistant, and her three incredible children: a son and two daughters. Travel is one of her favorite ways to experience new cultures and cuisines, and she has a love for all things Disney.

More about Emily Walker

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  1. The article stresses how easy it is to remember the ingredient amounts – two of everything. Then I look at the actual recipe and it indicates only one cup of butter. Hmmmm. Not sure what to do about that.

    1. A stick of butter is about 113 grams and a cup of liquid is about 1/4 of a liter. Hope this helps!

  2. 5 stars
    I just made these and they are amazing! So simple and yummy! I added chopped pecans in mine and my husband says they taste just like what his grandma made when he was young. To cut them I used my metal pizza cutter and it worked perfect. I will definitely make these again.

    1. I haven’t tried any substitutes for corn syrup in this recipe, so I can’t speak for how it would affect the taste or texture. I usually find corn syrup in the cereal aisle by the maple syrup. Hope this helps!

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you. I can’t find it anywhere here in the UK and recently found out it was banned in the uk. I have used golden syrup instead an omg the results are amazing these caramels are so tasty. All of my mum’s and my work friends have basically put in orders for them.

  3. I added about a teaspoon of salt and HOLY CRAP, THEY’RE AMAZING. In the future, I’d probably use a bigger pot, but otherwise it was so easy!

    Also, the total time is DEFINITELY not 5 minutes. It took me about an hour to cook the caramel. Luckily I didn’t have anywhere to be!

    1. Mariah– that is so funny that you say that you added salt. This year was the first time I added some course sea salt to the top of the caramels and it was like caramels 2.0! I will be adding the idea to the recipe because it turned out SO stinkin’ good!

      Also, I didn’t realize the total time was only at 5 minutes.. good catch. I will try to get that fixed too.

  4. No vanilla added ? also I see you used 2 cups white sugar I presume, can you use 1/2 white and 1/2 brown? Also would this be ok as the carmel base for turtles?

    1. No vanilla is right, but it would be fine if added. We haven’t used half brown sugar before because we love this recipe as-it. If you try it, let us know how it turns out! Yes, This would be perfect for turtles 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    I make caramels with a very similar recipe every year. My family love to get these as gifts at Christmas. I find them easier to cut if I turn them out onto a large cutting board. I line the pan with foil or parchment to make if easier to lift them out if the pan. A favourite treat at Christmas.