October 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Crockpot Caramel using Sweetened Condensed Milk

Who knew homemade caramel was so easy to make? I had no idea until Stephanie sent in this incredibly easy slow cooker recipe as part of our Crock-tober series. 


Sweetened Condensed Milk – You can buy this in a can, but I found it at Trader Joe’s in a plastic bottle, so that’s what I did. It cost about $2.75, so it was not the most frugal choice, but it saved me an extra trip because I didn’t have any at home. And it’s organic, if that matters to you.

Yep, that’s it. Only one ingredient!


There are a couple ways you can do this. . . . 

Method 1 – If you buy condensed milk in a can, which is how most people find it (more affordable, too). Just remove the label off the can and put into your slow cooker. Place it on a plate or in a glass container to keep it from possibly rusting your slow cooker. Fill the slow cooker with water until it covers the cans. Cook on low for 8 hours. Open cans and you have yourself some caramel!

Method 2 (the one I did) – I feel a little weird about cooking things in cans. I’m no BPA expert, but the chemicals in cans make me nervous. So, I decided to pour the sweetened condensed milk into glass canning jars. (This also has the advantage of you being able to watch the coloring as it cooks – so you can decide if it’s done.) Put the lids on the jars. Place in slow cooker, fill with water until it goes over the top of the jars – fully submerged. Cook on low for 8 hours – make sure water does not boil, but just simmers. Open jars and you have yourself some caramel! Plus they are already ready to store in the fridge. *Just because they are in canning jars – doesn’t mean they are shelf stable. We didn’t technically “can” them and they should be refrigerated. 🙂

BE CAREFUL – Cans or jars will be hot. Caramel will be hot. Make sure jars are completely submerged in water.  I guess jars can explode if you don’t keep the water level high enough. So keep water level over lids!

Serve with apples or whatever you like dipped in caramel (ideas?). 

Pour sweetened condense milk into canning jars. I probably could have just used two jars, but three worked just fine. If you have smaller jars, you could make a bunch of little ones, so you have one for each kid or person in the family. Make sure to get jars small enough to be covered by the water!  I guess jars can explode if you don’t keep the water level high enough. So keep water level over lids!

Place in slow cooker and set on low for 8 hours. Notice the coloring when you start.

Fast forward 8 hours and you have a nice brown caramel!  I actually let mine cook TOO long – it was more like nine hours on low, so it was a bit too done. It wasn’t burned, but I think I would have liked the consistency if I would have taken it out after 7.5 – 8 hours. Just keep an eye on it. Especially keep an eye on the water level – you don’t want it dropping below the lids. 

Carefully remove jars or the cans. It will be HOT. My cans sealed themselves, so I popped the lid and scooped out into single serving bowls with apples. Even if your jars seal themselves, they still need to be refrigerated – they are not properly “canned”.

My daughter LOVED the caramel (could have cared less about apples) and my son just wanted to the apples (he’s a fruit guy, not really so much into sweets). My husband loved both. 🙂

This recipe was sent in by Stephanie as part of our Crock-tober series – so she’ll get a $10 Amazon gift card! Send in your recipe and if I feature your recipe on the blog you’ll get a $10 Amazon gift card!

Here are other Slow Cooker Crockpot recipes we’ve recently posted:

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    Leave your comments here...


  1. Mine didn’t turn out??? It’s still looks like sweet condense milk? N it’s runny:( what happened??

  2. Can this be used to make caramel applaes

  3. Just made this in crockpot using the canned condensed milk. I was skeptical if it would work and it really did! It is sooooo good glad I tried it.

  4. Jeff in Guelph says

    or putting in on a stove burner— that will make it explode too…. as we used to say, you can make it idiot proof, but someone always designs a better idiot.

  5. Jeff in Guelph says

    Concerned about cans, re BPA or explosions—- almost every food can is hot filled, and then retorted at crazy temperatures and pressures— more than you could ever get in any home slow cooker. Anything that is toxic (and IMO, you’ve nothing to worry about) will already be cook/leached into the food by the time it gets to your home… and as far as explosions, a person would have to make a sincereley risky effort to blow up a can, like in the oven ay 500 until failure.
    (qualifications for comment: 25 years of industrial food product design))

  6. I have seen this asked a couple of times but as of yet there has not been an answer. Do we put the cover on the crockpot or leave it off?

  7. Using air tight glass bottle, I cooked on slow cooker, set at low heat but goodness… 8 hours, it din work for me, it is watery! Waste of electricity and time, seriously. Think it’s easier and faster to use the convention method of making caramel over stove i.e. sugar, water, butter, heavy cream, vanilla extract. Ya, n this requires only 10-15 minutes…

  8. I used the in the can method in the crock pot on high for 4 hrs. Was alittle light in color but it other wise was great. I transferred it to a glass container. How long will it last in the frig?

  9. Great recipes and ideas

  10. Sounds so delicious and my kids would be thrilled to make our own caramel sauce. Thanks for sharing at Inspire Us Thursday on Organized 31.

  11. Just wanted to let you know I’m featuring this deliciousness on this week’s Block Party! Thanks for linking up 🙂

  12. @tilla ham, yes the lid needs to be on the crockpot

  13. My girlfriend amd her family have done carmel like this for years in the cans but doing it I the jars is genius! I’ve done it in the cans in the crockpot and had a time where the milk didn’t cook but I did t know until I opened the can so the fact that you can not only see its done but on top of that its already stored for you is great!

  14. the lid should be on crockpot, correct?

  15. Love the idea of doing this in the jars instead! I am not a fan of cans either, let alone cooking in them. Good call!

  16. So I did this today and I think I messed up big time, I put the lid onto the crockpot which made it boil at times, I think I’m going to retry it next weekend without the lid! But I’m worried that being the girl who trips over carpet and up stairs that I will burn myself, any ideas what I should do?

  17. Tried this today … It was good but did not get dark. Does that mean I should increase my cook time? I did it on high for 4 hours.

  18. My husband is forever opening cans of sweetened condensed milk and putting a dab on his bread or pancakes but the rest of the can usually goes to waste even though I try to save it, so I’m really excited to try this recipe all the other ones call to be boiled in the can (doesn’t work if its already opened, plus like you Heather I’m not a fan of can cooking)

    • I forgot to mention too that I have two small children so making homemade caramel on the stove is not really an option for me, but I absolutely love caramel! I’m really excited to have homemade caramel again!

  19. I didn’t put my crock pot on the right temperature… I put it on HIGH! Do not make that mistake! Will try again soon… darn the luck it was so disappointing… maybe if i would have only cooked it for four hours! Ha. Well lesson learned. It didn’t burn or explode it just over cooked it… either way thanks!

  20. I second the question about caramel apples. Is this more of a liquid dip or will it set up for caramel apples?
    Either way, I’m going to make that European bakery frosting Tanya mentioned.

  21. Do you think the caramel will work for caramel covered apples? Or is it too thin?

  22. Christianne says

    My son and I tried this yesterday and woke up to a wonderful suprise this morning. Sooooo delish!!! We just bought canning jars and got cheap sweetened condensed milk from Grocery Outlet. Thanks for the wonderful idea……….the taste is just dreamy. 🙂

  23. When we cook cans in the regular pot (not crock pot) we make sure the water level ALWAYS stays above the cans and cook for about 2 hours. If the water evaporates, keep adding more boiling water to make sure all the cans are submerged all the way, otherwise they will explode! Also, make sure the cooked caramel cools down all the way before opening the lid. We love to mix the prepared caramel with unsalted sweet cream butter in a mixer and use the mixture as frosting — a natural alternative for cake decor and a common practice of European bakeries. Sprinkle with roasted nuts for extra yummy flavor. Use more butter for less sweet, less butter for more sweet flavor.

    • Thank you for the information Tanya! Good to know! I

      Mixing it with unsalted sweet cream butter in a mix sounds divine. And I adore European bakeries.

      Thank you for the suggestions!

  24. just be careful if you put a sealed can in the crock pot or oven as it can explode.

    • Tiffany – That’s good to know! So the lid should be put on loosely? How can people be careful not to have it explode?

      • Rachel Burney says

        The other method of doing this is boiling the whole can UNDER WATER in a pan on the stove for two or three hours. (Four is too dark for me.)

        The danger of exploding cans is when the water level falls below the top of the can. My mother had a very close call one day… she forgot to check the water level, and had just stepped out of the kitchen when BOOM–the can exploded. Little dabs of hot caramel ALL OVER the kitchen. She could have been burned in a rather sticky fashion if she had been in the kitchen. As it is, there was a lot of cleanup to do.

        Ever grateful to God for the timing on that day.

        We still made caramel after that. Just made sure the water level stayed above the can.

  25. I’m going to have to try this! I have a daughter who loves caramel, but has developed a corn intolerance, and can’t have corn and corn products, including corn syrup – which is ALWAYS in caramel. She will love being able to dip her fruit again! Thanks so much for posting!

    • Pam – I had no idea about the corn syrup. This would definitely fix that and you have to love that you know exactly what’s in it! I hope you like it as much as we did!

  26. Beatriz Brown says

    Do you think I could make them in baby food jars?

    • Yes Beatriz! Great idea. Perhaps cook them for a shorter time because you have them in smaller quantities and they might cook faster? Just keep an eye on them and when the coloring is starting to turn brown, test ’em. Great idea!

      • Beatriz Brown says

        It didn’t work! 🙁 It has water inside …. I closed the lids tightly but water made it in there … Wasted time, effort and money! Lol maybe next time :'(

  27. Good idea! I saw this before but was holding off in trying it because the idea of cooking it in the can did not appeal to me. Jars are a great idea!

  28. Great thinking! And I KNOW you said “store in fridge” – just make sure folks realize that even if the lids seal, the resulting caramel is not safe to store in the pantry. Lots of people are canning for the first time, which is great, but canning is science and chemistry, and just like chemistry, fooling around and making it up can have disastrous consequences. Keep it in the fridge and enjoy!

    • Good point! I have actually never canned before because it kind of makes me nervous. I was surprised they sealed. I’ll update the post with the info!

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