Espresso Caramels Recipe

A favorite caramel recipe yielding dozens of generously espresso-flecked caramels that you can individually wrap. They have a deliciously subtle undercurrent of sea salt and are great for the holidays.

Espresso Caramels

I thought about waiting until the holiday season to share this recipe with you but decided against it for a couple reasons. First, I know many of you are completely intimidated when it comes to the realm of candy making. It's understandable - all that thermometer gazing and bubbling lava-like sugar could scare anyone. But I'm not-so-secretly hoping that at least a few of you will give these little treats a home in your holiday cookie/treat boxes this year, so I wanted to give you enough time to give the recipe a test run between now and then. Maybe some of you will find your inner candymaker. Secondly, because the flavor of these caramels is likely different than caramels you've tried in the past - they are generously espresso-flecked with a subtle undercurrent of sea salt- I'm dying to get this recipe out there and see if you all like it as much as I do. I did a version with nuts, and a version without.

A few things you should know. You need a candy thermometer. I paid $4 for my latest one -this is after Wayne and some friends destroyed my old one "experimenting" with a deep fryer. They are relatively easy to find and I picked mine up at Whole Foods Market. You need the candy thermometer because the key to this caramel recipe is achieving a good set, meaning 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 so precise and fussy, and to a certain extent it is, but really all you are 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 - 260F degrees. It actually took me two attempts to get the set I was after for this recipe - the first time I only brought the caramel up to about 246F degrees- firm ball stage, resulting in my nut-caramels turning into blob city when left for any length of time at room temperature. Never one to be deterred - hard ball was what I needed.

caramel recipe

Once the caramel is done cooking there are quite a few things you can do with it. I've written the recipe so you can make the little nut caramels you see right here, or skip the nuts and make the individually wrapped caramels you see in the lead photo - they both come from the same place. I didn't get around to it, but I couldn't help but think dunking an ice cream cone or frozen yogurt cone in this would be amazing. Or what about using the caramel as a bottom later in a chocolate tart - or the chocolate pudding pie a few of you mentioned a couple weeks back when I posted my chocolate pudding recipe. I'm sure you'll come up with some great other ways to use it.

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Espresso Caramels Recipe

Feel free to experiment with the type of nuts you use. I found that nuts that were chopped were easier to deal with when forming the shape of the caramels, big intact walnut halves contributed to caramels with strange shapes. When choosing honey, I went for a mild clover honey.

And as I mentioned in the post, feel free to forgo the nuts altogether. You can make individually wrapped caramels. If you do decide to roll-your-own caramels, do it assembly style. Make one "prototype" that you are happy with, it might take a few practice ones. Based on the prototype cut all the parchment paper wrappers first, next the caramel into the appropriate size squares, then roll and twist.

2 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon espresso powder / finely ground espresso beans
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup honey

Special equipment: candy thermometer

Place the nuts in a medium sized, glass or ceramic mixing bowl.

In a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan heat the cream, espresso powder, 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 a simmer and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 15-20 minutes minutes or until the mixture reaches 260F degrees - hard ball stage. Remove from heat.

Pour the caramel over the nuts and stir until all the nuts are well coated. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes to allow the caramel to thicken before you attempt to shape it. It is easier to handle this way - not as much spread. Stir one last time and drop by tablespoonful onto a prepared baking sheet (Silpat, parchment-lined, or oiled). Alternately, skip the nut addition and simply spread the (cooled but not set) caramel out on a slab or parchment-lined pan, let it cool completely before cutting into small pieces. Wrap & twist in parchment paper.

In either case keep the caramels in a cool place (or refrigerate) until completely set.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen nut caramels, or a couple dozen individual caramels (depending on the size).

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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Made these yesterday for my aunt’s birthday (she loves caramel, and coffee flavoured things). Except I discovered at midnight that my local store only carried half and half, not cream, so I had to fudge it a bit and can’t comment on the texture, but…
…the flavour! Oh my god! These are seriously the best caramels I have ever tasted. I don’t even like caramels, and I have a mild dislike for coffee flavoured things (except for coffee) but these are just superb. Even though I just used clover honey, I thought they did retain quite a bit of the honey flavour; I want to make another batch, maybe with half espresso powder and half cinnamon.
For anyone worried about these possibly being not sweet enough, they go really well with white chocolate (my aunt’s third favourite thing after caramel and coffee). I dropped rough stripes of it along the caramel before I cut and wrapped them, and the dark caramel and white bits look quite cheerful through the papers.


For anyone out there who’s still intimidated by candy-making, let me say this: if I can make these, you can too!
First, the minute I opened my overstuffed gadget drawer to start, a candy thermometer flew out and shattered into a million pieces on the floor. After clearing away all that hazmat (and locating my second thermometer, whew!), I got the cream, espresso (which I ground too big, I think), and sea salt onto the heat.
It was only then that I realized that I only had 1/2 c. of clover honey. I dug around an finally found some wild blueberry honey to finish the cup, just as the cream threatened to bust into full-blown boil. Oh, and I didn’t have any walnuts, so I used pecans that I toasted as I was making the caramel (I was sure they would be either soggy or too hot and ruin the candy).
After this whole comedy of errors, though, the caramels came out, and they’re DELISH! They are chewy and satisfying like the inside of a Snickers bar, only without any icky chemicals or preservatives. The pecan flavor was very pronounced, and the caramel was pleasantly chewy.
Sorry for the long post, but I had to share! These are definites for my holiday treat box….thanks for the recipe!


one ship can esily moves in mouth.
it’s so intresting.


Thanks Louise! 🙂


Wow these look fantastic! Never thought of pairing caramel with espresso. Yum!


I’m pretty much speechless. Combining caramel with espresso….genius!


Beautiful post, as always. I just wanted to say that you’re doing a great job, just keep up with the good work! I also wanted to say that I enjoyed your presentation that you had a few months ago at the Culinary Institute of America 😉


Beautiful post, as always. I just wanted to say that you’re doing a great job, just keep up with the good work! I also wanted to say that I enjoyed your presentation that you had a few months ago at the Culinary Institute of America 😉


Looks yummy – I don’t like chocolate (one of the two people on the planet who don’t) so I’m always looking for a good candy that I’ll enjoy.

Pieds Des Anges (Kyla)

Finally~a caramel recipe without corn syrup. Thank you!


Thanks for the suggestions on cookies for shipping, folks!


Susan – I clean sticky pans like this by filling them with warm water and bringing it up to the boil. All the stuck on caramel melts into the water and you can pour it down the sink (I think, I do anyway…)
Kirsten –,823,RC.html
I’ve made these a few times and they are delicious.


i like caramel flavor…its so delecious…yummy


But…. What was I supposed to do with the Espresso BEANS?
Thanks – Phil.


You can approximate the temperature at altitude by subtracting the boiling point depression at your location. So, if water boils at 202 instead of 212 degrees F, aim to get your syrup to 250 instead of 260. This won’t get you exactly the same results, so be sure to test your syrup with an ice water test, as well, but it should get you in the same ballpark.
Now that I’m cooking not at sea level, I appreciate candy recipes that (like this one) include a descriptive stage, not just a number.


I’m reading this as I eat a delectable serving of your chocolate and coconut pudding (I used a masala from Madagascar instead of curry, I would say they’re in the same family, delicious!) and I just want to congratulate you on all of these wonderful recipes. I would never have thought of making caramels with honey, thanks for the endless stream of great ideas.


I used to make caramels all the time when I was in college. Your post reminds me how easy and good they were. Now I’m ready for a ‘grown-up’ version…


You were right not to wait until the holidays- these look really incredible. Time to dig in the drawer and find the candy thermometer…

Deborah Dowd

Would these be good with almonds or pecans? I am not a walnut fan.


Like Jeremy, I have a long family tradition of making fudge for the holidays. What a great idea here! The flavor of the espresso with the walnuts sound so yummy. I have to admit I’ve wandered away from the candy thermometer, and I do the cold water test for the soft ball stage (with the fudge). I’m not so sure that would be wise to do with these caramels. Thanks for sharing this early, so I can get it right!


Hi, I too don’t make so many sweets now,mainly cause I end up eating too many of them myself. But I could do with a recipe to use some honey that I have and no one really likes, as it has a slightly smoky flavor. Anyone any ideas why that would be? These sweets would make great presents boxed up nicely too.

Heidi A-P

I have been reading your site for a long time, and finally got the nerve up to comment! These look and sound absolutely splendid.


Any idea how far in advance these can be made and still retain a pleasant texture? Could they be made very early and frozen or might that ruin them?
also, does anyone know a good crisp almond florentine recipe?


Ehrrin, when I lived in China, some friends sent me Neiman Marcus cookies they’d made, each wrapped in wax paper and packed in a tin. It probably took about two weeks for the package to arrive, and the cookies were fine. If mail to Poland only takes five days, you could probably send just about any kind of cookie; just pack it well.
Heidi, thanks for the caramel recipe. Definitely one to try!


Ehrrin – After much searching, I have finally found my husband’s favorite cookie!! He has never been happy with my attempts, until now. Search for “Award Wining Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies” They have a box of pudding mix in them, and I know from experience that they stay soft for at least 3 days, in a barely-wrapped piece of Saran. I recently cut that recipe in half, and spread the cookie dough into a bar-pan – they turned out beautifully!!! One word of advice – don’t let them over cook! They hardly brown. As soon as the tops crack, they’re done! My favorite is to use chocolate pudding and dark chocolate chips… yum!
As for those caramels, I can’t wait to try them! I too have a friend who doesn’t like coffee, and she’s also allergic to corn. These made with honey, and substituting cocoa for the espresso will be an awesome Christmas present!


My question is this: How difficult is it to clean the saucepan? Thanks!


Looks tasty! I’ve never tried candymaking myself, but you do tempt me…


Oops! That should be “au beurre salé”…no extra “e”


Mmm, I love caramels…especially ones with a little bit of salt in it! (i.e. Breton caramels, as Mrs. Redboots mentioned — les caramels au beurre salée).
I can’t wait to make these! I’m especially excited that they’re made with HONEY!


Just wanted to say thanks for the replies to my question. The honey does seem to have a sort of waxy mouth feel to it, so I’m guessing that the odd texture might be both some crystallization and leftover wax – I think it could be great on waffles (the apples that I was eating it with before just didn’t jive well, but I bet a sturdy and warm waffle would). Anyway, thanks!!


Wow! These sound fantastic! I’ve always been a little afraid of candy-making, but I do want to make some gifts this year, and these sound really nice and special. Thanks!
On an unrelated topic, I have a friend that recently moved to Poland (from the US), and she requested some cookies in the care package I’m making her. She said that so far it’s taken packages about five days to arrive from here. So, I’m trying to think what kind of cookie would be good to send that wouldn’t break, dry out, mold, or otherwise be ruined by the time she got them. Anyone have ideas?


Wow! These sound fantastic! I’ve always been a little afraid of candy-making, but I do want to make some gifts this year, and these sound really nice and special. Thanks!
On an unrelated topic, I have a friend that recently moved to Poland (from the US), and she requested some cookies in the care package I’m making her. She said that so far it’s taken packages about five days to arrive from here. So, I’m trying to think what kind of cookie would be good to send that wouldn’t break, dry out, mold, or otherwise be ruined by the time she got them. Anyone have ideas?


Hello Heidi,
These caramels are just perfect! My sister is allergic to chocolate (depressing, really), and doesn’t like candy all that much, so it is always difficult to satisfy her sweet tooth, but she’s crazy about coffee so, I’ll be sure to make a batch for her!
Thanks for the wonderful idea!


Oh, you’ve gone and done it now! I love making candy and these look like particularly good. As soon as we have a low humidity day here in NJ I’m going to give them a try.


You are so right about the necessity of using a candy thermometer. The first time I made caramel years ago, I didn’t use one…and let’s just say I learned that my fire detector was working properly. Truly delicious recipe that would make a lovely holiday treat. Thanks!

Susan from Food Blogga

Oh, these do look fabulous! Are these pretty soft and chewy, or somewhat hard? Is the cooked and cooled pot of caramel fairly easy to work with and shape?


Rachael, as Deb said, I have found some “unheated” honey’s to be also be “unfiltered” meaning that it may have some comb remnants so it may be waxy as well as crystallized. That said I think it would work fine in the recipe – I also love to add that type of honey to herbal teas (mint/chamomile is my favorite right now).
Heidi, I love making caramels – it was a Christmas tradition in my family to make wrapped caramels, fudge, and turtles every Christmas instead of cookies. I’ll give these honey/espresso ones a try this year.


I used to make candy when I lived in California. Now that I’m in Colorado (6,000 feet up), my candy never works. I’ve tried heating it to lower temps, higher temps, slower, faster, etc. Any thoughts?


Rachael: I have some solid honey too– mine’s in a canister that I got from a friend whose father keeps bees. You can warm it up to thin it out, as Heidi suggested– and use in tea, baking, cooking, etc. Or, you can use it as a spreadable / solid condiment on toast, pancakes, waffles, etc, which I happen to find delicious and a nice alternative to jams and syrups. The graininess is just the crystallization, though sometimes spreadable / solid honey can be a little waxy from the comb– it shouldn’t be, but it can be.
On a separate note, these caramels sound fantastic. I typically make peppermint bark for friends and family for the holidays, and this might be a really nice addition. Thanks, Heidi!!


Oh yes, your inkling that now is the time to start trying out holiday recipes is so right on. This year, like most years, I offset looming holiday dread with grand plans for making handmade gifts… it looks like this year it might actually happen! I appreciate you posting this recipe now… I’d love to give some of these away as gifts.


Using this as the base in a chocolate tart sounds absolutely amazing.
And, I wouldn’t say I keep my candy thermometer hidden, just in a special, somewhat out of the way, “what do you mean you can’f find it, dear?” place.


Mmmmm……sounds fabulous! I love coffee!
But I can’t have dairy. Would I be able to use Silk Creamer instead of heavy cream?


Oh, I’m not afraid of candy making, and I definitely want to make these soon!


Hi Katie,
Finely ground beans. -h


This may be a silly question, but is espresso powder just very finely ground espresso beans, or is it more akin to instant coffee?


For those of you who are curious about how sweet these are – plenty sweet. Quite sweet. And they don’t taste “honey-sweetened” – I was worried about that when i opted to go with honey vs. refined sugars, but that didn’t end up being one of the variables I needed to play with.
Leah, I’m really not sure about substituting agave nectar, it’s a great question. I’d have to look into what happens to agave when you bring it up to temperature like that – whether or not it behaves in a similar fashion. If it actually worked, it might be a great alternative.
Rachael, it sounds like your honey has simply crystallized – some honeys have more of a tendency to do that than others, It’ll smooth out over heat. -h


If I don’t dig espresso, would it work to sub in something else powdery and delectable? Cinnamon (and a pinch of ancho chili powder)? Cocoa?


These look fantastic, I’m thinking they will be perfect for a halloween party. Epicurious has a Salted Chocolate caramel that is also to die for, not sure if you could substitute honey for the sugar in that recipe, but could be nice.


Mmm, these look so interesting!! I also would have thought more sugar but I am sure these will be delicious.
Two days ago a friend gave me a gift of organic honey, titled “unheated”, that is solid at room temperature and has a grainy texture and a slightly bitter aftertaste. Although I don’t enjoy this honey as-is, there must be a good use for it and I’m wondering if it could work in this recipe or whether the caramels would be grainy too. Has anyone ever come across this kind of honey?


Thanks. I have another caramel recipe I’ve wanted to try out too. I’m going to give this a try next week. I’ll let you know how it goes. Time for me to get a new candy thermometer. Mine met a similar fate as yours. Men just don’t know what they are doing.


Hey Heidi , these come just in time , as i’ve been thinking what little sweets to make for Ramadan. Thanks.


We treated ourself to a Breton caramel with sea salt during a recent summer holiday trip – quite delicious! And now I have the recipe….

Mrs Redboots

Interesting recipe Heidi – I’d have guessed at a much higher ratio of sweet stuff to cream in caramels but I haven’t made any since I was about twelve!
I love the sea salt addition – a little touch tastes great in sweet stuff.


These look great. Would they set to the same consistency with agave nectar instead of honey?


Your caramels look delicious! And nice to see a recipe without sugar and/or corn syrup…


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