Although I’d love fall to be a blur of delicious scents wafting in from the kitchen, hay rides and rolling down giant hills with my littles, the reality is I’m usually doing my best to make memories between loads of laundry.
That’s why this year I set my sights on something simple yet quintessentially fall – caramel apples. We’re talking sweet caramel wrapped around crisp, tart apples, then served plain or rolled in chopped nuts, coconut shreds, chocolate chips or your favorite topping.
My personal favorite is a sprinkling of sea salt to balance out the sweetness.
How To Make The Best Caramel Apples
The secret to making delicious caramel apples (and homemade marshmallows, for that matter) is to make sure your candy thermometer is working properly before you dive in. It sounds complicated but it’s not, and it’s worth the trouble, promise!
Here’s how to test yours:
Bring some water to a rolling boil and place the thermometer in for 5-7 minutes. Make sure the actual thermometer is not touching the bottom or side of the pot, as this can affect the reading. I like this one because the stainless steel base automatically keeps the thermometer off the bottom of the pot.
Check the temperature after 5-7 minutes. It should read 212F. If it’s lower or higher, make note of the difference so that you can factor that in while you’re making the caramels.
For example, if it’s ten degrees too high and the recipe calls for the caramel to reach 240F, you’ll know that your caramels are done when the thermometer reads 230F.
Caramel Apples Recipe
- 4-5 popsicle sticks
- 5 small Granny Smith apples
- 1 cup sucanat (aka rapadura sugar)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract (here’s how to make your own)
- chopped almonds, pecans, etc.
- coconut flakes
- chocolate chips
- coarse sea salt
- crushed gluten-free pretzels
Several hours ahead of time:
- Place a popsicle stick in each apple and then pop them in the fridge for at least 3 hours to chill. Caramel sticks better to chilled apples than room temperature apples.
Making The Caramel
- When you're ready to make the caramel apples, combine the cream and rapadura sugar in a medium pot. You need the mixture to be deep enough to get a good reading with your candy thermometer, but when you heat them they’ll bubble up, so make sure there is a generous amount of room at the top.
- Clip your thermometer to the side of the pot so that you can track the temperature easily.
- Bring the caramel mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Stir often as the temperature slowly rises.
- When the mixture reaches 225°F stir constantly until it reaches 240°F to prevent the caramel from burning.
- When the caramel reaches 240°F, quickly pour it into into a small bowl and mix in the vanilla. Allow the caramel to cool until it has thickened a little. It should still be warm when you start dipping the apples.
Dipping The Apples
- Place your bowl of caramel on the counter next to your apples and a piece of parchment paper.
- Dip the apples into the warm caramel and set them to dry on a piece of parchment paper.
- As they're setting you might think you've done something wrong because the caramel might be sliding down the apple, but don't worry. After you've finished dipping the apples, you can slide a baking sheet under them and carry them to the fridge to set. This step is optional, but helpful in my opinion.
- Once the caramel has set on the cold apple, you can mold the caramel with clean hands if you need to. Just lift the apples off the parchment paper and remove the excess caramel at the bottom of the apple. You can stick it onto the apples in any places that were missed or eat it – I won't tell.
- Finally, if you want to add any toppings, place them on a flat surface and roll the caramel apples over it. Store in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
More Caramel Recipes To Try
Soft & Chewy Homemade Caramels – Made with just three ingredients, these caramel candies are so simple and yummy!
Quick Salted Caramel Dipping Sauce – This recipe makes a delicious dip for fruit, or for a more decadent dessert you can drizzle it over coffee ice cream, fudgy brownies, or even as a glaze for gluten-free chocolate donuts.
Dairy-Free Caramel Dipping Sauce – This sauce is super easy to make, lusciously thick, and full of caramel goodness.
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Is there any way to use honey instead? I’m on GAPS, so I can’t do rapadura.
It is possible to use honey, but I suspect you’d need to bring the mixture to a higher temperature or they’ll be very soft. Unfortunately without testing the recipe I can’t say what that temp would be. If you want to try the recipe as-is I recommend letting your caramels firm up in the fridge before eating them.
I made your Honey and Cream Taffy recipe recently. Do you think 280*F would work with this too?
It’s possible but I can’t say for sure without testing it.
I’ve never made caramel apples, but do you think that refrigerating the apples until dipping would help the caramel cool faster and not slide down so much? My mother in law loves turtles so I am hoping to make a healthier version with your caramels recipe and earn some daughter in law points 😉
Yes, it does help 🙂
Hi, would coconut sugar work just as good as rapadura?
Coconut sugar tends to scorch more easily so it’s not my favorite to use in this recipe. It may work,though, as long as you keep a very close eye on it while it’s cooking and stir often.
These look yummy! Do you know if I could use a milk/cream alternative to make the caramel? Maybe the canned coconut milk? I have several little ones with milk allergy but they love the caramel apples. Just one of the things we have had to give up due to food allergies.
I haven’t tried it but it might work. If you do please let us know how it turns out!
This is a dairy free recipe. This blogger has very reliable recipes. https://minimalistbaker.com/5-ingredient-vegan-caramel-sauce/
Is coconut sugar similar to rapadura?
Yes, although I think it may burn a little easier than rapadura so if you use it keep an eye out for that 🙂