Salty Balsamic Caramels

March 26, 2019
4 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 54 caramels
Author Notes

These caramels are the perfect combination of salty, sweet, and acidic. The balsamic vinegar adds a pleasant tang that cuts the rich caramel and rounds the whole thing out. You won’t necessarily know it’s there, but you’ll know that something interesting is going on.

This recipe utilizes a two-step caramel process. First, you cook the sugar until it’s completely caramelized, then you add your wet ingredients and cook it one more time. This process allows you to take the sugar right up to the point of burning without actually burning it, then cooking it again to reach the desired texture. The temperatures in the recipe may be a bit higher than you’re used to, but don’t fret.

Make sure you have a candy thermometer handy before you begin, as it’s imperative that the sugar is cooked to the right temperature. Just five degrees can be the difference between caramel that’s runny, and caramel that’s perfectly taffy-like. Go slow, don’t rush the cooking process, and follow each step precisely. —Jesse Szewczyk

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Flaky sea salt, to garnish
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  1. Line an 8x8-inch square baking tin with parchment paper (allowing some of the parchment paper to hang over the sides) and generously coat with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine cream, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and kosher salt in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Add sugar and 3/4 cup water to a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan fit with a candy thermometer. Do not stir. Cook over medium heat until the mixture develops a dark amber color and the thermometer reads 370°F. If sugar starts to build up on the sides of the pot, use a wet pastry brush to dissolve the crystals. Do not stir during cooking. This process will take about 15 minutes, and you may need to brush the sides of the pot up to 10 times to remove sugar buildup.
  4. Remove pan from the heat and slowly and carefully add the balsamic vinegar while stirring with a spoon or heat-resistant spatula. The mixture will violently bubble and temporarily seize up. Stir for an additional 30 seconds until the sugar remelts.
  5. Add the cream mixture to the pot and stir for another 30 seconds until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium heat without stirring until a candy thermometer reaches 260°F. This can take up to 20 minutes. The sides of the pot will begin to darken, but there is no need to use a wet pastry brush to remove buildup at this point.
  6. Pour mixture into prepared baking tin and let set at room temperature overnight. Once firm, remove the caramels from the pan by lifting the parchment paper. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and cut into a 9x6 grid resulting in 54 rectangular pieces using a chef’s knife coated with nonstick cooking spray. (If the caramel is too sticky, pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes and try again.)
  7. Wrap each piece in a square of parchment paper slightly bigger than the caramel. Store at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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  • Robin Dowell
    Robin Dowell
  • Deb Thompson
    Deb Thompson
  • Samantha Jones
    Samantha Jones

8 Reviews

Sunnyporch9189 December 9, 2022
I believe there is a mistake in this recipe. The first stage of cooking at 370* is way too high. Not sure what it should be but my batch is burned.
Franca January 8, 2021
Hi Ginny, I believe you would have better luck in getting an answer if you posted your question in the questions section. Good luck!
Robin D. December 20, 2020
The recipe needs some tweeks. Sugar will cook more stable with the corn syrup -- so don't add it to the cream, add it to the sugar at the very beginning. Sugars start to burn at 360, so the first temp should be below that (370 is crazy). The closer you get to 360 the darker the resulting caramels, but also less sweet. The second temp determines how hard the final caramels are -- I like a softer caramel so only went to 245. As a warning, the fumes when you add the vinegar are pretty strong. But absolutely love the results -- have an exotic flavor that nobody thinks is balsamic.
Deb T. September 27, 2020
A question: If I want to make the caramels without the vinegar, do I follow the recipe except to leave it out or will a different liquid go in its place?
Ginny S. August 4, 2019
I'm wondering if there isn't a typo in the instructions. It says to caramelize the sugar up to 370°. That seems excessively high and would likely burn it. Is it possible it should have read 270°?
Samantha J. August 22, 2020
I think you're right about the typo, I have it a go and it burnt before it got to 370f
Ginny S. December 20, 2020
Wouldn't it be helpful if the recipe author came back to read the reviews and answer questions. I stand by my original comment that 370 degrees can't possibly be right. It would be carbonized by then. Also, why not add the corn syrup to the sugar since it's purpose is to help keep the sugar from crystallizing. I'd like to give this recipe a try, but not willing to waste my time with a recipe that clearly needs editing...
Jacqui March 27, 2019
Trying this on the weekend! Sounds interesting.