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The Secret to Making the Best Caramel Apples

Have you ever bit into a caramel apple and felt like something wasn’t right? I’ve found caramel apples are either a “hit or miss.” I either love them or hate them.

I went on a quest to find the best caramel apple recipe so I could love caramel apples every time I took a bite. After all, caramel apples look super easy on paper to make.

If you look at any caramel apple recipe, you’ll think, “Oh yeah, I can do that.” I’m here to tell you there’s a lot more to it than mixing some ingredients in a pan and waiting for them to turn into a delicious caramel sauce.

After reading several recipes, I headed to the kitchen to experiment and uncovered the secrets behind the best caramel apples. Keep reading to learn the secret to making the best caramel apples!

caramel apples

The Best Fall Treat

There are so many uses for caramel apples, which make them the perfect fall treat. Take note of these ideas:

  • Gifts
  • After-school treat
  • Party dessert
  • Potlucks
  • Trick-or-treating (you’ll be the coolest house in the neighborhood)
  • Overabundance of apples

Or you can make them just because. You don’t need a reason to make caramel apples!

Picking the Right Apples

Making the best caramel apples starts with selecting the right apples for this decadent dessert. Good choices are mild tart apples like Granny SmithFuji, Honeycrisp, Gala, or Pink Lady.

Avoid soft apples like Red Delicious because they become mushy very quickly, and the heat from the caramel sauce will cause them to break down quickly. Save your Red Delicious apples for applesauce, apple butter, or smoothies.

Other Characteristics to Look For:

  • Small and medium-sized apples work best
  • Look for apples without imperfections like soft spots or bruises
  • Avoid apples that aren’t perfectly round (these will roll all over and cause caramel to fall off your apples)

What You Need

Caramel Apples

Why Cold Apples?

Cold apples allow the caramel to set faster and form to the fruit better than room-temperature apples.

Always Wash and Dry Your Apples

If you’ve ever attempted to make caramel apples in the past and wondered why your caramel didn’t stick to your apples, you probably didn’t wash them first. Caramel will not stick to the wax coating in unwashed apples.

Remember to remove any stickers if your apples are store-bought!

Removing the Stems

The first time I removed stems from an apple, I was surprised that it wasn’t as simple as pulling the stem off with my fingers. Some are deeper and harder to remove than others.

I used a metal skewer to remove the stems, which made the process super easy. Make sure you use the tool with a light touch because too much force can result in obtrusive holes pierced into the apple.

After your stems are removed, gently poke in a skewer where the stem was, set the apples on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and place the apples in the refrigerator.

Caramel Apples

Don’t Skip the Light Corn Syrup

You may be tempted to skip this ingredient to make your caramel apples healthier. This is one time when you should go all out. You only live once!

Light corn syrup helps your sauce become sticky, so it clings to your apples. It also prevents the creation of sugar crystals, so your caramel stays smooth and delicious.

Granulated Sugar or Brown Sugar?

You can use either granulated sugar or brown sugar to make delicious caramel apples. Many people swear that brown sugar tastes better, but I prefer using granulated sugar because it’s easier to tell when the caramel is ready. If you do use brown sugar, don’t skip out on using a candy thermometer.

Using a Candy Thermometer

A candy thermometer takes away the guesswork, so you know exactly when your caramel is ready. I use the Goodcook Classic Thermometer. I love this thermometer because the outer cap lists several ideal temperatures for candy and deep frying.

The perfect temperature for caramel sauce is between 320 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

caramel apples

Act Fast

Any small distraction could easily ruin your caramel, so stay focused!

When the caramel reaches the perfect temperature, its temperature rises rapidly. That’s why you need to stay close to the caramel and remove it from the burner as soon as it’s ready. (I learned this the hard way.)

After your caramel is removed from the burner, you should let it cool for only a few moments before dipping your apples into it. Caramel hardens quickly as it cools, so don’t delay dipping those apples.

Option to Add Salt

Salted caramel is a favorite among many. I’m not a fan of it, but don’t let that deter you from trying it. You can use as little or as much as you’d like to reach your desired flavor. Add the salt at the end before dipping the apples.

Parchment Paper

Line a baking pan with nonstick parchment paper. Do not use wax paper. The wax paper will stick to your caramel and ruin your tasty creation.


  1. Wash, dry, and de-stem your apples. Set them in the refrigerator on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper while you prepare your caramel sauce.
  2. Use a 4-quart or larger pot. A smaller pot runs the risk of having your mixture bubble over.
  3. Pour your water, butter, and sugar into your saucepan. Hold off adding the heavy cream and corn syrup so you can keep an accurate eye on the color of your caramel and you can accurately tell how dark the caramel is getting.
  4. Your sugar concoction will fizz and bubble, and you’ll understand why I suggested a larger pot! Stay close to the pot, stirring occasionally during this time.
  5. The luscious brown caramel color will start to appear after 10 minutes of bubbling. Add the heavy cream and Karo syrup now.
  6. Set your caramel sauce aside for a few seconds while you grab the apples from the refrigerator. Dip your apples into the caramel immediately.
  7. While your caramel apples are still warm, add toppings if desired. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then enjoy!

*Tip: If you want them to cool quicker, you can set them in the refrigerator for a minute or so. I stepped outside on a chilly fall day with one, and it was ready to eat almost instantly.

If you haven’t eaten your apples within an hour, put them in the refrigerator. They can last in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, but they taste best fresh.

Before enjoying a refrigerated apple, allow it to reach room temperature before slicing or biting into it.

Save Time with Caramel Candies

The only way you can get away without using Karo Syrup is by using caramel candies! You can substitute light corn syrup and sugar with caramel candies. You’ll save time and a couple of ingredients.

I recommend Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels. Combine one package of the candy with heavy cream, water, butter, and vanilla. Allow to melt, then dip your apples.

Slow Cooking

If you plan on serving caramel apples at your next party, you can slow-cook caramel sauce with caramel candy. Mix candy, butter, vanilla, water, and heavy cream in a slow cooker. Cook on low, stirring every 20 minutes until the mixture is completely melted.

Caramel sauce takes about an hour in the slow cooker to melt. Then you can bring out the apples and let your party guests decorate their caramel apples.

*Decrease the water amount when using a slow cooker–I recommend only using ¼ cup.

The Best Caramel Apple Toppings

You have endless topping options! Try some of these:

You can melt any of the chips to create a yummy drizzle.

caramel apples


Store in an airtight bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Always allow your apples to get to room temperature before enjoying them.

Note: Refrigerated apples will taste better than frozen ones, so I recommend eating them as soon as possible.

Related Recipes

  • Deliciously Easy Caramel Stuffed Apples
  • Delicious Caramel Apple Crumble
  • Apple Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel – Upside Down Style
  • Homemade Apple Cinnamon Bread
  • Creamy and Sweet Cinnamon Apple Salad

A New Fall Tradition!

My family had a blast making (and eating) these caramel apples. These caramel apples are the perfect fall tradition to start with your little ones. They’re going to love them!

Looking for more fruit recipes? We’ve got you covered. Check out our Fruit Recipes section.

caramel apples

Caramel Apples

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

The perfect fall treat! Great for gifts, fundraisers, or a yummy snack for you and your kiddos!


  • 6 Cold Apples (washed, dried, and stems removed.)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup Karo syrup (light corn syrup)
  • 1 stick of butter (½ cup, sliced)


  1. Wash, dry, and de-stem your apples.
  2. Place the apples on a sheet lined with parchment paper and set them in the refrigerator while you prepare your caramel sauce.
  3. Pour your water, butter, and sugar into a 4-quart or larger pot.
  4. Your sugar concoction will begin to fizz and bubble. Stay close to the pot, stirring occasionally.
  5. The caramel color will start to appear after 10 minutes of bubbling.
  6. Add your heavy cream and Karo syrup (and salt, if desired)
  7. Set your caramel sauce aside for a few seconds while you grab the apples from the refrigerator. Dip your apples into the caramel immediately.
  8. Add toppings while the caramel is still warm.
  9. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes, then enjoy!

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