I am very excited to bring you this recipe for spiced pumpkin caramel sauce, friends.
With only a handful of ingredients, you can make a rich and complex sauce that is lovely poured over ice cream or layered onto a cheesecake.
You can also use it to flavor your coffee for a homemade pumpkin spice latte. If you love the flavor of pumpkin spice, you may also really enjoy my pumpkin spice caramel corn.
For ease of browsing, you can find all my dessert sauce recipes in one place. Thanks so much for visiting!
Why You Need to Make This Pumpkin Caramel Sauce
This sauce tastes like fall, y’all.
It’s deeply flavored and rich with pumpkin spice.
You can either use a prepared pumpkin pie spice blend or use the individual spices to make it exactly to your liking.
The recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce, and it’s easily doubled if you need more.
As I always do, I call for adding water to the sugar before caramelizing. This helps the sugar to dissolve and then caramelize much more evenly than if you only start with dry sugar.
How To Make
This is a pretty easy sauce to make. I think it took me about 15 minutes, start to finish, and that includes measuring the ingredients.
In a nutshell, you’ll:
- caramelize your sugar
- whisk in cream, spices, and pumpkin puree
- cook for a few seconds
- strain the sauce
And then you’re done.
In the following sections, I’ll go over ingredients and substitutions and walk you through exactly how to make it.
I’ll also try to answer frequently asked questions, give you some variation ideas for the sauce, some visual cues so you know what to look for, tips for success, and some ways to serve your pumpkin caramel that you may not have considered.
Here we go.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make your own, delicious pumpkin caramel.
- sugar: plain granulated sugar. For sweetness and also for caramel flavor and body. I don’t recommend using brown sugar, because it’s hard to tell when it caramelizes. If you want the flavor of brown sugar, add about 1 Tablespoon of molasses (not blackstrap) when you add the pumpkin puree and spices
- water: Filtered or straight from the tap. You don’t need to measure the water. You just need enough to get the sugar wet so it melts evenly, about 1/4-1/2 cup.
- salt: Since pumpkin is a vegetable, it requires a fair amount of salt to really bring out its mellow flavor. The salt also brings out the flavor of the spices and counteracts any bitterness from the caramel, especially if it ends up a bit darker in color than you had intended
- heavy cream: stops the cooking process, mellows the caramel flavor, adds body, and the fat in it helps to carry the flavor
- pumpkin puree: homemade or canned is fine. Do not substitute pumpkin pie filling
- cinnamon, ginger, and cloves: Use a mixture of these three spices to achieve your desired spicing, or just use store-bought pumpkin pie spice
- vanilla extract: Rounds out all the flavors in the sauce. Not strictly necessary, so if you don’t have any vanilla, your sauce will still be delicious
- (not pictured) butter: just a touch, and it’s optional. Adds a little shine and a touch more richness
- Measure out your spices, cream, and pumpkin puree and have them ready to go.
- Add sugar, salt, and water to a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Bring it to a boil, and place a lid on it to wash down any sugar crystals, about 2 minutes.
- Remove the lid and watch carefully until the sugar begins to turn a pale yellow/orange color. Swirl the pan to promote even cooking.
- Once the sugar reaches a medium-amber color, remove it from the heat and immediately pour in the cream to stop the cooking. The caramel will bubble up and spatter. Whisk it well to combine the cream with the caramel.
- Whisk in pumpkin puree and the spices.
- Bring to a low boil for about a minute.
- Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.
- Stir in vanilla and butter, and pour into a clean jar.
Equipment You May Need
You don’t need much special equipment to make this sauce.
I do recommend using a pan with a stainless steel or white interior. If you use a dark-coated pan, it’s too hard to tell what stage the caramel has gotten to, and you’re more likely to burn it.
Otherwise, you’ll need a wooden spoon and/or a good whisk, a fine mesh strainer, and a jar to put your sauce in.
If you don’t like pumpkin spice, you can use 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, or if you’re a ginger fan, use 1 teaspoon of ginger instead.
Stir in 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips for a white chocolate pumpkin caramel sauce.
If you’d like less pumpkin flavor, cut the amount of puree to 1/4 cup.
You can even leave the pumpkin out entirely for a pumpkin spice caramel sauce, sans vegetables. In that case, I would increase the heavy cream to 3/4 cup from 1/2 cup.
Here are a couple of visual cues so you know what to look for when you’re making this recipe.
I hope you find them helpful.
Here, you can see the sugar starting to caramelize. If you want a sweeter sauce, you can pour in the cream at about this stage or maybe a little darker.
In this clip, this is the color I take my caramel to. The resulting sauce has a bit of a bitter edge, and is less sweet and more complex than a sauce made at a lighter caramel stage.
If you are planning to serve this sauce with ice cream, I recommend taking it to this point. The slight bitterness is a nice counterpoint to sweet, cold ice cream.
Also, note how the caramel and cream boil up vigorously. That’s why I recommend using a pan that is much larger than you think you’ll need.
At this point, I’m stirring in the pumpkin puree. The pot is off the heat, and you’ll notice it is still boiling.
This is due, in part, to the heavy bottom of the saucepan retaining heat.
If you are not used to making caramel, definitely err on the side of lighter caramel to give you time to stir in the cream and pumpkin before your caramel gets darker than you’d like it to be.
Here is what my sauce looked like as I was just finishing whisking in the pumpkin puree.
A whisk is definitely a better tool than a spatula for doing this job.
The only things left to do at this point are to strain the sauce and add the vanilla and butter. Tada!
Tips for Success
When working with caramel, always use a pot that is much larger than you think you need. This will leave plenty of room for when the mixture inevitably boils up when you add the cream. It’s much safer to use a pot that’s a little too big than to use one that is too small.
Add the salt to the sugar and water at the beginning of cooking. The salt will not affect the way your sugar caramelizes, and adding it at the beginning ensures that your sauce will be well-seasoned.
For a sweeter, less complex sauce, add the cream once the caramel is about the color of honey. For a less-sweet, more complex sauce, add the cream once the caramel has reached a medium amber color.
Spiced Pumpkin Caramel Sauce Q & A
As written, yes all the ingredients are gluten-free.
Yes. Make sure your sugar is vegan, use a plant-based cream/milk substitute that will not curdle when boiled, and use plant-based butter. All other ingredients are already vegan.
Refrigerated, it will be good for a week to 10 days or so.
I would not recommend canning this sauce since it contains dairy.
While you can certainly do the obvious and pour this sauce over ice cream–either pumpkin, coffee, or French vanilla would be my choices–here are a few more ideas for you:
Once the sauce has cooled and is nice and thick, spread about a 1/4″ layer on top of homemade or storebought cheesecake, and then sprinkle with toasted chopped pecans or candied pecans. Instant Thanksgiving dessert!
Mix some of this sauce into cream cheese frosting and use it to frost pumpkin cake or cupcakes.
Pour it over waffles. Consider these pumpkin waffles!
Add a spoonful or two to your morning coffee along with frothed or steamed milk for a homemade, sophisticated PSL-type drink.
Use it as a filling between cake layers. It would be great with carrot cake, pumpkin cake, or spiced apple cake.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
If you have questions about this post or recipe, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment on the post and I will get back to you within about 24 hours.
If your question is more urgent, please shoot me an email, and I will respond within 4 hours, unless I’m asleep.
If you make this recipe and/or have enjoyed or learned from reading this post, I’d appreciate it if you could share this!
I have Convenient share buttons that float to the left on desk top and on mobile which invite you to share on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Yummly.
If you make the recipe, please consider rating it a rating and a review. You can do this via the recipe card in the post.
Reviews really help sell the recipe, and negative reviews help me tune into what people really want to have explained better, so any ratings and reviews are helpful!
Also feel free to tag me on Instagram at @onlinepastrychef with #pcorecipe so I can find your creation. Thank you!
- 7 oz (1 cup, 196 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4-1/2 cup water (just to dissolve the sugar before caramelizing)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I use Morton's)
- 1/2 cup (4 oz, 112 grams) heavy cream
- 1/2 cup (4 oz, 112 grams) pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or your preferred mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and ground cloves)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Put the sugar, water, and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir to combine.
- Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Put the lid on and allow to boil for 2 minutes to wash down any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan.
- Remove the lid and continue boiling without stirring until the sugar begins to go from clear to honey-colored. At this point, you can swirl the pan to make sure the sugar caramelizes evenly.
- Wcatch carefully, and when the sugar reaches the color you prefer, anywhere from deep honey color to a deep amber, immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour in the heavy cream.
- Add the pumpkin puree and spices, and whisk very well (still off the heat) to combine evenly.
- Return to the heat and boil for just about 15 seconds.
- Pour the caramel through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, and add the butter and vanilla.
- Whisk to combine.
- Let cool and store in a jar in the fridge for up to 10 days.
- Ddepending on how you will use it, you may reheat the sauce or not.
Write additional notesThe pumpkin caramel will be very thick straight from the fridge. This makes it ideal to top a cheesecake. You really should do this.
Rewarm in the microwave for a few seconds and stir well to bring the sauce back to a pourable coinsistency.
- You can leave out the pumpkin puree altogether and increase the cream to 3/4 cup. Then you'll have a lovely pumpkin spice caramel without pumpkin in it.
- Swap out all cinnamon or all ginger for the pumpkin spice.
- Add some coffee extract or instant coffee to the sauce when you add the spices.
Nutrition InformationYield 12 Serving Size 2 Tablespoons
Amount Per Serving Calories 88Total Fat 2.4gSaturated Fat 1.5gCholesterol 8mgSodium 103mgCarbohydrates 17.8gFiber 0.3gSugar 17.1gProtein 0.2g
Thanks for spending some time with me today.
I really hope you love this dark caramel sauce. I love how it is packed with fall flavor.
Take care, and have a lovely day.
Want me to shoot new recipes and an occasional email into your inbox?
You can do that by signing up here for my newsletter, The Inbox Pastry Chef.
I’ll be seeing you!