Dark Salty Caramels

Dark Salty Caramels

Invented by the French sometime after fire but before the airplane, the caramel has been married to salt for at least 400 years. Caramels are amorphous candies like brittles, toffees and taffies, but there’s an extra challenge here, because the sugar is cooked to a point where many bitter compounds are created. Salt can tone down the bitterness while elevating the butter and coffee flavors the bitterness typically hides.

Alton Brown Dark Salted Caramels RecipeDARK SALTY CARAMELS
Makes 64 (1-inch) caramels


14 1/2 ounces sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
2 teaspoons soy sauce, for saltiness, color and funk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces at room temperature
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt


1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.

2. Combine the sugar, water, corn syrup and cream of tartar in a heavy 4-quart saucepan and place over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Cover and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, combine the cream and soy sauce in a liquid measuring cup. Have this and the butter standing by.

4. Remove the lid from the sugar mixture and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. When the sugar mixture reaches 230 degrees F, reduce the heat to medium and cook, without stirring, for 6 to 7 minutes, until the syrup is golden and is approaching 300 degrees F. At this point there is less likelihood of crystallization, so gently swirl the pan to help break up an hot pockets.

5. When the temperature reaches 350 degrees F, the syrup will become deep amber. Remove the pan from the heat, gently swirl again to break up hot pockets, and cool for 2 minutes.

6. Carefully pour in the cream mixture and add the butter. Stir to combine. Return the caramel to medium heat, stir until the butter is completely melted, and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 255 degrees F. Remove from the heat and pour into the parchment-lined pan; tap the pan gently on the counter to release air bubbles.

7. Cool on a cooking rack for 30 minutes, then sprinkle evenly with the salt. Continue cooling on the rack for an addition 3 1/2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces and wrap individually in parchment. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Recipe and images © Alton Brown, 2014


Add yours
  1. 3

    I’m like 2 years late but did anyone figure out why so many people were having a hard time to firm up? Mine aren’t a liquid by any means, but they are way too gooey to slice. I let them sit overnight, so my next attempt is to freeze them. I’m super bummed, they were going to be wrapped up as Christmas gifts

  2. 4

    Mine hasn’t firmed either, even after sitting overnight, and following the directions using a candy thermometer. I’m in south MS and it is very humid, so I just put it in the fridge to see what will happen.

  3. 6

    i thought this recipe was really good and I love the show, but when i made mine, it was really watery when it came out of the pan. Is it supposed to?

  4. 8

    Okay, I need to retract my comments, I don’t know why I felt the urge to comment before I even tried the recipe! Excuse my hubris! I followed the instructions exactly and they are amazing!

  5. 9

    I’m thinking some of the temperatures listed have got to be way, way too high for caramel making. Probably the highest temperature is 255 degrees F, after that you get a rock. I’m about to try these myself. Really intrigued by the soy sauce!

  6. 10

    Be sure to monitor the temp in the CENTER of the pot, otherwise the sugar will burn. The reading along the edges of the pan will not be accurate, even when stirring as instructed. I’ve found the temps in this recipe to be a bit high compared to other recipes, making the risk of burning the sugar very high.

  7. 11

    These are fan-frickin’-tastic. I was out of soy sauce, but substituted “liquid amino” (a strange but useful healthfood store find) in equal measure, and I’m never making caramel without it again.

    • 14

      Pour half of the caramel in the pan, add a layer of melted dark chocolate, try and fan the top of the chocolate until it begins to harden and add the rest of the caramel to the top. Once the layers are established, then tap on the counter to remove the air bubbles. Adding the second layer of caramel over the chocolate should remelt the chocolate but it shouldn’t have the ability to infuse into the caramel due to their individual viscosities

  8. 15

    I’ll admit I was skepticable about the soy sauce so I cut back just a touch but OMG these are soooooo good! First time I’ve ever made candy too. Love you as always AB!

  9. 18
    Lynn Gordon

    The soy sauce is pure genius, but why does the recipe call for an “8” square” pan and the photo shows (what looks to be) a 9″x13″ pan?

  10. 19

    Is there a way to make these dairy free? I have a 3 year old with an extreme dairy allergy. I figure regular coconut milk for the heavy cream, but is margarine ok for the butter or will it change the texture too much?

    • 20

      Have you tried Earth Balance vegan margarine? My son has a dairy allergy too, and we’ve found that Earth Balance is a wonderful substitute, even in baked goods! At this point, I actually prefer it over butter, it’s not as greasy feeling.

    • 21

      Yes you should be able to make them dairy free fairly easily. Use coconut milk(cream) instead of heavy cream. I recommend butter flavored shortening instead of butter. Dairy-free margarine seems to have too high of water content to work. Hope that helps.

  11. 24

    Question on the thermometer. I know I need a candy one for this but I have seen infrared ones ebay. Like the ones you use to check the heat of your pan. Can you use those to check the temperature of things you are cooking? If not candy, perhaps poultry?

    • 25
      Chris Rhoden

      Since it only measures surface temperatures (and even then, only accurately when certain conditions are met) an infrared thermometer would be useless for poultry, where you are interested in the internal temperature at the thickest point.

    • 26

      I used a digital thermometer my mom got me (it’s a nice one too). Kind of awkward to hold it to check the temperature but it worked great!

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