Bourbon Salted Caramels

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

I guess it’s time we kick it into full gear and discuss homemade holiday gifts! I’m trying to get my head in the game…but I’m still mustering up the energy to out my fridge of Thanksgiving remnants. When it comes to holiday gift giving, I like going with treats that are a little bit different. I prefer to make treats that will standout in a crowd of holiday tins filled with chocolate dipped Ritz crackers (totally amazing btw). These Bourbon Salted Caramels are sure to do the trick. They’re salty with the faintest hint of bourbon…so that’s kind of palate cleansing, right?

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

In these caramels the bourbon and the sweetened condensed milk round out the flavor and give it a little more depth. Less butter notes, more grown up flavors! What I love about caramel making is that it really takes the littlest amount of ingredients,  with a bit of patience and some good crafting skills (hello wrapping candies!) and you’re good to go!

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

If you’re anything like me you’ll daydream about opening up your own salted caramel candy shop while you’re wrapping each delicious caramel square. Sweet/Salty/Booze/YES/PLEASE.

And we’re off!

Ingredient gathering. Not many ingredients, huh? Love that.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

First things first. You need to add parchment to an 8 x 8 baking pan. I secured the edges with binder clips.

I only had three…which means I need to seriously clean out my junk drawer.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Get your butter cut up into pieces. We want to prep as much as possible because caramel is FAST.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Let’s begin. Water, sugar & corn syrup go into a medium saucepan. You’re gonna cook it until it turns a dark amber color.

The recipe says it takes 8-10 minutes. It took a little bit longer for me. No bigs!

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Next step is adding the butter & sweetened condensed milk.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Caramel coming along. Add in the condensed milk.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Stir in your butter!

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Pop in your candy thermometer. We need to get it to 240F.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Once it’s at the right temp (look at the color!) we stir in the salt & bourbon.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Pour into your prepared pan!

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Let it cool for a bit.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Now we bring in the big guns!! Maldon Sea Salt Flakes! They are AMAZING.

It’s AMAZING on avocado toast. Just saying…. Oh and BREAD WITH BUTTER. Unnngh.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Sprinkle the top.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

OK. Now that the caramel has cooled, we are ready to cut! Trim the edges…which means EAT THE EDGES.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Cut vertically.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Then horizontally.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

I decided to wrap mine up in waxed paper because I ran out of parchment. Totally a good option!

To make wrappers, cut the paper into 3 x5 sheets. Wrap them/twist them!

bourbonsaltedcaramels 017

They are deeeeeeeeeee-lish. Add more salt if you feel so inclined.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

This batch makes SO MANY!  Get your caramel on!

Bourbon Salted Caramels

makes about 75-100 caramels (depending how small you cut them)

recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine

  • nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Lightly coat a 8 x 8″ baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on 2 sides; spray parchment.

Bring sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 8 -10 minutes.  (It took me about 12-14)

Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter (mixture will bubble vigorously) until smooth. Fit pan with candy thermometer and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer registers 240F. Remove from heat and whisk in the bourbon and kosher salt. Pour into prepared pan; let cool. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt, cut into 1 inch pieces and wrap individually in parchment paper.

Caramels can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Store wrapped tightly in plastic in an airtight container at room temperature. I have mine in the fridge.

  • Averie @ Averie Cooks

    Gosh they look and sound wonderful! Bourbon, butter, sugar, sweet cond milk – it’s impossible to be bad! Pinned

  • Sarah | The Sugar Hit

    UNGH. So good. And that salt? It’s the best. I’m now craving avocado toast, and salted bourbon caramels.

  • Clem

    These look AMAZE! There’s nothing better than salt and caramel. Will have to look around for these salt flakes!

  • Jane M

    Sweeeet! The hit of any party fer sure! Can’t wait to try the recipe.

  • Christina @ Scaredy Cat Kitchen

    Woah you had me at salted caramel and then you had me all over again with the bourbon! (Didn’t mean for that to come out so dirty, apologies!)

  • Katerina from Psit Jewellery

    Very good idea! And the making-of photos want me to go buy a caramel thermometer and make my own

    • Jen Newbauer

      I actually did not have a candy thermometer, just a turkey one and it worked great! I counted between 180-190 then counted up from there 🙂 My first attempt and it was a SUCCESS!! These are amazing!!

  • jenny

    This is probably sacrilege, Tracy, but do you think it would work to substitute like a T of vanilla for the bourbon? My friends aren’t very boozy, but I LOVE the recipe other than that. Also…any thoughts on how well these would hold up in the mail to a cold climate?

  • Sarah

    These just made my list of must-have holiday treats! Thanks!

  • mel

    love this. i made beer caramels for gifts earlier this year, but bourbon feels much more festive for the fall/winter holiday season. definitely adding these to the holiday gift-making marathon that is about to happen 🙂

  • Rita Moreno

    I use that salt for everything uncooked and its delicious. Love how it falkes in your hands and to get to lick the fingers 🙂

  • jamie @ arugulaholic

    OMG these look amazing. I will have to give these to myself.

  • Jordan Lynn: Life Between Lattes

    These look amazing … so amazing that they might make their way into gift bags at my annual holiday party! Thank you for sharing.

  • Amy

    If they are wrapped individually, will they last longer than two weeks?

  • Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate

    It has been forever since I last made homemade caramels. There’s no time like the present, especially since we are entering the holiday season. Love that you added bourbon to these!

  • Kate

    Those look incredible. I think I’m going to make these for people in my office, but I don’t have a candy thermometer. Can you recommend one?

  • Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

    I am SO making these for Christmas. If only to eat the trimmed edges!

  • Amy

    YAY! I dog-eared this, as salted caramels are on my to-do list this year, and knew that BA wouldn’t disappoint… but knowing you love them has convinced me! I’m gonna make em this week!

  • Kasey

    I knew the second I saw these in Bon Appetit that I wanted to make these. Gorgeous!

  • Eileen

    These sound like the best possible idea of holiday giving. Bourbon, salt, and lovely chewy caramel–what’s not to love?

  • Claire @Lemon Jelly Cake

    I can’t even read the post, all I can do is stare at the photos! 😉

  • Robyn

    I made these on the weekend! Then I stuffed them inside browned butter bourbon spice cookie dough and baked them. ummmm….AMAZING!

  • Jen @ Fresh from the...

    These look so yummy AND pretty easy – what a great idea for a holiday gift! This is when I know I need to get a candy thermometer.

  • Jessica (bakecetera)

    bourbon all day every day. you make these look so easy!

  • Amy

    These look amazing! I am doing a lot of homemade gifts this year too 🙂 Granola and candies were on the list (it’s all about balance, right?).
    I might have a go at substituting cognac for the bourbon – we have an extra bottle left over from a party 🙂
    Thanks Tracy!

  • Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    So simple, I love it! I will totally make these as gifts, thank you. They look super chewy uuuuuuuugggggh so good. Maldon sea flakes on everything ever!
    Heidi xo

  • susan

    these are my weakness. add the booze and you have sold me!

  • Jenn

    Tracy! Yum! I am in love with the apple cider caramels from smitten kitchen but maybe it’s time to branch out.

    (a typo, I think: in the step-by-step directions with the photos you say to add the sugar and the bourbon together… I think you mean the salt?)

  • Molly

    Yum! I used to work for Liddabit Sweets — we’d spend HOURS wrapping soooo many caramels (they make amazing ones in great flavors – I feel like you’d like their beer & pretzel flavor, btw), but it kind of felt worth it to be able to snack on the edge scraps. I will work for caramel, apparently…

  • Tracy | Pale Yellow

    Wow! Usually caramel is not my go-to candy, but your little bourbon, salty treats look fantastic! I love that the recipe makes a tons, always great motivation!

  • Danielle

    These would not last a day in my house! They look awesome! I am so making these : )

  • Jessica @ Living La Vida Holoka

    I usually make my grandmother’s caramel recipe for the holidays, but her recipe is missing the bourbon! I might be trying these this year. 🙂

  • Ashley C

    Tracy, do you know a substitute for corn syrup? I live in the UK. Do you know if golden syrup will work?

  • Amanda

    I brought these to a party last night and they were a major hit! Thanks for the recipe!!

  • Vanessa

    Oh my my, these look delicious. I have been searching for a treat to bring for christmas with the fam. this might be it!

  • fusilliamy

    YEAH GIRL. That sprinkled salt is so pretty!

  • HP

    I made these last night and I’m excited to get home to cut and wrap. I’m lazy though, so instead of wrapping all of them individually I’m going to use some to make the Pioneer Woman’s pretzel turtles. Two variations on one candy!

    • HP

      oh, and now that I have pretzels I’ll use those to make your white chocolate peppermint pretzels, Tracy! …..and THEN I’ll use the leftover candy canes to make…it’s never gonna end.

  • Lindsay @ The Live-In Kitchen

    So pretty! And I’m all about the bourbon.

  • Alexe @ Keys to the Cucina

    These look amazing and I love the way you wrapped them up in parchment paper. Makes for a great hostess gift for the holidays!

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  • Kim

    Love this…going to make these for Christmas! Thanks for posting and the witty commentary.

  • Linda

    These are amazing! Made them as holiday gifts for neighbors and for valet and front desk staff in my building and they were a big hit. Thanks for helping me to be brave enough to attempt (and succeed at) making candy. Cheers!

  • Christina B.

    I made these last night and they are so delicious. My only question is, how soft are these supposed to be? Mine were pretty soft, even after cooling for a long time. I froze them for a little bit and then covered them in chocolate, which turned out great! But, how can I get them to be a little bit more firm? Any ideas?

    • Tracy

      I would cook them for a little bit longer. I also have kept mine in the fridge this week. If they have a little chill on them, they’re obviously harder.

  • Maria

    What brand of butter do you use? I was thinking or using Kerrygold.

  • nikki

    Just made these soo good! Mine are a bit soft too but still tasty I didnt have a candy thermometer so I just did the water test bowl of cold water amd dripped it in till I found the perfect co sistancy!l yum 🙂 I also used ameretto since I dodnt have bourbon

  • claire

    hi tracy –
    i made these last night, and they were perfect for the party. however, this morning, i noticed the texture had turned grainy. any thoughts on why this would happen overnight when the texture was so great the night before??

    • Tracy

      Bizarre! How did you store them?

      • claire

        So – I stored mine at room temp and they became grainy. But i sent a bunch home with a friend who kept hers in the fridge, and she said they’re still great!

        Lesson learned – store in the fridge!

  • Kate

    I made these this week. Rave reviews all around. The only thing is I’d say I really don’t taste the bourbon, but they are still delicious. I think I will experiment with adding an additional Tablespoon of bourbon when I make them again next week. (They were so popular, I’m going to give them out as Christmas presents.) One thing to note – I followed the recipe exactly, and when I went to cut them, they were hard – almost like toffee. After doing some research online, I decided to melt the batch down on low heat and add some water (almost a half cup) before pouring it all out into the pan again. The texture ended up being exactly right.

    • Tracy

      Oh wow! They were pretty soft when I cut mine. Did you overcook the caramel? The bourbon taste is subtle- but I wonder if you cooked alcohol taste off?

  • Rhonda

    Just made my first batch — you were right, they’re easy! I’ve always wanted to try making caramel. Everyone says it easy, but I think having the photo guide gave me the confidence to try it. I did replace one of the tablespoons of hootch with vanilla since I was worried it might be too boozy for a wimp like me. I think they’ll be awesome — I tried some pan scraps. Thanks Tracy!

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  • Cindy

    Heya Tracy!

    These look FABULOUS and I am going to try to make them this weekend! I love the photos detailing each step, thank you. 🙂

    However, I think you meant to type the word “cool” at the end of the recipe, not “cook” in this line at the end:

    “Pour into prepared pan and let cool…sprinkle with sea salt…etc.”


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  • Jessica

    Yum! I made these for holiday gifts two nights ago. They were way too soft the first time around (due to my impatience). I reheated the batch to 250F, added a little more bourbon, and they turned out perfectly!

    Thanks Tracy!

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  • Erin @ The Speckled Palate

    I love caramels, but I’ve always been a disaster making them. HOWEVER, this recipe makes me feel like I should try again because the combo of sea salt, bourbon and caramel sounds out-of-control wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Tracy!

  • Jenny

    I would love to make these but I don’t have a candy thermometer. Any suggestions on how I can work around that? Can I use other things instead of bourbon? Amaretto? Vanilla extract?

    • Tracy

      You should really get yourself one! You can always eyeball when a caramel is done, but there’s such a fine line! You can definitely sub in vanilla or amaretto. It’s really about the amount– too much liquid and you can mess with it setting. Good luck!

      • Jenny

        I clicked the link of the one you bought from Amazon. $9.99 is not bad. I always thought they were more expensive so I never bothered getting one but at that price I may just bite the bullet!

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  • Rhonda

    I like these so much I made myself a batch the other night. I did figure out that my knife has to be really sharp and the caramels need to be really, really cooled in order not to fight with them too much. I think they’re totally yummy and I treat myself to a few before (and after) a run.

  • Jade

    Hi! I just made these tonight and they’re amazing! I could see wanting more alcohol as the flavor is slight. I did also add some vanilla for extra flavor!
    I do have a question… I apparently totally messed up and I can’t remember adding the butter! Crazy right! But they seem fine! I’m thinking I’ll make another batch tomorrow and male sure I add the butter just to see…I’m just curious about them still turning out so nice. Is the butter more a flavor thing? It could also be that I’ve lost my mind and I just forgot that I added it…but I know I didn’t! I dunno..either way they’re delicious and make awesome gifts!!! 🙂

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  • Sherry D

    Is it possible to use heavy cream instead of sweetened condensed milk? I’m afraid they’ll end up being too sweet for me.

    • Tracy

      I’m concerned that the proportions might need to adjusted then. Caramel can be fickle!

  • Lisa G. Roy

    Can you dip these in chocolate? thank you, Lisa

    • Tracy

      You should be able to! I’d make sure they were super cold when you do it so it’s easier to work with!

  • erica

    so i have been racking my brain to find something for my male coworkers to make as a gift and this is IT! im gonna make it for real (not vegan) but wondering do you think earth balance will work instead of butter? Im going to still use condensed milk like it says, but if i buy butter i dont know what im going to do with the other three sticks since no one eats it in my house. but i know caramels can be tricky so i dont want to mess with it….

  • Royka

    These are fantastic! TIP I use a pizza cutta to cut to small sizes it doesn’t stick as much as a knife

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  • Jennifer

    I just tried these today. I was a little impatient because it smelled so good. I didn’t reach the proper temp. My caramels broke apart when cutting and tasted like really good caramel fudge. I trying not to eat it all right now. I will try again and next add more booze. I tried 1/2 vanilla and 1/2 bourbon.

  • Christie

    I have made hundreds of these caramels over the past year, and love every ones reaction when they eat one (or 6 or 7 ). I use different salts depending on my mood. The one thing I have changed is the temp in the end… I find 146 holds a better shape, keeps and travels better too. My question is, if I were to finish it off without bringing to temp, would I have a lovely caramel sauce? I sure I have answered my own question by telling you about my temp change, but want to hear from an expert!

    • kathy

      you are absolutely correct. it baffles me why all these recipes call for a temp of 240 degrees. basically you’ll end up with caramel sauce. i actually like 248 degrees when i make caramels. for people who like them less chewy, 250-252 works

  • kathy

    tracy,i am curious to know how many times you’ve made caramels using this recipe. the only thing you’ll get at 240 degrees is caramel sauce. like many others, when i first made these caramels, i got a hot mess. tried it a second time and again, nothing but a great caramel sauce. i have now made the recipe dozens of times, and i can tell you with certainty that 248 degrees will get you a nice chewy caramels. if you like harder caramels, 250-252 is the mark to hit. 240 degrees is a temp for fudge, not caramels. in my opinion, you are letting your readers down if you don’t change the temp on this recipe

    • kathy

      other than the temp being wrong, here are a couple of tips. 1)not everyone has a good bottle of bourbon in their home. i live in kentucky so its a staple in any good home bar. for those who don’t, buy ona of those mini bottle like you get on the airline.there is 1.7 oz in there. do yourself a favor and pour the whole bottle in. you’ll get a better bourbon taste. also, better bourbon gives you better bourbon flavor. don’t settle on the cheap crap. p.s. not all whiskies are bourbon. 2)the recipe says to sprinkle salt on the caramel after you pour it into your pan. i sprinkle salt on my prepared pan before pouring in the caramel as well. that way you have it on both sides. i also chop pecans super super fine and sprinkle them along with the salt. not only will you get a nice nutty bite, they help keep the caramels from being so sticky on the sides. if you’re gonna cut and wrap your caramels for gifts, you’ll like that. seeing your friends trying to peel your delicious caramels off the wrapper is a drag. 3) i have seen people mention the addition of vanilla extract. if you want a true bourbon taste, dont add the vanilla. it will only compete with the bourbon. 4) i prefer to grease my pan with butter instead of cooking spray. butter makes the caramels even more silky and the salt/nuts will stick better. so unless you have an aversion to alittle extra butter, try it. hope these tips help some of you out

    • Tracy

      I’ve made it about 5 times and I haven’t had a problem. Perhaps my candy thermometer is off?

  • Scot Johnson

    I followed recipe precisely (used stated amount of Makers Mark Bourbon). The caramels were great, but there was no hint of bourbon flavor. I’ve made caramels for years but this is the first time flavoring.

    Any thoughts?

    • Tracy

      Curious! I wonder if it cooked off? I wonder if you could add more without making the texture change?

  • Cheryl Saenz

    I made these, it didn’t come out good. Stuck to everything and hard to cut, but very tasty.

  • Chrissy Ball

    Does the alcohol cook out or can you get drunk off these?

  • Jas

    You did not “adapt” this recipe. This is the exact same recipe. At the most, all you did was reword a few of the instructions.

    • Jas

      I am glad that you updated that. I also saw a page post this recipe saying that they had adapted it from you and again it was ounce for ounce the same recipe.

  • Becki

    Really late to the party, but it’s all good! I have some chopped pecans soaked in bourbon leftover from making bourbon balls for Christmas. I wonder how much longer I’d have to cook the caramel (if at all) if I added the chopped pecans to the mix? A friend of mine made me caramels with pecans in them for Christmas and it got me to thinking. Thanks!!

  • Jenni Williams

    I’ve got a batch cooling now. Instead of bourbon I used my homemade cannabis tincture. Soooo excited to try these! 100% legal medical home grow

  • Johannah

    These are fabulous! I made mine with Shanky’s Whip, a black Irish whiskey. I substituted heavy cream for the condensed milk to make a lovely sauce for ice cream too. Worked perfectly!

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