If you’ve never made homemade candy before, try these Walnut Caramels! They are easy to make, and so gooey and delicious. And they’re perfect for gift giving.
Bite-size Walnut Caramels are a gratifying weekend baking project. You start with a mixture of whole milk, heavy cream, butter, and sugar, and out come the most delightful soft and chewy caramels topped with crunchy walnuts.
Heavy cream and whole milk are key to creating extra creamy caramels, and I’m no stranger to either ingredient. Between milk for my toddler, smoothies for my husband and me, and creamy pasta dishes for dinner, I’m constantly pulling milk or cream out of the refrigerator.
I also make this Homemade Hot Fudge with just two ingredients (heavy cream and chocolate chips) for our family ice cream nights!
So grab your milk, cream, butter, and sugar, and let’s start making these Walnut Caramels. Here’s how to do it:
- Heavy cream and whole milk make the caramels extra creamy
- The caramels are rich and buttery thanks to the unsalted butter
- Brown sugar and light corn syrup caramelize under the heat
- Chopped walnuts get scattered on top. Pecans would be good, too!
- Salt balances out the sweetness to create a perfectly balanced caramel
How to make walnut caramels
Place the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a large saucepan or large pot over medium heat. Use your largest pot, or even a dutch oven, for this. The mixture will bubble as it cooks and take up more space in the pot.
Pour in the heavy cream and milk. Stir to combine.
Place the mixture over medium heat. Insert a candy thermometer. Let cook for 25–35 minutes, or until the mixture reaches 250°F.
When reading the temperature, make sure that the thermometer is not touching the sides or the bottom of the pot, which can cause an inaccurate reading. It should just be touching the caramel itself.
Take care that the mixture does not go over 250°F, otherwise the caramels will be too hard!
Pour the caramel mixture in a 13×9 inch pan lined with parchment paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray. This makes it really easy to get the caramels out later.
Immediately top the mixture with the walnuts. Let cool entirely, which will take about two hours on the countertop.
Once the caramels have cooled completely, lift the parchment paper from the pan like a sling, and place it on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the caramels into approximately one inch squares. I got 12 rows of caramels from the long side of the pan, and 8 rows of caramels from the short side of the pan.
You can make the caramels as big or as small as you like!
Do I need a candy thermometer to make caramels?
Yes, you really do. Sugar becomes hard as it heats up, and different temperatures create different consistencies of caramels. For example, heating the mixture to 240°F (instead of 250°F) would create soft caramels that ooze when you cut them. They’re still delicious, but they don’t hold their shape. 250°F is the perfect temperature for caramels that are still soft and chewy, yet hold their shape when you cut them.
My caramels turned out too hard. What did I do wrong?
If the caramels are too hard, the mixture was heated to over 250°F. This could be either from cooking the caramels too long, or from an inaccurate thermometer. See the next question for how to calibrate your thermometer for accuracy.
How do I calibrate a candy thermometer?
Bring a pot of water to a boil. With the water still boiling, place the probe of your candy thermometer entirely in the water. Make sure that the thermometer is not touching the sides or bottom of the pan. The thermometer should read 212°F. If your thermometer reads differently, adjust the temperature of whatever you’re making accordingly. For example, if your thermometer reads 210°F in boiling water, cook the recipe to 248°F instead of 250°F.
Walnut Caramels are great for gift giving. To wrap them, place a caramel on a 3×3 inch square of wax paper. Fold the paper around the caramel to enclose it, and twist the ends.
You could pile them into a little tin or a basket for a sweet hostess gift or “thinking of you” gift. I’m going to drop some of these off for my grandpa, who has a major sweet tooth. He’s going to LOVE them.
If you’re looking for something to pair the caramels with for gift giving, this Pecan Brittle is really tasty!
The caramels are also a delicious addition to a holiday cookie platter. Each year, my family teams up to make a variety of cookies to enjoy throughout the season. Along with my Grandma’s Cocoa Drops, which is a fond family memory that I have of a recipe that is also made with milk, these caramels are on my to-do list for making this holiday season!
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2½ cups packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup finely chopped walnuts
- Place butter in a large pot, such as a saucepan or dutch oven. Place the pot over medium heat and allow butter to melt.
- Add the brown sugar and salt, and stir thoroughly. Stir in the corn syrup and mix well.
- Add the heavy cream and milk. Stir to incorporate.
- Affix a candy thermometer onto the side of the pot. Cook the mixture over medium heat until the temperature reaches 250°F (and no higher). When reading the temperature, make sure the thermometer is not touching the sides or the bottom of the pot, which can cause an inaccurate reading.
- While the caramel mixture is cooking, line a 13×9 inch pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray, or grease it with butter.
- Pour the caramel mixture into the pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top. Allow to cool completely, about 1–2 hours.
- To cut the caramels, remove the caramels from the pan using the parchment paper as a sling. Place the caramels on a cutting board and cut using a sharp knife. I cut 12 caramels from the long end and 8 caramels from the short end (96 caramels total). Wrap the caramels in wax paper if desired. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.