How to Caramelize Sugar

By LeafTV Contributor

Start to Finish: 25 minutes

Salted caramel sauce in a rustic glass jar and brown
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How To Caramelize Sugar

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Servings: 1 to 4

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Caramelized sugar is fixture in many recipes. Caramelizing occurs when you cook most of the moisture out of the sugar and it browns. The ratio for caramelized sugar is 1 cup of sugar to 1/4 cup of water. It's important to use a good quality heavy pan to prevent the sugar from burning. Use refined granulated sugar, because other forms of sugar contain impurities that may prevent them from caramelizing evenly.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

Combine the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan; set the stove to a low heat and stir with a wooden spoon frequently until the sugar dissolves.

Set the stove to high heat and bring the dissolved sugar water to a boil. Do not stir the sugar while it's boiling or it may develop crystallized grains. Add a few drops of lemon juice to help prevent recrystallization.

Dip a pastry brush in water and wash down any dried sugar forming down the sides of the saucepan; this prevents crystals from forming.

Once the sugar turns golden brown, it will continue to darken as it cooks. Remove the saucepan from the heat once it reaches a dark caramel color; immerse the saucepan in icy water to stop the caramelized sugar from cooking. Immediately pour the caramelized sugar into or over your recipe.

You can also caramelize sugar to a deep brown color without adding liquid. Spread the sugar in a saucepan or frying pan as evenly as possible over medium heat.

Do not stir, and let the sugar dissolve. Once most of the sugar melts, swirl the pan so that the liquid sugar spreads over the dry parts in the pan.

When it turns to a dark golden color, add butter, double cream or whatever liquid the recipe calls for to form a caramelized sugar sauce.


Use a cooking thermometer to help keep the sugar from burning. Do not let the temperature go above 375 degrees Fahrenheit, or the sugar may burn.