This Spiced Apple Cider Caramel Sauce with Bourbon recipe is so easy to make and a must make recipe during apple season.
This sauce goes great from drizzling over ice cream, pies, and cakes to swirling into cocktails and more.
This apple caramel sauce recipe has been on my blog since 2012 and has been long overdue for an update with new photos, more streamlined instructions. When I first made this years ago I used a fresh apple cider from an orchard in town, and I realized not everyone has access to an orchard, fresh cider or makes their own cider so I decided to go with a national brand of cider.
This caramel sauce recipe can be made with any kind of cider, stick with unfiltered and no added sugars or spices. You could even make this with pear cider if you like. Either kind of cider you use, it will be amazing.
How do you make caramel sauce?
There are two main ways to make a caramel sauce, dry caramel or wet caramel. Dry caramel is made by melting sugar until its liquid. Sugar contains a little water so it melts pretty easily on its own. Wet caramel is made with a liquid such as water or juice. The adding a liquid way takes a little longer because you pretty much want it to evaporate or come close to it.
There are a couple steps to this apple cider caramel sauce, but it comes together really quickly.
- Reduce apple cider with vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg.
- Boil cider with sugars and salt.
- Whisk in butter, then add cream and bourbon off the heat.
- The bourbon is optional. It can be left out with no substitutions.
The sauce is made by first reducing the apple cider to a syrup. I keep a glass measuring cup next to the pan so I can pour the cider syrup into in once its reduced to make sure I have the right amount. I go for between two thirds and three fourths of a cup. It doesn't have to be exact, just no less than two thirds of a cup (157 ml).
Make sure you remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean before making the rest of the caramel. Vanilla bean pods can be on the expensive side so you could substitute vanilla bean paste in its place. Details in the recipe card.
For caramel sauce success you need a few tools:
High sided sauce pan - to prevent splatters when the caramel sauce bubbles up
Candy thermometer - to reach the exact temperature without going over. Burnt caramel isn't fun.
A whisk - preferably stainless steel and not plastic
Jars to store the sauce in - I love using Weck jars.
What is caramel sauce used for?
- Ice cream sundaes
- drizzled over cakes, pies or pastry
- filling for cupcakes or cakes
- sauce for pancakes or waffles
- stir into hot drinks such as cider or tea
- use in a cocktail - stir into the drink or dip the edges of the glass for a fancy cocktail rim
You really could use this apple cider caramel sauce for anything you like.
The apple cider in this caramel sauce takes it to another level. Combined with vanilla bean, cinnamon and nutmeg its more than your average caramel sauce.
This sauce is thinner than some sauces, it's not thick enough for caramel apples or for making chewable caramels. Definitely more of a thick, pourable sauce.
More apple recipes you might like:
- 2 cups unfiltered apple cider - no added sweeteners or spices
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out and pod reserved (see notes)
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100grams)
- ½ cup light brown sugar (104 grams)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt ( I used Diamond)
- 6 tablespoons butter cut into 6 chunks (84 grams)
- ½ cup heavy cream (118 ml/grams)
- 2 tablespoons high quality bourbon (optional)
- In a high sided sauce pan combine the apple cider, vanilla bean seeds and reserved vanilla bean pod, cinnamon stick, nutmeg and bring to a boil.
- Lower to a simmer until reduced to about between ¾ and ⅔ cup. It should be syrupy. When it is getting close to being reduced you can pour into a glass measuring cup to check amount then back into the pan. Once it is between ⅔ and ¾ cup then move on to the next step. This will take about 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean but leave syrup in pan.
- Add in the granulated sugar, brown sugar and salt, stir until dissolved then clip on a candy thermometer and cook without stirring until it reaches 240 deg F. Around 7-8 minutes.
- While still on the heat, add in the butter one tablespoon at a time and stir until melted.
- Remove pan from the heat and add in the heavy cream and bourbon, being careful as the mixture may bubble up. Heat on low again and stir until it starts to slightly thicken back up, about 1 minute. Bourbon is optional, you can leave out.
- Let cool in the pan 10 min while off the heat and then transfer to a glass jar, such as a mason jar, and cool completely. It will firm up as it cools.
- Keep refrigerated up to 3 weeks in an airtight container. Up to 2 months frozen. The caramel will firm up in the refrigerator, solidify in the freezer. You can microwave it at 20 seconds at a time to return to a pourable state.
Bourbon is optional you can leave it out and don't have to substitute anything for it.
Vanilla beans can be expensive. You can substitute two teaspoons of vanilla bean paste. Vanilla bean paste can be found online and stores such as Trader Joes.