Caramel and apples are one of the greatest combos ever. Not sure if it even matters how they are combined, there’s just something wonderful about that buttery, sweet and sticky caramel paired with tart, juicy apples. These Sautéed Caramel Apples are no different. If you’ve got a craving for something sweet, this will most definitely satisfy it. Can you imagine digging into a bowl of ice cream topped with warm, tender caramel-y apples? Yeah, it’s like pie without the crust. But in a good way.
Here’s what I love about this recipe, besides how delicious it is: it tastes fancy (but isn’t), it’s easy to make, and you can make it even easier with a little shortcut (see the notes!). Oh, and because you’ll probably be wanting to make this on a daily basis (no judgement) you can also make a larger batch and store it in the fridge for up to a week. Woot!
The ingredients are very simple. You probably have everything on hand already — apples, sugar, butter, lemon juice, cream, and vanilla. It really spruces up a bowl of vanilla ice cream, but you know what would take it up another notch? Sea salt caramel ice cream. It’s almost too much to think about!
When it comes to making caramel, there is some latitude. If you’re a fan of a darker, deeper almost-burnt caramel, you can cook it for longer. If you prefer a sweeter, blonder caramel, cook it for less time. Just cook it to your preference.
The kind of apple you use is also personal preference. Favorite varieties are included in the note below the recipe. But this is a great way to save a slightly too-tart apple from the compost bin. Or an apple that’s been on the counter for a little too long. Or buy apples just so you can sauté and caramelize them.
And if apples aren’t your thing, but caramel is? You will likely also love these Salted Caramel Brownies, for two, naturally.
Sautéed Caramel Apples with Vanilla Ice Cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 large apple*, peeled, cored, and cut into thin wedges
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup nuts, chopped (walnuts or pecans), optional
2-4 scoops vanilla ice cream
1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and allow to melt. Add the apple slices to the pan. Saute for 5-6 minutes.
2. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples and add the lemon juice. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has melted and combined with the apple’s natural juices. Add the heavy cream, vanilla, and sea salt. Stir well.
3. Cook until the caramel thickens and become syrupy. Remove from heat, but keep warm.
4. To serve, place ice cream scoops into dessert dishes. Spoon the warm caramel apples over the top and serve immediately.
*The best apples for this recipe are Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, or Autumn Glory.
Notes and Variations:
– Substitute pears for the apples.
– For a spiced version, add a little of one or all of the following spices: ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamon, and/or allspice.
– To make this dairy-free, use coconut oil or vegan buttery sticks instead of butter, and substitute full-fat canned coconut milk for the heavy cream. Serve over dairy-free ice cream.
– Other sweeteners can be substituted for the sugar — maple syrup, coconut sugar, and honey. Sugar-free substitutes are not recommended in this recipe.
– For an easy shortcut, substitute 1/4 cup homemade (recipe below) or store-bought caramel sauce for the sugar, lemon juice, and heavy cream. Add the caramel to the pan in step 2, follow directions as written, and serve.
– This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. Store in refrigerator for up to one week. Reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan before serving.
Homemade Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon liquid sweetener (optional, see note)
4 tablespoons butter, cut into four pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream, warmed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
1. Have ready a heavy-duty stainless steel skillet or saucepan. (Dark colored pans make it hard to determine when the caramel is the proper color.)
2. Sprinkle the sugar over the bottom of the pan. Turn heat on to medium. If using, stir in the 1 tablespoon liquid sweetener. Allow the sugar to melt, stirring with a wooden spoon or heat-safe silicone spatula, if necessary. Once the sugar is completely melted, let the caramel cook until it reaches the preferred color. Dark amber will have a deep, almost burnt flavor. Lighter colors will produce a lighter flavored caramel.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. Swirl the pan and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the heavy cream. Place back over the heat and stir, cooking gently, to help melt any hardened caramel. Stir until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract, lemon juice, and pinch of salt. Transfer to a glass jar. Allow to cool a bit before serving. Store in refrigerator for up to several weeks. To reheat, place jar in a pan of very hot water and stir until smooth. If sauce crystallized, place back in the sauce pan and bring just to a boil and add a little more cream. Yield: about 1 1/4 cups.
-Liquid sweetener can be either corn syrup, honey, agave, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, sorghum, golden syrup, or another syrup. It helps keep the caramel from crystallizing.
P.S. — The Dessert For Two series was designed for those nights when you want to stay up and talk with a dear friend, or your teen, or the love of your life, and you need a little sweet tooth hit. Another fun one for fall? Mexican Hot Chocolate Mug Cakes.
Credits: Photos and recipe by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.