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).
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 cocktail). I’ll take a whiff of old fashioneds 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 to – especially fall – sweets.
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 not able to break down brand to brand for you.
This is what I do know: always use something you like to drink when making recipes with alcohol.
Also, go with recommendations of those who do drink it straight up, if you don’t. Bulleit Bourbon comes highly recommended to me, which is what I use for my bourbon baking.
Do you have another you love? Let me know in the comments below!
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 sauce pan; 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 sauce pan 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. 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 – a little sweeter or saltier – depending on how you like it.
Transfer the liquid gold to a jar, let it cool, and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Keep in mind, it will thicken as it cools!
Ways to Use Homemade Caramel
Oh, let me count the ways!
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!
By the spoonful – need I say more?
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!
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!
Bourbon Caramel Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream microwaved for 20–30 seconds
- 4 TBSP butter cubed
- 2 1/2 TBSP 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.