Tis the season for apples dipped in sweet heaven goodness. I’ve seen caramel apples and candied apples used interchangeably, but there is a very distinct difference, so what is that difference?
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Caramel Apple Recipe
Caramel apples are just that, covered in ooey, gooey caramel and sometimes rolled in a variety of goodies or drizzled in chocolate.
A traditional autumnal and Halloween favorite, caramel apples used to be a frequent trick-or-treaters booty, but since the “razor blade” scare their appearance in candy bags has slowed significantly.
PRO TIP: Using sticks found outdoors is all cute and fall festive, but caramel apples carry a lot of weight. Use a popsicle stick or dowel as a handle.
But if we are being 100% honest, it is also a little difficult to carry around a caramel apple in your treat-or-treat bag.
Below is a homemade caramel apple recipe, still ooey, gooey and rich, but a lot less sweet than melting your typical caramel pieces.
I find that a less sugary caramel allows me to eat more with less of a stomach ache. I suppose that caramel is actually candy too, right?
PRO TIP: Set caramel apples on parchment or wax paper to set. This can easily be peeled off.
Close your eyes and just imagine how that deliciousness is going to stick to your teeth. Oh, yea!!!!
PRO TIP: Make sure your apples are very dry before dipping so the caramel can stick to them!
A candied apple is coated in a sugar candy layer similar to Red Hots candy, but without the cinnamon. The iconic candy apple is bright red; reminiscent of Snow White’s poisoned apple.
Beware of making these on a humid day or storing them in a humid area. The candy coating will not harden or will literally melt off.
These are visually stunning and can be eaten or merely displayed. A cinnamon stick or rustic stick handle adds to the appeal and staging.
While toppings can also be added to a candied apple, they are most iconic on caramel apples.
Candy Apple Toppings
The list of possibility is endless, but here are a few of my favorites. I’d love to hear some of your favorites in the comments!
20+ Ideas for Caramel Apples:
- Flaked coconut
- Reeses Pieces
- M & M’s
- Dark Chocolate Drizzle
- White Chocolate Drizzle
- Freshly Popped Popcorn
- Sliced mini marshmallows
- Toffee Pieces
- Graham Cracker Crumbs
- Butterfinger Bar
- Snickers Bar
- Crushed Peanut Pieces
- Sea Salt
- Chopped Pecans
- Chopped Walnuts
- Chopped Macadamia Nuts
- Decorate with Frosting (Jack-o-lantern Faces)
- Crushed Oreos
- Crushed Vanilla Wafers
- Mini Chocolate Chips
- Cinnamon Candies (Red Hots)
- Crushed Pretzels
- White Chocolate Chips
- Mini Chocolate Chips
- Butterscotch Chips
- Cinnamon and Sugar
- Flaked Coconut
Nothing is more pretty than a tray of assorted and colorful bites. Try making one (or more) of these other Halloween treats to make a beautiful display!
- Halloween Rice Krispie Treat Cake
- Halloween Sugar Cookie Bars
- Easy Halloween Poke Cake
- Halloween Bark
- No Bake Ghost Cookies
And even more caramel apple inspired recipes…
- Caramel Apple Poke Cake
- Flakey Brie Bites
- Spiced Caramel Cookies
- Snickers and Apple Cake
- Apple Swirl Cake
Caramel Apple Recipe
- 6 apples
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cubed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Sprinkle of Sea Salt
- Cooking Spray
- 6 Popsicle sticks or lollipop sticks
- Desired add-ons (see list)
- Wash and dry apples. Any moisture left on the skin will prevent the caramel from sticking. Insert Popsicle sticks into the stem of the apple as the handle. Lay wax paper on a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. On smaller, separate sheets lie out desired toppings (if desired).
- Mix sugar, corn syrup and water in a heavy medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk until sugar is fully dissolved. After sugar has dissolved do not stir or whisk any longer. Gently swirl the pan to move around every couple of minutes.
- When the mixture has turned an amber, caramel color, remove from heat and whisk in cream, butter, vanilla and salt. When liquid hits the pan it will sizzle, spit and the sugar mixture might solidify. That is okay! Keep whisking and sugar will dissolve and combine into a thick gorgeous caramel.
- Allow caramel to cool slightly until it coats the back of a spoon without rolling off. When you reach this stage, work fast to roll apples in caramel, spooning sauce over the top. Tap off any excess and then immediately roll in toppings. Press toppings into the caramel. Set on baking sheet and allow to set. Work fast. If the caramel sets up too much you can heat slightly until it becomes workable again.
- More ideas for caramel apple toppers are listed below. Caramel apples are best eaten the day of making or while still warm. Enjoy!
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it went!
If you will use unwaxed apples, the caramel will not slide down the apple. Commercially sold apples are usually waxed to make them shiny, but this causes caramel not to stick. Get them from a farmer’s market or from a u-pick farm.
My caramel didn’t turn thick and I struggled with knowing what color it was so I looked it up and said soft ball with was 245 degrees and it didn’t turn out right.
Hi Izzy, I am really sorry to hear that. What I will say is that making caramel is very much chemistry and it is SO finicky. Humidity, heat of your burner and other things can impact it turning out correctly. You also need to make sure your apples were 100% dry. Any water at all will prevent sticking. Were you at least able to dip apple slices in the caramel sauce?
I tried this recipe and the Caramel doesn’t stay on my apple even though I wash my appples thoroughly what an I do next
Hi Jeannine, was the caramel sauce thick enough? If it didn’t boil down enough to evaporate the water, this could be the case. Also, high humidity- candy apples and caramel apples struggle a little in sticky weather.
White sugar or brown sugar?
White sugar. Always white unless noted that it is brown. 🙂
Where does the melted butter and vanilla come in?
Hi Melanie! Step 3 is cream through salt, which would include the vanilla and butter.
What happens if the caramel is not sticking to the apples and sags off after a couple days is there anyway of thickening the caramel so it sticks better or what do I do next.
Hi Keith- the caramel usually starts to slide off after a fews days. Unless you are using commercial grade additives, this is bound to happen. Caramel apples are best enjoyed in the first day of making them. Make sure the apples are clean, dry and the caramel sauce it thick- you need to evaporate out all the water it to stick.