Oct 18

Homemade Caramel Sauce in Your Slow Cooker

Caramel Recipe

You are simply not going to believe how simple this caramel sauce recipe is! Granted it's not as simple as opening a bottle of store bought caramel sauce, but I took a look at the ingredients on one of those bottles recently and found no less than 20 ingredients, including more high fructose corn syrup and sugar than milk and a myriad of dyes and preservatives. Blech!

In contrast, this homemade caramel sauce requires only sweetened condensed milk! I was happy to see that the brand that I chose lists only milk and sugar as the ingredients, so that's a far cry from the store bought version.

Homemade Caramel Sauce Recipe

But the very best part about this caramel recipe is that it doesn't require you to stand over the stove for long periods of time stirring and watching or repeatedly microwaving until your desired level of caramelization occurs. I make it right in my slow cooker which allows it to cook at a low temperature for a long period of time, so there's virtually no chance of burning it.

While we're on the topic of slow cookers, have you seen these adorable patterned Crock-Pot Slow Cookers at Walmart? They caught my eye when I was picking up another box of jelly jars for this recipe. As much as I love my basic stainless steel slow cooker, I've been seriously considering picking one of these cuties up to brighten up my kitchen.

Homemade Caramel Recipe

Some of you may have made homemade caramel sauce in the past using a similar method where you boiled an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk on the stovetop. Please don't do this again! Not only is it very difficult to tell when the caramel is finished cooking, but it's also extremely dangerous because the cans can explode. Not to mention there are surely numerous chemicals leaching from the can into your cooked caramel...

Instead, transfer the sweetened condensed milk into a clean jelly jar, place a lid on it and tighten the band down well. I filled my jars up to the 6-oz. line to allow for expansion during cooking. As these jars are made to withstand the home canning process, they're much safer, and they allow you to visually check the caramel for doneness.

Place the jars in your slow cooker and then fill the slow cooker up with water to about one inch about the top of the lids. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 7.5-8 hours, making sure not to let the water drop below the lid level. I didn't need to add water at any point, but I'd still recommend checking for safety's sake.

After the caramel sauce has cooked for about 7 hours, you'll want to check it periodically to see if its reached your desired doneness. You should be able to do this just by looking through the lid so that you don't let the heat escape. When it's done, remove the jars from the water and allow them to cool for about 20 minutes.

Note that you may hear the lids sealing themselves as the caramel cools, but they are not sufficiently processed for long term shelf storage.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

You may notice that the caramel seems a little chunky at this point. No worries -- it's absolutely delicious and I have no problem scarfing it down with some of the beautiful seasonal apples available right now. But if you want a silky smooth homemade caramel sauce, simply whisk it briskly until any lumps are gone.

Caramel Sauce Recipe

Store leftover caramel in the refrigerator -- that is if there is any! Bring it to room temperature before serving or heat until warm, about 30 seconds at a time in the microwave, whisking between each heating.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Yield: 5 (6-oz.) jars

Homemade Caramel Sauce


  • 3 (14-oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 (8-oz.) jelly jars
  • water


  1. Fill each jelly jar up to the 6-oz. line with the sweetened condensed milk. Three cans of sweetened condensed milk should fill about 5 jars. Place a lid on each jar and tighten the band down well.
  2. Place the jars inside the slow cooker and pour water in to about 1" above the top of the jars.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 7.5-8 hours, checking occasionally to see if more water needs to be added. Do not let the water drop below the lid level.
  4. Carefully remove the jars from the slow cooker and enjoy! The caramel may be a tad chunky and is perfectly delicious as is, but if you prefer a creamier caramel, simple whisk it until it's silky smooth.
  5. Store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature or heat until warm before serving.


What would you use this yummy and easy caramel sauce recipe on? Stay tuned for one of my faves!

Walmart Moms Disclosure

by Tara | 45 comments

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy October 19, 2013 at 9:39 am

I’m excited to try this! Can you tell me how I can prepare them, after cooking, so they will be able to go on the shelf? After they come out of the slow cooker, can I boil them for a few minutes to bring the temp up high enough for “canning”?


Tara October 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I’ll be honest, Cathy, I don’t have enough experience with canning to tell you how to make the recipe shelf stable. I’d hate for anyone to get sick. But since it has a great deal of sugar in it (which is a natural preservative), it should keep for a good long time in the refrigerator!


Cathy October 19, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Thanks! Didn’t think about the sugar being the natural preservative. Don’t have that much room in our fridge but would be an EXCELLENT thing to give away or take to cookout with extra jar for hosting family (if I could get it from the clutches of my own family!). Thank you SO MUCH again. I surely do appreciate you and your blog!!


Becky Thomas January 2, 2014 at 7:52 pm

I did something wrong as well. It darkened, so I took it out, but didn’t try it until later. It wasn’t creamy. I’m afraid I scorched it. It still tasted like sweetened condensed milk, but not like caramel. Ideas?


Mom October 19, 2013 at 2:02 pm

When you told me yesterday that you were making caramel sauce, I had no idea how simple of a recipe this would be. I can’t wait to try this! I have to go to the store today, so I will be picking up some jars. You better stop making such good recipes, you know I am on a diet and I certainly don’t need caramel sauce but I will just tell myself I need to test your recipe! Love, Mom


Rick October 19, 2013 at 7:42 pm

While I was reading this recipe I had Ming Tsai’s show on PBS and Duff Goldman was his guest. Duff was making fudge and he made caramel “in the can” to use in it. Had to laugh.
I think I’ll stick to your method, though.


Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving October 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm

This looks absolutely delicious! I’ve never analyzed the safety of making caramel in a can, so thanks for suggesting an easy way to make caramel in a jar! :-)
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Lisa October 20, 2013 at 10:29 pm

This did not work for me, I don’t know what I did wrong! I left it in the crock pot for almost 9 hours, even turned it up to high on the last hour, there was no color change yet. It was late so I turned it off to go to sleep. First thing in the morning the water was still very warm, and it still looked like the milk from the jar, so I turned the crock pot back on for several more hours. I finally took it out and it is just slightly darker than the original milk, nothing like the picture. I want to try it again, but do you have any tips as to what happened? I don’t know if my crock pot is too old or what! Thanks!


Tara October 20, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Did you have the lid on it, Lisa? It won’t get hot enough without it.


Lisa October 22, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Yes, I never opened it!


Tara October 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Hmm, it sounds like it just never got hot enough for some reason. Did the water come to a simmer at all? It took quite awhile, but the water should come to a very low boil by the end of the cooking timeframe.


Lisa October 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I think I’ll try it on high since my crock pot is 13 years old, thanks!


Tara October 22, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I’ve often heard people say that the new slow cookers cook differently than older models. I would just check it more frequently because it may cook faster than the times I shared. I’d love to hear your results so that other readers with older crock-pot models can learn.


DEB October 22, 2013 at 8:56 pm

This look great, how long will it keep on the shelf, or in the refrigerator,


Tara October 22, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I wouldn’t keep it on the shelf, Deb, but it should keep for at least two months in the refrigerator, if not longer. It’s never lasted that long around here, though!


Kecia October 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Can you use the caramel sauce to make caramel apples? My daughter is sensitive to food coloring so always looking for alternatives to store bought without all the coloring and preservatives in it. Thanks for posting!!


Tara October 23, 2013 at 9:13 am

It might be a good consistency when it’s cold from the refrigerator, but I’m not sure it would stick well as it warms up. It’s great for dipping, though!


Nancy October 22, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Are your jar lids clear, allowing you to look through the lids for doneness?


Janet October 23, 2013 at 12:35 am

I think the lid she’s referring to is the crockpot lid, not the actual jar lids.


Nancy October 23, 2013 at 6:41 am

My bad! That makes sense; don’t know where my mind was. Thanks.


Tara October 23, 2013 at 9:12 am

Ha ha, yes, you should be able to look through the crock-pot lid and see through the sides of the glass jars to check for doneness. Sorry if I confused you!


Margie October 23, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Has anyone made this with the fat free condensed milk?


Kathy October 31, 2013 at 12:48 am

I accidentally bought fat free condensed milk while at the grocery store. I was worried, but it turned out great!


Tara October 31, 2013 at 9:50 am

Great, thanks for letting us know, Kathy!


Micki October 25, 2013 at 11:45 am

Not sure if my original post went thru so I’ll try again…can I make this with the sugar-free or “light” version of the sweetened condensed milk?


Tara October 25, 2013 at 11:49 am

I don’t see why not, but I haven’t tried it. I’ll give it a shot next week and report back!


Micki October 25, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Thank you Tara…well I’m going to try this tomorrow with the regular – I can always give the jars as gifts..please keep us updated on the sugar-free or “light” version.


Stephanie October 27, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I have tons of baby food jars, do you think I could use those instead of buying jelly jars?


Tara October 27, 2013 at 11:27 pm

As long as you can seal them tightly, I’d think they’d work. Because they’re smaller, you may want to keep a closer eye on them as they may cook faster than the jelly jars.


Stephanie October 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Thank you, I will try soon, and let you know how it went. :)


Micki October 27, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Well Tara and everyone…I made this yesterday…put it on at 5:30 pm and took it off at 2:30 am…so I went 9 hours…the color wasn’t quite right after hour 8 so I let it go an extra hour…it is delicious!! Tara it is so so simple…I will never buy another jar of caramel sauce again…I gave my cousin and her husband one of the jars this morning and she texted me later to say it was delicious…they were dipping apple slices in it. I still want to see if I can make it with the sugar free version tho. Thanks so much for the wonderful and easy peasy recipe!


Tara October 27, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Glad you all love it! I’m going to try the sugar-free version later this week, so I’ll update the post then.


Jessica November 3, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Hi I want to make this for a potluck … Do you think after I make it that I can pour the sauce in the crockpot and keep it warm rather than have individual jars? Thanks


Tara November 3, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I think that should work, Jessica, but it seems like it would work best if you have a smaller crockpot, like maybe one of the Little Dipper models. I just found a really nice stainless steel Little Dipper on Amazon for $9.97!


Alunsina Nunez November 5, 2013 at 3:29 am

I did this one and it turned out great!

I wonder now how I can make a salted caramel version? :P


Micki November 14, 2013 at 11:44 am

Well Tara, I have to say, I’m not sure if you had a chance to try a sugar-free version of this but I hate to say I did not like this caramel. My cousin and her husband loved it but I did not. I’m not sure what it is but it tasted nothing like I was expecting. I am hoping to make some of your butter cream caramel frosting out of it and see what happens. Now I’m trying to figure out what else I can do with the other 4 jars. To all you out there who liked this I’m so glad…and I’m so sorry that my taste buds just do not..BUT…the making of it was every bit as simple as Tara said.


Tammy January 6, 2014 at 2:54 pm

WOW….I am so doing this over the weekend! Thank you!


kayla January 12, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Any ideas what the nutrition facts on this is? Does the value change after its cooked?


Kate Henry February 21, 2014 at 11:32 pm

What you are making is called Dulce de Leche. I’ve made it for years in my crock pot.

To the person who said it didn’t work, it could be the brand of sweetened condensed milk you used. I had that happen a couple of times when I bought an unfamiliar named sweetened condensed milk at an outlet store. Because of that, I now always use Eagle Brand or Safeway’s brand, which I expect is Eagle. I like my Dulce dark because I think it tastes richer.

Recently I made Dulce de Leche from scratch. I have to say that it was really good, the flavor being much more complex. But, it does take a lot of babysitting so I still mostly make my Dulce de Leche this way.


Tara March 9, 2014 at 11:08 am

Thanks for the info, Kate! I hadn’t even thought about the brand affecting results — I always use Eagle brand, as well.


Amanda Collier March 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Hello, Banoffee Pie! Wish I’d have seen this post before 3/14. Pi day will never be the same (or easier).


Nicky May 23, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Do you have to keep the crock pot on low? I want this for my caramel buttercream frosting tonight so I don’t have 7 hours. If you can cook it on high, for how long?


Augusta Latorre October 4, 2014 at 11:56 am

Hey Tara, I loved this! Is delicious but just for you to know this is from my country Chile and Argentina and it name is Manjar or Dulce de Leche.

Love your website.


Tara October 5, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Thanks for the history, Augusta! I always love hearing about the heritage of my favorite foods and recipes.


Amber October 11, 2014 at 11:48 pm

I have never made it with the jars but I always make it in the can in my crockpot, 8-10 hours overnight. I put it in about 10-12 pm & get it out between 8-10 in the morning. I normally leave it in the crockpot after I turn off until the water cools. It always works for me. I rarely buy name brand. I normally always buy Kroger brand & I think it tastes better than the Nestle brand (just an FYI). :) I fill the water to the top of the crockpot & cook it on low with the lid on, of course.


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