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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Perfect timing! My friends and I are about to make a trip up to North Georgia apple country for an apple festival. I really like the idea of a caramel without white sugar and can't wait to try this. (PS - we made your caramels last Christmas - we had a marathon baking evening and had too much wine by the time we got to the candies, so we didn't make them properly, but boy was the big pan of gooey caramel good!)


awesome!! loving these seasonal recipes. its a perfectly blustery fall day in upstate ny, might have to give these a try this afternoon.


What a beautifully natural recipe! I tried something similar to make caramel corn when I was living in Ghana. There I had to rely on honey rather than corn syrup because corn syrup simply wasnt available. The fortunes of necessity. But caramel making is a delicate and tricky task and that "hard ball" stage crept up on me and then nearly went too far into burning. Kudos on a great looking recipe. Perhaps I'll try it again with the aid of a thermometer :)

Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet

re the infra-red thermometer, is it a replacement/substitute for a probe or does it only work on the surface of foods? I'd love to know more about this - the Amazon specs are full of technical stuff but I still can't figure out what to DO with it, when it would be used. PS St. Louis has a famous caramel apple - they sell for $5 or $6 apiece. And they're not even so good! Yours look fabulous, love the honey idea. HS: Hi Alanna, it is a replacement. Imagine a gun, point it at something, pull the trigger and it shoots an infrared beam at whatever you are pointing at. The temperature is displayed on the device. It's pretty great - and fun.

Alanna @ A Veggie Venture

Gorgeous. I love the use of alternative sweeteners. They can be unusual and deep in flavor. I wonder if I could substitute some of the honey for muscavado sugar or other deep brown/unfiltered sugar. Seems like that would produce a sort of natural, butterscotch flavor. Hmm. Now I am going to have to try this! Of course, I may have to wait a couple weeks. Still recovering from all the rich food I made at my husband's birthday party last weekend. Gracias, Hannah

Hannah S-Q

Yumola!, as my kids would say. I cannot wait to make these with my little cooking students. Just guessing that they'll be a huge hit!


can you also just make candys with this recipe?


These look delicious! I've never tried making toffee apples before as I had a feeling there must be some technical wizardry involved in making sure that the toffee stayed in the right place. How nice to have somebody else go through all the hard work of figuring out how best to do it :-)


Yum! I have to try these :)


oh yum. by the way it's super weird for me to see red apples in there I guess in my experience of caramel apples it's always been green or yellow, weird I know since I'm sure that's just my own weirdness but I did take a double take


I can't wait to try this with our CSA apples! Do you think it would hold well as a dip for cut apples,too? HS: yes! I think it'd be great.


What kind of apples are you using? Honey crisp? pink lady? I never used a "red" apple for caramel apples. Too pithy. But the two i mentioned are my favorite and not mealy at all...what a good idea! I live in Sacramento to I get the best of the bay and the snow. Hour away from both! I'm sooo lucky... HS: Hi Tai, I believe these were Rome Beauty apples.


We were just up at Apple Hill last Sunday too. For the first time we had the Apple Cider doughnuts. So, so worth the 30 minute wait. We picked about 10lbs of Granny Smiths, crisp here we come!


I love the flavor combination of caramel and apple! If I want to make a caramel dipping sauce for apple slices, would I simply heat the mixture to a lower temperature? Thanks!

Lauren Denneson

Yum. I just wrote a post about apple picking too!


the epitome of autumn!! :) love your pictures, by the way.. do you shoot outside or by a window? HS: It depends - mostly inside, using natural light, but sometimes I shoot outside too...This post is a bit out of date, but there are some food photography tips that might help :)


I found your blog through iGoogle and have been watching it for the last few months. While not a vegetarian, I love the ideas that you come up with and have been thinking about incorporating some of them as side dishes. I love this idea, and I am going to try your meringue ghosts that I found earlier this weekend. The pictures are always gorgeous. Thanks for taking the time to do this. ~Hilary


WOW! These pictures are amazing and make something so simple look so good. What a great treat this will be for the upcoming holidays - thanks!!

Tabitha (From Single to Married

Very recent reader of your blog, and first time posting. Thank you thank you thank you for this simple and timely recipe! I love caramel apples, but rarely eat them because of the nasty ingredients. This is perfect.


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