This microwave Caramel Candy recipe makes soft, melt-in-your-mouth caramels that everyone loves! Made with only 5 ingredients, they are a family tradition.
Everyone has their favorite treats that they like to make every year during the holidays. One of our family’s favorites is caramels. My mom has been making them for as long as I can remember.
I first learned out to make them when I was in middle school when I had to choose a topic for a demonstration speech. After the presentation was over, I passed out samples and it was a huge success! These caramels are great because they only require a few ingredients and you make them in the microwave.
These are the.best.caramels.ever! Everyone who tastes them loves them!
Put all of the ingredients into a very large, microwave-safe bowl. The bowl needs to be large enough for the mixture to boil up.
Can I make caramel candy with brown sugar?
This recipe calls for all granulated sugar and that’s how my mom has always made them. But yes, you can substitute light brown sugar for all or even part of the granulated sugar. The brown sugar will give the caramels more of that molasses flavor.
How To Make Caramels In The Microwave
This caramel candy recipe is cooked completely in the microwave which is the EASIEST way to make perfect caramels! I tested this recipe on the stovetop and it was way more hands-on (stirring constantly) and harder to keep from burning. Having used both methods I can 100% recommend using the microwave.
Before we get started on the cooking instructions, let’s talk a little about microwaves. There are thousands of different microwaves available from so many brands. Some of you will have brand new microwaves and others will have older ones. The wattage of your microwave determines the power. Most microwaves have between 600-1,200 watts. The higher the wattage, the faster your caramels will cook so keep that in mind!
Start by microwaving the caramel candy mixture on high for 5 minutes and then stir. The mixture is HOT so handle it with care.
Next, microwave for 5 minutes at 50% power and then stir. Do this two more times so that when you are done the caramels have been in the microwave for 20 minutes total: 5 on high and 15 at 50%.
You may need to continue cooking the caramels in the microwave for 5-minute intervals at 50%, stirring after each interval, until the caramels are done. If you have a powerful microwave, cook at 30% power the last couple of times to prevent burning.
I like to use a candy thermometer to check the temperature but keep in mind that candy thermometers can vary which can give different results. The candy thermometer I used, called a ThermoPen, can be purchased here on Amazon.
To check your candy thermometer for accuracy, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Insert the thermometer into the water and it should read 212˚F. If yours is slightly less or more, you’ll have to make those slight adjustments when checking the caramel.
Soft Ball Stage
The hardest part of the process is knowing when the caramels are done. My mom is an expert on this since she’s made them so many times. They have to be a golden caramel color. The notes on the recipe say that the caramel should form a soft ball in cold water. For soft ball stage, it should reach 238˚F-240˚F.
Some people prefer their caramel candy to be firmer and chewier. If that is what you are looking for cook the caramels longer until 245˚F which is firm ball stage.
I went right in-between the two stages and cooked my caramels to 244˚F (measured immediately after removing the bowl from the microwave) and there were perfect for my family. To get to that stage, I had to cook mine 10 minutes longer (5 minutes at 50%, stir and then 5 more minutes at 50%).
Remove from the microwave and stir in one teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pour into a lightly greased 9×13″ pan (lined with heavy foil if desired). Allow the caramels to cool completely at room temperature.
Can I add other flavors to the caramel candy?
Yes, that is a fun way to customize the caramel candy. You can even make several different flavors and give the caramels as gifts to friends and family during the holidays.
- Orange Cream Caramels: Add a teaspoon of orange extract along with the vanilla.
- Licorice Caramels: Stir in 1-2 teaspoons of anise extract instead of the vanilla (add black gel food coloring if desired).
- Cinnamon Caramel Candy: Substitute the vanilla with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon oil and red no-taste gel food coloring.
- Caramel Apple Caramels: Add 1 teaspoon of green apple flavoring along with the vanilla.
- Maple Cream Caramel Candy: In addition to the vanilla, add 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring.
How To Cut Soft Caramels
I prefer lining my pan with heavy-duty foil and then spraying it with cooking spray. Then, once the caramels have cooled completely, use the foil to lift them out of the pan. Either cut them directly on the foil as shown above. Or flip the caramels over onto a cutting board, peel off the foil, and then proceed to cut them without the worry of bits of foil getting stuck to the caramels.
With A Knife
The most common way to cut caramels is to simply use a sharp, sturdy paring knife. If you are having issues with it sticking, spray the knife with a little cooking spray. This is the best way to cut them if you poured the caramel candy directly into a greased pan.
Use A Pizza Cutter
If you lined your pan with foil and are able to remove them from the pan as I did, you may be able to cut the caramels with a sturdy pizza cutter. This method allows you to quickly cut even rows of caramels. When cooked to a hard ball stage (see above), the caramel candy may be too firm to use a pizza cutter.
Try An Ulu Knife
An ulu knife is a rocker knife that originated in Alaska. If you don’t already have one it is a great addition to any kitchen especially if you have small children and have to cut up food for them. You can buy an ulu knife here on Amazon. This knife could be used both on the caramels in the pan and on the cutting board.
Wrapping Caramel Candy Method
Once the caramel candy has been cut into pieces its time to wrap them! Cut rectangles of waxed paper. Place a caramel candy in the center, fold the long sides of waxed paper up over the caramel. Then, twist ends to hold the wrapper in place. Another option, if you don’t want the twisted tails, is to fold up the ends over the caramels.
Caramel Candy Issues
Although making these caramels is a simple process with basic ingredients, issues can arise. It may take a few attempts to make caramel candy and even the pros mess up from time to time. Here are a few ways to salvage the caramel when you have issues.
What should I do if my caramel candy is too soft?
If your caramel candy is too soft, you didn’t cook it long enough. Sometimes they will hold their shape as long as they are chilled. If so, refrigerate the caramels after wrapping and only remove when serving.
Another option is to remelt the caramels with a couple of tablespoons of water. Cook it until it is the right temperature.
My mom had a brilliant solution when one of her batches was too soft. She put a dollop of the too-soft caramel on a pretzel, topped it with another pretzel, and dipped them in melted chocolate!
Can I salvage hard caramels?
Sounds like your caramels were cooked too long. Like with the too soft caramels, you can remelt them with a couple of tablespoons of water and cook until it is a lower temperature than what you used the first time.
Why are my caramels burnt tasting?
If your caramels are burnt tasting or smelling, they were either overcooked or cooked too quickly. Give yourself a break and remember that it happens to everyone from time to time. It is best to toss that batch and start over fresh.
How To Store Caramels
After wrapping the caramels in waxed paper, put them in a container and store them in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Caramel candy can also be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months. Thaw at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
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