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Easy Caramel Recipe in the Microwave

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Homemade caramel doesn’t need to be hard! I’ll teach you how to make caramel in the microwave with this super easy microwave caramel recipe. This is seriously the easiest caramel recipe ever – and still super delicious!

The Problem with Caramel 

Caramel is one of my favorite treats, ever. I adore caramel, but I don’t adore standing over a pot stirring it while I wait for it to reach a certain temperature.

Seriously, I could eat it on its own every day and not get sick of it. And I do my best to fit it into as many recipes as I can.

As much as I love eating caramel, however, I just don’t have the patience to stand over a stove with a candy thermometer, you know?

Which is why I didn’t make caramel for many years.

A pinterest pin that shows homemade microwave caramels wrapped in waxed paper on a wooden table. The text says Homemade Caramels Stay Soft and Easy to Make.

Introducing….Microwave Caramel 

Lucky for you, I broke my streak and found a super easy way to make caramels in microwave.

It all started with an easy caramels recipe I ripped out of the Sunday newspaper more than a decade ago. Seriously! I held onto that original recipe all these years. Even though I never once made it, I kept it – because you never throw away a recipe that combines ingredients like brown sugar, corn syrup, and condensed milk, right? 

And making caramel without heavy cream or a candy thermometer? I consider that a win!

Finally, I gave this easy recipe a shot. And then I tweaked it over and over again. And I finally came up with a microwave caramels recipe that’s perfect!

These microwave caramels are super easy to make. I used to think making caramel with no candy thermometer was impossible, but I was so wrong!

These easy microwave caramels are perfectly chewy with almost no prep time….I’m talking 15 minutes total time required for cooking. That means anyone can make caramel – even kids!

Best of all? They’re versatile. My microwave caramels are a perfect balance between a soft caramel mixture that’s easy enough to mold and the firmer caramel you need to make dipped and coated caramels.

Small squares of homemade microwave caramels on a white marble countertop.

What to Do With Your Easy to Make Caramel

Once you’ve figured out how to make caramel in the microwave, you’ll then have to come up with creative ways to use, eat, and gift the caramels! No problem guys – I was born for this challenge!

If you want to stick with plain caramel, you can of course enjoy them on their own or wrap them in waxed paper as a gift. I like to cut them into little squares or long caramel sticks, and wrap them in candy wrappers. They’re super cute as a gift, but also for a baby shower, wedding shower, or birthday party favor.

One super creative idea is using shaped cookie cutters to create caramel shapes! I love the Meri Meri cookie cutters for this – a caramel alphabet would be the cutest!

I also highly recommend using these to get creative and fancy!

Coat them in chocolate and sea salt, or chocolate and chopped pecans, or any other coating combo you can think of!

Chocolate covered caramels with sea salt on a white marble countertop. One of the caramels has a bite taken out of it.

 

Keep them for your family or pack them up in a treat box as a teacher gift, as a gift for a new mom in hospital, or for a neighbor or friend!

Finally, they’re great to use in other recipes – anything calling for caramel, really!

In case you need some inspiration, I can recommend my mini chocolate caramel tartscaramel popcornchocolate salted caramel cupcakeschocolate sea salt caramelscaramel marshmallows…are you sensing a trend here?

So, so, good.

How to Make Microwave Caramel: My Best Tips & Recipe Notes

My microwave caramels recipe has just 4 ingredients (butter, light brown sugar, light corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk) and requires about 15 minutes in the microwave, spread over 3 cooking sessions. 

Even though it’s super easy, I do have a few tips to ensure it goes smoothly. 

First of all, make sure you use a large microwave safe bowl. When cooking, the caramel will bubble up to the top of the bowl, and if your bowl is too small, you’ll have a sticky mess to clean up. I use my largest mixing bowl that I can fit in the microwave.

Also note that cook times will vary slightly based on your microwave. Be prepared to experiment a bit. My microwave is actually pretty old, and the cooking times are based on that. However, newer microwaves are more efficient and may need a bit less cooking time. 

If you want a softer caramel, decrease your cooking time a bit. If you want a harder caramel, increase the cook time only slightly. 

I like to use salted butter, which gives you a lightly salted caramel. However, unsalted butter would work just as well, with a slightly different flavor profile. Either way, you need to use real butter for these delicious caramels – margarine won’t work.

When setting the caramel, be sure to use a buttered dish so they don’t stick to the sides and the bottom.

You’ll also want to use a buttered knife (or cookie cutter, or pizza cutter) for cutting. 

A process photo showing melted microwave caramel being poured into a buttered baking dish. The photo is part of a recipe about how to make caramel in the microwave.

Get creative with your toppings: fun sprinkles, chopped pecans and chocolate, sprinkles, chocolate salted caramel with Himalayan sea salt! The sky is the limit!

I like to lay the caramels out on parchment paper when decorating or working with them, as it helps to prevent sticking. 

Finally, store them in an airtight container to keep them fresh – if they even last that long!

A process photo showing homemade microwave caramel setting in a glass Pyrex dish on a wooden counter

Microwave Caramels Inspiration

Once your caramel has set, the sky is the limit. If you want to cut them up into little caramel squares or sticks, use a butter greased knife. You could also use a greased cookie cutter to make some creative caramel shapes. 

And while eating it plain is still a delicious treat…

You can also take those little caramel squares and dip them in melted chocolate with a sprinkle of sea salt for gourmet salted caramel. 

Or you could wrap them in waxed paper or parchment paper to give away as gifts.

Homemade microwave caramels wrapped in wax paper on a wooden counter

You could also make some marshmallows wrapped in caramel and then dipped in chocolate.

Caramel covered marshmallow pops sitting on parchment paper on a wooden counter top.

Finally, you can use them to make chocolate caramel cupcakes!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Easy Salted Caramel Centers sitting on a white plate against a blue background

What?! I know… it’s crazy! One recipe gives you all of these goodies! Just this one recipe for caramel made enough for 2 dozen cupcakes, 1 dozen caramels wrapped in wax paper, 1 dozen marshmallow pops and 2 dozen chocolate sea salt caramels!

From one batch!!

A pinterest pin with the text 1 Easy Caramel Recipe 4 Different Treats. The photo shows chocolate salted caramels, a caramel center mini cupcake, caramels wrapped in waxed paper, and chocolate covered caramel marshmallow pops.
Yield: 48

15 Minute Microwave Caramel

15 Minute Microwave Caramel

Homemade caramel doesn't need to be hard! This super easy caramel in the microwave recipe is great to enjoy on its own, or as a homemade alternative for recipes that call for store bought caramel. This is seriously the easiest caramel recipe ever - and still super delicious!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter (not margarine)
  • 2.5 cups packed (light brown sugar)
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 x 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Instructions

    1. In a large, microwave safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave
    2. Add all of the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Mix well and microwave for 5 minutes
    3. While it is in the microwave, grease a 13×9 pan with butter.
    4. Remove from microwave and whisk, scraping the sides of the bowl and re-mixing all ingredients together.
    5. Return to microwave for another 5 minutes and then whisk again. Again, scrape the sides of the bowl to re-mix all ingredients.
    6. Return for a final 5 minutes (15 minutes total cook time). Whisk it well and then pour into greased pan.
    7. Store in refrigerator until set (about 1-2 hours), before cutting into the shape you want. If you use a knife or cookie cutter, be sure to grease with butter.
    8. Store in refrigerator.

Notes

  • Depending on your microwave, you may get slightly different results, so be prepared to experiment a bit. If the caramel comes out too hard, you may have cooked it a bit too long. My microwave is actually pretty old, and the cooking times are based on that. However, newer microwaves are more efficient and may need a bit less cooking time. 
  • Grease the pan and knife with butter so the caramel doesn't stick to it.
  • Make sure you use a large enough bowl, otherwise the caramel might bubble over in the microwave. I use my largest mixing bowl that I can fit in the microwave.
  • Get creative with your toppings: chopped pecans and chocolate, sprinkles, sea salt! The sky is the limit!
  • If you want a really soft caramel, decrease your cooking time a bit. If you want a harder caramel, increase the cook time only slightly.
  • Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    48

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 90Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 49mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 1g

    Nutritional information was calculated using a third party plugin. I can't be sure it's accurate, but I hope it gives a good estimate for you.

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