Growing up, one of the best parts of every autumn is sinking our teeth into an ooey-gooey caramel apple at a local fair. Now, you can enjoy these delicious treats year-round because we're finally sharing our super easy caramel apple recipe.
Caramel-coated apples were always a favorite of mine - they're part sweet, chewy caramel and part crunchy, tart Granny Smith apple – what's not to love?
Besides their taste, the caramel apple was even more appealing because of the entire experience around it.
First, they were a rarity. Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't taste so good if you ate it 300 days of the year. We only managed to get our hands on some caramel or candy apples a few specific times, usually when the county fair came around once again.
The fair was always a fun experience, and these apples remind us of some great memories. You will feel yourself transporting back to childhood with one of these sweet treats.
You don't need to wait for the next county fair to come around again to enjoy these caramel-coated delights.
We're sharing our simple recipe and best tips for making caramel apples, and they're much easier than you think!
What Are Caramel Apples?
Caramel-coated apples are an effortless combination: they're whole fresh apples, dipped in sweet melted caramel, which hardens around the apples as it cools.
Sometimes, the apples are dipped into other toppings before they cool down so that cookie crumbs, pretzels, chocolate, or any number of delicious treats coat the outside of the caramel too. Yum!
What Are The Best Apples For Caramel Apples?
Most apples taste delicious enough on their own – we love how their flavors range from softly sweet to tart and tangy, and everywhere in between.
Not every apple is perfect for dipping in caramel, though. Save your sweetest apples to eat raw, and use Granny Smith apples for this recipe.
The caramel coating is very sweet and needs balancing by a tart-tasting apple. Granny Smiths also have firmer skin than other apple varieties, so they hold up under the sauce's heat far better than others.
Treating Apple Skins
Caramel and candy apples need their skins to keep from going soggy, so put your apple peeler away for this recipe.
Most grocery store apples have a shiny wax coating, which makes them gleam and seem even more appealing. This wax makes it harder for the caramel to stick well to the apple.
For the best caramel coating, you should scrub the wax off your apple skins before you begin. You can even go over the outside with a piece of fine sandpaper to rough up the surface so the caramel can bond better with the skin.
Ensure it's a clean, unused piece of sandpaper, and rewash the apples afterward to be safe.
How To Make Caramel Apples
Some recipes for caramel apples call for melting down caramel candies, but we prefer to make our caramel for apples from scratch, with a few simple ingredients you likely already have in your pantry.
- 1 c salted butter
- 2 c light brown sugar
- 1 c. corn syrup
- 1 14-oz can sweetened, condensed milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 10-15 Granny Smith apples
- Popsicle sticks
- Toppings of your choice
- Line a large-sized baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash your fresh apples well to remove the waxy residue.
- Dry the apples, then stick a popsicle stick directly into the top of the apple. Place it deep enough that it can firmly support the apple.
- Place the apples on the lined baking sheet and pop them in the freezer for 20 minutes. In the meanwhile, start preparing your caramel sauce for apples.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the salted butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the corn syrup, brown sugar, and condensed milk with a large wooden spoon.
- Continue cooking the caramel, often stirring until the sauce reaches a temperature 235-240°F, around 12-15 minutes. Use your candy thermometer to check the sauce's temperature. Caramel can easily stick and burn to the pan's bottom, so keep a close eye and stir the mixture almost constantly.
- Once your caramel is up to temperature, remove the saucepan from the heat. Immediately stir in your pure vanilla extract until well-combined. Some bubbling is normal.
- Pull the chilled apples out of the freezer. Dip the apples into the caramel mixture one at a time. First, dip your apple, then hold over the saucepan to let the excess caramel drip off.
- Flip the apple upside down and hold for 20 seconds. This helps give the hot caramel time to set on the cold apple.
- Turn the apple right side up and set the dipped apple down on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of your apples, then transfer them into the fridge. Leave for 15 minutes to set completely.
- You can jazz up traditional caramel apples by rolling the dipped apples in any toppings of your choice before you transfer them to the fridge. The caramel will still be soft enough that cookie crumbs, chocolate, or any other topping should stick well to the outside.
- After they set, serve and enjoy your homemade caramel apples!
Caramel Apples FAQ
Is there a less messy way to eat caramel apples?
These apples are delicious, but they can be a little messy when eaten like an apple lollipop, straight off the stick – instead, you can eat caramel apple slices!
If you're worried about the mess or want to share your apple with others, you can carefully slice the apple while holding the stick, taking care to avoid the core.
How do you keep caramel from sliding off apples?
If your caramel is sliding off the apple, you didn't remove enough wax coating, or the caramel didn't get up to the proper temperature.
That's why we strongly recommend using a candy thermometer, so you know precisely when the caramel is ready for dipping.
Should apples be cold when making caramel and candy apples?
Some recipes call for room temperature apples, and this method may work for you.
We prefer using chilled apples as we've found the caramel sticks a little more readily to a colder apple.
Is this recipe gluten or dairy-free?
Our caramel apple recipe is completely free of gluten and suitable for anyone that's celiac or gluten sensitive.
Dairy is a pretty big component of caramel, and our traditional caramel recipe isn't dairy-free.
If you're looking to make dairy-free caramel-coated apples, we've seen some recipes that use coconut milk, coconut oil, and non-dairy milk, but we're not sure if the results would be as good.
Final Note: The Best Caramel-Coated Apples
With your next batch of Granny Smiths, try your hand at making this delicious caramel coating for them – it's easier than you think.
We recommend using Granny Smiths, but if you have another apple variety you'd like to use instead, go for it! We think they'll taste pretty good regardless.
Making these apples can be a fun activity to do with the kids too. Just be sure there’s some close supervision, as you're dealing with the stovetop and hot food.
We're sure these apples are going to take you straight back to childhood in the very best way!