Everybody loves a fancy iced coffee with a green straw, but who wants to spend $5 for a drink each time? This easy Caramel Syrup for Coffee will have you making delicious coffee house style drinks at home in no time!

Quart sized mason jar half filled with brown syrup, with spoon in it. Chemex coffee maker is in background, caramel candies and coffee beans are in foreground.

We all know that in the past year, life has changed in ways both big and small.

The extended time at home with my family feels safe and comforting, but sometimes it’s easy to let the mind wander to those small, previously mundane joys that we no longer partake in.

For me, a drive through caramel coffee or caramel iced coffee was a once-in-awhile special treat. Maybe it was a cheer-me-up on a hard day, or celebrating a big accomplishment. Maybe it was just a distraction from a long list of errands.

Whatever the reason, it’s no longer much a part of my life at the moment. I’m not out doing errands often. My car sits in the garage for long stretches at a time.

The spontaneity of that previous life no longer exists right now. And that’s OK. But like I said, sometimes the mind wanders to the before.

And in some small way, making this caramel syrup for coffee so that I could make myself those fancy coffee drinks at home made me feel normal for just a bit.

Small glass of iced coffee drink topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce, with a straw.

This is the best Caramel Syrup Recipe for Coffee

While plain coffee with a splash of half and half is my daily morning ritual, when I’m craving a fancy coffee, I generally choose vanilla flavoring. My husband usually chooses hazelnut.

But we can both agree that caramel is our #2 choice, which makes it #1 when we’re at home together making fancy coffee drinks.

Caramel flavored anything is just so lovely to me. Let’s face it – caramel is just sugar syrup, so of course it’s sweet. It has that going for it.

But it’s sugar that has been caramelized, and that lightly toasted sugar flavor is easy to love in cocktails like caramel apple cider mules and especially in coffee.

Caramel is sweetness with a sophisticated touch, in my opinion.

Small glass pitcher of brown liquid rests on plate filled with coffee beans.

Ingredients for this Caramel Coffee Syrup Recipe

  • sugar – regular white granulated sugar serves as the foundation of this caramel syrup.
  • corn syrup – this plays a vital role in preventing the sugar from crystalizing during the caramelization process. Don’t skip it!
  • vanilla extract – adds warm flavor and aromatic dimension to the syrup.
  • salt – it might seem like an unconventional ingredient for a sweet syrup, but it plays an important role in balancing flavors.

 How to make Caramel Syrup

  1. Put the sugar, corn syrup and water in a small pot on the stove, over medium-low heat. Cook this for 3 to 5 minutes and use the handle and some wrist action to gently swirl it (don’t use a utensil to stir) every few minutes. You’re looking for the sugar to dissolve at this stage.
  2. Then, you’ll increase the heat to medium and continue cooking for about 8 to 12 more minutes, or until the syrup is a light amber color. Again, swirl it quite frequently!
  3. As soon as it reaches a light amber color, take it right off the heat. Carefully add the vanilla and the remaining water. At this point, you can use a clean spoon to stir it.
  4. Allow the mixture to cool, and then transfer it to a jar or airtight container to refrigerate it for up to one month.

A note on safety when making Caramel Syrup

When I was in culinary school, one of the very first lessons the pastry chefs taught was how much respect to give caramel. They instilled in us just how dangerous it was. All due to the science of caramel.

Why is a pot of water + sugar more dangerous than a boiling pot of plain water? Because, water’s boiling point is 212 degrees F.

But when you add sugar to water, the sugar raises the boiling point of the water. Sugar syrup starts to take on a caramel color between 340 and 350 degrees F.

Pastry chefs creating caramel candies can be working with a substance as hot as 410 degrees F. As you can imagine, it’s very dangerous because it is so hot. If it splashes your skin or worse, you’re looking at a very serious injury.

I mean this when I say it: do whatever you have to do to keep kids and pets out of the kitchen when you’re making any type of caramel. I put a baby gate up!

Caramel Coffee Syrup vs Caramel Sauce

So, Starbucks and every other fancy coffee place have two different things going on – syrups and sauces.

The syrups are the generally clear liquids that you see in large bottles with pumps on top. These pumps of flavor are the backbone of all of the flavored drinks.

If you watch closely, these pumps of flavor are usually the first thing the barista will add to your cup after you order.

But then, once the drink is complete, for the final garnish (usually drizzled on top of whipped cream), they are using something different, which is a sauce.

In the photo of the drink with the straw near the top of this post, caramel syrup was used to make the flavored iced coffee, and microwave caramel sauce was used as the garnish on top.

If you don’t feel like making homemade caramel sauce, I’ve often used a store bought sauce (usually Torani brand) for things like my caramel mug cake, and I like that just as well.

Small glass filled with iced coffee with a spoon in it.

Caramel Coffee Syrup Recipe Tips

When it comes to making caramel, I was taught in culinary school to SWIRL the mixture of water and sugar as it cooks, instead of STIR.

The reason behind this is that while rare, a stray granule of uncooked sugar introduced to the caramel while it is cooking could crystallize the entire pot.

So, by swirling the mixture in the pot just using the action of your wrist, you’re not introducing an outside, potentially contaminated instrument, like the spoon.

That being said, I know plenty of people who stir caramel with a clean spoon as it’s heating, and it’s always been fine. So if you’re not comfortable with swirling, go ahead and stir.

Another thing to be mindful of, is that once the mixture starts to take on any sort of brown color, it will continue to darken quite quickly. So, just like with my homemade balsamic glaze, you’ll have to keep a watchful eye.

So once you see any bit of brown as you’re making this caramel syrup for coffee, watch it very closely from that point on, until it gets to your desired level of caramelization.

Use Caramel Syrup for Iced Coffee OR Hot Coffee!

This syrup can be stirred into hot coffee for a flavored treat, and it’s also great in cold drinks like salted caramel cream cold brew.

It’s also an easy way to add a special flavoring to an affogato coffee (which is just hot coffee poured over ice cream, and is one of life’s true pleasures).

Or, set it out at your next brunch buffet so your guests can have the fun of adding a flavor shot to their coffee! Don’t forget about my method for cooking bacon in the oven!

Quart sized mason jar half filled with brown syrup. Caramel candies and coffee beans are in foreground.

Other ways to use Caramel Syrup

This caramel syrup doesn’t have to be used for JUST coffee!

You can drizzle it over ice cream, pancakes, and all kinds of baked goods. You can also add it dessert cocktails like espresso martinis.

How to store Caramel Coffee Syrup

Allow the syrup to cool completely before transferring it to a clean, airtight container. Transfer it to the refrigerator for longest storage.

How long is Caramel Syrup good for?

When refrigerated, caramel syrup should keep for up to 4 weeks.

Quart sized mason jar half filled with brown syrup, with spoon in it. Chemex coffee maker is in background, caramel candies and coffee beans are in foreground.

Caramel Coffee Syrup Recipe

Yield: 1-3/4 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 17 minutes

Everybody loves a fancy iced coffee with a green straw, but who wants to spend $5 for a drink each time? This easy Caramel Syrup for Coffee will have you making delicious coffee house style drinks at home in no time!


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup water, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Place sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in small pot. Cook over medium-low heat 3 to 5 minutes, swirling frequently, until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Increase heat to medium and continue cooking 8 to 12 minutes longer, swirling frequently, until mixture is light amber color.
  3. Remove from heat. Carefully add vanilla, salt and remaining 1/2 cup water. Stir with very clean spoon until smooth.
  4. Allow mixture to cool and then transfer to jar or other airtight container. Refrigerate up to one month.
  5. To serve, I recommend 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) to 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) per 8 ounces of brewed coffee, depending on your desired sweetness level.


Adapted from The Kitchn.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 28 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 29Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 10mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 0g

Per 1 tablespoon syrup.

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