Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream Recipe

When I was finalizing the recipes in The Perfect Scoop, I was conflicted about something sweet. Even more so than I usually am. Some might call it a character flaw, but for me it’s normale.

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

I wrote too many recipes and I needed to make room for all the sumptuous photography. I’ll admit once I got started I got a bit too eager and couldn’t stop myself from churning up all sorts of great flavors. Although I did include a fabulous recipe for Pear Caramel Ice Cream, which gets its smooth richness from caramelized pears rather than boatloads of cream and egg yolks, I decided since my first book had a killer-good recipe for Caramel Ice Cream, that would suffice for ice cream fans.

Then I got a desperate message from a clever friend asking about Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream, asking if I had a recipe as good as the one at Berthillon in Paris.


Before I go on, here’s a tip from someone who’s pretty in-the-know around these parts: True Caramel Ice Cream fans, like me, go for Berthillon’s normal glace Caramel rather than their glace Caramel-Buerre-Salé, which to me has a slightly peculiar flavor. As someone who’s spent more than his fair-share of time standing on the Pont Marie lapping up ice cream, I know.
Believe me. Boy, do I know.

So here I’m presenting my very own recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream which I guarantee is better than anything you can get anywhere, including…gasp…the glace Caramel at the venerable Berthillon: It’s so good, I can unconditionally make that claim. So there. And after the feedback I got from local friends who took a taste, they wholeheartedly agreed. Still not convinced? Then be prepared to miss out.

Quelle Dommage.

It’s not difficult to make good caramel but the secret is to cook it far enough so it’s very-slightly burnt; otherwise it just tastes like syrupy sugar. There’s complete guidelines for caramelizing sugar in my book Room For Dessert and my post Making the Perfect Caramel. You want to take it to the edge of darkness, then stop it there with the addition of a few pads of salted butter. It’ll melt into a buttery caramel that’s so irresistible, you’ll be tempted to stick your finger in for a taste.
But please don’t…it’s extremely hot. You’ll just have to wait.

But I assure you—it’ll be worth it.

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Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
One generous quart (liter)

I know I’m sounding like a broken record, but be sure to use good salt. I use fleur de sel, but if you don’t have it, a mild-tasting sea salt will do in a pinch, such as Maldon, fine gray salt, or kosher salt. Don’t use ordinary fine table salt; it’s far too harsh.

Because of the caramel in this ice cream, once churned and frozen, it’ll remain nice & creamy (as shown in the photo.) To make it firmer, crank up your freezer a bit or store it in a shallow pan.

For the caramel praline (mix-in)

½ cup (100 gr) sugar
¾ teaspoon sea salt, such as fleur de sel

For the ice cream custard

  • 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk, divided
  • 1½ cups (300 gr) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (60 gr) salted butter
  • scant ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cups (250 ml) heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. To make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup (100 gr) of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, unlined heavy duty saucepan: I use a 6 quart/liter pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or brush it sparingly with unflavored oil.

2. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.)

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Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. It won’t take long.

3. Without hesitation, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon salt without stirring (don’t even pause to scratch your nose), then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.

4. To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.

5. Spread 1½ cups (300 gr) sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described in Step #2.

6. Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go.

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The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk.

7. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 F (71-77 C).

8. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.

9. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

10. While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, about the size of very large confetti (about ½-inch, or 1 cm). I use a mortar and pestle, although you can make your own kind of music using your hands or a rolling pin.

11. Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm.

Note: As the ice cream sits, the little bits of caramel may liquefy and get runny and gooey, which is what they’re intended to do.

Variations: Add some strong liquid espresso (or instant espresso powder) to the custard to taste, prior to churning the ice cream to make Coffee-Caramel Ice Cream.

Other options might be some of the mix-ins in The Perfect Scoop, like gooey Dark Chocolate Truffles, crackly chocolate Straciatella, or Oatmeal Praline folded in at the last minute.

This is also excellent served with warm Mocha Sauce (page 166), although it’s also excellent melting over sautéed apples or alongside a wedge of apple pie or tarte Tatin for a caramel double-whammy.

Quite a few of you have asked me for tips on ice-cream making equipment. You’ll find suggestions at my Amazon Ice Cream Shop and at my ‘Meet Your Maker‘ post.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, check out Making Ice Cream Without a Machine.

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154 comments

  • Hi, David. I’ve been reading your blog for a short while now and I love it to death. Coming across this Salted Butter Ice Cream recipe has just made my day. I intend to set a day aside this week to try it out.

    I imagine you get a copious amount of emails/question, so I’m not expecting anything. I remember having a Fleur de Sel Ice Cream at school a few years ago and it simply blew my mind.

    I was wondering if you had any tips or recipes as to how to go about making it. Salt is always tricky to work with and I was hoping I could pick your Pastry Chef brain.

    Cheers,
    Adrian

  • David,

    I’ve been a fan for some time. My housemate last summer owned an ice-cream maker, and I got your book as soon as I discovered how good homemade ice cream could be. At the peak of summer, was making ice creams pretty much as quickly as the 24 hour pre-freezing of the container would allow…

    Now, I’ve moved to Washington DC and my very own ice cream maker just arrived in the mail. I’m making this recipe for its inaugural run. Just in time for the snow storm (“snowmaggedon” according to local papers)…

    Thanks for sharing your recipes!
    Elsa

  • Made this for guests this week and everyone was crazy about it. I think it has become my new favorite ice cream. This could be dangerous.

  • Best ice cream ever – and I don’t even like ice cream :)

  • you are a genius. i love this recipe. i cannot wait until it is ready. i just finished the base. thank you so much for your talent and sharing your gift! also the tutorial on making caramel rocked!

  • I made this today and it is divine. I now have to make all your icecream recipes.
    One small point, this is better than Berthillon’s version.
    And thanks for the caramel instructions, I have never quite got it right until now.
    Vous etes genie du glace.
    Merci beaucoup.

  • This really is the most exquisite thing I have ever eaten! Fantastic recipe, thank you so much for sharing it :)

  • I have been in search of a salted caramel ice cream since I tried the salted caramel in cream from Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco. I stumbled across yours and made it this weekend. Wonderful!!!!! It was delicious! Thank your so much for sharing your recipe with us!

  • David, David, David! Such a sexy creamy beautiful ice cream. I did add one teensy weensy change. I added 1/4 cup of fresh lavender blossoms to the simmering custard mixture, and then another 1/4 cup of fresh lavender blossoms to the mixture after straining out the bits. Before freezing the ice cream, I strained out the lavender blossoms. The end result reminded me of Lavender Fleur du Sel Caramels from our local chocolatier. Oh heaven! Sigh. If you ask, I will give you the chocolatier’s website. I just don’t want to gratuitously plug them, unless you let me!

  • This recipe looks so delicious. I might have to buy an ice-cream maker.

  • Mmm – I made this the other day – and even though I screwed it up (I used too little sugar because the wrong measuring cup was in the sugar canister) – it was still awesome. I wrote about it here: http://www.magpiemusing.com/2010/06/ice-cream-and-brownies.html

    After I try it again with the right amount of sugar, I may have to make all of the ice creams on your site.

  • Let me take you on a tale of a young amateur chef (which will be revealed in a moment) in search of the perfect salty caramel ice cream.

    The tale begins with a young man who previously ordered salty caramel ice cream by mail, and after first bite knew, at that very moment, his life would not be complete if he could not find the holy grail of salty caramel ice creams.

    So the chef began his search and came across this very recipe we have here. He was overly excited by Mr. Lebovitz’s claim of having perfected the salty caramel ice cream and began making the delicious concoction immediately. With little regard for his own life or the fate of one rubber spatula he was on his way, melting the sugar when all of the sudden he noticed he was without half his spatula, “not another set back!” he screamed, for he knew he had little time to waste. He tossed the spatula aside and began on another batch of sugar with a trusty metal spoon and this method proved viable! He had done it! He had made two batches of the melted sugar and was stirring the cream into the second when he noticed he had a hardened caramel obstruction in his pan, so he heaved with all of his might and hot caramel went all over his hand, shirt, and shorts! But these obstacles were no match for his determination as he handed the reigns of the stirring over to another lost soul in search of the perfect salty caramel ice cream recipe and changed his clothes. He ran back to the kitchen to take hold of his own fate when at last, the labor was done, and all that was needed was patience. The next morning he ran to the freezer, put his caramel concoction into the ice cream maker, and waited. The wait seemed like hours, days even, but when it was all done with he was left with what David Lebovitz stated as ” better than anything you can get anywhere.” And with ruined clothing and kitchen utensils, his life was fulfilled. THE END.

  • I just made this ice cream, and I know everyone is raving, but I just don’t think it’s my favourite…

    I don’t know, I just find it too sweet. And I didn’t even do the mix-in caramel bits (and I double checked all my measurements…it’s not like I put the sugar from the mix-in into the ice cream or anything). The slightly burnt flavour is lovely, the mild saltiness is lovely, but I could certainly tone it down a notch, especially if I hoped to eat more than a teaspoon or two at a time. I ended up adding an extra cup of cream before freezing (and I’d have used more if I had it) just to make it a little less cloying, and now that it’s frozen it’s good, but I’m thinking that I need to serve it with something to balance the sweetness. I feel like it would be incredible with some espresso powder mixed in. I used vanilla bean instead of extract and mixed the seeds in with the eggs and there are really nice little flecks, and the texture is gorgeous…I mean it’s a great recipe, but I wish I’d done a test batch and made some adjustments. I’m taking it to a party tonight and I don’t feel like I’m bringing the best ice cream in the world as people are suggesting here and I’m hoping the guests will like it. I’m hoping some fresh raspberries on the side willl give it the tartness it needs since I don’t have time to make some kind of espresso biscuit or intense dark chocolate wafer or something.

  • I’m looking for new recipes for my daughter and I to make ice cream cakes with and this one looks like a great choice for the top layer. Thanks, she’s eager to learn to cook this summer.

  • Hi! I am a very big fan of The Perfect Scoop and making your ice cream recipes non-stop for the past 2 weeks! Thank you for putting such a great book together!

    I made the Salted Butter Caramel ice cream yesterday and it turned out really addictive and delicious! The only thing is the bits of caramel didn’t melt and become gooey but stayed crunchy instead. I used unsalted instead of salted butter for the mixture though. Do you think that’s why the bits didn’t melt?

    Thanks!!

  • Hi,David.
    This caramel will be my second time on ice-cream after I’ll make ”stracciatella” tonight,or tomorrow night:)Anyway,I don’t have ice-cream maker,do you think I could manage this beauty by hand?
    Thank you..Duygu.

  • Dear David,

    this is torture, I still have no ice cream maker, but I just HAVE to test that recipe, so I will try the described method of making ice cream without machine (will try to churn with an old stand mixer with a plastic bowl, that I can put in the freezer between the churns).

    I just came back from buying the ingredients, even got hold of a small bottle of Fleur de Sel here in Austria (at a price!), but I could not find any vanilla extract.

    How do you substitute a Bourbon Vanilla Bean for ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract?

    And does it make a difference?

    Greetings,

    Michael

  • Are you married, David? :)

    I have made both the Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (using local strawberries) and this amazing Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream! O—-M—-G—-!!!

    I say again, O—M—G—!

    Thank god I have a double barrel ice cream maker! And the whole summer free to make these scrumptious creations…

    Bonjour and merci beaucoup from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada!

  • Greetings from Hungary! I just finished the mixture, tasted it, and now I am wondering if I can wait 8 hours for it to cool, plus another 20 minutes to churn in the ice cream maker. I can only repeat what has been said before: OMG!!!

  • I was just gifted an ice cream maker on Friday and this was the first ice cream I ever made as soon as the bowl froze. I was a little nervous that I didn’t start out smaller, but I’ve been dying to try this since I read about it. Holycrapit’ssofrickingood! I could barely wait the 20 minutes churning! Thanks for an amazing recipe!

  • Hi David, I came across this fabulous sounding ice cream which led me to your book The Perfect Scoop. My copy has just arrived and it looks wonderful. But I think I will try this salted butter ice cream before all others :-)

  • This has to be some of the best ice cream that I have ever had, much less made! The caramel is so intense and the ice cream is just a great smooth texture. I am anxious to try the pear caramel recipe next. Thank you for sharing, I now know that I HAVE to go get the Perfect Scoop!

  • There is something to be said for the fact that this recipe has been reviewed countless times over… for three years! This was only my second attempt at homemade ice cream. I’m working with a borrowed Cuisinart maker, and just HAD to try this before giving it back. Good Lord, this is dangerous stuff. I have a serious thing for salty sweet, and this recipe delivered. I was dipping pretzels into the top of the machine before the churning was even complete. All in all, not too difficult to complete. A little time consuming, but completely worth it. I don’t even care that I burnt my first batch of praline! I will most likely buy an ice cream maker JUST to make this ice cream again. Thanks, David. I will be ordering your book once I get properly set up to make more. Any recommendations on machines?

  • Glad you liked the ice cream! You can check out some of my suggestions for ice cream machines at Buying an Ice Cream Maker, and I go into it in much more detail, and explain more about the machines and their differences, in The Perfect Scoop.

  • Oh thank you! I have just arrived back in Sydney from a month in the Dordogne where I had gorgeous salted caramel ice cream. I have been in deep withdrawal (France and salted caramel). I am going to make this the coming weekend.

  • Can you use unsalted butter?

  • After going to Bi-Rite last week, I knew I needed to figure out how to make a Salted Caramel Ice Cream. So after googling and finding this recipe, I knew yours was going to be the one. Careful reading and re-reading and consulting my autographed copy of Room for Dessert (To Laurie: For a great cookie-maker) from a cookie class I took with you in SF WAY too many years ago to discuss, I made it this morning. This is the easiest good quality ice cream recipe ever. And it turned out beautifully. Your thoroughness in explaining everything that can and will go wrong really takes the stress out of the process. Thank you!

    One subsitution (so freakin’ American of me): instead of the caramel cackle, I cut up a good quality dark chocolate/gooey caramel bar into small chunks, refrigerated, then added to the ice cream when it had about 5 min left to churn. Yuuuummm!!!

  • I tried this substituting light cream and low-fat milk, and with only 2 egg yolks. (also I needed to reduce the suggested quantities of ingredients here to about 80%, because my churner always ends up spewing stuff everywhere once it’s aerated). The custard doesn’t end up quite so thick, but the end result is still a phenomenally delicious ice-cream with a surprisingly good mouth feel.

  • OMG! a friend made this to have with my wild blueberry pie and it stole the night. I am making it as we speak for a dinner party tomorrow. Thank you for explaining so carefully the dry cooking process for sugar. The last time I tried … well it was a pitiful mess. This time I mastered it. You are brilliant. Thank you

  • Hi David, what do you think went wrong when the caramel praline don’t turn runny and gooey in the ice cream? After 2 days, it’s still like hard candy.

  • E: Sometimes that happens if it’s too thick. Next time try making the caramel praline very, very thin if you want to it break down in the ice cream.

  • This may be my first recipe of yours that I make. It sounds lovely. LOVE salted butter caramel ice cream and since you claim this is better than Berthillon, and I trust you, I must make it.
    Will take photos and blog about it.
    Maybe this coming weekend.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe and in such detail.

    Suvir

  • I made this ice cream two days ago and learned something. If you leave the cooked custard in the fridge for 24 hours to chill (rather than, say, just three or four hours), it forms a thick scum on top, I thought the entire pot of custard had just thickened a lot in the fridge, but the liquid underneath broke through the scum when I went to pour it into the ice cream maker and about half of it ended up on the floor. Unfortunately, I almost always have to make ice cream in two stages because of work, kids and other pesky interruptions.

    Skim the scum before you pour!

    It may be possible to prevent formation of the scum by laying plastic wrap onto the surface of the custard, but that would probably affect the taste.

  • Thank the ice cream gods for your gentle caution about not worrying if the batch seizes. Without your excellent instructions, I would have completely freaked given up when what appeared in my pan was a caramel-colored glacier the size of Asia Minor. I persevered with very low heat and my reward was the look on my niece’s face when she put the first bite in her mouth. We took pictures, in fact, because she wanted her friends, who love all things sea salt, to see the glorious-ness on her spoon.

    Because of all the steps I did ineptly, this is the hardest, best, non-life threatening thing I’ve ever done in the kitchen. I will definitely make it again many times and, maybe one day, I’ll even have an ice cream maker. Thank you so much!

  • This stuff should be illegal! David, if you are still reading these posts, which it appears you are, you need to know you are my HERO! Just thinking about how this tasted makes my mouth water. Everyone who I was able to force myself to share a spoonful with just couldn’t believe what happened in their respective mouths. Please tell me the next thing to make that could come close to topping this! I have the Perfect Scoop, and don’t like nuts. I would be so happy to have your recommendation. Oh geez, this is SOOOO YUMMMMMMY!

  • ok.. maybe i’ll try the roasted banana ice cream next..

  • I made this last weekend, and it’s so good, I can’t believe it didn’t make The Perfect Scoop! This will be a regular in my house. The only trouble i’m having is getting the praline really thin, but I don’t think it detracts too much if you don’t.

  • James was afraid to try the fleur de sel because from the way Carin and I described it, he thought it would taste like a tidepool. He just tasted the ice cream and said, “Yum. It doesn’t taste like a tidepool at all!” That’s a compliment, really it is. :-)

  • Made the Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream for a recent dinner party. Besides the war wound on my finger from a piece of flying molten sugar (you should listen to David and wear gloves!), the effort was completely worth it. Swoon worthy, lick-every-last-drop-worthy ice cream.

  • just made a batch of this (borrowed a friend’s ice cream maker when i saw the recipe) and it’s really amazing. used the 5 egg whites in a pizza dough and had a great evening! i also had a difficult time getting the caramel to spread really thin. in fact, mine was so thick in places i took a picture of my reflection in it. it’s my self-portrait in caramel…
    http://moonquake.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/caramelportrait.jpg

  • Can this be made Philadelphia style? if so, will it merely change the consistency?

  • Hi David ,
    Ijust made a batch of Coffee Caramel Ice Cream , but it seems to my family that it is too sweet , there is so much sugar in the recipe . May I lower the sugar amount to 200 g [total] ? Can I put some corn starch into it when making the custard? Everything seems right except the so-much-sugary taste.

  • Kihn: I am unfamiliar with the Coffee Caramel Ice Cream that you are referring to, unless you’ve modified this recipe. If it’s someone else’s recipe, I advise you to contact them for best results. (If the recipe is mine, let me know the source and I can advise.)

    More information can be found at: Baking Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Hi David
    I finally made this ice-cream last weekend. I followed the recipe to the letter (but I only chilled the custard in the fridge for 2 hours before putting it in my icecream machine).

    It is beyond superb. Everyone who visits is given a tiny serve. Here is a photo. http://tinyurl.com/27ggpap

    Thank you!

  • Hi David,
    I think what Kinh meant was your variation of this Salt Butter Caramel Ice Cream. As mentioned at the end of your post. I can tell Kinh is a Vietnamese from her name. Even though you mentioned Vietnamese Caramelized porkribs on your site (which, by the way, I don’t think is that authentic, but who cares about authenticity), I can tell you we Vietnamese have very little tolerance for sweetness, something to do with having very little access to food, let alone sugar, during the War.

    By the way just want to tell you some very interesting facts. Since Vietnam has a super long beachline, I grew up eating ONLY seasalt. I was surprised to find out that in other countries they actually eat something other than sea salt and even had to Google to find out what the heck this kind of salt was. Any chance you’ll quit Paris and move to Vietnam now that you learn about this? :D

  • Hi David,

    Made this yesterday and it turned out beautifully – froze to a fairly hard state in the freezer, and I managed not to eat it all to save for New Years Eve tonight. But I just opened the freezer to find both containers had gone completely soft! As in milkshake soft – much softer than when it came out of the ice cream maker, even. Everything else in the freezer is still frozen hard, so I know it’s not a problem with the freezer. How could it have frozen hard and then completely softened again? Could it have to do with the caramel bits melting? I did notice some pooled caramel at the bottom of the container. One half is in plastic, one half is in glass – same result.

    Thoughts? Thanks for your help!

  • Wow! Instructions are perfect, although I chilled the base an entire day in fridge, then short time in freezer to 32F before adding to maker. This was my first ice cream and it turned out great. Very smooth and very rich. After ripening in the freezer it is a perfect consistency for eating straight out of the bowl. Firm but not hard. Not the tiniest bit icy. Texture still good next day.
    My caramel praline wasn’t all thin enough, so some of it is still crunchy. That’s a difficult step.
    This is so rich and flavor-intense, I’m not particularly interested in the Coffee Variation suggested at the end of the recipe. It is just perfect as-is.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • Made this ice cream for a holiday party this year. WOW! Delicious and everyone loved it.
    Thanks!

  • Mmmm! This looks delicious! I just made Salted Caramel Buttercream and now I’m on a kick, I don’t think a whole lot can beat the combination of caramel and salt. – Not even peanut butter and jelly.
    Jess : )

  • Hello, David
    I’ve just found your recipe and intend to try it today! Can you give me a tip for making fruit sorbets really smooth? Thanks you from Costa Rica.

  • Hi David,

    This was the most delicious ice cream I have ever eaten (and the guy at my local ice cream store knows me, so you get the picture). Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    I just had one question about it–mine seemed like it was freezing properly, but wound up really soupy and it seemed as though the caramel might be melting. That didn’t stop me from eating it as though my life were dependent upon it, but is there something I should have done differently? I did add espresso powder, but maybe I shouldn’t have put in so much?

    Thank you for your help!

  • re kinh – coffee caramel ice cream is at the bottom of the recipe under variations.

  • Alice: Mine was the consistency as shown in the photo and here’s a photo/link to someone else who made it. You need to let it sit in the back of the freezer, where it’s colder, perhaps. Or check the temperature of your freezer.