Gourmet Style Dipped Apples with Homemade Caramel

It’s okay, you can say it.  I’m a liar.  I really did have an actual meal for you today. But then I went grocery shopping.  And I bought apples.  I love it when I find the bags of little tiny apples; do you know what I’m talking about?  They’re smaller than normal apples, and I love them because they’re the perfect size for my little kids because they’re easy to hold and they can eat the entire thing (as opposed to eating half the apple and then leaving it somewhere super convenient, like under the couch, in the toy box, or behind the tv for me to find later.)  They’re also perfect for caramel apples because they’re just a little more manageable to eat and you can make more.  So I bought my little apples and everything else I needed to dip them for a fun family activity.  And then, I saw it.


I am not joking when I say these are the biggest apples I’ve ever seen in my LIFE.  Here’s a comparison to a normal sized apple.  Applezilla is well over a foot in circumference and it weighs a pound and a half!

How could I not get them??  With caramel apples on my mind already, I knew these were destined to be the biggest, baddest apples of all time.

We’ve got a couple of posts on caramel apples already.  Kate did a good, basic how-to on quick and easy apples, and last fall I shared a yummy recipe for homemade honey caramel apples.  We get a lot of requests for homemade caramel for apples and I stumbled across this recipe and was dying to try it.  Folks, this stuff knocks the socks off of those little plastic-wrapped caramels.  If you want amazing, impressive, gourmet style apples- the kind you can bust your wallet buying in a fancy little boutique store, this is it.

Making dipped apples isn’t complicated, but I can tell you it is so, so much easier with a few tricks, so I’m going to give you all of the ones I’ve got!  First of all,  you’ll want to wash your apples well (I usually use a tiny bit of soap to remove any waxy film) and then dry them completely.

Go ahead and place the sticks in the apples, placing them right where the stem comes out.  I’ve found it helps to chill the apples because when they’re cold, the caramel sticks and sets quicker.  So after the sticks are all in, place them in the fridge to chill while you do everything else.

It also helps to get all of your toppings ready before you even start.  When working with candy, you want to be ready to go as soon as it reaches a certain temperature, so start with a clean kitchen, open sink space, and get your toppings and work space prepared first.

For the caramel, you’ll need all of this yummy stuff.

One of the reasons I was attracted to this recipe was because all of the flavor in there.  I love a good sugar+butter+cream caramel, but this one has sweetened condensed milk, dark corn syrup, molasses, dark brown sugar and pure maple syrup (seriously, no Aunt Jamima here- use the good stuff.  I know it’s expensive, but YES it’s worth it.  Keep it  hidden in your pantry for recipes so your kids don’t pour it on their pancakes and pull it out for special occasions, like this caramel.)  The flavor and the texture are seriously amazing.  And don’t be intimidated by the fact that it requires a thermometer; it’s seriously easy caramel and really simple to work with.  All you have to do is dump all of the ingredients in a big pot

And stir it until everything is melted and dissolved.  Then turn up the heat and boil it until it reaches temperature.  If you have a non-stick pot I suggest using it; caramel and sweetened condensed milk can burn fairly easily in stainless steel.

When you’re choosing a bowl to put your cooked caramel in, choose the smallest bowl possible that will fit all of the caramel; that will make dipping easier.  And a tall, narrower bowl is better than a wide, shallow one.  One of the tricks is to not dip your apples when the caramel is right off the stove; it will be so hot, it will fall right off the apples.  200 degrees is a good temp that makes the caramel easy to work with and it will stay on the apples.  Just plunge them in and let the excess run off.

Flip the apples upside-down for a few seconds and then twirl them around.  Before I place them on my baking sheet, I use a spoon to just gently scrape excess off the bottom so you don’t end up with a huge pool of caramel.

Now, if you dip your apples in toppings right after the caramel, the toppings will slide right off and you’ll be stuck with a big gloppy ugly mess.  So just be patient and keep dipping the apples in caramel and let them set before you dip in toppings.  The caramel will never harden so much that you can’t add anything to it so don’t stress.

By the time you finish dipping all the apples, the first ones should be ready for toppings.  Pull them off your sheet (a silicone baking mat will be your best friend here.  If you don’t have any, try a piece of buttered foil.) and don’t worry if some of the caramel sticks to the sheet, or pulls off the bottom of the apple.  Use your hands to gently press the pooled caramel around the bottom of the apple.  This caramel is great; it’s soft enough to mold and handle, but not so soft that it’s sticky and messy.

Then you can go crazy with the decorations.  Depending on what you’re using, you can either roll your apple in the topping, or use your hands to gently press them into the caramel. If you want, have some melted chocolate ready and you can dip over the caramel.  Chocolate tends to be a little thicker, so dip it less than you want the final apple to be dipped, and use a knife to scrape off excess chocolate on the bottom.

When you then dip in something else, like chopped peanuts like I have here, the nuts will sort of push the chocolate further up the apple.

Once they’re all dipped, you can decorate with more chocolate.  Place some melted chocolate in a heavy duty ziplock bag and cut the end off. (You can actually melt chocolate chips right in the bag in the microwave and just smash them around until melted and smooth) and then drizzle away.

Be creative and have fun!  Some of the things I love to use are: crushed cookies or candybars, graham cracker crumbs, chopped nuts, toffee bits, and toasted coconut.  It’s fun coming up with new combinations and finding things that look as pretty as they are delicious!

Here’s some of our favorites from this go-around.

S’mores Apple!  Carmel dipped and rolled in crushed graham crackers. Marshmallows pressed in by hand and drizzled in chocolate.  The one on the right is semi-sweet chocolate and chopped peanuts on the bottom, and white chocolate with toasted coconut on top.

On the left we have another chocolate peanut combo, and on the right, caramel with crushed Butterfinger, drizzled white chocolate, and more Butterfinger.  Oh my gosh I love Butterfingers…

This was maybe my fave- caramel dipped and rolled in toasted almonds, and toasted coconut with dried sweet cherries (just pressed in by hand) and white chocolate.  So good.

And the apple-zillas?  They got rolled in chopped toffee and drizzled in two kinds of chocolate.They weighed over TWO POUNDS each!

I made a few of the gigantic ones and took one of them to a friend who reminded me of the best way to eat them.  Caramel apples can be a pain to just bite into, so just take a sharp knife and slice both sides off the apple, on either side of the stick:

Then slice off the remaining two sides, and slice the halves into slices.

My little helper was SO patient through the photoshoot and couldn’t wait to get his hands on a huge apple.  This gives you a better idea of how big they are; close to the size of his head!  The kid could barely hold that thing up.

So there you have it.  You are all ready to save your cash at the overpriced-gourmet-caramel-apple-store and make up your own!  If you want to package them up (great for gift giving to friends, neighbors, co-workers, school teachers, favorite food bloggers, etc.) chill the finished apples for at least an hour so everything is set and then place in cellophane bags.  Store in fridge until you’re ready to give them away.  Or change your mind and eat them all yourself.  I won’t tell.

 Caramel Apple Fondue:  I also wanted to mention that you can easily turn something like this into a fun party food.  Just put the warm caramel into bowls, or a fondue pot and put all of your toppings in little bowls.  Slice a bunch of apples and just let people dip the apples into the caramel and then into a topping.  We did this as a family last night and my kids LOVED it.  It’s so fun and so easy.  It would make a great dessert buffet for a party!


Homemade Caramel for Apple Dipping

What's a fall party without apples dipped in homemade caramel?


  • 1 pound dark brown sugar about 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 14- ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 medium sized apples that's a pretty conservative measurement, this makes a lot of caramel
  • popsicle sticks or chopsticks
  • assorted toppings for dipping toffee bits, chopped nuts, coconut, crushed cookies or candy bars, etc.
  • Optional: melted chocolate in zip-top bags


  • Wash and dry apples; place sticks in cores and place on a baking sheet in the fridge to chill. Prepare all toppings in bowls and have them ready to go.
  • To prepare caramel, combine first 8 ingredients in heavy 2 1/2-quart nonstick saucepan (about 3-4 inches deep, at least). Stir with wooden or silicone spatula over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves (no crystals are felt when caramel is rubbed between fingers), occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush or scraping with spatula, about 15 minutes.
  • Attach a clip-on candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook caramel at rolling boil until thermometer registers 236°F, stirring constantly but slowly with clean spatula and occasionally brushing/scraping down sides of pan, about 12 minutes. Pour caramel into a bowl. Submerge thermometer bulb in caramel. Cool to 200°F, about 20 minutes. If it cools too much just heat it up a little.
  • While caramel cools, line 1-2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or buttered foil. Set up decorations and melted chocolates.
  • Holding stick, dip 1 apple into 200°F caramel, submerging all but very top of apple. Lift apple out, allowing excess caramel to drip back into bowl. Turn apple caramel side up and hold for several seconds to help set caramel around apple. If needed, gently scrape the bottom of the apple to remove excess caramel. Place coated apple on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining apples and caramel, spacing apples apart (caramel will pool a bit on foil). If caramel becomes too thick to dip into, gently heat in microwave, or add 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream and briefly whisk caramel in bowl over low heat to thin.
  • By the time you have dipped all the apples, the first ones should be ready partially set enough to add toppings. If not, chill in fridge for a few minutes. Lift 1 apple from foil. Using hand, press pooled caramel around apple. Then firmly press decorations into the caramel and return to baking sheet.
  • If desired dip caramel-coated apples into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off, then roll in nuts or candy. Or drizzle melted chocolate over caramel-coated apples and sprinkle with decorations. Chill until decorations are set, about 1 hour. Cover; chill up to 1 week or wrap in cellophane bags for gift giving.
Author: Our Best Bites
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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. Hi everyone. After weeks of working myself up to it, tomorrow is the big day for making these! I live in Sydney, Australia (originally from California) and haven’t had one of these kids of apples in 14 YEARS! Australians don’t make them! Needless to say, all my friends are very curious to try them! You can’t get corn syrup of any kind here, but Ive read that treacle is an ok substitute, so I’ll be trying that out. Also, molasses is one of the most expensive grocery items here (more than maple syrup imported from Canada! Don’t ask me why) so it seems like my caramel is going to taste a bit different to yours. Anywho…. I’ll post up again tomorrow and let you know how I did!

  2. These look wonderful! I want to make just plain caramel apples (not nuts, candies…), but then I want to put them in cellophane bags to give as gifts. Does this caramel set up enough or would it make a sticky mess of the cello bag?

  3. So, I think I took the coment “Don’t worry, it’ll never harden so much that you can’t add topping” too literally. All I did was dip all 12, I did have to reheat once, but by the time I finished dipping, the caramel was so hard, I couldn’t even get a nut to stick when manually pushing it in. The only way I could add toppings at this point, was to add a layer of Chocolate. Obviously, I did something wrong, just can’t figure out what it was…. Help? 🙂

  4. Sara, I can’t stop making these! Four times already, and we just keep craving them. Oh my.

  5. Delish! Thank you…We make carmel apples every year and I think that I just found a new favorite carmel recipe to replace what I thought was my favorite. We like to make ‘key lime pie’ white almond bark, powdered green jello, graham cracker crumbs on the bottom…so good.
    Quick question though- this obviously makes a lot, is this carmel too soft to use for candy making? I was thinking homemade turtles or even just wrapped carmels. Could I reheat and actual cook it to be firmer if not? I am not really good at the candy stuff, but for sure wasn’t wasting the leftovers.

    1. It would have to be cooked to a higher temp to be thick enough to stand on its own, but it would be awesome for homemade turtles!


  7. That’s a lot of work! Want my recipe? Make the caramel by boiling sweetened condensed milk for a few hours, I think you even did something up similar by putting yours in the oven. So good!

  8. Lame question. What kind of melted chocolate do you use? Do you use almond bark or the real stuff you get at a candy making store? I have been drooling over these for over a week but made the candy corn cookies and the chocolate mummy cookies instead (made the chocolate cookie recipe without the variations listed with orange extract and made a peppermint buttercream frosting and loved them!!!)

    1. Not a lame question at all! I just use melted chocolate chips. I usually add about a teaspoon of vegetable oil or shortening for every 1 cup of chips to make dipping easier.

  9. Wow, you weren’t kidding. This caramel recipe is awesome! Really not that hard to make, especially if you have a thermometer, and I had most of the ingredients on hand already. Actually I didn’t have pure maple syrup, so I just used the kind I usually put on pancakes. Obviously I don’t know what the difference would have been but I think it tastes scrumptious. I LOVE LOVE LOVE caramel apples, and have tried several different versions of homemade caramel, and I am very happy with this one!
    Thank you!

  10. I made this caramel today and had all the Mom’s in our play group make a bunch of apples. It was a fun activity and we all agreed that it is THE BEST caramel we’ve ever had. Thank you!

  11. a lot of people seem to be mentioning trouble with their caramel cooling too quickly. I left it in the pot I made it and though it took a little longer than the time you listed to cool it, it also stayed at the right temp for quite awhile and gave us more than enough time to dip a lot of apples. I’m guessing the warm metal helped stabilize it.

  12. I made these tonight with my family and I modified the recipe so this is an FYI ;0) Instead of using dark brown sugar I used regular and the big exchange that I did was instead of using corn syrup I used agave nectar syrup instead! I’m allergic to corn so I hoped this exchange would work and it did! They turned out amazingly delicious, held together beautifully and best of all? For the first time in over 20 years I had my first caramel apple again My husband, who can eat anything, lucky guy, said the caramel was delicious and what he really liked about it is that it was chewy and stuck well to the apple but it wasn’t sticky like the stuff you get int he stores. He said the ‘normal’ way is so sticky and chewy that it pulls your fillings out and this one allowed you to enjoy your treat without fear of loosing a filling or getting your teeth stuck together ;0) Wonderful recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Oh bother. I’m 19 weeks pregnant, and then I see this recipe on your site—and now I HAVE to make these things! There’s just no other option. My pregnant body is going…”Caramel Apples…must..have…caramel…apples……” 🙂

  14. I made these a couple nights ago and boy am i glad i did (vs just melting the Brachs caramel) this was PHENOMINAL!!! Absolutly delicious – if you have the time, make these. You will not regret it. I did have a little trouble with my caramel cooling too quickly and then when i dippped the apples a bunch of air bubbles formed – not a big deal since i dipped in chocolate. I will be making these every year!!

  15. I just made this tonight without any toppings on them at all and the caramel was delicious! I think this caramel would be great on brownies or anything else, I even put it on a sugar cookie with pecans and it was awesome! This caramel would make great turtles too because it sets up so nice. Thanks for the recipe.

    1. I just made these for xmas gifts & the caramel turned out great! The trouble I had was with the chocolate. After i dipped the caramel apples in chocolate (i used melted chocolate chips) and then toppings, it slid down and pooled in globs. However, the white chocolate i used didn’t do that. Next time I will use the same stuff for both white and regular:)

  16. ok well I’m extremely discouraged! i was so excited to try this recipe, went out and got all my ingredients, got everything ready and did it. i noticed while looking at your pictures that your sticks of butter looked smaller than mine, but still did 2 sticks like the recipe said. i did everything exactly how you said, and my caramel just got done cooking to 200 degrees. i excitedly dipped my first apple and nothing happened. it came out shiny, with no caramel on it. i even tried grabbing a spoon and pushing the caramel on the apple. nothing. do i have too much butter in it? 2 sticks? 1 cup? i’m so bummed! so now i have a bowl full of useless (but smelling oh so good) caramel sauce, bowls of toppings, chilled apples, and a sink full of sticky dishes! is there anything i can still do to save this disastrous endeavor or should i pitch it?

    1. Yep, 2 sticks is one cup of butter. I’m not sure where you went wrong; perhaps a different incorrect measurement? Sounds like there was a mistake somewhere- but it probably still tastes good!

  17. These look wonderful and I can’t wait to try them. But I had to have a laugh and read aloud to my DH your comments about pure maple syrup. First, that you would hide it from your children. Seriously? Why not let your kids learn to appreciate the good things in life?! We proudly pour pure maple syrup on pancakes around here. You don’t need a lot of it and it’s so much more wonderful – and better for your health – than corn syrup based products. I don’t want my kids to have a taste for cheap fake food so I gladly let them use real syrup on everything! (and I love putting it on lots of stuff – it’s how I get my 3 yr old to eat veggies a lot of the time). The final chuckle was that after you talked about how expensive the stuff is, your photo included the Wal Mart generic. I mean come on, how expensive could that have been? Anyway this looks like a great blog and I’m glad I found it. I would just encourage you and your readers to think about more than price point when purchasing ingredients (as you already are doing even by recommending the pure maple, and I think you’re probably just trying to encourage your readers to do the same). And go ahead and let your kids enjoy some real, delicious syrup! It will make pancakes all the more special! 🙂

    1. Oh trust me Stasi, my children definitely appreciate the “good things in life”! You have to realize that we write for a huge demographic and there are many people out there who wouldn’t even think of buying the pure maple syrup because of the price tag (even my generic brand, the absolute cheapest I’ve found, which was about $8 for 2 cups of syrup compared to an industrial sized jug of Aunt Jemima for about $3!) I’m simply explaining that if they don’t want to spend that much on the syrup then they can save it for recipes. Personally, while I LOVE pure maple syrup, there’s no way I would buy it for pancakes for my 3 boys. They would finish that off in one morning, no problem, and are just as happy with something like Log Cabin!

  18. WOW!!! This recipe was fantastic! I have never made caramel before, or dipped apples, but they turned out great. I have had many taste testers with nothing but good replies…thanks for the recipe.

  19. What type of chocolate is best to use over the caramel? We are making these right now and having a hard time getting m&ms to stick to the chocolate. The caramel is AMAZING though! I made sure there was plenty left in the bowl and on the spatula so I’d have to clean it off. 🙂

  20. I made these tonight and they are AWESOME!!!!! Thank you so much for posting this! I was a little worried about maple syrup in caramel, but it’s SO good! And I had leftover caramel, so I poured it into a small (toaster oven-sized) stoneware pan lined with foil and will be cutting it and wrapping it in parchment paper in the morning! YUMMMMM!!!! P.S. I used honeycrisp apples, and they were wonderful – nice and crisp, with a little more sweetness than a granny smith while still being a bit tart.

  21. I had to laugh while grocery shopping tonight when I saw some apples and thought of this post! I was looking around to find some apples that were inexpensive (this particular store has VERY inexpensive produce), anyway, I found the complete opposite to Applezilla, the smallest apples I have ever seen in my life! Wish I would have taken a picture to post on the OBB facebook page. It was a bag of around 10-15 apples that were probably the size of a small avocado pit! I was tempted to buy them to make your gourmet dipped apples, but decided not to when I realized there would probably be more chocolate and caramel on them than fruit. (Wouldn’t be able to justify eating a caramel apple to my husband because there was fruit involved!) Anyway, the experience made me think of this post and made me smile, thanks again for another amazing recipe!!!

  22. Oh . . my . . goodness!! Those look delicious! I’m going to have to go buy me some apples (and all the other goodness.)

  23. Okay, so I think my oven is hotter than normal…everything happened very quickly. The caramel turned out delicious, but definitely got too hard!! I’ll have to give it another go.

  24. My favorite caramel chocolate apple combo is white chocolate and cinnamon sugar. Completely sounds under-decorated, but they are soo fine!

  25. Dear Moms of Mrs. Nielsen’s fourth graders,
    Please read this post and then make them for your child’s teacher!
    Mrs. Nielsen!

  26. I just wanted to say I think your recipes are great! I like them so much I put your website on my blog roll! Happy Baking!


  27. Sara,
    I halved the recipe for the caramel. Do you know if that changes the cooking time? I was struggling to keep my caramel soft, so I think I should have halved the cooking time too. Also, when you need to rewarm the caramel to keep dipping apples, what method do you suggest? I put my bowl in the microwave and only reheated for a few seconds, but I think it made my caramel go hard. Your apples turned out gorgeous! I think I’m going to have to try again.

  28. Just got back from buying all the stuff I needed to make these and was showing the pictures to my 7 year old daughter who is typically looking over my shoulder while I look at the computer and she says “Sara, she seems really creative. I’d like to meet her! She always has good stuff on here….and she’s really pretty too!” Gotta love kid compliments! 🙂