Homemade Caramel Apple Dip


**I updated this wonderful recipe to use less sugar – view the revised recipe here if you’re interested!**

When my daughter was in third grade (I can’t believe how long ago that was…), I was asked to bring apples and caramel dip to their Halloween party. I bought the stuff from the store because I thought you couldn’t make anything for schools (we were new, I guess it’s not such a big deal in rural schools- there were homemade pies!) and I couldn’t believe how disgusting it was.

Sorry to those of you who like it! But there’s really a weird aftertaste, and of course that long list of ingredients (not many of which I recognized as food…).

But I wanted to be able to have some with all the great apples that were becoming easier to get, so I searched for a caramel dip I could make that would taste great.

After a couple of tries (too runny, too sticky, cream cheese?) I found the perfect one in one of those booklets/cookbooks put out by a church (or something-I can’t remember now). OK, it was almost perfect- it called for corn syrup and I don’t buy that- but honey worked just as well (or should I say better?).

You are not going to believe how good it is – and super easy to boot!

Isn’t that a great picture? Four ingredients, nothing weird.

Back when I started the cursed “reading of the labels” and found I had to stop buying a lot of things we liked, I was pleasantly surprised to find that sweetened condensed milk is just whole milk and sugar. For me that works. For those of you that are not wanting to buy any convenience foods there is a recipe for making your own sweetened condensed milk here which I’ve done in the past and found it worked well.

Also, did you know that not all brown sugar is created equal?

I’ve read numerous times that all brown sugar is “just white sugar with molasses added,” and while that’s true of the cheap store brands, C&H is pure brown sugar with no molasses added (this is directly from their website– the brown comes from the NATURALLY occurring molasses that forms during the cane sugar refining process, it’s not added after like beet sugars). There was a comparison done in the Oregonian years ago that showed differences in baking the same products with cane sugar vs. beet sugar, and since then I’ve always bought cane sugar.

Start by melting one stick of butter over medium-low heat in a heavy saucepan, then add one cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup honey, and the can of sweetened condensed milk.

Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly (very important- don’t try to do something else at the same time!).

Lower heat to medium and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly, especially at the edges to keep from sticking.

Note: this takes a few minutes, and sometimes I get a few flecks of brown from the bottom when I’m not careful (actually, only when I’m distracted *smile*), but it’s not a burned flavor and still tastes good.

Remove from heat and let cool a bit before pouring into a serving bowl. Serve warm.

Keeps for awhile (not in our house!) in the fridge- you just need to microwave it for a few seconds to soften before using.

Now here’s the tradition that developed at our house after finding this recipe. Every fall we have an apple tasting dessert. We’ve done it with guests, too, and it’s really fun for a group.

I buy four or five different apples (this year it was Pinova, Cameo, Pink Lady, and a “no-name” apple from our neighbor’s tree), put them out on individual plates, and write the name of the apple on a piece of paper to set on the plate.

While this sounds all Martha-Stewartish, it doesn’t work without the labels because it is about tasting the different varieties and which you like best.

So don’t be afraid of the labels.

We used to just spoon the caramel onto our plates and dip our apples in it, but then I found these small (1/8 cup) bowls on clearance and they work much better. It’s easier to get every last bit.

And trust me, you’re going to want to get every last bit.

Homemade Caramel Apple Dip

  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly (will take 5-10 minutes).
  3. Lower heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly (really- this is not the thing to walk away from! It will burn…I know from experience!).
  4. Remove from heat, let cool a bit and then pour into a serving bowl and serve warm.
  5. Refrigerate any leftovers. Microwave a few seconds to soften before using again.

Makes about 2 cups
More great recipes can be found at LifeasMOM.com.


  1. Anonymous says

    Thanks so much for this recipe! My family has never enjoyed the autumn apples and caramel traditions that I had as a child because of peanut allergies (you’d be surprised how many of the premade versions have issues with that). I’ve tried other recipes and have never had much success. We’ll be trying yours this weekend. Thanks!

  2. Jenelle says

    I have never had success with Carmel sauce in the past. Mine always turns out grainy, like the sugar did not desolve all the way. But I have been determined to learn how to make one. Even made it my New Year’s resolution one year. Yea, well we all know how those go…..

    I am going to try this one. Hopefully it will actually turn out.

    And I love your idea of the apple tasting! I think I will have to start that tradition at my house too. The girls will love it!

    Thanks for another great recipe!


  3. says

    OK, this is the first recipe of yours that I tried and it is beyond awesome!!!
    So far I have had it with apples, over banana’s w/ ice cream, drizzled over apple pie…..and simply out of the bowl with the largest spoon I can find in the kitchen!!!! Next on my list is your zucchini cake…..but I am almost afraid to try it….. : ) T

  4. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Sorry, Anon, I guess this is too late for the weekend, but, yes- brown sugar is always packed. You can just assume always yes unless it’s specified otherwise. Hope you enjoyed it!

  5. says

    Just found this through a google search and I’m so glad to find a caramel dip for apples that doesn’t start with a jar of sauce or a bag of pre-made caramels. Thanks so much!

  6. Anonymous says

    Was reading your recipe and it looks wonderful. I did want to correct you on one thing though. C&H Brown sugar DOES have molasses added. This is straight from their website: “Brown cane sugar is a natural combination of sugar and molasses, refined without any added colorings, flavorings, or coatings.” Just wanted to make sure you knew.

  7. Anonymous says

    This is really good. I added a tsp of vanilla. wow. soooo much better than those packaged caramels! thank you for posting!

  8. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Well, it’s a soft caramel and “dippable” when warm, though it does stiffen when refrigerated. Not sure if it would stay on a whole apple long enough to be refrigerated, though…

    So I guess that’s a “I don’t think so” but I haven’t actually tried it. πŸ˜‰

  9. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Anonymous #8:
    I just came from the C&H website and while your quote is direct, your conclusion is wrong- there is no ADDED molasses, only the naturally occurring molasses that is present in less refined cane sugar. I’m not saying brown sugar is not refined, just that it is NOT white sugar sprayed with molasses like beet sugar is. I’ve added the update in the post above.

  10. Anonymous says

    Just tried this….eh…to us it is way too buttery and honey tasting. Made the recipe as is so I have a huge batch that no one will eat but me. Bummer.

    • Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says

      Eek- so sorry! But “buttery and honey tasting” are great things to me- wish I could help you eat it. :-)

    • Fla home school mom says

      I loved it as-is but….felt guilty because it was sooo yummy and sugary sweet..so I cut it with equal parts of low-fat cream cheese to use with my apples….sooo good too! Guilt can also be the mother of invention. Works well when the caramel is warm. Keep ’em coming Jami!

  11. Ileah says

    This was deelish! My kids and I gobbled it up. I was a little afraid of the honey, because I tried honey as a replacement before and it just did weird things to the flavor, but this was perfect. And I loved replacing the corn syrup. I make caramel candies at Christmas time with basically the same ingredients, using corn syrup. Do you think they will set the same using the honey?
    Oh and thanks for the info about brown sugar. I’m a huge baker!

    • Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says

      I don’t know, Ileah. I have successfully replaced corn syrup with honey in my caramel corn, but haven’t tried candy. Is there a way to try a little? Maybe cooking it longer would make it more firm, as this is supposed to be a dip. If you try it, let me know!

    • Fla home school mom says

      I did cook mine too long as you warned. Little yummy brown pieces in it. Oh,well! ‘Guess I burnt the butter. And it does get really thick in the refrigerator. I could stick a spoon straight up in it. But to wrap as caramels I am not sure.

    • says

      Fla Home School Mom- Glad you liked it! Even after making it a bunch (eh-hem..) I still sometimes burn it a bit. If it matters (like I’m taking it somewhere) I just push it through a fine-mesh sieve and most of them are left behind. I never notice a difference in flavor- you’re right, still yummy!

  12. Tonya says

    Thank you for the recipe, it is delish ! Just tried it with Granny Smith apples and kids are having a hard time waiting for it to cool. πŸ˜‰ the recipe is a keeper.

  13. says

    Thanks for the recipe. I was looking for something without corn syrup and that I had the ingredients for and I was set with your recipe.

    I will say it seems like a butter carmel recipe, and Im typically a vanilla carmel fan. I tried it as is though, and its good. I added about 1/4 cup of real vanilla extract, yes I said 1/4 of a cup, Im a vanilla nut. It definitely made it better, IMHO.

    It has a ton of butter and slid right out of the pan, I haven’t tried it with less butter, but I think i will next time, shave off a tablespoon at a time and try it. As it stands I calculated, based on the lables on butter and the sweetened condensed milk can, that the entire batch has 76 grams of Sat fat, no trans fat and it doesn’t break down enough for the rest of the poly and mono fats, but those are more good for you anyway, so Im not counting them. :) All told that less then I would have expected, because this stuff is (for me who eats about 1 ounce of candy in a sitting or less) VERY rich. So I think it would be 30 servings at least, so thats pretty good in my book.

    As for serving, I have nice little food network ceramic dishes as well, and I put the carmel in the dish and then gave a twist of ground sea salt from my salt grinder on top. Very good with the salt contrast, but then I like salted carmel.

    Overall I plan to tweak it a bit, but I think its a keeper. Also I want to try and use turbinado sugar which would negate the whole debate about brown sugar anyway. As Im pretty sure that the “refining” of the brown sugar, naturally occurring molasses or not, still kills off or separates a lot of sugar canes natural micro nutrients. As irony would have it, sugar can has a Lot of good nutrients in it. Seems the more I go natural, the more I realize God created the perfect foods and the more we do to them, the less good for you they become.

    All told, a definite score, so thank you for sharing.

    • Jami says

      Good thoughts, Matt – thanks for sharing. I haven’t made it this season yet, but our apple tasting is coming up so I will soon and I will be tweaking it, too, to add less sugar. I’m pretty much doing that with most of my recipes now – I’m finding I can usually cut things at least by 1/4 and not notice at all. :) Enjoy your dip!

      • says

        Good call, I hadn’t thought of less sugar! Also Im thinking late in the year, Nov ish, to add cinnamon and cloves perhaps and give it a more earthy taste for late in the season. Thats when I see spiced cider at parties and I always enjoy that.

        Thanks for the recipe!

    • Jami says

      Not sure, though lots of people have asked about it I haven’t heard if any tried it. It hardens enough to need to be warmed before using again, but I can always get a spoon through it. And I think it might take awhile – like it would puddle around the apple before it cooled enough. But I’m just thinking here, as I don’t know for sure. :)

  14. Karen says

    Yum! Caramel apples are my very favorite dessert, and this dip doesn’t disappoint. I made the recipe as described, with the addition of a couple of tablespoons of vanilla extract. Perfect consistency and a yummy, buttery taste. I made it for a party and had to stop “taste-testing” after one apple. Thank you!!

    • Jami says

      So glad you liked it! I’ll have to try it with the vanilla next time – that sounds like a great addition, Karen.

  15. Michelle says

    I was looking for a good, easy recipe and this was both! I didn’t have honey on hand so I used maple syrup and it turned out great! I saw some of the comments about too buttery and too much honey flavor so maybe they should try maple syrup it was awesome! I will never get store bought Carmel dip again!

    • says

      Oh, thanks so much, Michelle – you’re right, that may be a good solution for those who don’t care for the taste of honey as much!

  16. Rachel says

    Does this need to be refrigerated after making? Also, what is the approximate shelf life? I am making this now to put into little mason jars to use as party favors! Can’t wait to taste it! :)

    • says

      Yes, it should be refrigerated. It will harden up a bit when cold, but a just a little warming will bring it back to dip-able consistency. I’m sure it will be okay for a couple weeks, though ours never lasts more than a week in our family. πŸ˜‰

  17. Cheyenne says

    Wow I just made this and I loved it. I halved the recipe and it turned out great. The only down-side was that I burned my finger because I just couldn’t wait to try it but that was my own air-headed mistake.

  18. Patty says

    Mine turned out grainy and with an applesauce-like consistency and the butter kept separating and making a clear puddle at the top. I consider myself an above-average baker. I know candy-making is trickier than baking, but where did I go wrong? It also had a more honey than caramel taste. I brought it to a boil and stirred constantly (and immediately scorched a little and got brown bits) and continued to slow boil for the 5-10 min. So I don’t know which step I missed :( Not smooth and stretchy at all or caramel-ly, just sweet.

    • Patty says

      Update: Looks like I was using the “Updated” version of this recipe with 1/2 c brown sugar and 1/4 c honey. Same amounts of butter and sweetened condensed milk. Maybe the original recipe works fine, but the less sugar one is fussier? Or I just stink at caramel-sauce making :(

      • says

        Gosh, Patty, I’m so sorry – I can’t think what happened! I’ve made the updated less sugar one a number of times and it’s always turned out good. The photos I took are really how this recipe turns out for us and that we eat for our annual apple tasting. I wish I could be of more help :(

  19. Ashley says

    I just made this tonight for my guests. I followed it to the letter and let me tell you, it was horrible. I have made many caramel sauces in the past with success but this was awful. This really ruined my evening. I’d recommend spending a little less time taking 45 photos of the same item and more time perfecting your recipes. Given, you do not owe the world anything but this was a waste of my time, money and my evening with my guests and I am not happy about it. I am removing this pin from my Pinterest board. :(

    • says

      Wow, Ashley. Very sorry this didn’t turn out for you. I feel compelled to make a couple of points since your comment is so vehement:

      1. I am a home baker and all the recipes I post on An Oregon Cottage are foods our family eats regularly. I am not a food blogger simply trying to fill a slot. This recipe is no exception – I have made it for more than 10 years and it is a tradition for us that we love, so I wanted to share it. Seems to me this is the definition of ‘perfecting.’

      2. Many others have made it and loved it, too. Some haven’t. It’s not for everyone. I think this is typical of any recipe.

      3. I have exactly 4 photos of the finished product. The other photos are of the steps I included to be helpful for a recipe that can be tricky. This does not seem excessive to me.

      4. I’m most sad to think something relatively small like a ruined dish (about the price of a magazine we read and toss) would make you not enjoy time with people. Making something that doesn’t turn out how we imagined is not unusual in my experience. I think that’s why I always read that you shouldn’t try new recipes on guests (though I always do, too, lol).

      Again, I’m truly sorry you didn’t care for this recipe – it really is a favorite of ours. :)

  20. Jewel says

    Wow, super easy and delicious too. I made one adjustment because my daughter hates the taste of honey, so I used corn syrup. Beautiful texture, so creamy and rich. Perfect with apples or for ice cream. My daughter even thought it would be good in coffee… yum :) Thank you so much for sharing.


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