Microwave Soft Caramels
FOUR ingredients, SEVEN minutes and a microwave are all you need to make these too-good-to-be-true, soft, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth caramels!
Every once in a while I run into a recipe that just blows my mind!
This is one of them.
Gourmet tasting caramels with unreal softness, cooked in the microwave for 7 minutes without a thermometer, nor constant stirring, extreme caution, a pounding heart and undeniable intimidation, is the opposite of everything I have learned about candy making.
Something about the ease, the speed and the end result…that just didn’t add up.
Which is why I have been arrogantly eye rolling this recipe, every time it popped up in my Pinterest feed.
I was like…Ha?! Microwave Caramels? #PinterestFail for sure!
But boy did this recipe prove me wrong and stuck its tongue at me.
Because I can now shamefully say…that I’M OBSESSED.
And kicking myself for the years I spent in skepticism, making labor-intesitive, nerve-wracking caramels, when something this dead simple exists.
It all came about because I needed caramels to stuff into a new cookie recipe that I was developing.
I tried so many different types of caramel for the cookie filling, but each one posed its own set of problems. Ranging from bursting out of the cookie and oozing into a pool, to rock hard centers that stuck to the teeth.
I was left with only one final resort: Giving the very doubtful Microwave Caramels a go.
Let’s just say, that my first trial left my jaw dropping, got my husband thinking of opening up a candy business, and gave my kids something new to fight over.
Soft, smooth, buttery, not too sweet, with just the right amount of chew. Just everything you need from a caramel in a fraction of the time and effort.
People will think you slaved over these!
I got a little too excited and kept making batches after batches, tweaking them a little and experimenting with different types of sugar each time. It was like having a small candy factory in my kitchen, flowing with caramels everywhere. I took advantage of the major “getting the kids involved” nature of the recipe and got them wrapping so we could give them away as gifts. I knew that something this addictive needed to be out of sight asap.
As for the cookies? The real reason behind these caramels? My oh my…some of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted. The caramel was the perfect filling…not too loose…not too stiff, with dynamite flavor and 100X better than anything you could buy from the store. Exactly what I was going for.
I wasn’t actually planning on making a separate blog post for these caramels, but rather integrate it into the cookie one. Yet after their ragging success and seeing how everyone was raving about them, I felt they deserved their own spotlight.
Which also serves me a chance to bombard you with step-by-step photos and get a little nerdy about the making process and discoveries that came along the way.
- You’ll only need 4 ingredients to bring this recipe to life: Butter, soft brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk and light corn syrup. Oh and a pinch of salt. So 5 if you wanna count that! Also, if you’d like to fancy ’em up, you could add vanilla and sea salt flakes on top, but they’re not necessary.
- You’re gonna want to make sure to use unsalted butter here, because the salted kind splatters like crazy in the microwave.
- Use all soft LIGHT brown sugar! As I mentioned earlier, I experimented with different types of sugars. The first recipe I tried called for equal amounts of white sugar and light brown sugar. While it was incredibly good, it left us craving a stronger caramel flavor. The sweetened condensed milk flavor kind of came through too, which it not at all a bad thing, but not what we’re after when making caramels. I then tried ALL light brown sugar as suggested by other recipes, and it turned out super caramel-y perfection. For research sake, I also tried all dark brown sugar, wondering if it will increase the caramel-ness of the candy, but this one ended up being our least favorite batch. The color was unappetizingly dark and the flavor was molasses-y more than anything else. So…to make a long story short go with LIGHT brown sugar.
Now that we got the ingredients out of the way, let’s make some caramels!
You’ll first begin by melting the butter in the microwave, then add to that everything else…brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk and light corn syrup. Seriously though…with an ingredient list like that, you know you’re off to a good start.
Stir everything really well together. Make sure your bowl is big enough to accommodate for some intense bubbling. And of course, make sure that it’s microwave safe.
Place the bowl in the microwave and set it to 6 minutes on HIGH power. You might need to add a couple more minutes, but its better to start with less time and add to it, than to overcook your caramel; which will give you really hard candy.
Timing will vary depending on how much you make, the wattage of your microwave, and the size of your bowl. Mine gets done in 7 minutes in my new Miele microwave, but each microwave is different. Have I mentioned that I’m loving my new Miele kitchen gear? I should show you around some time.
If you have a candy thermometer, well look at you! Might as well make use of it. Just give the mixture a good stir to distribute the temperature evenly, then measure. It should register between 238F-242F/ 115C-117C for a softer caramel (perfect for stuffing in cookies and other desserts that will be baked) or up to 245F/ 118C for a firmer, chewier caramel (perfect for wrapping into candies). Caramels pictured are cooked to around 240F/116C.
If it’s not there yet, give it another 30 seconds in the microwave, then measure again and so on.
But I promised you delicious, soft caramel candies that doesn’t require a thermometer and I’m here to deliver! To know when your caramel is done, simply drop a small spoon of the caramel in ice water. Allow it to cool for a few seconds, then remove it. It should form a soft pliable ball; not too soft or liquidy nor too hard and brittle. If it needs more time, return to the microwave and heat in 30 second increments.
And that’s really just all the “cooking” this caramel needs!
Now pour into a pan…
Sprinkle on some sea salt flakes, for salted caramels…YUM! Or not, if you don’t feel like it.
Let it cool and set up in the fridge.
Cut it up into nice, squishy bites.
Call over the fam (or peeps)…and wrap them up to heart’s content. Or leave them uncovered if using in another recipe.
I might or might not have carried quite a few in my purse and used them as bribes, baits and conversation openers.
Microwave Soft Caramels
FOUR ingredients, SEVEN minutes and a microwave are all you need to make these too-good-to-be-true, soft, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth caramels!
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces/ 114 grams) unsalted butter (do not use salted as it splatters)
- 1 cup (7 ounces/ 200 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (5.6 ounces/ 160 grams) light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup (5.6 ounces/160 grams) sweetened condensed milk
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon (more or less, according to taste) sea salt flakes, for sprinkling on top, optional
- Lightly spray (or butter) an 8X8'" baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a sheet of parchment or wax paper with the ends hanging off the sides, then lightly spray or grease the sheet.
- In a medium, microwave-safe glass bowl, heat the butter in the microwave until melted; about 1 minute.
- To the bowl with the butter, stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk and 1/8 teaspoon of fine salt until very well combined and a homogenous mixture forms.
- Return the bowl to the microwave and cook the mixture on HIGH power for 6 to 8 minutes. Start with 6 minutes, stop, stir and check for doneness, then add additional cooking time in 30 second increments, if needed. The caramel should register on a candy thermometer, between 238F-242F (115C-117C) for a softer caramel (perfect for stuffing in cookies and other desserts that will be baked) or up to 245F/118C for a firmer, chewier caramel (perfect for wrapping into candies). I like to err on the softer side. For an accurate reading, stir the the mixture first, to distribute the temperature evenly, then measure. If its below that point, return to the microwave for 30 seconds more, measuring and adding more time as needed.
- If you don't have a candy thermometer, while the mixture is cooking, prepare a glass of iced water and keep nearby. To check for doneness, drop a small spoon of the caramel in the ice water. Allow it to cool for a few seconds, then remove it. It should form a soft pliable ball; not too soft or liquidy nor too hard and brittle. If it needs more time, return to the microwave and heat in 30 second increments. Mine was done at 7 minutes, but timing will vary depending on how much you make, the wattage of your microwave, and the size of your bowl.
- Using one mitts, carefully remove the bowl from the microwave. Stir in the vanilla extract, if using.
- Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Lightly sprinkle the top with sea salt, if using.
- Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill until set, at least 30 minutes.
- Using the parchment/wax paper overhang, pull out the slab of caramel from the pan and place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the caramel evenly into rectangular pieces. I cut the slab into 4 rows, then cut each row into 12 rectangles.
- Wrap each caramel piece individually in wax paper, twisting the ends to seal. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Separate the layers with wax paper if you are not wrapping them individually.
- This recipe can be halved, pouring the caramel mixture into a 9X5" loaf pan. Keep in mind that the mixture will cook in about half the time. Start checking at 3 1/2 minutes.
Recipe adapted with changes from Cooking Classy and Wonder How To.
Measurements Note: All recipes of this site have been developed using weight measurements. Although US volume measurements have been included for your convenience, it is highly encouraged that you weigh your ingredients using a kitchen scale to get the best possible results. Due to the sensitive nature of baking, kitchen scales are proven to yield more accurate and consistent results than measuring cups. Enjoy!
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These look so cute and yummy!
I’m in UK and can’t find corn syrup, would golden syrup serve as an acceptable replacement?
Hi Charlotte! Thanks!
While I haven’t tried golden syrup in this particular recipe, I have read many times that it can be substituted one-to-one with corn syrup since they share the same chemical properties and will prevent crystallization, which is the culprit of candy making. Just note that golden syrup will effect the flavor of your caramels due to its treacle-y flavor; not a bad thing, if I do say so myself. Corn syrup is flavorless, on the other hand.
Please check out these sources for more information on corn syrup substitution:
Can’t wait to try this! Yummy
Hope you love them Kezra!
Where in Egypt i can find corn syrup…thanks for the recipe …teslam edek 🙂
Hi Hala! I’m usually able to find it at most big supermarkets like Seoudi & Royal House. It’s also available at Ahmed Abdalla in Korba & Mariam Supermarket & Kimo Supermarket in Maadi. The brand is called Karo.
So I’ve been blown away by microwave peanut brittle, but I am double blown away by microwave caramel! I’m always looking for the perfect soft caramel filling-ish stuff…one of which you’ve already helped out with on one of your other recipes. But now? This might be life changing for some future recipe needs! And yes, it definitely needed it’s own post! 🙂
Thanks Ramona! Its so cool right ! I’m currently obsessed & can’t wait to stuff it in every and any dessert that could take it. Brownies are calling for it!
You have no idea how grateful I am for this recipe!!! BUT if I was going to use a candy thermometer what temp would I need reach for soft caramels? Thanks again and Happy Holidays!! 😉
Well. . . If I would just read the WHOLE thing I wouldn’t have to ask would I?? Sorry, but thank you! Huge fan! ❤
Hahahaaa! Sounds like you found it ? Enjoy and happy holidays to you too!
This recipe is magic. Successful on the first try. It took 10 minutes in my microwave but I simply followed the flexible instructions and wow. Cooking, setting in the fridge and even wrapping can be done within an hour. On the “Effort” to “Family and friends think you’re a candy genius” scale, this is on the top.
Cleobuttera recipes are consistently amazing,
Oh my goodness! Your comment is above and beyond everything I want to hear. My favorite part of the day is when I hear that someone had success with one of my recipes, so thank you for making my day. So thrilled you guys loved it!
Oh Boy! You got me ADDICTED…again! This recipe is out of this world! I have to say I’m not a kitchen lover…. but this made me fall in love with my kitchen all over again- especially that I don’t have to stay in it for so long to do it! This is by far my favorite candy- hands down! Thank you Cleobuttera- you never fail to impress me!
These look deeeevine!! ?????
I also can never find the perfect caramels for stuffing things here in South Africa so I really want to try this out.
One question, do you think I can make this on the stove?
Maybe on a low heat?
I hope you love these Zaakirah. Making it on the stove top should work, but since I’ve never tried it myself, I’m unsure of how long you should cook it & on which heat. Best of luck!
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Asalam Alaykum Tasbih!!
Would it be okay if I used the ingredients and just cooked the caramel over the stove? (my microwave is old)
Walaikom Assalam Umm Haajar. To be honest, I’ve never tried cooking this particular recipe over the stove to be able to tell for sure, but my guts tell me that it should work just fine. It will definitely take longer to cook though, and you’re gonna need to keep stirring the mixture the entire time so it doesn’t scotch in the bottom. Best of luck!
Oh… My God. It’s like seeing ~churros baked into cookie’s shape! I’m from Brasil and the next thing closer to the corn syrup is Karo (i read it you used that one), but here is brown, closer to honey. Do you think it would be a problem? And we don’t have the sour cream, so i’m gonna have to substitute… but i’m not sure for which one: Grego yougurt (we have so many brands, each one tasting different…) ou Natural Yougurt. Can you help me?
Can’t wait to bake these!
Thank you so much 🙂
Hahaaaa! Love your description; churros in cookie form ? They do taste a lot like them too. Yes! You can use the darker kind of corn syrup but note that it will impart a stronger caramel flavor, which is not necessarily a bad thing. For the sour cream, you can substitute it with unsweetened, unflavored Greek yogurt. Best of luck!
Can i use dark corn syrup instead?
Sure that would work. However, keep in mind that it will give it a stronger taste, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…just slightly different.
Do you have a good nougat recipe?
My sister was asking as she recently started trying out your recipes and loves them!
Hello Siddeqah! So happy to hear that your sister is enjoying my recipes ? Unfortunately though, I’ve never tried making nougat at home. Now that you’ve asked for it, I think I should.
I’ve put the mix in the fridge for over 3 hours but it’s still so soft don’t think it’s in that position to turn around and remove parchment paper without it sticking to it. Not sure so I put it in the freezer for a while.
Hi Shanal! It sounds like the caramels have been undercooked. Are you sure it reached the right temperature?
Hey, first of all, I just love your blog. Its so colorful and fun!
I had a question about this recipe. I’ve searched for a recipe for caramels for the longest time and every other recipe I came across uses heavy cream. I wanted to ask why yours doesn’t and what difference does it make?
Thank you Muskaan! This recipe is especially formulated to be made much quicker and easier than traditional stove-top caramels. To make it magically come together in no time in the microwave, it uses neither the traditional ingredients nor the methods used in making the more time consuming type of caramel (which uses heavy cream). They’re both amazing and taste almost identical, just one fit for the microwave and one fit for the stove.
Hi! Ironically I found. recipe earlier today for soft caramels…went to the store and bought ingredients…I’m SUPER anxious to make them, but I have to wait until Monday for Amazon to deliver a candy thermometer 🙁 I went looking did the difference between a soft and chewy caramel and came across your recipe … MICROWAVE!!! The one I was looking at had me over the stove stirring for AS LEAST an hour so I’m anxious to try this. Question…does it have to be a glass bowl? I have a microwave safe mixing bowl but it’s not glass. Does that matter? Also…what is soft brown sugar? I C&H is that the same? Cant wait to try this! Tomorrow if I dont need another trip to a store:-)
I’m excited to try this recipe! I’d like to know at what altitude your recipes are developed so I can altitude adjust if necessary.
Also, I am trying to print it but there are so many ads that are in the middle of the recipe that cover the text it doesn’t make it worth printing. As the ads go in and out the text jumps around so much I am getting dizzy just trying to read your post. 🙂
From what is written in the blog, it seems recipes are developed in Cairo…. so that should be about sea level!
Wow!! This recipe is just amazing 🙂 Since it’s a pain to find corn syrup in Cairo I replaced it with honey instead (regular Imetenan honey that doesn’t have much flavor) and it worked perfectly!