Caramel Apples Recipe

A caramel apple recipe made from apples, honey, cream, and salt - all-natural, with no processed corn syrup or other funky ingredients.

Caramel Apples

Placerville, California is apple country. This time of year, apple farms line nearby country roads and all manner of apple products are sold - apple pies, dumplings, fritter, ciders, doughnuts, sauces, cookies, and of course...caramel apples. On our drive from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe last weekend Wayne, Jennifer, and I pulled over in Placerville to have a picnic lunch at one of the local wineries nestled in the Sierra foothills. On our round-about way back to the highway we also visited a couple of the local apple-centric attractions. It was just the reminder I needed. For years I've wanted to do a new caramel apple recipe for my site. I thought I might be able to do a version using apples, honey, cream, and salt. That's it. No white sugar, no corn syrup, and no melting of Kraft caramel squares.

Caramel Apple Recipe

I also wanted to avoid a few of the caramel apple pitfalls that have tripped me up in the past. For example, I needed the caramel to stay on the apple. Lots of people, myself included, have had trouble with caramel not setting on their apples. I decided to use the technique I use to make my favorite caramels - the honey-sweetened caramel gives the apples a beautiful, opaque, golden coat and tastes rich, chewy, and decadent.

Caramel Apple Recipe

A few things you should know before you start. You need a candy thermometer. I have one from Whole Foods Market that cost me about $4 - works fine. But I'm going to admit, this time around I used my infrared thermometer gun. Either way, a thermometer is important because the key to this caramel recipe is achieving a good set, you want your caramel to be able to hold a shape once it cools. To make this happen you need to heat the ingredients to a very specific temperature. I know it all sounds precise and fussy, and to a certain extent it is, but really all you're doing here is putting a very short list of ingredients together in a pot, and bringing the temperature up, up, up into what is considered "hard ball" territory 255F - 260F degrees. If you don't heat the caramel enough, it will likely run off the apple, but alternately if you go too hot the caramel will be difficult to bite into, and will have more of a tendency to peel off the apple.

The shot up above was taken by Jennifer Jeffrey on our Sunday morning, Sierra Mtn. stroll.

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Caramel Apple Recipe

Please be careful when making caramel apples, you will be working with dangerously hot, sticky, ingredients - I always put on an apron and make sure I have a closed-toed pair of shoes on when making candy. Be extra, extra careful if you have kids around. On the ingredient front, I typically go for a mild clover honey when making caramels.

6 - 8 small apples, unwaxed, cold
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup honey

Special equipment: candy thermometer, and lollipop sticks

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Push a lollipop or popsicle stick deep into each apple - in through the stem.
Fill a large bowl 1/2 full with ice water and set aside.

In a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan heat the cream and salt until tiny bubbles start forming where the milk touches the pan - just before a simmer. Stir in the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil. Now reduce the heat to an active simmer and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 15-20 minutes minutes or until the mixture reaches about 255-260F degrees. To stop the caramel from cooking, very, very carefully set the bottom of the saucepan in the bowl of cold water you prepared earlier - taking special care not to get any of the water in the caramel mixture. Stir until caramel begins to thicken up - you want the caramel to be thin enough that it will easily coat your apples, but not so thin that it will run right off. If the caramel thickens too much simply put the pot back over the burner for 10 seconds or so to heat it up a bit.

I tilt my sauce pan so all the caramel forms a pool on one side, and use my other hand to dunk and twirl each apple until it is thoroughly coated with caramel. Place each apple on the parchment lined baking sheets and allow the caramel to cool and set.

Makes 6 - 8 caramel apples.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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RE: veganizing the caramel recipe: I made a recipe recently for vegan caramel bars that had coconut milk as the main ingredient for the caramel, as well as a bit of soy creamer. I thought that they turned out wonderfully, and the coconut flavor was there just enough to be intriguing. I made a caramel sauce the other day, and I didn't have any corn syrup (and didn't want to use it, anyway) so I substituted agave nectar, and that also worked. Can't wait to try it on apples! Thanks for the idea! :) HS: Thanks for the feedback and insights H.


I've been reading your blog for a little while now, and really love it. I'm not vegetarian, but really like a lot of veggie options, and am trying "Meatless Mondays". I have a toddler and infant and am trying to make a much bigger effort to go for natural ingredients when I can, so really love your natural food pantry tips. Thanks for this great caramel apple recipe!


omg yummmmmmm


yumm - gotta love autumn and all of the awesome treats and sweets that come with the season! I have 2 young girls who love "helping" in the kitchen. This recipe looks like the perfect one to let them help out with! Thank you!


i have to say that i love everything you share on here, i tried to make caramel apples for my first time a few weeks ago to get a good start for halloween. lets just say the attempt was a disaster. the caramel kept running off, and with the faces of my two young boys i felt so bad to break the news that mommy goofed up! im going to try this maybe tomorrow and i hope i can get two great big smiles from the boys. wish me luck, nicole


this looks way too perfect. i think i'll be making this version for a halloween party!


Oooohh, I made these today and they are luscious. I'm grateful for the non-fussy caramel recipe. I've had bad luck with conventional caramel, but I cooked these to 159 degrees and they were perfect. Now I'm fantasizing about making some kind of apple ice cream with this caramel, cooked to a slightly softer stage, swirled in... A tip for those who had the caramel stick to the parchment paper--I used a Silpat and they popped right off. Thanks, Heidi--I'll be making these again soon.


I had no problem getting the "caramel" to stay on the apples, but now I can't bite into them. I think I made toffee. Maybe I'll try again!


These Caramel Apples look so sweet. Im looking forward to make them for my kids. And what an easy recipe.

Andy Abraham

Has anyone had any trouble with the caramel adhering to the parchment paper? The last time I attempted to make caramel apples was for my Halloween party two years ago... I couldn't get the paper off the bottom of the apples, it looked horrible


I love caramel. Tried a few more recipes from the site while I await my cookbook order! Here were the results: 1) Carmelized Tofu (with the brussels sprouts). Nothing short of awesome. I actually thought I hated brussels sprouts but my bf loves them so I made this anyway. SO GOOD and so easy. I am an official brussels sprouts convert with this recipe. 2) Broccoli Crunch -- good -- added a little cayenne pepper to the dressing for a kick. Really liked the way the broccoli remained crunchy and without being raw. I'm having the leftovers for lunch today. 3) Repeated the Ultimate Veggie Burgers. After pan-frying them a little, I baked them to get the middles more cooked (this was an issue with my first attempt). Perfect! Thank you again for all these great recipes. I am new in the kitchen and it is wonderful to have all these interesting, easy, healthy ideas. I can't wait for the cookbooks to arrive! HS: Thanks for the feedback TM, the trick with the veggie burgers is to keep the cover on, and the heat low enough so the insides cook through without letting the outsides brown/burn too much. Once you have a sense the insides are done feel free to crank up the heat a bit and brown the outsides of the patties - a bit of a balancing act, but easy once you get the swing of it. Even easier if you have a good, thick skillet.


Armymamma: dip the apple first and then cut it into slices for the kids. Granted, the caramel will only be on the outside of the apple, but it's infinitely easier to eat the slices than to bite right into the apple (and easier on the teeth too, I know someone else was concerned about that). Has anyone had any trouble with the caramel adhering to the parchment paper? The last time I attempted to make caramel apples was for my Halloween party two years ago... I couldn't get the paper off the bottom of the apples, it looked horrible!

Lisa Faye

I made these this weekend, but all the caramel slid of the apples! I washed them, they were cold and no wax on them. I used a digital thermometer - heated it to 256 do I need to go a bit hotter or what is the trick to the thick caramenl coating?? By the way, the flavor of the caramel was fantastic!!

Holly Hall

Could I make this subbing plain Silk Creamer for the heavy cream? Do you think it will work the same? It's a soy based coffee creamer that comes either in plain, vanilla, or hazelnut flavors. Also, do you have an unrefined sugar candy apple recipe? (I love your website!)


the thought of peeling off all those little papers on those lousy Kraft caramels ... thanks for saving me. I found your site around 4 weeks ago and have passed it on to many friends ... your photos are just fantastic and make every dish look so inviting. thanks

Sunny in South Jersey

These look beautiful. I usually avoid caramel apples because new teeth are too expensive. Are these teeth-breakers? Because if they're not, the next round of apples is on me!

My First Kitchen

We made these tonight with some organic crisp, slightly spicy apples. My family gobbled these up, they were soooo good! I would suggest to anybody making these to use a good quality, mild honey, such as blackberry. I just used up my local raw blackberry honey yesterday *talk abou timing!* , so had to use some Suebee amber clover from the commissary (which wasn't very good to begin with) and the honey flavor was a little too assertive for me once it condensed. Also, I cut my apples into wedges and then skewered them, thinking this would make it easier for little mouths to eat...but...even though I blotted them well on a towel, they were damp and the caramel didn't want to stick. It stuck great to the uncut apples though, so I'll stick with that route from now on. Thanks for the wonderful, all natural recipe! I'm going to make it again this weekend once I can get my hands on some better honey. :)


I just made these. I had never used a cooking thermometer before or made candy, so I had no idea what I was doing. I got the caramel onto the apples. The extra I put into a small plastic bowl and then tried it when it cooled down. It tastes a little burnt, so I am not sure if I turned the heat up too high. I did watch the thermometer very close and turned the fire off when it hit the correct temp. All of the Caramel that was in the bowl is gone- between myself and my two kids and the apples are desert tonight so it did not turn out too bad. Would love some advice from someone who knows about this stuff. I have pictures on my blog at:


I just made these. I had never used a cooking thermometer before or made candy, so I had no idea what I was doing. I got the caramel onto the apples. The extra I put into a small plastic bowl and then tried it when it cooled down. It tastes a little burnt, so I am not sure if I turned the heat up too high. I did watch the thermometer very close and turned the fire off when it hit the correct temp. All of the Caramel that was in the bowl is gone- between myself and my two kids and the apples are desert tonight so it did not turn out too bad. Would love some advice from someone who knows about this stuff. I have pictures on my blog at: HS: They look pretty good Cheryl! My caramel def. has a rich, deep flavor - certainly with a hint of "burnt caramel"....but they shouldn't taste bad burned.


These look very yummy and I love that they don't have all the icky stuff in them. do you think this would work with agave nectar?


I am new to your site Heidi, but may I say I am inspired - I echo a previous comment and say a big THANKS to all your work and creation... I made these caramel apples this afternoon with my kids. The color was fantastic, the texture divine, and the method no-fail. I had no trouble with caramel falling off the apples! So... I do have to admit that I found the caramel a bit too sweet! (can it be too sweet?!) This is just a personal taste question though! Thanks again.


I just made these today for a house full of kids. Everyone from the 3 year old to the teenagers loved them. I used Mesquite honey from Trader Joe's and Granny Smith apples, the combination is wonderful. The caramel is very easy to make, although it took more like an hour to get to the right temperature. I doubled the recipe and it made enough for about 10 largish apples. I don't have problems with milk, but the coconut milk idea sounds very tasty. I'll be trying that soon. The flavor of this caramel is sophisticated enough for an adult party snack.


How nice to check the blog and find that you've been t o my home town! It was a great place to grow up; I have lots of happy apple memories. (and cherry, pumpkin, christmas tree, peach, pear, grape, wine, and tomato memories!)


I will have to make these for my office Halloween party. Yes, I actually work at an office that MAKES you dress up for Halloween - AND you have to wear it on the way to work! It's tons of fun though!


I had a lot to say about the pumpkin salad too. Why are the comments closed? HS: I'll try to leave the comments open a bit longer. The longer I leave them open the more they tend to get spammed.


I can't wait to try these! We're heading to an orchard today and I've been thinking of making caramel apples. Thank you fro sharing this recipe!


thanks so much for this lovely recipe. caramel apples have been out of my life for a long time as i am sensitive to corn. my eight-year-old son and i just finished eating our first corn-free caramel apples thanks to your recipe. ah, the fall is back and it tastes so good.


In response to Erin's and Mrs. C's comments, I think perhaps one solution is to leave the comments section open longer. I would love to be able to see more comments after people have had a couple of weeks to actually try the recipes, because for us novice cooks, it's great to hear see other people's variations/substitutions. HS: I'm trying to work on a better commenting system (but don't hold your collective breaths, it might be a little while), in the meantime I'll try to leave the comments open a bit longer. The longer I leave them open the more they tend to get spammed.


Thanks for posting an all natural version! They are beautiful!


in reply to this comment above "Did anyone actually cook this caramel or taste it? I think the idea with recipes is to try them and then post your opinion. " - "Mrs.C" Oh Mrs.C, don't be silly. We always read Heidi's posts while we're at work! Usually 14 hours into work, without a lunch break, when we've just been asked to work late for like the 5 hundred billionth time this month, and we're drooling over her photography/ingredient combination. no one bothers to wait until after we're done cooking that particular recipe because we'll be too busy eating it then. and also our hands will be too messy to get near the keyboard. plus we already know it will be good... it's a recipe from HEIDI. in other words "lay of us! we're stARRRRving!" (hee hee couldn't help a little SNL throwback...) HS: I have to admit, this made me laugh.


I've never written a comment before but have been reading for about a year now! I'm from the east coast from a town that literally revolves around apples. I may just enter this at this years "Apple Harvest Fest"? Thanks!


Hi Dear Heidi I am so glad that I can take the advantage of your lovely recipes Thanks so much:)Tried many of them and the result is great!!


I'm drooling over these. Fall and caramel apples are just made for each other, after all. But I wonder if anyone knows a good non-dairy sub for the cream. Would coconut milk work? I'm casein intolerant and miss good caramel! HS; Hi Sally, there have been some suggestions made in the other comments, but none that I have tested yet.

Sally Parrott Ashbrook

Thank You for this Healthy and Tasty Fall favorite. My grandkids loved them!!


There are certain foods I don't want to attempt to make at home, because I just don't have any control over myself with them. I think caramel apples fall into that list. But man do those look good.


MMMMMMMMMM! For those of you that are dairy free-may I suggest Coconut Milk,I think it should work exactly as you need it too ...and taste fabulous to boot! Agave should work fine as well,hmmm I'm thinking maple syrup might be interesting to try, so perhaps I will and report back! Heidi,you are amazing! Les HS: Thanks Les :) To be honest, I'm not sure about some of these substitutions - so please if any of you try them report back- I'll update the post even if I've closed the comments. I'm intrigued by the coconut milk idea as an alternative to cream/dairy-free option. And I like the flavor of coconut milk much more than soy milk, so that would be the direction I'd go.


Your caramel looks like dulce de leche - so smooth and creamy!


Hello - recently found your lovely site and am enjoying discovering all the wonderful posts. These apples look scrumptious, but unfortunately, like some of the previous posters, I am not able to eat dairy. One of these days I'll have to sit down and develop my own dairy-free caramel recipe! Speaking of recipes, would you consider adding a "dairy-free" category to your recipe file? Pretty please? :) HS: Hi Dawn, a few people have asked for a dairy-free category. I'll add it to the list of site updates. -h

Dawn in CA

Hey Heidi, I'm sorry to do this but the comments are closed on the pumpkin mole recipe. Do you think smoked paprika would work in that, or would it be too strong? I'd appreciate feedback from other cooks as well . . . HS: You know, I think a bit of smoked paprika would be nice, but not the full amount called for...I thought about that as well when I was making that recipe, and decided it would be overpowering.I'll leave this comment here for a bit and then move it back over to the pumpkin page.


Your recipes are always inspiring. I might try to veganize this by using coconut milk/cream and agave nectar. I've made really chewy caramel corn that way. I think a nice crisp ginger apple would be delicious. HS: Erin if you try this please let me know how it goes. I'm not sure how agave nectar will behave - I'm very curious. If it works (with the coconut milk) I imagine it would be delicious, with a much different personality from the honey version.


I went home last night and tried this recipie out. Yummy is all I have to say, I don't have a candy thermometer but the cold water method worked perfectly. This will be a family favorite.


Purely_C, most meat thermometers stop measuring in the 200s and flatline when you get up to the temperatures you'd see when working with candy. Soy milk fans, I saw a luscious looking vegan caramel apple recipe here: I'm jumping on this recipe as soon as I buy more cream. I love that there are so few ingredients to fuss with and expect a clean, fresh taste out of this recipe!


Heidi -- my friends and I saw you at Boeger Winery, and whispered about whether it was you and Wayne (and friend) or not as you walked away. We decided we could settle it if you posted about being up there -- I win! Hope you enjoyed your day. It was gorgeous up there -- especially the rain dumping on us as we drove down the hill. -H HS: Hah, that was totally me - we pulled over there for lunch on the picnic tables. I wish you would have said hi! I love meeting readers of the site. Next time :)


Heidi! This could not have come at a more perfect time! Thank you! I might be making them 1/2way across the world from here shortly! p.s. The best safeguard against an evil caramel burn is a giant bowl of very icy ice water (that someone could quickly submerge their hands and forearms into), and wearing long sleeves. It's an extremely painful burn should a person get some on their skin. HS; Thanks Shuna, yeah, that caramel is scary hot and sticky. Serious business.

shuna fish lydon

LOVE the tip about closed toe shoes !


my friend had a fall themed birthday party once were we all make either candied or caramel apples and rolled them in toppings. It was soo fun!! I never new her recipes though, thanks for sharing Teddy


Your picture looks great... can't wait to try your recipe this weekend... maybe you can share more recipes with the members of ... we are searching for great recipes for Halloween... Hope you can help us..thanks Andy

bradly stewart

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