Easy, cheap GF Caramel for your apples

We picked up some delicious Jonagold apples this week. They are perfectly crunchy with a perfect balance of tart and sweet. Since they are not the sweet, sugary kind – and it is caramel apple season, after all, I thought I’d make a little caramel for my Friday lunch treat.

And since I’m still sick (good lord – please let this never-ending cold END soon!), I didn’t want to spend a lot of time babying and stirring some caramel, so I made caramel the way my mom used to make it for me. The “recipe” (really… there is but one ingredient – a can!) takes time – but you don’t have to stand around a monitor anything. Just set a timer and move on.

The beauty of this whole process? I was able to make caramel for my apple (or other fruit) slices more cheaply than it can be purchased, with less fat (if you use the low-fat version) and ALL of the ingredients are identifiable! Wahoo!

So, here’s to you, Mom. Thanks for teaching me how to play in the kitchen and make easy caramel. I remember the first time we made this and I wanted to open the can to see the process because I just couldn’t believe it would work. I swear this is the recipe that taught me to have a bit more faith and patience than any other. After all, without anything to do and no visual that it was working? It was certainly an act of faith!

Give this a whirl when you get some tasty apples this season, you won’t shell out the big bucks for the caramel at the market again.

This makes a perfect treat for lunch or your take-along meal.  Just put a couple tablespoons in a small container and bring with your apple slices.  It’s also super kid-friendly (what caramel recipe isn’t?) too.  Consider it a cheap way to encourage more apple consumption in your house.

Now…if the “apple a day will keep the doctor away” adage is true…. just MAYBE I’ll get over this bug soon too!  Bring on the apples!  I’m ready for my health to return with a sweet treat to boot!

Easy, Cheap, Gluten-Free Caramel
1 can sweetened condensed milk (use low-fat for half the fat!)


  1. Peel the label off the can and place it in the bottom of a deep pan. Fill the pan with water until it covers over the top of the can by at least an inch.
  2. SLOWLY bring the pot to a boil and lower to a simmer.  (My mom wrote to remind me to tell you all to bring the water to a boil SLOWLY so the can doesn’t explode/pop.  (ew! what a mess!)  Thanks again, Mom!)
  3. Simmer for three hours.
  4. Allow the can to cool before opening (or it will explode).



  1. I love the new look, and oh my, I would have never thought of this! I -must- try!

  2. Kate,
    Enjoying the sleek new look! Hope you feel better soon! Is this caramel more pudding-like or does it have the traditional caramel consistency? I think this will be a lovely cooking/science project for my daughter and I to try!!!

    Hi Gina –
    Actually, the caramel is like the Marzetti’s caramel you can buy in the tubs at the grocer. It’s not stiff, but soft – but not as soft as pudding. The longer it simmers, the more firm it will become. I’ve found (thanks to my mom!) that 3 hours or 3 hours 15 minutes is the perfect amount of time for our tastes.

  3. Awesome! But to make it even easier, you could use the crockpot:




    Oh! Crock pot caramels! I didn’t think about using the crock pot (dur!) LOL! Thank you for sharing! 😉

  4. Wow! What a neat idea. I never heard of doing this. I will definitely try it with my 8 year-old daughter!

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. So now I just have to see what kind of sweetner is in my condensed milk. I’ve been SO wanting a caramel apple, but couldn’t figure out how refined-sugar-free caramel would work (or taste).

  6. This has to be the easiest ‘recipe’ for anything in the history of the world! I will definitely be trying it soon. Thanks!

  7. It’s nice that you are still enjoying this Fall treat, KT. It’s great for kids who have braces too; did you forget? One little thing I have reminded people: bring the water to a boil SLOWLY. This when the can could could pop! I think Dad and I will go to the Apple Store and pick up some apples and do this tomorrow! Love you – M

  8. I don’t know on how I stumbled upon this cooking blog., All I know is that I’d better check out the archives for a good read. Ha-ha! Just droppin’ to say hi!
    Oh. You might want to check this out: http://www.technocooks.com for uhm…a different “menu

  9. M beat me to sharing Stephanie’s crockpot recipes. LOL That’s immediately what I thought of too as soon as I saw your post. The condensed milk for the caramel (on the stove or crockpot) is such a neat concept. (Easy to stock up on the condensed milk when it goes on sale, too … for when you get a hankering for it in other ways.) The picture is great. 🙂

    Wow, you’ve really streamlined your blog–looks very nice!!

  10. Wow, what a great idea! I never buy sweetened condensed milk – I guess I thought that anything in a can had bad stuff added to it. But I just looked up the ingredients, and it just has milk and sugar. I think I can handle that. Thanks, Kate, and thanks, Kate’s Mom! Quick question – do you leave it in the water to cool, or take it out?

    Good question, Li.
    I tend to leave it in the water until the water cools down significantly. Then I drain the water and use a towel to pick up the still warm can. I usually let it cool before I open it too. For this one, I took the can out of the mostly cooled water and put it into the fridge. (I like my caramel cold!) That way I could have some cool caramel to pack into my lunch with my apple. 🙂

  11. Kate, Great idea! I have a question. Should the can be upright or laying on its side?

    Whichever fits in your pan. 🙂 I put my can so that it won’t roll around in the pan – but that is because my pan was large enough to do this. I have, in the past, placed it on the side as well. -Kate

  12. I really wanted to try this, but so far I can’t locate a sweetened condensed milk that doesn’t have processed sugar in it. Organic SC milk, yes, but still with organic refined sugar. So, I had to make caramel the long way with cream & honey/agave today, but it was your blog that inspired me to get creative.

  13. I did try this yesterday, and oh, was it GOOD!

  14. oh my goodness, a friend taught that to me in grad school and it was my absolute favorite. she told me that it was how you make dulse de leche…but it is incredible by any name!

  15. I remember this conversation a few days after apple picking:
    me: Mom, what’s are you making?
    Mom: a tin can
    my brother: What’s it for?
    Mom: dessert
    me: But what’s for dessert?
    Mom: a tin can

    And then heaven.
    Thank you–I never could figure out how long to do it for…

  16. Yum-O! I’m definitely going to have to try this! Thanks a bunch!

  17. Does this keep or do you have to finish the caramel all at once? If it keeps, would you recommend putting it in pyrex/tupperware and storing in the fridge or what?



  1. […] caramels are full of sugar and/or corn syrup, neither of which I’m supposed to have.  I saw this post, and got excited that I might have a new easy way to make caramel.  But alas, I can’t track […]

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