This recipe for homemade caramel apple dip uses just 4 ingredients, takes 15 minutes, and tastes WAY better than store-bought dips. Make a fall family apple tasting tradition with this dip and 3-4 different apple varieties - our family looks forward to this every year!
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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 here, I guess it's not such a big deal in rural schools- there were homemade pies!) but I couldn't believe how, well, 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 have a caramel dip with all the amazing apple varieties that are becoming easier to find, so I searched for a homemade caramel apple dip I could make that would taste great.
After a couple of tries (too runny, too sticky, even cream cheese - what?) I found a recipe in one of those booklets/cookbooks put out by a church or something that seemed like it may work. Except for the fact that it called for corn syrup and I don't buy that anymore. So I tried honey and it worked just as well - or should I say better? We had a keeper!
Seriously, you are not going to believe how good this caramel apple dip is - and super easy to boot!
**Note: I've updated this favorite family recipe to use less sugar and no one can tell - view the revised recipe here if you're interested. It's the only way I make it now, still using the steps outlined below.**
How to Make Homemade Caramel Apple Dip
Isn't that a great picture? Four ingredients, nothing weird. Yes, it's still a lot of sugar - that's why this is a treat, ha! (It's also why I worked to lessen the sugar in this version.)
Note on sweetened condensed milk: 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.
Note on brown sugar: 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." While that's true of the cheap store brands consisting of beet sugar, C&H is pure cane brown sugar with this description on the package:
Some brands of brown sugar aren't naturally brown at all, they're white sugar sprayed with a coating of molasses. C&H Golden Brown Sugar 100% Pre Cane Sugar and naturally brown through and through is the real thing, with the rich, nutty caramel flavor you want from a real brown sugar.
There was a comparison done in the Oregonian newspaper 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. I can't find a link to that old article, but this one from a San Francisco newspaper explains it, too.
So if a recipe you're making isn't working out, it could be the type of sugar you're using!
The recipe is pretty simple, but can be a bit tricky: start by melting the butter over medium-low heat in a heavy saucepan, then add the brown sugar, honey, and 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 every once in awhile I get a few flecks of brown from the bottom when I'm not careful (actually, only when I'm distracted...), but it's not a burned flavor and still tastes fine. If it does burn on you with a lot stuck on the bottom, I've shared the way I've saved burnt dip you can find at the bottom of the updated version.
Remove from heat and let cool a bit before pouring into a serving bowl.
You'll want to serve this warm, since it does harden a bit when refrigerated. It keeps for awhile in the fridge (though not in our house...), you just need to microwave it for a few seconds to soften before using.
Fall Tradition: Apple Tasting with Caramel Apple Dip
One of our family's favorite traditions that developed at our house after making this recipe is our annual Fall Apple Tasting Night. We've invited guests to our tastings, too, and it's really fun for a group!
How to have your own Fall Apple Tasting Night:
- Buy four or five different apples (pictured are Pinova, Cameo, Pink Lady, and a "no-name" apple from our neighbor's tree).
- Cut the apples into slices and put them out on small individual plates.
- Write the name of the apple variety on a piece of paper or print them out to set on the plate.
- Serve with small individual bowls of caramel dip.
While the labels may sound all Martha-Stewart-ish, the tasting doesn't work without the labels - you need to know the different varieties to discuss which everyone likes 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 and they work much better (I can't find the exact bowls anymore, but you can see similar round bowls here or condiment bowls here). It's easier to get every last bit.
And trust me, you're going to want to get every last bit.
Original Homemade Caramel Apple Dip (full sugar)
- 1/2 cup butter 1 stick
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Add the remaining ingredients, raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly (will take 5-10 minutes).
- 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!).
- Remove from heat, let cool a bit and then pour into a serving bowl and serve warm.
- Refrigerate any leftovers. Microwave a few seconds to soften before using again.
- Ice cream topping
- Apple pie topping
- Dip for graham crackers
- Layer in a chocolate bar cookie
Click below for the Less Sugar Caramel Apple Dip Version I make now (uses half the honey and sugar!):
Other recipes to use this caramel apple dip with:
Crumb-Topped Apple Pie - drizzle warmed caramel on top
Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups - use the caramel instead of the chocolate sauce as a topping
No-Churn Chocolate Chip Ice Cream - use as topping (leave out chocolate for a vanilla version)
This recipe has been updated - it was originally published October 2009.
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