Chocolate Caramels

March 14, 2022
5 Ratings
Photo by Erin McDowell
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • makes a TON of caramels (about 100)
Author Notes

Adapted from Martha Stewart. Deliciously creamy, perfectly chewy, and intensely chocolatey, these caramels have got it goin' on. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

If you're craving a huge batch of chocolate caramels, this recipe is for you. Better than anything store-bought, you won't be able to have just one of these. You do need to have a candy thermometer or an infrared laser thermometer to make sure that the caramel is at the correct temperature, but otherwise this recipe is very straightforward and fun to make. And be sure that you buy the highest-quality chocolate possible for the best results. The other ingredients you need are cream, corn syrup, granulated sugar, salt, butter, and vanilla extract, many of which you probably have already. Since this recipe makes so many caramels, you can easily halve it if you need a small batch and use an 8x8-inch pan.

To prevent the caramel from sticking, be sure that you don't skip the step of generously spraying the parchment with cooking spray, and if it's still not slicing cleanly, just pop it in the refrigerator for a few minutes. It's also ideal to make ahead, as the caramel has to sit for at least 12 hours and up to 24. Also, be sure to calibrate your thermometer before tackling this recipe. Erin says, "Leave [the thermometer] in ice water for 15 minutes and make sure it accurately reads 32°F. If your thermometer has the ability to be adjusted manually, do so." The ratios of corn syrup to bittersweet to dark chocolate are perfected here, and you won't have to worry about a gritty texture or caramels that are too soft. —The Editors

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
  • 10 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate (30% to 40% cacao)
  • 8 ounces high-quality very dark chocolate (70% to 80% cacao)
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In This Recipe
  1. Line a 16x12-inch baking pan with a Silpat or parchment paper. Generously spray the parchment with cooking spray. Place the pan in a spot that is easily accessible, but where it won't be moved (the caramel will wrinkle if you move it before it has cooled completely).
  2. In a large pot, combine 2 cups of the cream, the sugar, corn syrup, and salt (be sure to use a large pot—cream has a tendency to boil over!). Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot (an infrared laser thermometer is pretty great, too). Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over medium heat. Wash down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped into tepid water.
  3. Cook, stirring constantly, until the thermometer registers 220°F. Continue stirring and add the chocolate and butter (you may need to adjust the temperature to keep it at a rolling boil). Once the mixture has returned to a boil, gradually add the remaining 2 cups of the cream.
  4. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, until the thermometer registers 240°F to 245°F. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan (garnish with a sprinkling of additional salt, if using) and let sit, undisturbed and uncovered, for at least 12 hours and up to 24.
  6. When the caramel has cooled completely, spray a cutting board and knife with cooking spray. Unmold the caramels onto the cutting board and peel away the Silpat or parchment paper. Cut into rectangles or squares. Wrap in wax paper or parchment paper and store in a cool, dry place.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • Kelli Heidtmann
    Kelli Heidtmann
  • JoAnna Arnold
    JoAnna Arnold
  • Dona
  • Randi
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, came out on November 10th, 2020, and my pie merch collaboration with Food52 is out now too:

31 Reviews

Mel November 5, 2022
Absolutely great! Made them yesterday and loved them! Addictive for sure! Thank you for the recipe!
How long can you refrigerate or freeze?
JCheck824 March 8, 2022
I cannot say enough good things about this recipe! Most chocolate caramel recipes either have a low amount of chocolate (and thus a weak flavor), or are gritty. These have a strong, deep chocolate flavor, and are buttery and smooth. If they don’t come out amazing for you, calibrate your thermometer. I’ve made this dozens of times and it’s always been perfect.
JCheck824 March 8, 2022
Sorry, it won’t let me edit! I always cook them to 244, and they are soft but hold their shape when cut. (As with all caramels, I recommend a bench scraper for cutting them.)
Caroline April 24, 2021
I made these yesterday, halving the recipe, and it was my first time making any kind of caramel that isn’t a sauce. They came out perfectly. Based on the comments, I cooked to 245 F and that was perfect. I was thrown off by the description of semi-sweet chocolate at 30-40% cocoa solids, which I uniformly see listed as milk chocolate. Semi-sweet is 50-65ish% and bittersweet is 70-85ish%. I hedged my bets and used 3 oz 34% (milk), 2 oz 60% (semi), and 4 oz 82% (bitter). For anyone who makes these I would recommend semi-sweet and bittersweet based on the cocoa solid percentages as noted above. The milk chocolate made the flavor more mild/less chocolatey. Other than that confusion this recipe was well written, easy to follow, and was a complete success!
JCheck824 March 8, 2022
Agreed. I use a combo of 60, 70, and 78%. I do it slightly differently than ach time, based on what I have, but I never use milk chocolate. It comes out perfectly every time, in my opinion.
brown May 2, 2020
just made this the other day, the best ever!! couldn't stop eating it while I wrapped it. Took it to work, it was gone in a flash, everyone loved it. Making it again today. couple points in the recipe to stress: usually when I made caramels, I don't stir after it comes to a boil, I did follow the constant stir instructions here. I think the chocolate would make it burn on the bottom too much otherwise as I already had a slight burned coat on the bottom. I did take it to 248 degrees, like I do on my usual caramels, that worked out fine for me. After is cooled slightly, I sprinkled generously with flaked salt and cut the next day. It's a lot of chocolate!! It tastes sooo great!!
Connie M. May 2, 2020
thanks for the tips! my 1st batch came out rock hard and then I backed off a bit and cooked till 240 at the bottom range and it was too soft. I will try 248. thank you for the tips. I have made a orange cream, earl gray, salted caramel and black licorice flavors. they are all so delicious. my friends and family can't get enough of it. I can't wait to add chocolate to my menu of caramels.
JCheck824 March 8, 2022
I go to 244, and find that perfect. They are soft but hold their shape after being cut. You can definitely go higher or lower, 244 is just my tried and true for this recipe.
Connie M. April 9, 2020
the flavor of the caramels are delicious. my last chocolate caramel attempt turned to rock, therefore, I was a little hesitant in cooking until 245 degrees. I immediately took it off the stove at 240. it was a bit soft. next time I will cook to 243-245. any others deal with this. also, I sprayed my parchment paper quite heavily and it still stuck a bit. had to refrigerate a bit before cutting. that worked like a charm. next time I think I will use only 70% chocolate for a more intense chocolate flavor. any tips on cooking temp would be welcomed. thanks so much. thank you for the recipe. :)
LeBec F. December 12, 2016
no , that is more semi sweet's range iirc.
KC December 11, 2016
Wouldn'yt bittersweet chocolate be in the 56-60% range? I sure hope someone is out there, as all the other comments are from 2 years ago. I have never see chocolate in the 30 to 40% range.
Randi December 11, 2016
I'm with you in this one, looking at a bag of Ghirardelli bittersweet chips that are 60%.
Chrissie V. December 18, 2016
I think these are high quality candy bars, not baking chocolate, that they are using in this recipe.
Sara December 18, 2017
Peter's dark coveture is in this range. This is a standard, all-purpose dark chocolate. Callebaut makes a work horse chocolate in this range as well.
amanda H. February 17, 2015
Please stop using cups!!! Or at least put grams as well, it is so much more accurate. Please thank you
JCheck824 March 8, 2022
Agreed, but would definitely vote for both.
ShopTherapy February 9, 2015
I started making caramels for holiday gifts last year after years of making peanut brittle. As this article says, the stirring is exactly opposite for these two candies - constant after peanut brittle comes to a boil, none once caramel boils. However, it takes much longer for caramel to reach 250 than for peanut brittle to reach 300 on the candy thermometer. It might be helpful for readers if you addressed the effect of different types of cream - light vs. heavy vs. whipping.
Erin J. February 15, 2015
First I would suggest testing the accuracy of your thermometer-leave it in ice water for 15 minutes and make sure it accurately reads 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If your thermometer has the ability to be adjusted manually, do so. If your thermometer reads accurately, then try cooking to 235 degrees instead. Also remember that even a hair over 240 can be a big difference-caramel "carries over" for a few minutes just like steak! Hope that's helpful.
JCheck824 March 8, 2022
This caramel recipe states to stir constantly. (I have an amazing vanilla caramel that is as you describe: no stirring required once it boils.) The chocolate will burn if not constantly stirred. Peanut brittle is awesome! Good luck, my friend.
Kelli H. February 8, 2015
can this recipe be reduced?
i am nervous about messing it up and would like to try a smaller batch
Erin J. February 15, 2015
Yes absolutely, just use an 8x8 pan.
JoAnna A. February 8, 2015
I am thinking about using glucose instead of corn syrup for this recipe. Would this work just as well if not better than the corn syrup?
Erin J. February 8, 2015
Yes!!!! Glucose is wonderful, just not as readily available! It will work beautifully!
gmd1228 February 6, 2015
Could i halve the recipe and still use the same size pan to cool the caramel in? Or will it affect the way it cools and the final texture?
Erin J. February 8, 2015
I would use a smaller pan (8x8 or 9x9) because otherwise the caramels will be very thin.
Dona February 6, 2015
What size pot do you use? I make a smaller batch of caramels in a 4 quart pan and it bubbles furiously, as it's supposed to. Will a 4 qt pan be big enough?
Erin J. February 6, 2015
I used a big soup pot so I didn't worry about it bubbling over-probably 6-7 qt-ish!
Dottie T. October 26, 2018
Erin, can foods more healthy be substituted?? Thank you

LeBec F. February 5, 2015
p.s. i should have begun by saying how psyched i am to see this recipe of yours! th you.
LeBec F. February 5, 2015
erin, plse tell us how you came out with your dark/bittersweet chocolate ratio. Did you try other combinations, with a higher % of dark chocolate? I ask because i have tried adapting another chocolate caramels recipe- and only using 70% dark chocolate ,and the mixture separated both times. IIRC it was a 52er who said i couldn't successfully use that high a %. Thx much.
Erin J. February 5, 2015
Hi LBF, yes, I tried a few combinations before landing on this one. This particular caramel recipe is very stable because of the large amount of corn syrup in it (check out my article that accompanies this recipe, posting tomorrow around noon, about why precisely that is). The syrup itself is very stable, so we can add a decent amount of chocolate. I found that this combo was best for a deep chocolate flavor, but also for it's buttery, rich texture - they are SO smooth, and they don't stick to your teeth.