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. These look divine! I’ll have to try this caramel recipe, I’ve never used one with maple syrup, yum!

  2. Do you think you could make it and put it in a crock pot to keep it warm? It sounds delish! I may have to make this to have while we do a lil’ pumpkin carving!

    1. If you’re just going to serve it as an apple dip, then yes that would probably work. I would probably keep an eye on it though and maybe turn off the crock pot until it starts getting too thick to dip and then turn it back on if you need to for a few minutes.

  3. I’m so excited to use this caramel recipe on our apples. I have to agree, tart green apples are the perfect compliment to caramel. Especially when my favorite is dipped in white chocolate and cinnamon sugar afterwards.

  4. I can’t keep up with all the treats you guys make. I”m still working on the cute candy corn cookies. But caramel apples will make a perfect Christmas gift for all our teachers this year! Thanks for all the tips and tricks.

  5. Beautiful & Delicious! What more could you want? My visiting teaching sisters are gonna love me this month!

  6. I need to go grocery shopping tonight… I think apples will be added to the list. Along with most of the caramel ingredients. 😛

  7. These look delish! Just a tip to throw in … if you sand the outside of the apple with very fine sandpaper (then was wash off of course) it will remove that wax texture & the caramel sticks much better.

  8. We LOVE caramel apples, but I’ve never tried to make the caramel from scratch – definitely have to try this soon! One of favorites is a caramel apple, dipped in white chocolate and then rolled in cinnamon sugar. Yum!

  9. I made caramel apples yesterday (with the wrapped store bought caramels) and I think I NEED to make this one now! Yummmmm!!!!

  10. I laughed so many times while reading this post. Mostly about how you described the apple and then about your son holding the apple. lol. I like this idea because it seems like it actually makes enough to dip the apples in. I hate unwrapping caramels, melting them and then not really having enough to dip a few apples in. So, I’ll probably be trying this.

  11. Caramel apples are one of my favorite treats of all time! I can’t wait to make these!!

  12. MAN i wish this came out before yesterday… 🙂 i made caramel apples (per our annual tradition) and i can NEVER get the caramel to stay put. (ugh!) why is that??? anyhow, i will try this recipe. yours look gorgeous as always. thanks!

  13. Do you hear any of us complaining that you didn’t post a healthy dinner today? Uh- no! You should have posted this on Friday though (even though it was Kate’s turn and her maple bars look so incredible) because my daughter made caramel apples Saturday night and they were a mess. We could have used all your fantastic information to prevent that disaster. However, if you HAD posted this on Friday, guess who would have been tempted to add them to the already crazy, overloaded dessert table at the Empty Nester’s party?
    Please pass me the peanut-coconut apple. Thank you.

    1. Oh, I forgot to ask, sometimes us high-altitude people have to adjust stuff. Do you think 236° is the right number for us as well? Don’t answer that right away- go have a nap first. You were up way too late last night and then awake way too early this morning.

      1. Ha. It’s true; I need a nap. I’m honestly not sure about the altitude, but you could do a soft-ball test to make sure it’s where you want it. Just drop a little bit of caramel into a cup of ice water. You should be able to grab the caramel and form it into a little ball, and that’s the consistency it will be when it’s cooled. I actually took pictures of that; I should add it as a little tip.

        1. I made these tonight. I didn’t change the temperature from what you listed and they turned out great. Really, really great.

  14. I am going to give your caramel dipping sauce a try like RIGHT NOW! Yum! I think caramel apples might be my favorite treat EVER! I will be linking to your recipe later today!

  15. Just one technical comment, because I’m an engineer and these are the types of things we just HAVE to do. I’m thinking that applezilla is actually over a foot in circumference and not diameter (a basketball isn’t even a foot in diameter). Just a note to keep people from searching for that elusive “larger than a basketball” apple. That being said, my friend is putting on a benefit for a local family in a couple of weeks and I think these will be the perfect addition to the bake sale table. I’m super excited.

    1. Ha, you are most certainly correct! I do know the difference between the two, that’s just what I get for typing my post at 1am, lol!

  16. My 4-year old has been begging me to make caramel apples…guess I’d better add these ingredients to my grocery list. Thanks for sharing!

  17. My favorite is caramel, milk chocolate, then crushed oreos. That could be because I LOVE oreos, but I’ve never heard anyone else complain about it, so I’d say I’m not the only one who thinks it’s yummy.

  18. Oh, my. I want to go to the grocery store to get all of the ingredients right now. Those apples are just beautiful and look amazingly delicious, too!

  19. Those look amazing. We made caramel apples for a YW fund raiser and they were a huge hit.

  20. that’s got to be a honeycrisp!! in the fall i look forward to pumpkin everything and honeycrisp apples! SOooo yummy 🙂 thanks for this recipe

  21. I’ve seen Honeycrisp apples that were huge like these. And I’ve had them dipped in caramel – incredible! I’m not a fan of maple syrup though. What does the maple syrup bring to the mix in this recipe – is it a discernable flavor or is it an enhancer that stays in the background?

    1. No, it doesn’t make the caramel maple flavored at all. In fact most people probably couldn’t pick it out when it’s all done if they didn’t know. However, I wouldn’t leave it out either; it contributes to the deep, complex flavor.

    2. This Carmel is one of the best carmels ive ever made and it is to die for and I believe you need every ingredients listed in the recipe. And the maple syrup is pure maple syrup which doesn’t have the same flavor as that imitation stuff that you buy like Mrs Buttersworth so it has a totally different flavor then the invitation maple syrup. This is s must try recipe.

      Natalie Mills

  22. What type of apple are the ginormous ones?? I remember finding a monster of an apple once when I was in college… I ate it for breakfast on my walk to my first class of the morning. By the time I arrived, I still hadn’t finished and was feeling full. I haven’t found another like it since then and don’t remember it’s name! I want to say Fiji but all the Fiji ones I find are normal-sized. Anyway, I can totally imagine myself eating that humongous apple with caramel, Butterfinger, toffee, and chocolate. I love those toppings!

    1. These ones are Honeycrisp, one of my fave varieties. They’re good for dipping because they’re so crisp they can really stand up to all of the toppings. However, if I had to choose, I gotta say when it comes to dipped caramel apples, I still love a really tart green one.

  23. These are so beautiful! I, too, will have to buy a bunch of ingredients but they are the perfect gift for my coworkers. Can’t wait to try them!

  24. Look! I’m finally leaving a comment! At 12:45am… When I should be in bed!! Anyway, I have decided that THIS is the year I will finally try my hand at the whole homemade, gourmet caramel apple thing. I wasn’t going to go all fancy with the caramel and do homemade, but now I’m having second thoughts. Of course, I don’t have unsalted butter, DARK corn syrup or Maple syrup on hand, so those may have to be added to the grocery list. 🙂 When I get one at the fancy boutique, I always go for the one drizzled just in dark, milk and white chocolate. And yes, you have to slice it before eating. WAY to hard to eat it right from the stick!

    1. ooh, look at you Mrs. First-to-comment 😉 Too bad you weren’t at my house to chit chat with me while be both stayed up that late, lol! Give this caramel a try; you’ll totally love it!

      1. I totally would, too (stay up and chit-chat with you, that is!)… If we lived a little closer. You know, like maybe in the same state!! Actually, last night I was up pretty late chit-chatting with some friends while our husbands all watched some show.
        Usually I have my husband make the caramel (for fear of the whole “once your job always your job” and I already do the majority of the treat-making in the house!) but perhaps I can make an exception…