This easy Microwave Caramel Sauce uses just 5 ingredients and takes only a few minutes. Perfect for drizzling over coffee, ice cream and other desserts, or as a dip for fruit.

A spoon drizzling microwave caramel sauce into a small glass jar.

Why you’ll love this Homemade Caramel Recipe

Homemade caramel is one of life’s great joys, but cooking it on the stove can be a lengthy (and even dangerous!) process.

So I very much appreciate that I can use my microwave to shortcut and simplify the process, but still end up with rich, buttery caramel perfect for drizzling over ice cream or a coffee drink.

So, grab a microwave-safe bowl and a few pantry ingredients, and before you know it, you’ll be dipping apple slices in microwave caramel!

A glass pitcher pouring microwave caramel sauce into a small lidded jar.

Microwave Caramel Sauce vs. Caramel syrup

So, when it comes to coffee, Starbucks and every other fancy coffee place have two different things going on – syrups and sauces.

The syrups are the generally clear or light brown liquids that you see in large bottles with pumps on top. These pumps of flavor are the backbone of all of the flavored drinks. I have a caramel coffee syrup recipe that I love.

If you watch closely, these pumps of flavor are usually the first thing the barista will add to your cup after you order.

But then, once the drink is complete, for the final garnish (usually drizzled on top of whipped cream), they are using something different, which is a caramel sauce for coffee. That’s where you’d use this microwave caramel sauce!

Ingredients in bowls on a light surface including brown sugar, butter, sugar, salt and vanilla extract.

Ingredients for Microwave Caramel

  • butter – my preference here is unsalted butter, but if you only have salted, you can use it. Just cut back a little bit on the amount of salt you add.
  • brown sugar – I used light brown sugar here, but dark brown sugar works just as well (and is also great in my flat iron steak marinade and balsamic steak marinade).
  • cream – heavy whipping cream is what you want to use for this caramel. You could try half and half, but your caramel will be much thinner and not as rich, so I don’t really recommend it. Buy a big container of cream and make coconut creme brulee or chocolate creme brulee this weekend!
  • salt – I prefer to use sea salt to season my microwave caramel sauce, but kosher salt is also fine.
  • vanilla extract – use a good quality vanilla since it’s one of the few flavoring agents in this quick caramel sauce. Vanilla lovers, be sure to check out my vanilla bean creme brulee!
A small lidded glass jar, open, filled with caramel sauce, with a spoon scooping some sauce out.

How to make this Easy Caramel Recipe

A glass mixing bowl filled with melted butter.

1. MELT. Grab a microwave-safe glass bowl or large measuring cup. Put the butter in the bowl, and microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds. The butter should be completely or almost completely melted.

A glass mixing bowl filled with melted butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract.

2. ADD. Add the brown sugar, cream, salt and vanilla to the bowl and stir until everything is well combined. The texture will be grainy at this point. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds.

A glass mixing bowl filled with an easy caramel recipe.

3. FINISH. Carefully stir the mixture, and microwave one final time, on HIGH, for 15 seconds, or until the mixture is completely smooth. The microwave caramel sauce will be VERY VERY HOT and also kind of thin at this point, so you’ll need to let it stand 5 to 10 minutes before using it. As it cools, the caramel sauce will thicken.

A small glass pitcher overflowing with quick caramel sauce.

Caramel Recipe Easy Home Chef Tips

The microwave caramel sauce recipe below makes just a heaping 1/4 cup of sauce – enough to drizzle over four coffee drinks or small dessert plates.

Since it’s so quick and easy to make, I just make this small batch recipe fresh whenever I need it, rather than making a larger batch and refrigerating (although you can do that).

If you’re hosting a larger crowd and need a bigger batch (perhaps for a dipping sauce for churros after a fajita bar?), you can double or triple the ingredient amounts below.

The cooking time for this quick caramel sauce should stay almost the same, but use your best judgement and cook until the sauce is smooth.

A small spoon smearing caramel over a light surface studded with brown sugar.

How to use your Microwave Caramel Sauce

I love using this microwave caramel sauce for coffee.

It can be stirred into hot coffee for a flavored treat, and it’s also great drizzled over cold drinks like salted caramel cream cold brew.

Set it out with the rest of your brunch food ideas (don’t forget the bacon in the oven!) so your guests can have the fun of garnishing their coffee with a special sauce.

This quick caramel sauce is also an easy way to add a special flavoring to an affogato coffee (which is just hot coffee poured over ice cream, and is one of life’s true pleasures).

This sauce is also perfect for spooning over an apple pecan tart or apple mug cake. Or use it to take a brownie pie to the next level.

A spoon drizzling a light brown dessert syrup over an iced coffee topped with whipped cream.
A spoon drizzling microwave caramel sauce into a small glass jar.

Microwave Caramel Recipe

Yield: Heaping 1/4 cup
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 9 minutes

This easy Microwave Caramel Sauce uses just 5 ingredients and takes only a few minutes. Perfect for drizzling over coffee, ice cream and other desserts, or as a dip for fruit.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (I used Maldon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Place butter in microwave safe glass measuring cup or bowl and microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds.
  2. Add brown sugar, cream, salt and vanilla and stir until well combined. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds.
  3. Stir and microwave on HIGH for 15 seconds or until completely smooth.
  4. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Caramel will thicken during this time.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 heaping tablespoon
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 120Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 138mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 0gSugar: 11gProtein: 0g

This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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