How to Make Caramel Apples

Creating delicious caramel apples is a delightful and easy treat that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. With just a few simple ingredients and a straightforward process, you can whip up a batch of mouthwatering caramel apples in no time.

plate of caramel apples with text overlay for facebook


 

Gourmet caramel apples are one of my favorite things to indulge in during fall. Tart apples dipped in buttery caramel and then coated in extra toppings makes the ultimate fall treat. The end result are the perfect caramel apples.

This guide will walk you through the steps to make easy caramel apples, ensuring a perfect combination of sweet, gooey caramel coating and crisp, juicy apples, PLUS the top 20 caramel apple toppings!

Why Is Our Recipe for Caramel Apples The Best?

Caramel Apples have to be my favorite fall treat. The juicy goodness of an apple with the sticky sweet of caramel, swoon. And bonus- they are sooo pretty!

But if you’ve ever made caramel from scratch, you know that it is a lot of work and very finicky. It is NOT EASY. Well, this recipe is easy.

  • Actually Easy- Nope, we are not making caramel from scratch and messing around with a candy thermometer only to find out that it didn’t reach the right temperature and will now slowly slither off your apple into a puddle of toppings and goo. Instead we use soft caramel candies that are already the perfect ratios.
  • Caramel Amplified- But we take the already delicious candies up a notch by adding vanilla extract and salt. Who doesn’t love sweet and salty?
  • Toppings- The trick to any caramel apple is looking pretty and having good toppings, so we’ve provided you with over 20 caramel apple topping ideas perfect for making a caramel apple bar at a Halloween party.
angled shot of apple in bowl of sprinkles

What Apples are Good for Caramel Apples?

When it comes to making perfect homemade caramel apples, certain apple varieties work particularly well due to their flavor profile and texture which firm and crisp. They can all usually be found at your local grocery store. Here is a list of apple varieties that are commonly used and recommended for caramel apples:

  1. Granny Smith: Tart granny smith apples provide a nice contrast to the sweet caramel coating. Its firmness also helps the caramel adhere well.
  2. Honeycrisp: Known for its sweet and juicy nature, Honeycrisp apples offer a delightful flavor combination with caramel.
  3. Fuji: With a perfect balance of sweetness and firmness, Fuji apples are another excellent choice for caramel apples.
  4. Gala: Gala apples have a naturally sweet taste and a slightly softer texture, making them a popular choice for caramel apples.
  5. Pink Lady: These apples have a tangy-sweet flavor and a firm, crisp texture, making them a great option for caramel apples.
  6. Braeburn: With its mildly sweet flavor and firm flesh, Braeburn apples hold up well when coated in caramel.
  7. Jonathan: Jonathan apples have a tart and tangy taste, which complements the sweetness of caramel quite nicely.

Remember, personal preferences may vary, so feel free to experiment with different apple varieties to find your favorite combination.

What You Need to Make Caramel Apples

It is a lot to read and we recommend reading the whole post before getting starting to troubleshoot the most common issues. You might have 99 problems, but an apple won’t be one!

  • Apples– The best are firm and crisp. There is a whole list above of the best varieties. I can’t stress enough the importance of washing, drying and chilling for optimal results.
  • Caramel apple sticks- There is a whole section on the options!
  • Soft caramels– These are the individually wrapped candies like Kraft. Chewy, soft caramel. You’ll need two 11-ounce bags.
  • Heavy Cream– This helps make the caramel dippable. Add more water if it is getting too hot before smoothing out, some will evaporate off. Some folks have had luck using plain milk, but this is a rich and indulgent treat, so I prefer cream.
  • Vanilla- This takes the caramel flavors up a notch.
  • Coarse Kosher Salt– I’m a sucker for anything sweet and salty, you can omit it if you don’t care for salty.
  • Unsalted Butter– This is used for storage and setting. Caramel sticks to almost everything, including parchment and wax paper, so baste anything you set them on with a small amount of butter to prevent sticking. This doesn’t include packing like bags or boxes.
three caramel apples on a tray

How To Make Caramel Apples

Please read through the instructions and commonly asked questions before getting started!

  1. Prep Apples. Wash apples and dry them thoroughly with a kitchen towel to get off all of the waxy coating. Remove the stem and spear with a caramel apple stick or popsicle stick. Chill for 2-3 hours before coating. You can also use the vinegar and blanch method, see instructions below.
  2. Prep Setting Tray. Before making the caramel sauce, prepare a baking sheet with a silicone making mat, wax paper or parchment paper. Rub generously with butter to prevent sticking- yes, caramel will stick to parchment and wax paper too!
  3. Melt caramel. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, mix together the caramels, cream and vanilla until fully melted. If it is getting clumpy and heating too fast, add 1 tablespoon of water and reduce the temperature. When smooth, add the salt and remove from the heat. Stir continuously to prevent scalding and keep a watchful eye, the process happens fast and burnt caramel is bitter.
  4. Dip Apples. Dip each apple into the caramel about 3/4 of the way up, tapping to release excess caramel and then directly into desired toppings (if using). Set onto the prepared baking sheet. If drizzling with chocolate, wait until caramel as set. Some caramel may pool around the bottom- this is my favorite part and is totally normal!
  5. Set. Allow the caramel to set for about 45-60 minutes. You can also enjoy them warm, just give that caramel a few minutes to cool so you don’t burn your mouth.

How to Make Caramel Stick to Apples

Many people will wash them well and allow them to dry, but there is another method, which involves a quick blanch in vinegar water. The acidity in the vinegar will dissolve the waxy exterior, but can also distort the vibrant colors of the apple. The taste will not be impacted.

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar.
  2. Using a spider spoon or slotted spoon, submerge each apple into the water for 3-5 seconds, no more.
  3. Place on a paper towel to dry. Do not dip into caramel until fully dry.

What Stick Do I Use for Caramel Apples?

There are actually caramel apple sticks, which are just bamboo wooden dowels. You can also use clear acrylic sticks or use sturdy, rustic sticks you find outdoors. Fancy sticks are also available like these silver and gold ones or plain black for a spooky Halloween treat.

overhead shot of eight caramel apples on a tray

20+ Best Caramel Apple Toppings

The list of possibility is endless, but here are a few of my favorite toppings. I’d love to hear some of your favorites in the comments!

  • Flaked coconut
  • Melted chocolate
  • Almond bark
  • Reeses Pieces
  • M&M’s
  • Dark Chocolate Drizzle
  • White Chocolate Drizzle
  • Freshly Popped Popcorn
  • Sliced mini marshmallows
  • Toffee Pieces
  • Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • Butterfinger Bar
  • Mini Chocolate Chips
  • Cinnamon Candies (Red Hots)
  • Crushed Pretzels
  • White Chocolate Chips
  • Mini Chocolate Chips
  • Snickers Bar
  • Milk chocolate drizzle
  • Crushed Peanut Pieces
  • Sea Salt
  • Chopped Pecans
  • Chopped Walnuts
  • Chopped Macadamia Nuts
  • Decorate with Frosting (Jack-o-lantern Faces)
  • Crushed Oreos
  • Crushed Vanilla Wafers
  • Sprinkles
  • Butterscotch Chips
  • Cinnamon and Sugar
  • Flaked Coconut
  • Butterscotch

Keep in mind that the heavier the toppings, the more apt they will be to slide off. Not a horrible thing, but something to be aware of when choosing toppings, especially for presentation.

How to Serve Caramel Apples

There are a few ways to present and enjoy them depending on where you’ll be serving. Here are some suggestions on how to serve caramel apples whether you are at a party or just enjoying them with your kids.

  1. Stick Presentation: Arrange them upright on a platter or in a decorative container. This presentation allows guests to easily pick up and enjoy their caramel apples while holding onto the stick. Place them on a sheet of parchment or wax paper that has been basting with a light coating of butter to prevent sticking.
  2. Slice Presentation: Another option is to slice the caramel apples before serving. Use a sharp knife to cut the caramel-coated apples into thick slices. Arrange the slices on a serving platter or individual plates. This method allows for easier eating and portion control, especially for young children or those who prefer bite-sized pieces.
  3. Caramel Apple Bar: You can enhance the caramel apple experience by offering a variety of toppings and allowing guests to make their own apples. Place the caramel dip in a slow cooker on “keep warm and let guests dip, top and enjoy a warm apple.
  4. Gift or Party Favors: Caramel apples make wonderful gifts or party favors. Make sure apples have ample time to set and cool before packaging. Wrap individual caramel apples in clear cellophane or treat bags, tie them with colorful ribbons or twine, and add a small gift tag or personalized label. You can also get these fun clear boxes to stack them. They can be handed out at parties, weddings, or special events, or given as thoughtful treats to friends and loved ones.
straight on close up shot of caramel apple with sprinkles

How Do You Store Caramel Apples?

Storing caramel apples properly is important to maintain their freshness and prevent the caramel from becoming too soft or sticky. Here are some guidelines for storing caramel apples:

  1. Refrigeration: Caramel apples should be stored in the refrigerator to keep them fresh and maintain the caramel’s texture. Place them in a container or wrap them individually in plastic wrap to prevent the caramel from sticking to other foods or absorbing any odors.
  2. Separation: It’s essential to keep the caramel apples separate from each other during storage to avoid them sticking together. You can place them on a tray or use wax paper or parchment paper between the apples to create a barrier.
  3. Moisture prevention: Moisture can cause the caramel to become sticky or create a watery texture. To prevent this, make sure the apples are completely dry before applying the caramel. Additionally, keep them away from areas of high humidity or moisture in the refrigerator.
  4. Consume within a few days: Caramel apples are best enjoyed within a few days of preparation. Over time, the moisture from the apples can soften the caramel coating, affecting its texture and taste. It’s recommended to consume them within 2-3 days for the best quality.

Remember, caramel apples are perishable, and their shelf life depends on various factors like apple freshness and storage conditions. Remove them from the fridge and let them come to room temperature for a more pleasurable eating experience.

Are Candied Apples and Caramel Apples the Same Thing?

Nope- you’ll sometimes see them used interchangeably because caramel is candy, technically speaking, but 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.

Whereas caramel apples are just that, covered in ooey, gooey caramel and sometimes rolled in a variety of goodies or drizzled in chocolate.

Both 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.

bite taken out of caramel apple

Commonly Asked Caramel Apple Questions

How Do you Make Caramel Stick to Apples?

The most commonly problem is caramel sliding down the sides and not sticking. This is usually due to not adequately washing the apple (and getting rid of the waxy coating), not fully drying the apple (any excess moisture will prohibit sticking) and not chilling (cold apples will help the caramel stick and set faster).

Can I Make The Caramel Dip In the Microwave?

Sure! I just find there is a higher tendency for it to burn. Place the caramels, cream and vanilla in a microwave safe bowl and heat at 30 seconds intervals, stirring between each. It will take 3-4 minutes to get a smooth, dippable caramel.

Do You Put Caramel Apples in The Fridge After Making Them?

Yes, to preserve the apples and prevent bacterial growth, they need to be kept chilled.

collage of caramel apples for pinterest

More Apple Recipe Ideas

overhead of apple coffee cake

Apple Coffee Cake Recipe

The Apple Coffee Cake recipe uses crescent dough for fun ribbons of buttery pastry with tender apples, a caramel sauce and crunch of salt.
See The Recipe!
close up of caramel drizzled onto apple crisp

Easy Apple Crisp Recipe

Traditional Easy Apple Crisp made with an oat topping. Recipe includes regular and gluten free options! Serve vanilla ice cream or caramel sauce.
See The Recipe!
overhead shot of stuffed baked apples

The Best Baked Apples

The Best Baked Apples are simple and can be prepared all the way until baking ahead of time. They are perfectly paired with a crisp apple wine and a generous scoop of vanilla, butter or caramel ice cream.
See The Recipe!
overhead hero of apple nachos recipe using red and green apples

Apple Nacho Recipe

Apple nachos are an easy no-bake dessert featuring crunchy fresh apple slices drizzled with dreamy caramel sauce, marshmallow fluff, mini M&Ms and whipped cream.
See The Recipe!

straight on shot of caramel apple with text overlay for pinterest
four caramel apples on a plate

Easy Caramel Apple Recipe

4.50 from 32 votes
Classic caramel apples recipe with 20+ ideas to roll them in. Perfect for a fall dessert idea or a Halloween treat! 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Wash apples and dry them thoroughly with a kitchen towel to get off all of the waxy coating. Remove the stem and spear with a caramel apple stick or popsicle stick. Chill for 2-3 hours before coating.
  • Before making the caramel sauce, prepare a baking sheet with a silicone making mat, wax paper or parchment paper. Rub generously with butter to prevent sticking.
  • In a small saucepan over medium low heat, mix together the caramels, cream and vanilla until fully melted. If it is getting clumpy and heating too fast, add 1 tablespoon of water and reduce the temperture. When smooth, add the salt and remove from the heat. Stir continuously to prevent scalding and keep a watchful eye, the process happens fast.
  • Dip each apple into the caramel about 3/4 of the way up, tapping to release excess caramel and then directly into desired toppings (if using). Set onto the prepared baking sheet. If drizzling with chocolate, wait until caramel as set.
  • Allow the caramel to set for about 45-60 minutes.
  • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings!

Nutrition

Calories: 496 kcal, Carbohydrates: 103 g, Fat: 11 g, Saturated Fat: 7 g, Cholesterol: 37 mg, Sodium: 20 mg, Potassium: 209 mg, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 96 g, Vitamin A: 505 IU, Vitamin C: 8.3 mg, Calcium: 26 mg, Iron: 0.3 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 496
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: caramel apples
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

4.50 from 32 votes (25 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    Yum! We loved these. This was my first time making caramel apples and it was so much easier than I would have expected. Definitely plan on making these again this fall. Thanks for the tips on prepping the apples.

  2. 5 stars
    I have been thinking about an easy dessert that both kids and adults would enjoy. This caramel apple recipe check all the boxes! I like the sprinkles, too!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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?

  5. 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

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.