festive holiday recipe #19: bourbon vanilla caramels

bourbon vanilla caramels

Yep, another post about caramels. I saw the Bourbon Caramel recipe on Tracy’s blog, and immediately knew I had to try it. Typically, I make my caramels with cream and butter instead of condensed milk, but I was really happy to find that the process with the condensed milk moved a bit faster and yielded pretty much the perfect texture….soft, smooth, and chewy, but not so sticky you feel like your teeth are disintegrating. They kept their shapes incredibly well, and didn’t stick to the parchment wrappers either. Basically, these caramels are one gigantic WIN.

Going to a NYE party? These are a pretty rad (I’m really trying to bring “rad” back) host/hostess gift. They also travel pretty well, if you were looking for something special to mail to someone. I made this and divided them up for gifts to my coworkers (you can see the packaging below), but I think they’re gorgeous in a mason jar with  a label and some twine or ribbon tied around.

caramel packaging crop

One note: make sure you have all of your ingredients measured and ready to go (mis en place, if you’re fancy). You don’t want to be bumbling around trying to open cans of condensed milk or fishing butter out of the fridge in the middle of cooking. Trust me.

caramels 1-

Bourbon Vanilla Caramels
recipe adapted slightly from Shutterbean

nonstick spray
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 TB bourbon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
good quality flaky sea salt


  1. Lightly coat a 8 x 8″ baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on 2 sides.
  2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 8 – 15 minutes. You don’t want to walk away from this, as once it starts to darken, it’ll move pretty quickly and you don’t want a pot of burnt sugar on your hands.
  3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter (mixture will bubble vigorously) until smooth. Fit pan with candy thermometer and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer registers 240F.
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in the bourbon, vanilla, and kosher salt. Pour into prepared pan; let cool.
  5. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt, cut into 1 inch pieces and wrap individually in parchment paper. Don’t use foil wrappers. Sticky nightmare.
  6. Caramels can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Store wrapped tightly in plastic in an airtight container at room temperature. I keep mine in the fridge, for the most part, but leave a handful at a time in the candy dish.

bourbon vanilla caramels



  1. Pingback: I love lists, Friday! – Shutterbean

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