Filed under: Buttermilk Basics / Candy / Fall
October 14, 2022

Apple Cider Caramel

Smooth, homemade caramel sauce flavored with intense, tart fresh apple cider. Great for all kinds of dessert toppings!

4.60 from 5 votes
Yield: 1 cup
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Ah, my love of apple cider caramel. It’s just so much better than regular caramel with it’s tart edge, especially in the fall when you want everything cider and spiced! 

If you have been here for a while you’ve already seen this recipe but only as an addition or a topping to another bake (pavlova, ice cream, cheesecake, cookies, etc). 

But she’s just so special she needed her own moment. And, truthfully there’s a lot to discuss when it comes to caramel, and I want to cover it all with you. Let’s get into it. 

Recipe Ingredients 

Fresh Apple Cider: sold in the juice section of your grocery store, you’ll find it between September and January. It is the unfiltered juice of the apple. Importantly: not apple juice (which is filtered and has had sugars added) and not apple cider vinegar. Start with two cups of fresh cider, and boil it until much of the water has evaporated and you only have ¼ cup left. Honeycrisp apple cider is more tart and flavorful. When you are boiling to reduce it, consider adding mulling spices to flavor it. 


Alternatively, boiled cider: This is cider that has already been reduced, and quite a bit more than you can do at home. It’s a lot darker and thicker. You can find it here. 


Sugar: Most often I use fine granulated sugar. You can also use organic sugar. 


Butter: Unsalted (so we may control the salt added). Use american or european style with its higher butterfat percentage. Baker’s choice. 


Heavy cream:. The same as heavy whipping cream. Don’t substitute with half & half which has less fat. 


Salt: Fine sea salt. Table salt, too salty in flavor, isn’t good here. 


Vanilla: Either vanilla extract or vanilla paste. If you like you can slit open a vanilla pod and scrape it adding the scrapings and the bean to the sugar as it caramelizes. Remove the bean once the caramel is done cooking. 

apple cider caramel ice cream

How to make apple cider caramel 

I use the dry method to make my caramel which means, I caramelize the sugar straight onto the pan without adding water (the wet method). 


I do this because it gives me more control over the liquid ingredients that go into the recipe; if I want it to taste of more cider than water or if I want it creamier. 


So to start: set the sugar in a deep pan and add some acid. I usually do a couple of squeezes of lemon but for this specific caramel I might add ½ tsp apple cider vinegar. 


Then turn the heat on and begin cooking on low. The process takes time so be patient. 


At first, the sugar will begin to melt (with some pans there will be hot spots of the pan so you’ll see it unevenly melting) then begin to turn amber colored. You want a wooden spoon here, stir the sugar frequently so it caramelizes evenly. 


As you keep stirring, most of the sugar will melt and you’ll have rock-shaped bits of sugar. Press those clumps out with the back of the wooden spoon but don’t stress too much, they’ll melt too. 


Once all the sugar has melted and is a smooth liquid, add the warmed heavy cream slowly and stirring as you do. It will bubble up quite a bit. 


Once the heat is off, add the cider and seasoning and stir to combine. Pour it into a heat-safe jar to store it. Keep it in the fridge. It’ll last about 2 weeks. 


apple cider caramel rolls

Troubleshooting Homemade Caramel Sauce 


  • The sugar crystalized 
      • This usually happens more in the wet method (with water) but if it happens with the dry, mostly likely because there was no acid to protect it from doing so, you can proceed making the sauce but once it’s done cooking pour it through a fine mesh sieve to remove those crystalized bits. 
  • Did I burn the caramel?  
      • You’ll smell it if you have, it’ll be quite dark in color and have a burnt smell to it. You can proceed, knowing your caramel will be a bit bitter tasting but probably best to start over. 
  • It is greasy and separated, what happened? 
    • This happens when the heavy cream is cold and added too quickly, it causes the caramel to seize. With agitation (stirring quickly with a whisk) the caramel can come back together into a smooth sauce. If it’s still not working, try adding a bit more heavy cream (the sauce will be looser) and whisking quickly. 


What can I do with apple cider caramel 

There’s a reason this caramel needed its own post! I use it in quite a few recipes on the site such as: 


Apple Cider Caramel Rolls

Pecan Shortbreads topped with Cider Caramel 

Spiced Pavlova with Cider Caramel and Fresh Apples 

Serve with this Apple Cider Cheesecake 

Swirled into the buttercream of these Gooey Pumpkin Bars

Atop any ice cream, especially this Apple Cider Caramel Ice Cream (the caramel base is of no relation to this caramel recipe!)

Pour into a little mason jar, tie it with a ribbon and gift it a la this Cranberry Caramel 


Apple Cider Caramel

Smooth caramel sauce made with fresh, tart apple cider.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yields: 1 cup
4.60 from 5 votes


  • 2 cups apple cider use honeycrisp apple cider for a more tart taste, add mulling spices for added flavor
  • 200g or 1 cup granulated sugar
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 85g 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 80g or ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 40g or 2 tablespoons reduced apple cider from above
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • Set the cider and mulling spices if using in a medium to large sized pot. Boil on medium high for 45-60 minutes until reduced to a thick, sticky syrup (about 1/4 cup).
  • In a 4 quart pot add the sugar and a squeeze of lemon (no more than a teaspoon). Stir the sugar so that the lemon coats the sugar. Turn the heat on medium. It will melt on the bottom at first, stir it often so it caramelizes evenly.
  • Heat the heavy cream in the microwave, just warm to touch.
  • As the sugar melts and darkens, use the back of a wooden spoon to press out any lumps of sugar. Once it has all evenly melted, let it cook for a few minutes until your desired color. The darker the caramel the more bitter the flavor but if you stop it when it's too light it won't have a deep taste; aim for a shade or two darker than amber.
  • Add the heavy cream – slowly and stirring as you add it so the caramel doesn’t separate. Take care of your hands and use oven mitts, it will spit and sputter and can burn.
  • Add the butter and stir until it has melted. Turn off the heat then add the cider, salt and vanilla.
  • Store in an airtight container (it will last a couple of weeks, sealed).

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Recipe Reviews

    • ah no, the caramel for upside down cakes is a different kind of recipe. It usually has brown sugar and you just combine it then it cooks as the cake is baking. You could try adding some boiled cider to the caramel part of an upside down caramel cake recipe though!

  1. 3 stars
    The texture and look of the caramel was good but the flavor just wasn’t there. Made a different recipe to go on top of the cheese cake.

  2. Just a question about apple cider. In Australia and New Zealand (my country), as well as The UK, Ireland and Europe, apple cider is an alcoholic beverage, i.e. a fruit wine made from fermented apple juice, which typically has an ABV of 4.5-7%, and sometimes a little higher. Is it different in North America? It’s just that I haven’t seen any mention of alcohol or fermentation in any of your recipes or writings about apple cider. From what I can make out, you seem to be referring to fresh, unfiltered and unfermented apple juice. Is that correct?

  3. 5 stars
    Sam! This is DELICIOUS! I was so hesitant at first because I was worried I’d burn it but you made is so easy to follow with your step by step instructions. The flavor is beyond anything I’ve ever had with caramel and I’m so excited to add to desserts! Thank you for another wonderful recipe! 🙂