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Soft Chewy Chocolate Espresso Caramels (heavy cream recipe)

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Sea Salt Chocolate Espresso Caramels – decadent cocoa powder, full-bodied, silky heavy cream, pure vanilla,  espresso, and flavor amplifying sea salt come together to make a gloriously soft, chewy caramel that is rich, intense, and perfectly balanced. If you’re looking for a new caramel recipe – this is IT!

chocolate espresso caramels topped with sea salt on a white platter

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If you love dark chocolate, sea salt, and espresso, then these decadent caramels are for you! 

I am a HUGE fan of the dark chocolate sea salt caramels from Sanders (I buy them in bulk from Costco and keep a steady supply) and have been experimenting with flavors at home. This one turned out amazing!

The sea salt balances the sweetness of the caramel nicely, and the dark chocolate is rich and satisfying. At the same time, the espresso not only amplifies the chocolate but adds its own subtle coffee flavor to these caramel candies.

Though if you’re not into coffee (I’m not, but it works here), you can skip it.

These are perfect for any occasion as an easy gift – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas… or just because! Pair them with some candied cashews and crockpot candy for a sweet treat tray.

This chocolate caramel recipe is made with heavy cream, which gives these caramels an extra rich texture and flavor.

Not only that, this recipe takes under 30 minutes from start to finish (minus the time to set) and makes 64, yes, you read that right 64, small bite-sized caramels! Enough to gift and have some leftovers to eat yourself!

Why you’ll love these soft, chewy Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels

  • They taste like the most luxurious chocolates you’ve ever had, but are made with simple ingredients and have a short list of steps.
  • They’re bold, intense, and perfectly balanced.
  • They’re soft, chewy, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
  • They make the perfect gift for any occasion!
chocolate espresso caramels topped with sea salt on a white platter

Equipment needed to make these chewy chocolate caramels

  • 8 x 8 Baking Dish – I like true square baking dish so the corners are nice (the glass ones are rounded).
  • Heavy Bottom Saucepan – you’ll need a small saucepan and a larger one.
  • Silicone Spatulas – these are heat safe and great for everything.
  • Candy Thermometer – don’t be intimidated by a thermometer, you’ll be fine. I like one with a pot clip that hooks to the side of the pan.

Ingredients for your Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Caramels

Below is a list of ingredients, some helpful tips, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.

  • Granulated white sugar
  • Light corn syrup
  • Heavy cream
  • Butter – Unsalted, real butter.
  • Cocoa powder – unsweetened cocoa powder, or you can use a chopped up unsweetened chocolate bar
  • Instant espresso – I used Trader Joe’s instant coffee, but there are many brands to choose from
  • Vanilla extract – I know it’s pricey but use real vanilla extract, not imitation (doesn’t have to be clear like shown). You can also use other flavorings (like rum or maple)
  • Flaky sea salt – this is optional, but recommended
labeled shot of ingredients laid out to make chocolate caramels

How to make Chocolate Caramels With Espresso & Heavy Whipping Cream

STEP ONE: First, in a small pan, heat the butter, heavy cream, cocoa & espresso powders until hot but not boiling. Remove it from the heat and add the vanilla.

STEP TWO: Next, in another larger saucepan, cook the sugar and corn syrup, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is melted, then pour in the hot cream mixture.

STEP THREE: Then, use a candy thermometer (or cooking thermometer) to boil the caramel, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 245° F. Remove it from the heat and immediately pour it into an 8×8 pan that has been lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick spray. Let it set for approximately 5 minutes and then sprinkle on flaky sea salt.

STEP FOUR: Finally, allow to cool and set for approximately 5 hours and then cut and serve.

collage of 4 photos showing the process of bringing sugar to temperature for caramels

How to store your Homemade Chocolate Caramels

These caramels will keep at room temperature for 3-4 days in an airtight container. If you are stacking them, add a layer of wax or parchment paper between the top and bottom caramels to prevent them from sticking.

You can also store them in the fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for a month.

If you are storing them in the fridge or freezing them, make sure you take them out and let them come to room temp before eating.

Tips For Making The BEST Chocolate Caramels At Home

  • Be patient, and don’t mess with the heat. This recipe may take a while to get to 245°, but if you undercook it, it may result in softer caramels that won’t hold its form. Cooking it too long may result in a harder, brittle caramel candy. 
  • Make sure you have a good candy thermometer that registers correctly. Do us both a favor, do not attempt to make these caramels without one. Unless you’re a very seasoned caramel maker, this is a recipe that you shouldn’t eyeball, and you will end up with a mystery caramel. 
  • To use for gifts, cut wax paper strips and wrap the caramels individually. For added variety, add nuts to half the pan. 
  • Use a sharp, buttered knife to cut the caramels. This creates smooth, even lines and helps prevent the chocolate caramels from pulling and sticking to the knife.
overhead shot of chocolate caramels being cut into small pieces

Chewy Chocolate Caramel FAQs

Do I have to add espresso to this recipe?

Nope! You can leave it out if you don’t want the coffee flavor. That being said, it really does boost the chocolate. It’s not only in here to add that perfect hint of coffee but to make this a decadent candy experience.

Can I use half and half instead of heavy cream?

I haven’t tried this myself, but I think it would work. If you do try it, make sure you come back and let me know how it turned out so I can update this post!

Can I use sweetened condensed milk instead of heavy cream?

Yes, if you prefer to use sweetened condensed milk to make caramels, you’d take out the granulated sugar in this recipe and the heavy cream and replace it with one 14 oz can.  Do NOT just take out the heavy cream – if you leave in the sugar and use the condensed milk, you will end up with a cloying sweet caramel that may be inedible.

I’ll say, I tried several caramel variations with sweetened condensed milk when I was recipe testing my Millionaire Shortbread Bars and wasn’t terribly happy with any of them. It is not my favorite method.

What is the best cocoa powder to use?

If you already have a favorite cocoa powder you like to use in your kitchen, go ahead and use it! If you haven’t found a cocoa powder, you’re in love with I like the basic Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder or Hershey’s Special Dark.

Need more candy recipes? Try these:

Peanut Butter Fudge
Salted Caramel Fudge
Homemade Hard Candy
Homemade Rock Candy
Easy Peanut Brittle

Need more caramel recipes? Try these:

Cookies & Cream Caramel Layer Bars
Salted Chocolate Caramel Bars
Brown Butter Chocolate Caramel Cookies

Click here for my entire collection of dessert recipes.

sea salt chocolate caramels on a white plate with a bite taken out of one

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chocolate espresso caramels topped with sea salt on a white platter

Soft & Chewy Chocolate Espresso Caramels

Melissa Williams
Sea Salt Chocolate Espresso Caramels – decadent cocoa powder, full-bodied, silky heavy cream, pure vanilla,  espresso, and flavor amplifying sea salt come together to make a gloriously soft, chewy caramel that is rich, intense, and perfectly balanced. If you're looking for a new caramel recipe – this is IT!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Set Time 5 hrs
Total Time 5 hrs 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 64 caramels
Calories 55 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • Flaky sea salt

Instructions
 

  • Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In a small pan, heat the butter, heavy cream, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Once it is very hot, but not boiling, remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Set aside.
  • In another larger saucepan, heat the granulated sugar and corn syrup, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is melted, then stir in the hot cream mixture.
  • Using a candy thermometer, boil the caramel, stirring occasionally until it reaches 245° F. Remove from the heat immediately and pour into the prepared pan.
  • Wait for 5 to 7 minutes, then sprinkle with a little flaky sea salt. If the sea salt begins to sink, wait an additional minute or two before sprinkling with salt.
  • Allow to cool and set for 5 hours before cutting and serving.

Notes

If you don’t like coffee, you can omit the espresso powder, but it boosts the chocolate flavor.
Use a sharp, buttered knife to cleanly cut the caramels, once cooled. 
You can use different flavorings other than vanilla, like rum or maple).
Store caramels in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 55kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 1gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 5mgPotassium: 16mgFiber: 1gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 99IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 5mgIron: 1mg

Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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