Creamy and dreamy homemade caramel sauce made from sweetened condensed milk in your crockpot! A truly simple and easy caramel sauce recipe made with just ONE ingredient, AKA dulce de leche…
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 + a myriad of dyes and preservatives. Blech!
In contrast, this homemade caramel sauce (also known as dulce de leche) requires just one ingredient — sweetened condensed milk! I was happy to see that the brand that I chose contains only milk and sugar, so that’s a far cry from any store-bought caramel sauce I’ve seen.
Slow Cooker Caramel Sauce
But the very best part about this easy caramel sauce recipe is that it doesn’t require you to stand over the stove for long periods of time. I make it right in my slow cooker, which allows it to cook at a low temperature for a long period of time — meaning there’s virtually no chance of burning it.
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, I beg you, 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…
Easy Caramel Sauce
Instead, transfer the sweetened condensed milk into several clean jelly jars, place a lid on them, and tighten the bands 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 above the top of the lids. Place the lid on your slow cooker 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 slow cooker 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. The refrigerator is the safest place to store them. For best consistency, you’ll want to bring the caramel to room temperature before serving. Or you can microwave it for about 30 seconds at a time, whisking between each interval, until it’s warm.
Homemade Caramel Sauce Recipe
You may notice that the caramel seems a little chunky when you first open a jar. 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.
Another option for using this caramel sauce up is this to-die-for caramel frosting. Spread over a fresh apple cake, it’s totally decadent and amazing!
I’d love to see how your homemade caramel sauce turns out… Tag me @Unsophisticook on Instagram or use the hashtag #Unsophisticook so I can check it out. Enjoy!
Friday 23rd of December 2022
I used to do the “boil in the can” thing. Scary!! This is so much easier and the result is even better.
For an easy dessert using this (you can make your caramel a day or two before and keep in fridge):
Take a Graham Cracker pie crust, layer with sliced bananas, top with your delicious caramel once at room temp, gently spread out over bananas, then the final layer of a container of whipped cream and you have the most delicious, no bake dessert ever! Make close to serving time for the best result. Refrigerate if needed until serving. Best to serve same day. So easy and so good! Might sprinkle the top with some chopped pecans and cherries for a little something extra!
*To keep the bananas fresh longer, brush with lemon juice prior to placing in pie crust.
Friday 23rd of December 2022
Sounds amazing -- thanks for sharing!
Tuesday 8th of November 2022
I've got 4 oz jars and was wondering if I could use them for this process? Do I need to change anything?
Wednesday 9th of November 2022
Yes, I think those should work! They may cook a little faster, so just follow the instructions but I'd guess you should start checking on them around the 6.5-hour mark.
Tuesday 6th of September 2022
Can i use 3 larger canning jars instead of 5 smaller jelly jars?
Wednesday 7th of September 2022
Hi Karla! I've never tried it, but I don't think it would work unless you have a very large crockpot. The water needs to completely cover the lid, and my crockpot is definitely not deep enough to do so.
Friday 17th of June 2022
Tara, if I put this in a slow cooker for 8 hours would it be fine for it to stay in the pot for a couple of hours while it is cooling?
Monday 20th of June 2022
Hi Mary! Yes, leaving the jars in the pot to cool is fine.
Sunday 22nd of May 2022
I’ve not tried this yet. But I had my water heating and put 2 cans of condensed milk in and covered it. Then I searched google and come across this other recipe for caramel in a crockpot, but with a water bath. So, I turned off my crockpot and decided to wait, considering the comments about doing it with the unopened cans. This water bath recipe seems easy enough. Tell me what you think of this one. https://www.babysavers.com/crockpot-caramel-recipe/
Monday 23rd of May 2022
Hi Rita! Yes, I'd be very cautious of heating the condensed milk in unopened cans. The recipe you linked sounds good! I think the caramel/dulce de leche is delicious without all the additions, but I wouldn't mind trying this sometime. I'd probably still use the canning jar method instead of a loaf pan, though. Just because I'd be worried about condensation from the crockpot lid running into the mixture while it's cooking.