Caramel Apples are one of our favorite fall treats and while I love making the traditional dipped caramel apples, sometimes a big bowl of caramel dip with sliced apples is easier to prepare and serve. Caramel dip is great for kids lunches or to set out at a fall party. It’s especially easy to pick up one of the big tubs of caramel dip that seem to beckon from the produce section at this time of the year. However, these dips are often full of artificial ingredients and seem to be a bit on the pricey side. So, of course, I decided to find a homemade recipe for caramel dip and see how it compared to the store bought version. For this comparison, I bought individually portioned cups of Hot Lava brand caramel dip and then found a recipe for Vanilla Caramel Dip on the Spice Islands website. I was surprised to find that the individually portioned cups of caramel dip were essentially the same price as a big tub and I wanted to make sure not to waste a big container of caramel. I changed the original recipe a bit by changing the portion size (the original recipe makes A TON of dip) and some of the ingredients.
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom. Add the sugar, syrup, water, condensed milk and salt to the pan and stir to thoroughly combine.
- Cook the butter mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves completely, about 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Once sugar is dissolved, turn the heat up to medium-high and continue to boil mixture for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Serve warm or keep in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat in microwave for 30 seconds or so before serving.
In a blind taste test with 4 adults and 2 children, the homemade dip won hands down. It was creamy, rich and had a lovely buttery flavor while the store bought dip was kind of gloppy and overly sweet. Surprisingly, the homemade dip was also much cheaper than store bought and, of course, avoids the trap of artificial ingredients. This would be an easy recipe to double and then portion out the homemade dip into little containers for snacks or lunches. The one drawback is the time component since the homemade dip takes about 10 minutes of really paying attention and stirring the caramel as it cooks. However, it is still much less time consuming than making real caramel apples with all the boiling and dipping.
Bottom Line: Making caramel dip from scratch is a bit labor intensive, but the extra effort pays off with a rich, velvety smooth dip that is really worth eating.