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. Made these tonight and they were delicious! I made them a couple years ago and I had hoped this time that they were as great as I remembered them. They totally were!

  2. I wanted to know if I could use heavy cream instead of sweetened condensed? I really want to try this recipe so I am hoping it can be substituted

  3. I would really love to try these recipes and read this post, but after the Bauch+Lomb pop up ad has prevented me from seeing your text FOUR times in one paragraph, I give up. I’ll try another blog.

  4. I wanted to offer a quick tip to anyone having difficulty with this recipe. After making it a couple of times, a friend suggested that the brown sugar I was using may have been keeping the caramel from setting up all the way. I used generic brown sugar–that was not 100% cane sugar. As soon as I switched to 100% cane sugar it turned out perfectly.

  5. I just made this recipe, and my caramel didn’t set up at all. It’s delicious, and made a great sauce, but every topping I put on just slid right off. I cooked it to 250 degrees and let it cool to 200. Did I overcook it? That should have made it more firm, correct?

    1. You might of put the toppings on too soon.I found that even at 200 degrees is still too hot to even dip apples in. It honestly needs to set a little before doing so. I always dip a few then go back and put toppings on.

  6. Thanks so much for the recipe and all of the tips! This is the best experience I have had trying to make caramel apples. I have been in search of the perfect recipe for a long time. This is it.

    I have one question. (I scanned the previous comments and didn’t see a reference to this problem.) What causes air bubbles to form in the caramel as it is cooling on the apple? They weren’t there when I dipped, but then appeared.

    1. Candy the air bubbles will form when stirring too quick and can trap air pockets. Try stirring slowly. This has happened to me as well and hasn’t happened since.

  7. Made this just now and it turned out FAB!!!! I halved the recipe, and because I didn’t have sweetened condensed milk, I used a jar of COOKED sweetened condensed milk, which I DID have on hand… which I bought at the Portuguese market down the sweet- confiture du lait, in French, and very yummy if you spoon feed yourself from the can… Watch out for that!!!

    It turned out to be PERFECT— very smooth and creamy, and a VERY DELISH taste, not like the caramel sauce I usually make from just sugar, butter, cream! This one was much richer in taste!
    Realllly loved the molasses added in for a certain flavour! Anyhow… I’m taking it over to my students’ house tomorrow to make caramel apples… I’m SURE they’ll LOVE IT!!!!

  8. Thank you so much for this amazing recipe!! I just made some tonight and my sisters and I love them so much!! For sure my FAVORITE!! Thank you so much! 🙂

  9. So I found this recipe a couple years ago. Everyone I have made them for loves them! I have made them for teachers and faculty at my kids school, teachers for Primary at church, friends, neighbors, and sent a batch to work with my Hubby to give out to workers.(actually a few batches–because they keep asking for more!) But what most recently happened is what I really wanted to share with you! I made a batch for a Young Men and Young Women fundraiser auction. I decided to put 4 on a plate and made 3 plates. Well, they auctioned off for a total of $385!! Everyone was fighting for the apples! When the bid got so high on the last plate, the guys who were both bidding for it finally just said they would each pay the same high bid of $110 each, if I would donate another plate of apples so they could both have some! It was crazy! And just so you know, I never take credit for your recipe. I always tell them it came from you and tell everyone to check out your website and your books! Thanks so much!

  10. Found this recipe among others …The BEST Gourmet Ingredients. ..Wow! The Ingredients makes all the difference. Never can use store caramel again…its like sitting in first class!
    Thanks for your great photos and easy instructions. .super tutorial!

  11. I just made these for neighbor gifts and they turned out perfect! I always get nervous when cooking with a thermometer, but your directions were absolutely perfect and walked me through my thermometer induced nerves. Thank you!!

  12. Oh my yum. We made these last night and not only was it so much fun, the caramel is sooooo goood. Thanks for awesome, clear instructions. My husband and I make recipes almost solely from this website. Love it!

  13. Carmel was delicious. I have lots of leftover caramel. Can I refrigerate
    And make more apples later?
    Thank you!

  14. Do you think this recipe would work on popcorn? What about a pound cake? Or is this just for dipping – I don’t particularly like the whole caramel apple, so I would make the caramel & then dip the cut apples in it. Would that work too? Looks heavenly!!

  15. Wish I had read this earlier today!! I just got home from my daughters house where we made our first caramel apples. We bought the caramels wrapped in plastic and spent 15 minutes unwrapping all of them. We had Granny Smith and Jonathon apples. We also had mini marshmallows and chopped pecans to add to the apples. Well, they came out fine after just dipping in the caramel, then when we went to add the extras, we just couldn’t get the stuff to stick and it made a mess of the outside of the apple! I finally just took the pecans and msshed them into the apples. We used chocolate chips melted to put the chocolate on and it was so thick it was just horrid! I couldn’t used these tips earlier!! Now that I’ve found your site, I’ll check here before I cook anything new! lol Thanks, the recipe for the homemade caramel looks scumptious!

  16. I tried to look through all the comments to clarify this, but nobody seemed to say anything that I could see! Your butter sticks look very short–can you clarify exactly how much you used? In some states I have lived the sticks really ARE shorter and 1/4 C–but here they are 1/2 C sticks. I made these tonight, and they were yummy, but I only used 1/2 C butter just in case (because I figured it was better to err on the side of too little rather than too much). Just want to clarify for future making! 😉 Thanks!

  17. These apples turned out absolutely delicious!!!!! I have an old family recipe that I always use, but the temp has to be brought up to a certain degree 3x and it is such a long process to make. So I looked for a new one on the internet and found this one…
    These were very fast and easy for homemade caramel apples!!! And the caramel was just perfect. The only thing I changed was I dipped my apples into my nuts right away.. I don’t think they stick as well when you wait. I also used my copper candy pot and kept the caramel in it for dipping with the stove temp on warm. The caramel stayed soft till the last apple, but had to go on with a spatula to clean out the bottom of the pot and still formed nicely to the apple. GREAT RECIPE!!!! FLAVOR IS AWESOME!!!

  18. I made these today with some friends and they were DELICIOUS! I drizzled them in white and regular chocolate…mmm My mom says we will never buy caramels for caramel apples again! We had lots of extra caramel so I poured it on buttered wax paper and refrigerated it. Makes delicious caramels, too!

  19. Can you make these in a crock pot? I am doing these for a charitable cause and need to make the caramel for up to 50 people.

    If so, how?


    1. You can’t cook this in a crock pot, but you could probably keep it warm in one. You’d have to experiment 🙂

  20. These were FANTASTIC!!! I will NEVER look for a new caramel recipe again. There will never be a need! My kids about passed out on the floor when they saw the apples. They just picked themselves up and started decorating!

    What I am wondering, though, is could I use this recipe for a dip or ice cream topping? Is it as easy as not cooking it as long? Or should I use a completely different recipe? I love this one and would rather convert it but I hate to waste the fine ingredients in experimentation. Your thoughts?

    Incidentally, I had forgotten to buy the dark Karo syrup (I know, gasp!) so I had to substitute agave nectar…worked like a charm and I probably saved 2 points on the glycemic index–for what’s it worth. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing…you hit the jackpot on this one!

  21. Hi, Sara! I have been making this recipe since you first posted it and have become well known for my caramel apples in the fall which led a group of women from church in asking me to make an activity of it. I was wondering if its possible to make more than one batch at a time, or if that will screw it up? I know candy can be finicky. Also, it seems that every time I make these the caramel never hardens quite enough. It works but still seems a bit too soft. I have tried cooking it to a higher temp without any noticeable difference. Any ideas? Thanks so much!

    1. Yeah, I think you could make more than one batch at a time. Just make sure to use a pretty large pot! As for the hardness, I’m really not sure. My suggestion was going to be to cook it to a slightly higher temperature- and definitely chill them immediately after, that hardens them right up.

  22. I’ve got a question. I haven’t made caramel apples in years, and I’m trying to figure out how long they take to set up. I’d like the kids to make them for our class party, but they need to set up in about 15-20 minutes in order for them to take them home. (They’ll have other treats to eat.) Anyone know? We have access to a fridge to chill things if we need.)

    1. Yeah, if you have a fridge, I think you’d be okay. Just make sure to have plastic or baggies or something to wrap them up just in case!

  23. Oh my gosh, you’re awesome. My favorite caramel apple is dipped in white chocolate, rolled in cinnamon and sugar. YUM! I’m also so tempted to make the smores ones, and the white chocolate craisin ones. drool….

  24. I LOVED LOVED LOVED these when I made them last year, got all ready to remake and realized I only have margarine…really dont want to go back to the store. Can I sub margarine for butter or will it make it not stick? Any thoughts?? You are awesome!

    1. Personally, when I’m putting in the effort for something like homemade caramel, I’d spring for butter! But totally up to you. I’ve never made it with margarine so I’m not sure how it would turn out.

  25. So where did you get the APPLE ZILLAS??? or did you just happen to come upon some really big apples in the normal grocery store. I NEED THAT HUGE APPLE :0)


    1. They were just at my local Walmart last year. I hope they have them again!

  26. Hi – I’ve been making chocolate covered caramel apples for several years for Christmas gifts. I started with wrapped caramels – eventually I made my own caramel. The first time I did that all of the toppings just fell away from the apples when cut. Then I learned that I needed to dip the apples in hot water to get the wax off. So I did that and everything worked fine for the most part. Two years ago I used your recipe (which I LOVE btw ;-)) for homemade caramel and they all turned out wonderfully! Last year – however some (not all) when the apples were cut the caramel with all the toppings just came off in one big piece. Not all of them did that and I can’t figure out what went wrong. Some of them when cut the caramel and topping stuck. I’m not sure if maybe the caramel was too hot or hot enough on some – or maybe it was the chocolate. I’m not sure – Can you offer any suggestions? Thank you!

  27. These look delicious! I just have one – possibly silly – question that I see one other person asked but didn’t have answered. You list butter sticks, but the pictures look like blocks; are you then using the full blocks of butter you can buy or is the image just misleading?

    Either way, these look amazing and I will definitely be trying out the recipe!

    1. I’m not sure what’s misleading here- these are just standard sticks of butter, 1/2 cup each. The same sticks are shown unwrapped in the cooking photo, hope that helps!

  28. by chance, will this caramel work on pretzel rods? I make those all the time and the recipe is somewhat similar, just want to try something new..
    thanks for sharing