Indulge in this creamy, smooth Bourbon Caramel Sauce. Drizzle it over ice cream, pecan pie, or stir it in your coffee. There are endless ways to enjoy this sweet, slightly-salty, deep, rich caramel.
Prepare yourself. You’re about to be blown away by the magical combination that is bourbon and caramel.
And you’re going to want to drizzle, slather, and gob it on anything and everything. It’s an easy caramel recipe that’s hinted with bourbon (or really, whatever kind of whiskey you’re lovin’ on).
We’ve been putting it on Pear Tart for years, over ice cream, as a dip for apple slices, in homemade cold brew and lattes, and even on top of Better than a Boyfriend Brownies. And now it’s your turn.
Let’s get to making some homemade caramel, shall we?!
First: The Bourbon
Let’s be clear, I haven’t really ever been a Bourbon or whiskey drinker (ok, except for this apple cider cocktail). I’ll take a whiff of old-fashioned cocktails here and there, but to drink? Nah, leave me to the wine.
But bourbon in my desserts? Ok, yes please and thank you. More.
It’s deep and rich and slightly smoky and just adds such a lovely depth and flavor – especially to fall-inspired sweets and treats.
All that being said, if you’re going to ask a non-bourbon drinker what kind of bourbon to use in this recipe, well, I’m going to tell you the same thing I say when baking with wine or other alcohols: always use something you like to drink!
If you’re like, ‘Becca, I don’t drink bourbon either!’, then Bulleit Bourbon comes highly recommended via big Bourbon drinkers, and is what I use for my bourbon baking. If you don’t have a bourbon lover in your life to enjoy drinking it, opt for something a little cheaper.
Making Caramel From Scratch
I get it: making homemade caramel can feel super intimidating. There’s the heat and the crystallization and then all the bubbling up (!!) and oh-my-gosh!
Not to scare you off already, because it really isn’t that bad. So scoot those thoughts right on out of here, because we’re going to make BOURBON caramel in ten minutes, and in no time you’ll be wondering why you hadn’t been making it all along.
Start with sugar and water in a heavy-duty saucepan; the water makes this a “wet caramel” and allows for more of an even caramelization – which means less chance of burning! WIN!
There are many, many opinions out there about stirring or not stirring, using a wet pastry brush to skim the edges to prevent crystallization, what kind of spoon to use…
And while I’m sure each argument is valid, I’m going with easy and effective.
As the sugar heats up and begins to simmer, I gently swirl the saucepan every 15-20 seconds or so to encourage even caramelization.
I find swirling the caramel is effective, easy to do, and hard to mess up. Again, a winning combination.
As you continue swirling and letting the sugars bubble, the caramel will turn from white to light golden, and slowly to a dark amber golden.
You do want to keep in mind that the color of your saucepan will influence the color of the caramel you see. I like to let it boil a smidgen longer (i.e. darker) than I think because the pan itself makes it look darker. In reality, it will be a bit lighter once you remove the caramel.
Ok, so it’s a rich golden color. Remove the caramel from the heat, and slowly whisk in the heavy cream.
This is the part that might be a little scary to some because it will bubble up. Just wear oven mitts and work carefully. Be sure to continue whisking in the cream until combined.
Add in the bourbon, butter, and, if you want, a little sea salt or vanilla extract.
The absolute beauty of homemade caramel is being able to make it what you want, depending on how you like it. Try it a little sweeter or saltier.
Once it’s ready, transfer the liquid gold to a jar, let it cool, and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Keep in mind that it will thicken as it cools!
Ways to Use Bourbon Caramel Sauce
By the spoonful – need I say more?
I kid, I kid. Here are some of my other favorite ways to enjoy this sauce:
- Ice cream – a classic favorite. Drizzle it on good ol’ fashioned vanilla ice cream, or go a little more rogue with coffee or peanut butter cup ice cream. Honestly, there’s no bad combination. Ahem, or add it to Sweet Corn Caramel Ice Cream – YES!
- Fruit – as mentioned, apples and caramel are one of my favorite snacks, and this is no exception. It makes for a super fun way to enjoy fruit! P.S. Would also be lovely with some berries.
- Pies, oh my! – You know, a rich, already caramelly pecan pie topped with whipped cream and Bourbon Caramel Sauce has got to be one of the top 3 desserts of all time. Or there’s the pear tart as mentioned – a super delicious way to enjoy the flavors of fall!
- Cake – use it on top of my Salted Caramel Apple Cake or Apple Cider Cupcakes for a boozy twist!
- Brownies – Better than a Boyfriend Brownies topped with caramel are a no-brainer, but go ahead and drizzle them on your favorite brownies for an extra yummy dessert!
- Coffee – my favorite combo: coffee and caramel! Use Bourbon Caramel in your homemade lattes or in a fun version of an Irish coffee! Just be sure it’s in a hot drink so the sauce can dissolve into your beverage.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
15-Minute Bourbon Caramel Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, microwaved for 20–30 seconds
- 4 Tablespoon butter, cubed
- 2 1/2 Tablespoon Bourbon, or whiskey of choice
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Optional: sea salt, to taste
- In a large saucepan, whisk together the sugar and water until combined. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Swirl the pan approximately every 30 seconds to prevent burning, but you do not need to stir. Do so for approximately 12-15 minutes, until the caramel reaches a deep golden amber color.
- Remove from heat and carefully whisk in the lukewarm heavy cream; be careful as it will bubble up, just continue to whisk!
- Add butter, bourbon, vanilla extract, and sea salt, if using. Stir to combine, as the butter melts in.
- Let cool slightly and transfer to a heat-proof glass jar. The caramel will thicken as it cools. Store in the air-tight jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.
Delicious! I don’t care for bourbon on its own but it was a good addition to the caramel. I used the sauce as a filling in molten chocolate cakes and it was perfect. The leftovers were great on ice cream!
Wow, it sounds like an amazing addition to molten chocolate cakes! Thanks for sharing, Shelley!!
Just made this for a cake filling and it turned out beautifully! This was my fist time making caramel and it won’t be the last. Super easy recipe and tasty!
I’m so glad to hear! Thanks so much, Sasha!
5 stars. I followed the instructions exactly and it turned out AMAZING. I bake a lot, and make bread, cakes, whatever, but was alw a s intimidated by caramel. This was so easy ans so super delicious. Highly recommend. Thank you
Yay! I’m so glad to hear you gave this a try and loved it! Thanks so much for sharing, Alyssa!