Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel

by Shawnda on December 21, 2008

in Candy,Holiday Favorites

Armed with lessons learned from last Christmas, I made two batches of Sea Salt Caramels this year, stopping a few degrees short of what the original recipe stated because last year’s candies set up harder than I would have liked. One batch is destined to be dipped in dark chocolate and the other destined to be gobbled up before Christmas even gets here.

Sweet, salty, chewy and dotted with tiny vanilla bean flecks… These guys don’t stand a chance of making it ’til Christmas.

Fleur de Sel (Sea Salt) Caramels with Vanilla Bean

Sea salt and vanilla beans add an elegant touch to homemade caramel candies.


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup Lyle's golden syrup (or light corn syrup)
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter parchment.
  2. Bring cream, butter, vanilla, vanilla beans, pods, and sea salt to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.
  4. Remove pods and carefully stir cream mixture into the caramel (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 246-248 on thermometer. 246 will give you a softer caramel that will stretch when you bite it but is easily squished or flattened, especially in a warm house. 248 will give you a firmer, still chewy caramel. Pour into baking pan and cool 30 minutes. Sprinkle another pinch or two of salt over the top of the caramel for a nice salty crunch and let sit until completely cooled. Cut into 1-inch pieces (I buttered a pizza cutter), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.


Yields: 64 candies

Adapted from Gourmet

Estimated time: 1 hour 45 minutes


{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joelen December 21, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Looks wonderful and I love the sweet salty combo!


2 holler December 21, 2008 at 2:21 pm

These look really good! I would be very surprised if they lasted until Christmas, very surprised indeed.


3 VeggieGirl December 21, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Haha yes, it’s ALWAYS to best to make extras of ANY treat when the holidays roll around ;-)

I’m a caramel fanatic, so those little beauties are calling out my name!!


4 Melissa December 21, 2008 at 4:21 pm

These look so pretty and sound delicious. I think I am going to have to make them.


5 PamNJ December 21, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Ok where would one find “Tahitian vanilla”?


6 Karly December 22, 2008 at 9:11 am

All the carmel recipes I’ve seen lately are killing me! Must go make some!


7 foodiebride December 22, 2008 at 9:30 am

Pam, I make my own (Tahitian Vanilla Pods + Vodka + 8 weeks resting time). If you cannot find it in the store, you can sub Bourbon/Madagascar (aka, regular) vanilla.


8 elain December 22, 2008 at 10:10 am

tell me more about the vodka and tahitian vanilla pods. Just came back from Tahiti with a jar full of lovely pods, and cant think what to do with them!


9 peabody December 24, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Everyone is making caramels! Yours look lovely.


10 Kevin December 28, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Those caramels look so good!


11 Kate December 29, 2008 at 12:37 am

I’ve had salted caramels, but I like the addition of the vanilla!


12 Sarah January 1, 2009 at 1:13 pm

I’m so glad you’ve posted this–I’ve been thinking about salted caramels for a while now and can’t wait to try these out!


13 Memoria December 24, 2009 at 4:12 am

These are beautiful! I now have another use for my 1/4th of a pound of vanilla beans I just bought haha.


14 Gale Reeves December 25, 2009 at 11:17 am

This is the BEST caramel recipe I have ever tasted! Thanks for sharing. I’ve linked you in my blog. Your caramels are much prettier than mine; however, the flavor of my caramels is awesome.


15 Linda November 4, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Ack! I made this recipe as a base for caramel apples but unknowingly stirred the mixture when i wasn’t supposed to. At least, that’s my theory since mine came out all grainy and weird tasting


16 dena December 2, 2010 at 10:37 am

I make caramel every year, and you are right: it is SO tedious to wrap the durn things! I’ll have to take your suggestion in the blog post and uncork some wine.


17 Melanie December 2, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Your caramels look perfect! I love the specks of vanilla bean and the light touch of salt on top. You are right, there’s no way I could eat just five.


18 Rachael December 13, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Lovely recipe! Thank you – mine turned out to be wonderful!


19 Felice December 22, 2010 at 10:01 pm

I’ve never tried to make caramels before but these look so good, especially the sprinkling of salt. I might try a little Hawaiian Pink Salt on top.


20 Tina June 15, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Purely logistical question…once the boiling sugar/corn syrup mixture is a light golden color, do you pull it off the fire? Or maybe turn the heat down? Or, do you leave it on the stove at the same boiling temp and directly add the cream mixture and stir until it whole thing reaches 248 degrees? Thanks! I want to make these soon ;)


21 foodiebride June 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm

@Tina – you could pull it off the fire. There’s no harm done either way. It’s going to bubble up when the cream mixture hits it but I keep cooking it straight through!


22 mis-cakes September 29, 2011 at 9:38 pm

just wondering did you use granulated or brown sugar? thanks. i am planning on making these very soon. ;)


23 foodiebride September 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Granulated sugar!


24 mis-cakes October 6, 2011 at 5:27 pm

omg i made these are they are sooooo good and totally addictive.


25 Mia October 13, 2011 at 11:16 pm

I have a couple of questions about these. First, is the texture chewy, or is this hard candy? Second, I’ve tried making salted caramels several times and always wind up with rock-hard toffee instead. It seems the mixture is getting too hot, but I’ve taken it off the stove before it reaches the indicated temperature. Any ideas about what’s going on? I’ve even tried two different candy thermometers! Thanks!


26 foodiebride October 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm

They’re chewy! If it’s ends up too hard, it is getting too hot. Aside from the candy thermometer, have you tried the ‘soft ball test’? You drop some of the hot caramel into ice water and you should be able to squish it together and form a ball without it disolving into water or immediately turning into rock hard ribbons.


27 Jessalyn October 23, 2011 at 11:50 am

If you’re able to practice restraint (which is not likely in my case), about how long do these keep? Do you leave them out or refrigerate them? I’m hoping to make them in advance for a friend!


28 foodiebride October 23, 2011 at 11:53 am

I just leave them in the cabinet (out of sight, out of mind). They’ll keep several weeks to a couple of months.


29 Jessalyn October 23, 2011 at 11:55 am

Thank you!


30 Kucuk Sef December 30, 2011 at 3:11 am

Adding vanilla beans to the caramel candy is a great idea! I tried them and they are absolutely georgeous. Watery, tasty, chewy, gummy!!! I couldn’t stop myself eating about 10 of them since last night. I didn’t even need a thermometer, the recipe leads very well. I am sure I would do that again!


31 Mar July 17, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I made these caramels last year and mine turned out hard, but delicious! I plan on making them again this year closer to the holidays! Great recipe!


32 Holly September 18, 2012 at 3:39 pm

I just made these and they are excellent!

You might find that it takes a long time for the sugar mixture to change from clear to the light amber you want. Be patient: it will happen.

I only made one little tweak though, And that was to brown the butter before adding the cream. That little extra bit of flavor really punches it up a bit more.

Excellent recipe and awesome blog!


33 Julie December 10, 2012 at 10:29 am

WHERE DO YOU BUY YOUR SALT FROM!? I love it! Looks so pretty. And I love making these caramels. Yours look a little thicker than mine usually do… What kind of 8 in. baking pan do you use? (Brand, glass/nonstick, etc.) Thank you!! :)


34 foodiebride December 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I get it from HEB, my local grocery chain. My 8-in pan is Oneida nonstick (metal) from either Target or WalMart.


35 Rachel December 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm

FoodieBride, I made these last year and got absolutely RAVE reviews on them. Thank you!!! I’m planing on making them again, but would like to make a lot more… do you think I could double the recipe? Or is it best to make 2 separate batches?


36 foodiebride December 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm

You can double and use a 9×13 pan. I’ve done it – takes a while to get up to temp but it works out fine!


37 Candace December 18, 2012 at 1:55 am

So, I’m thinking I didn’t boil the sugar, syrup and water long enough… How long does it usually take to become a correct light caramel color? My sugar is organic all natural, looks just like granulated except it is a soft cream color; my first batch came out more like a blond…


38 foodiebride December 23, 2012 at 9:33 am

I don’t usually watch the clock on the first stage, I just wait ’til it turns a nice golden color before adding the cream. If you have a candy thermometer attached, that happens around 320-330.


39 Caroline June 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm

these look phenomenal! i’d love to make them as my wedding favor. how long will they keep once made, 1-2 weeks?


40 Shawnda June 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Several weeks – just don’t expose them to excessive heat or humidity.


41 Caroline June 7, 2013 at 11:48 am

thanks for responding so quickly! i’m making them tonight for a bridal shower “thank you” gift to test my skills… can’t wait!


42 Naomi O. October 5, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I love caramel, so as soon as I got the opportunity I leaped for this recipe! I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t set, but they turned out great. Thanks for the wonderful recipe!


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