The classic autumn treat is here like never before. Try homemade caramel apples with delicious topping combinations, helpful tips and tricks, and the best homemade caramel recipe you've ever tasted. You won't want to miss this!
There's a chill in the air and the leaves are changing colors. That means it's time for some of my favorite things! Colorful pumpkins, flannel blankets, cozy bonfires . . . and homemade caramel covered apples!
One of the best parts of autumn is the crisp, delicious apples. There are so many beautiful and tasty varieties to choose from, each with its own distinct color and flavor. I love to bake with apples all season long - it's a wonderful tradition to share with family and friends! Some of my favorite recipes are Caramel Apple Blondies, Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls, and Apple Crumble with Oats.
I love them all, but hands down one of the most fun apple recipes is homemade caramel covered apples. For me, they're a nostalgic treat that bring back memories of carefree childhood days. If I do say so myself, I make a magnificently delicious caramel apple! And I'm here to share all of my best tips and tricks with you!
The key is to start with smooth homemade caramel, then add the perfect mix of toppings. I'll share my mom's amazing caramel recipe later in this post, but for now, let's get down to some Caramel Apple 101.
The Best Types of Apples to Use for Caramel Apples
When it comes to caramel apples, what's on the inside counts. The type of apple you choose is just as important as the caramel and toppings!
You want to use a variety that is firm and not too sweet. A tart Granny Smith apple, for instance, balances out the sweetness of the caramel and other toppings nicely. I personally love the mild flavor of Honeycrisp apples. Fuji and Pink Lady work well too.
You should avoid varieties that are overly sweet or that have a tendency to become mealy. Red Delicious, for instance, look lovely but aren't well suited to caramel apple making. They are just too sweet and soft.
The Best Sticks for Caramel Apples
There are a lot of different stick options out there, and it really comes down to your personal preference. I recommend using a wood variety. The paper sticks - the type used for lollipops - don't seem quite as sturdy. They can become wet where they meet the apple, and then can start to bend.
I prefer wood sticks or dowels. You can find bamboo lollipop sticks with a slightly pointed end that makes it easy to push into an apple. Craft dowels also work well. You should be able to find a good option in the cake decorating aisle of your local craft store, thanks to the cake pop craze of recent years. Or you can always use popsicle type craft sticks too.
Make sure whichever stick you use is long enough to hold comfortably after you push about an inch into the apple. A 5-inch stick is a good length in general. Also, make sure it will be sturdy enough to support the weight of an apple plus toppings. A lightweight kabob skewer likely won't be strong enough for the job.
Here's a tip for pushing the sticks into the apple. Fold a clean kitchen towel a couple of times and place it over the end of the stick. Place your palm over the towel and push into it against the stick. This way you will have a buffer between your palm and the stick. Trust me, after a few apples your palm with thank you.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Caramel Covered Apples
- Pick apples that are fresh and crisp. I used local honey crisp apples and OH MY GOODNESS, are they good! For best results, buy local apples that haven't been waxed. If your apples do have wax on them, check out my tutorial for removing it here.
- Press your sticks into your apples, then set the apples on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place your pan in the refrigerator before you begin making your homemade caramel. The cool pan and apples will help to lessen the caramel pooling on the bottom of the dipped apple.
- I highly recommend making homemade caramel! You just can't beat the taste, and it is completely worth the extra effort!
- Once you are finished making your caramel, let it rest on the stove for 7 - 8 minutes to cool slightly before dipping apples. It's easier to work with when it's slightly cooled.
- Remove apples from refrigerator and pat dry if needed. Work quickly to dip them. I tilt my pan to the side slightly and swirl the apple around a couple of times. Don't feel like you have to get all the way to the top of the apple. Once dipped, return to the cold cookie sheet. Finish all the apples, then return the pan to the fridge until caramel is completely cooled.
- When adding chocolate to the outside of my apples, I always use good-quality chocolate chips. I personally don't care for the flavor of candy coatings or bark, but you can use them if you prefer. To melt the chips, I microwave them in a glass bowl in increments of 15 seconds, stirring well in between each. The chocolate continues to melt a little after you remove it each time, so always make sure to stir it really well before you decide if it needs to go in for longer.
- This is my favorite tip! Instead of dipping your apples in chocolate, use a rubber spatula to spread it over the caramel. It is SO much easier. There will be a small lip where the caramel has pooled at the bottom of the apple, and you can use that as a good stopping point for the chocolate. Also, to drizzle chocolate, you can use a plastic condiment bottle.
- Once you're ready, sprinkle with or dip into the toppings of your choice. You can return apples to the fridge or just leave them out for a few minutes to set.
How Do You Keep Caramel From Sliding Off Apples?
We've all been there. We have visions of gorgeous caramel apples, but we can't seem to keep the caramel ON the apples! It isn't that hard, really, but there are probably a few things going on. If you follow my above tips, you shouldn't have any problems.
First, follow my tip about buying local wax-free apples. The wax that comes on some apples makes them very slippery and makes it almost impossible for the caramel to stay put. If you have to buy waxed apples, make sure to remove it first following my tutorial. Once the apples are wax free, make sure they are completely DRY.
Then, if you cool the apples in the referigerator AND let the caramel sit for 7 - 8 minutes, it should be fine. Work quickly and get them back into the refrigerator as soon as you can. The caramel will settle a little because . . . well, gravity, but it should be minimal. The problem of not sticking happens when the caramel is too hot and slides off before it has a chance to harden in place.
Follow these tips, and you should have good luck!
Caramel Apple Toppings
Of course, there's no wrong way to do toppings for your caramel apples. It's really up to you and what you like! But there are some basics to get you started on your way to the perfect covered apples.
Technically, you can eat a plain caramel covered apple and it will be tasty. But why stop there when you can try so many fun and delicious topping combinations? I thought I would compile a list of ideas all in one place for all of you apple lovers out there, like me!
Great Caramel and Nut Combos
Let's start with the classic caramel and nut combinations and work up from there! For these, combine caramel, your choice of chocolate, and any of the following:
- Walnuts (this is my second favorite caramel apple)
- Macadamia Nuts
- Pistachios (taste divine with white chocolate)
Great Caramel and Candy Combos:
For these, combine caramel and chocolate with the following candies:
- M&Ms, drizzled with chocolate
- Crushed Snickers
- Candy sprinkles
- Crushed English toffee, drizzled with white chocolate
- Crushed Heath bar
- Chopped Reeses Peanut Butter Cups or Reeses Pieces
Candy Bar Caramel Combos:
- Baby Ruth - Caramel, peanuts, and chocolate
- Almond Joy - Caramel, sliced almonds, chocolate, and coconut
- Reeses Peanut Butter Cup - Caramel, white chocolate mixed with peanut butter (or melted PB chips), and drizzled chocolate (semi-sweet or milk)
- Oreo - Caramel, white chocolate, and crushed Oreos
- S'mores - Caramel, chocolate (semi-sweet or milk), crushed graham crackers, and mini marshmallows
Sweet and Salty Caramel Combos:
- Apple Pie: Caramel, white chocolate, and cinnamon sugar
- Cheesecake: Caramel, white chocolate, crushed graham crackers, and cinnamon sugar
- Double Chocolate: Caramel, semi sweet chocolate, and drizzled white chocolate
- German Chocolate: Caramel, chocolate (semi-sweet or milk), pecans, and coconut
- Cinnamon Streusel: Caramel, white chocolate, cinnamon mixed with brown sugar, and pecans
- S'mores: Caramel, chocolate (semi-sweet or milk), crushed graham crackers, and mini marshmallows
- Sweet & Salty: caramel, chocolate (semi sweet or milk), potato Chips, and M&Ms
- Chocolate Pretzel: caramel, chocolate (semi sweet or milk), mini chocolate chips, and crushed pretzels
- Salted: Caramel and a little pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
Decadent Homemade Caramel Recipe
Now for the best homemade caramel recipe you'll ever try. In fact, it may be the only caramel recipe you'll ever try again. This is my mom's amazing recipe and it is SO GOOD! It is soft and smooth and oh so delicious.
One of the best things about this caramel is how versatile it is. It is perfect for caramel apples, of course, but it is just as good for caramel candies, caramel popcorn, and other treats. You'll want to try this recipe right away and keep it for later.
Tools You'll Need to Make Homemade Caramel
- Heavy saucepan
- Wooden spoon or rubber spatula
- Candy thermometer
- Parchment paper
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup
- Sweetened condensed milk
How to Make Homemade Caramel for Caramel Covered Apples
- Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
- Add sugars, salt, and corn syrup.
- Slowly add sweetened condensed milk.
- Cook mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture reaches exactly 235 degrees on your candy thermometer.
- Remove from heat and continue to stir for another minute. Add vanilla and mix well.
- For sliced caramels, pour into a greased pan. Allow to cool before cutting.
- For caramel popcorn, pour over your popcorn on parchment paper.
- For caramel apples, let cool 7 - 8 minutes before dipping.
- 1 cup salted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
Melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium heat.
Add sugars, salt, and corn syrup.
Slowly add sweetened condensed milk.
Cook mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture reaches exactly 235°F on your candy thermometer.
Remove from heat and continue to stir for another minute. Add vanilla and mix well.
For sliced caramels, pour into a greased pan. Allow to cool before cutting.
For caramel popcorn, pour over your popcorn on parchment paper.
For caramel apples, let cool 7 - 8 minutes before dipping.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.