Easy Ten-Minute Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce

I don’t know about you, but I’m a girl who likes that little somethin’, somethin’ to complete her meal.  Something that makes a healthy dinner feel slightly naughty so that it satisfies or turns something bland into a delicious dining adventure. Sometimes, that’s just a few chips on the side of a sandwich.  Other times, it means a small glass of wine with a grilled veggie salad. All and all, this little somethin’, somethin’ makes the meal feel complete.  The same thing goes when it comes to sweets.

Now, I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t have an extreme sweet tooth.  (I think some jaws just dropped.)  However, when the sweet tooth kicks in, it needs to be tasty and satisfying, which is how today’s post came about.

I was writing a rough draft of my spring trend article feature for a Twin Cities magazine, and I kept staring at the apple just peaking over the top of my laptop screen. Admittedly, I was starving.  No, hangry, but I knew the apple wasn’t enough to cut it.  I had been good about watching my calorie (and empanada) intake for the last week, so I figured a small, satisfying splurge was in order.  Enter, caramel sauce.

One of the friends with me here in Santiago had been talking about making caramel sauce at some point within the week.  I took it upon myself to make today the day, giving him a reason to roll up his sleeves and hit the kitchen.  Lonesome apple, meet your match!

Ingredients: (Serves 4 people, approximately 1 cup)

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (let set to room temperature before cooking)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 ounce Cody Road Bourbon Whiskey (or another high-quality whiskey of choice)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Frying pan
  • Wooden spoon (do not plastic utensils)


Step 1:

Add sugar to a frying pan and add water – just enough to dissolve the sugar. Not too much. Swirl around the sugar and water mixture so that the sugar is fully immersed in water.  (NOTE: Do not stir the mixture at any time throughout this process. This is critical. Only a light shake of the frying pan itself. If you stir it, the sugar will stick to whatever utensil you put in the pan, creating a thick toffee instead of caramel.)
sugar caramel sauce recipe

Step 2:

Turn on stovetop to a medium to high heat, bringing the water to a boil.

sugar caramel sauce recipe

Step 3:

The water will evaporate, leaving just the sugar syrup, which will bubble and eventually caramelize into a light brown caramel color. If the sugar starts spitting as it bubbles, reduce the heat until it’s just bubbling. You’ll hear the bubbling start to slow as the caramelization begins to take place.
caramel sauce recipe

As the mixture starts to thicken and brown, the pace of the bubbles will slow

Step 4:

Keep a close eye on the caramelization process, as changes happen quickly and you don’t want the mixture to burn.  Keep cooking until the sugar takes on a brown color you desire and smells of caramel.  Just make sure you don’t wait too long.
caramel sauce recipe

Notice the change in color. You should also begin to notice a sweet smell.

Step 5:

Take the pan off the heat and add room temperature cream. Start stirring. The mixture will thicken into a caramel.
caramel sauce recipe

Use wooden cookware. This hard plastic spatula was all we had here in Santiago. Do not as I do.

Step 6:

Add vanilla extract and bourbon whiskey.

Step 7:

Once the sauce has thickened, add butter to richen it up. Mix through. Beware: this recipe calls for unsalted butter, but if you choose salted butter, don’t add too much or the caramel will be overly salty!
caramel sauce recipe

Step 8:

Pour caramel mixture into a bowl for serving or jar for storing.  You can also pour it on top of any of the below pairing suggestions!
caramel sauce recipe

Voilà! The highlight of the season – AND pairs well with just about everything. And I mean everything.

Pairs Well With…

apple slices fruit
ice cream sundae toppings

Additional pairing suggestions:

  • Cake
  • Greek vanilla yogurt
  • Cheesecake
  • Cupcakes

Don’t forget to get on the Pairs Well With… email list!  There are a lot of great new recipes, wine pairings and announcements coming in early 2018, and I want YOU to be the FIRST to know!

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