bourbon caramel sauce

I LOVE this sauce. Over the years I've tried a few different versions and I keep coming back to this recipe, Martha really nailed it. The only thing I've done is add some salt - come on, who doesn't love salted caramel sauce?! Since I frequently make desserts & sometimes even brunch with caramel sauce, I thought doing a post of just the sauce would be much easier than typing the recipe over and over again. 

It's the perfect balance of sweet, creamy, boozy and deliciously caramelized sugar. When the caramel is warm, it flows like thick lava. Refrigerated, it's thick and chewy. Speckled with black vanilla beans it really catches your eye and feels like something special. This is heart warming food here. It's filled with tons of love. 

bourbon caramel sauce
slightly adapted from martha stewart

2 c. sugar
½ c. water
1 c. heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon bourbon
2 TSP sea salt (more to taste)

You can make this a day in advance or a week in advance. I wish I could somehow tweak this recipe to make it better but martha NAILED it. This sauce is good by itself and great on everything, mmmmmmm...

Start by combining the sugar and ½ cup water in a saucepan on medium heat. Without stirring (don't even think about giving it a little help, let it do it's thing). Let the sugar and water bubble until it turns a dark amber color. This will take about 20 minutes, no joke - just have patience.

When the mixture is a deep amber color, reduce the heat to low. Slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon. Don't get scared if it turns into a hard ball. Give it a minute and keep stirring. It will slowly melt into a rich caramel. Next, scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan and add the bean too. Add lemon juice, salt, butter, and bourbon. Stir to combine. Your heavenly sauce is now ready to be devoured. You can let it cool and put it in a jar or tupperware container and into the fridge. To reheat, place in the microwave for about 2 minutes stirring every 30 seconds.

improv style:
this caramel is legit, but if you don't have vanilla beans on hand, you can substitute for vanilla extract (1 TBSP). vanilla beans are incredible and i highly recommend getting some to stock your kitchen with. you can buy them in bulk for way cheaper than the grocery store. i get mine here or here depending on how many i need.

not down with the hootch? that's ok… you can leave it out. booze fan but not a bourbon fan? rum would be a fantastic alt. you could even play around with some liquors like kaluah or frangelicos - but really, bourbon or rum will be your best bet. don't even mess with tequila or vodka - bleb!

only have salted butter? no problem, just use that - i do. no sea salt?! you gotta get on that! but it's cool… you can use whatever kind of salt you have on hand. also, if you're not down with salt, you can just leave it out. no big deal. 

the lemon is key to balancing out the flavor. your caramel won't be ruined if you leave it out, but it will be 100x's better if you put it in. the only MUSTS are cream, sugar, and butter. 

want a little thinner sauce? add a bit more heavy cream… same goes for thicker, less cream is needed. if your sugar starts to turn into a weird crystal powder, turn the heat up a little bit. it should melt down in a few minutes if you crank the heat up. i don't know why it does this sometimes. it's always a little scary but the good news is if you totally mess it up, you can start over and you've only wasted a little bit of sugar. 


  1. oh wow... I need this in my life as soon as possible. Just found your site and I love it!


    1. thanks michele! i'm so glad you found my site. i think you should definitely make this, like NOW. totally addictive and good on everything. in a desperate moment i even put it on toast, haha!

  2. Oh my goodness - I can take a bath in this.


  3. this sounds amazing. How long is the shelf life? I was thinking of making some to put inside cupcakes for valentines day, but wanted to see if I could make it this weekend.

    And any tips for cleanup? Last time I made caramel (for home made twix) it was a pain to clean (though oh so worth it)

    1. i think technically 1 week is it's shelf life but i'm not going to lie... i've kept it in my refrigerator for about 3 weeks and had no problem. i've even frozen leftovers so that i have quick caramel sauce - you never know when you'll need some bourbon caramel! you can definitely make it this weekend and it will be perfect for vday! your caramel won't taste any different a few days later than if you made it right beforehand.

      i have the most amazing and simple clean up tip. just fill the pan with cold water and put it on the burner on high heat. let it come to a rolling boil and all of the caramel should melt away! so easy and hassle free!

      thanks for your comments and questions jay!

    2. Thanks so much! That is an awesome tip. Can't wait to make it!

  4. Made it yesterday, and it is divine. sooo yummy. Thanks again for the recipes and the tips!

    1. i'm so glad you loved it! thanks for sharing.

  5. This looks fantastic, I'm adding it to my must make list!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Rachelle@ Caramelize Life

    1. thanks rachelle! i'll have to check out your blog :)

  6. OK, this sounds DELICIOUS, but what do you do with the sea salt? I don't see where it is added.