How to Make Easy Caramel Apples, Step by Step

We love to eat caramel apples this time of year. You can learn how to make caramel apples at home with just three ingredients.

Is there anything sweeter than a caramel apple in the fall? Crisp, crunchy apples covered in ooey-gooey caramel are like autumn on a stick. And while you can pick up premade caramel apples from a local grocery store or apple orchard, making homemade caramel apples is a fun and easy fall project.

Our Test Kitchen’s step-by-step guide shows you how to take three ingredients (plus all those delicious toppings) and make your own caramel apples that are perfect for snacking and entertaining all season long.

How to Make Caramel Apples

The following homemade caramel apples method uses store-bought caramels for a quick and easy approach to this classic fall treat. If you want to make them completely from scratch, use this caramel apple recipe to make your own caramel.

Ingredients

  • 6 small Gala apples
  • 6 wooden pop sticks
  • 1 package (14 ounces) caramels, unwrapped
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the apples

Person inserting popsicle sticks into the center of apples to make homemade caramel applesTaste of Home

Start by thoroughly washing the apples and removing the stems. Store-bought produce often has a waxy coating to keep it fresh, so be sure to rub your apples with a dishcloth until that finish is gone—they should look natural and dull. Once they’re clean, dry the apples and insert a pop stick into the top of each.

Line a baking sheet with greased parchment paper. (Greasing the paper is important so the caramel won’t stick later.)

Step 2: Melt the caramel

Person rolling an apple into melted caramel by its popsicle stick in order to make homemade caramel applesTaste of Home

Next, prepare the caramels for all that sticky goodness. Unwrap the candies (this is a great cooking task for kids) and heat the caramels in a saucepan with the milk over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. It should take 3 to 5 minutes for the mix to be nice and smooth.

Step 3: Dip the apples in the caramel

Person pulling a homemade caramel apple out of a pot of melted caramelTaste of Home

Once the caramel is smooth, remove it from the heat and prepare for dipping. To fully coat the apple in sticky caramel goodness, tip the saucepan a bit and rotate the apple until the surface is completely covered. Allow the excess caramel to drip off before you place it upright onto the parchment-lined pan.

Test Kitchen tip: If you find that the caramel runs off the apples, don’t worry! The caramel might just be a touch too warm. Wait a minute and give it another dip.

Caramel Apple Variations

Here’s how to put your own spin on your homemade treats—but first, get inspired by these fun caramel apples!

  • Pick your own apple variety. Though our recipe calls for Gala apples (we love their sweet flavor!), feel free to use whatever apple you prefer for eating. Granny Smiths are a traditional option if you prefer more tartness and a good crunch.
  • Try fun toppings. After dipping and while the caramel is still sticky, roll the apples in your favorite toppings, such as:
    • Chopped nuts
    • Sprinkles
    • M&M’s minis
    • Crushed Oreos
    • Reese’s Pieces
    • Crushed graham crackers
  • Add the finishing touches. For a final flourish, drizzle with melted milk, dark or white chocolate. If you like salty with your sweet, add a pinch of sea salt as the caramel is about to set.

How to Store Caramel Apples

If you’re looking to gobble up these sweet treats right away, let the apples stand until the caramel is set, about 10 minutes. Or, you can refrigerate them for a week or so—just be sure to take them out of the fridge 10 to 15 minutes prior to eating so the caramel can soften a bit. However, avoid leaving homemade caramel apples out on the counter overnight.

If you want to wrap the caramel apples to give them as gifts, let the caramel set in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before wrapping. (Try these other food gift ideas, too!)

Caramel Apple Tips

How do you get the caramel to stay on the apples?

There are a few reasons why the caramel could be sliding off the apples:

  • The caramel is too hot. If the caramel runs right off as you’re dipping them, try letting the caramel cool for a minute or so. Using chilled apples also helps the caramel stick better.
  • The apples are too waxy. Before you begin dipping, rub the apples with a dishcloth to remove the waxy coating.
  • The caramel didn’t set. Don’t forget to set the caramel by placing your dipped apples in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before eating or wrapping.

Can you make the caramel ahead of time?

Caramel can be fussy (as evidenced by these common caramel mistakes), so you’re better off making the caramel right before you’re ready to dip the apples.

However, if you make the caramel and it gets too cool and thick while you’re dipping, warm the caramel over low heat in order to regain a smooth, dip-able consistency. (For more tips, our guide on how to make caramel can help.)

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Teddy Nykiel, Taste of Home Associate Digital Editor, contributed to this article.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.
Peggy Woodward, RDN
Peggy is a Senior Food Editor for Taste of Home. In addition to curating recipes, she writes articles, develops recipes and is our in-house nutrition expert. She studied dietetics at the University of Illinois and completed post-graduate studies at the Medical University of South Carolina to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Peggy has nearly 20 years of experience in the industry. She’s a mom, a foodie and enjoys being active in her rural Wisconsin community.