Salted Pumpkin Caramels

October 11, 2010
18 Ratings
  • Makes 64, 1-inch caramels
Author Notes

I recently made the fetching brown butter pumpkin layer cake featured on the cover of the latest issue of Fine Cooking. That batter just cried out to be sampled. It tasted as I imagined pumpkin caramels would. Seeing as serving raw cake batter is frowned upon these days, I had to come up with a safer alternative to this wonderful taste profile. - cheese1227 —cheese1227

Test Kitchen Notes

Cheese1227's caramels really evoke the essence of fall, and her approach is elegant not heavy-handed. The earthiness of pumpkin, softened with cream, permeates each chewy bite, followed by a whisper of spice, and the delicate crunch of fleur de sel is a clever detail, offsetting the sweetness of the candy. The toasted pepitas are addictive even on their own (make sure to save some for the bottom of the baking dish!); they give each of the finished caramels a beautifully lacquered, dusty green cap. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2/3 cup unsalted pepitas
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup good maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in chunks
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
  1. Dry toast the pepitas in a skillet until they start to pop.
  2. Line the bottom and the sides of an 8-in square glass pan with parchment. Butter the parchment on the sides of the pan. Evenly spread out the toasted pepitos on the bottom of the pan, on top of the parchment.
  3. In a saucepan, combine heavy cream, pumpkin puree and spices. Get this mixture quite warm, but not boiling. Set aside.
  4. In a second heavy bottomed pan, with sides at least 4 inches high, combine the sugar, both syrups and water. Stir until the sugars are melted, Then let it boil until it reaches 244 degrees (the soft ball point on a candy thermometer). Then very carefully add the cream and pumpkin mixture, and slowly bring this mixture to 240 degrees as registered on a on a candy thermometer. This can take awhile -- like 30 minutes -- but don't leave the kitchen, watch it carefully and stir it more frequently once it hits 230 degrees to keep it from burning at the bottom of the pan.
  5. As soon as it reaches the 240, pull it off the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice. Stir vigorously so that butter is fully incorporated.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Let cool 30 minutes and sprinkle the salt over the top. Let the caramels fully set (at least 2 hours) before using a hot knife to cut them into 1-inch squares and wrapping them individually in waxed paper.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • cheese1227
  • abbyarnold
  • Chef Devaux
    Chef Devaux
  • Krystal Kerlee
    Krystal Kerlee
  • Petite fee
    Petite fee
I am an excellent eater (I have been all my life). I’m a pretty good cook (Ask my kids!). And my passable writing improves with alcohol (whether it's the writer or the reader that needs to drink varies by sentence.). I just published my first cookbook, Green Plate Special, which focuses on delicious recipes that help every day cooks eat more sustainably.

403 Reviews

Lisle October 27, 2022
Well, with a few bumps along the way, I finished making these today, after undercooking them yesterday. Conflict between 2 thermometers. Reheated to the proper temp. I must say they are INCREDIBLY delicious!! I can't wait to share them with friends and family!!! Thanks for a great recipe!!!
Tobit November 21, 2019
I made this delicious recipe when it first came out several years ago, and a few times since. Everyone I’ve given these to goes bonkers - and keeps asking for more.
So here’s my question: can I double (or even triple) the recipe so I can make lots to give away (and keep lots for myself)? I’m not an experienced candy maker, so I don’t know if there are things I should be watching out for when doubling caramel recipes.
Any advice would be appreciated!
lighthouse6 November 23, 2019
I always double this fantastic recipe for the very same reasons. I have not had any issues.
Tobit November 23, 2019
Thank you!
Pam October 19, 2018
I am looking forward to making these again this Halloween. They are divinely delicious. It’s a perfect adult caramel and a five star recipe.
EmilyMarieC October 30, 2017
I made these over the weekend and they turned out quite well. I used puree from a pumpkin I roasted (after draining the puree for a few hours) and I will say I couldn't really taste the pumpkin, although the overall flavor was nice. I wouldn't skimp on the salt -- since there's no salt added into the caramel itself, I found they really needed a decent amount to make the flavor not be one-dimensional. I brought the caramel to 242 and it set up into a perfect texture, firm enough not to ooze but still soft and chewy.
MJ R. October 22, 2017
I've not done much candy-making, but couldn't resist trying these! They looked and tasted great (beginner's luck!) but within a few days they lost their caramel consistency and became chalky candies. Where in the process did I go wrong?
tia October 29, 2018
I'm late answering, but maybe you still want to know. You probably didn't do anything wrong; the sugar just recrystallized. It's hard to avoid. Personally, I avoid it by eating them sooner. :D
mochai October 22, 2017
I was so scared of making the caramels too hard that I pulled it off the heat too soon (at 243F, for me). If it was just for the family I would have left it as is ("peanut butter that doesn't hold it's shape" consistency), but I wanted to bring it to work, so it had to become finger food. So a couple of days later, I put it in the pot again. I used the portable induction plate I used for camping, figuring that if I can control the temp, it will be a breeze. I started at 210F and the mix immediately started burning. I was super lucky and I poured it out without scraping the pot, so I only got a little of "burn" to make it more interesting and not ruining it.
I figured it was ruined anyway, so I couldn't really ruin it more, so I might as well try converting it into a caramel-pumpkin pie: made butter tart shells in muffin pans (inspired by Chef Michael Smith's butter tarts recipe, to which I added ground pepitas). For the filling, I added about 1 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree and about 1/2 cup of cream and 4 eggs (when the mix was cooled, of course). It made 24 tartelettes and 1 pie. I baked the tartelettes at 375F for about 20 minutes and the pie took a good 35-40 minutes. It made for really good pies! They were more pumpkin-ey than caramel-ey, though. *sad face* But still, they were the perfect amount of sweet for me (even could have been sweeter, in my hubs opinion)! My coworkers were gaga for the tartelettes! Thanks!
Yvette D. November 14, 2016
Can these be made ahead or can you freeze them and still maintain the quality?
cheese1227 November 14, 2016
Honestly, I've never frozen these. I've made them a week ahead.
Yvette D. November 14, 2016
Thanks for the response, I want to get a jump on Christmas baking/making, so am looking for a longer storage feedback.
cheese1227 October 14, 2016
Yes, you need an invert sugar in the mix. Honey works, but has a softer set so you might want to push the second boil up a few degrees. I've also had good luck with Lyle's Golden Syrup, a British product that I am seeing in more specialty stores in the US lately.
radhaks October 16, 2016
thanks for the quick response!
abbyarnold October 14, 2016
I made it with honey, and it was delicious. You need to have something runny that keeps the crystals from turning white. I can't remember the technical names for either the crystals or the runny substance, but honey works. Cane syrup or maple syrup might also work, but I haven't tried them as the full replacement for the corn syrup. I did learn about the purpose of the corn syrup from a Craftsy class, which is where I got the honey-based recipe.
radhaks October 14, 2016
Hi, want to try making a batch of these this Thxgiving...what, if anything, can be used to replace the corn syrup in the recipe?
Chef D. December 17, 2015
yes please!
Spork December 9, 2015
made it this weekend with some home made pumpkin puree which was probably ore watery than canned, but it still set up pretty well. used a 9 inch pan (didn't have a free 8 inch) so increased the pumpkin seeds enough to cover the bottom of the pan, couldn't find my flaky salt so used kosher and despite all of that the caramels had to be cut and wrapped to prevent them being eaten before i could send them out! thank you for sharing this recipe.
cheese1227 December 17, 2015
You are very welcome!
H. November 25, 2015
AMAZING!!!!!! Definitely took a long time to reach temp and I followed prior comments and used the "water test." Perfect results! Will absolutely be making these again!
cheese1227 December 17, 2015
So pleased they worked for you.
tagamira November 19, 2015
My caramel did not set so now I am left with a handful of very flavorful and tasty caramel sauce. Does anyone have ideas/suggestions for a recipe that could incorporate the caramel sauce? I still want to be able to use it for the potluck at work. Any help is appreciated!
cheese1227 November 19, 2015
Sorry they did not set for you. How about something like this: https://food52.com/recipes/6932-millionnaire-s-shortbread or https://food52.com/recipes/30331-homemade-alfajores
Bronx K. November 19, 2015
I made them today as well. They turned out too soft, so I threw the whole mess back in the pot and boiled to 245 degrees and they seem to have firmed up just enough. Someone online suggested that you could reboil caramels, and it totally worked. But of course, now the pepitas are all mixed in. (I added another layer on the bottom the second time too though.)
tagamira November 20, 2015
UPD: I ended up making an apple upside-down cake and covering it with a very generous layer of the caramel and sprinkling some toasted pepitas on top. I also read about re-melting the caramel and trying to follow the recipe from there, but my initial fiasco was a result of a faulty thermometer. So, I will definitely repeat this recipe once I have a more reliable candy thermometer next time. But, once more, the caramel itself is so sooo tasty!
Krystal K. November 12, 2015
How long will these keep? I am making them ahead of time for Christmas.
cheese1227 November 12, 2015
I have only ever kept them for about 1 1/2-2 weeks for fear they might crystallize.
Nancy October 10, 2015
This is a FANTASTIC recipe. My caramels came out perfect. I followed instructions accordingly and voila!
cheese1227 October 10, 2015
Excellent!! Can I ask what part of the country you live? And what the weather was like when you made them?
Nancy October 13, 2015
I live in Southern California and prepared these in warm weather, slightly humid.
abbyarnold December 22, 2014
How about almond milk or soy milk? Also vegan, if you don't want the coconut flavor.
Detrishious December 22, 2014
Yes I'd thought about almond and soy, I guess my biggest worry is the fat content, what to replace the butter with. :)
I'm actually trying them at this moment with soy milk and earth balance :)
Alli W. October 29, 2015
Im just about to make this for a crowd and a couple people are for sure milk leary :( and id ilke everyone to enjoy!
so im curious as how your vegan caramels turned out?
Detrishious October 30, 2015
I used Earth Balance and coconut cream. They turned out quite good.
The non vegan ones were better but it was my first time making vegan ones.
Petite F. December 22, 2014
I could be wrong but isn't coconut milk vegan? it does not come from an animal.
Detrishious December 22, 2014
Coconut milk is vegan...she's allergic to coconut...
Detrishious December 21, 2014
Any thoughts on how to make these vegan without coconut milk?
I have a friend who is vegan and she has mentioned several times how she wishes they were vegan so she could indulge :)
aniabot December 20, 2014
i just made these & they are boss! as for my pumpkin pie spice, i mixed cinnamon, clove, mace, and cardamom. also threw in a bit of vanilla bean while the creamy mixture was cooking. when it came time to pour it into the pan, the pepitas wooshed a bit into the caramel (instead of staying in a layer at the bottom), but whatever! drool.