Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream recipe

The best Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream recipe ever! From David Lebovitz, pastry chef & author of The Perfect Scoop, churn up a batch at home.

Salted butter caramel ice cream recipeWhen I was finalizing the recipes in The Perfect Scoop, I wrote too many recipes and needed to make room for all the other stuff that goes into a cookbook. Although I did include a favorite recipe for Pear Caramel Ice Cream, which gets its smooth richness from caramelized pears, I decided since my first book had a great recipe for Caramel Ice Cream (that book was re-released as Ready for Dessert), I figured that recipe would suffice for caramel ice cream fans.

Salted butter caramel ice cream recipe

Then came along salted butter caramel, which back then, raised a few eyebrows. “Salt…in ice cream?” I heard more than once.

So today I’m re-presenting my very own recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream. I posted this about a decade ago, but I wanted to revisit it since so many people told me this was their favorite ice cream of all time. In this newer version I’ve reduced the sugar, which helps the ice cream firm up in the freezer, and made a few other tweaks.

Salted butter caramel ice cream recipeSalted butter caramel ice cream recipe

It’s not difficult to make good caramel but the secret is to cook it far enough so it’s slightly burnt. Otherwise it just tastes like syrupy sugar and won’t have the same rich caramel flavor in the finished ice cream. If you’ve never caramelized sugar, there are complete guidelines for caramelizing sugar at my post Making the Perfect Caramel which you may want to read before you get started. Once you’ve made a few and get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy.

Caramel for Salted butter caramel ice cream recipe

You want to take the sugar right to the edge of darkness, then stop it there with the addition of a few cubes 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.

Salted butter caramel ice cream recipe

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
Print Recipe
One generous quart (liter)
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. In step 6, all of the caramel may not dissolve. Stirring it over very low heat should melt any stubborn bits. If not, don’t worry; they’ll be strained out later. Because of the caramel in this ice cream, once churned and frozen, it’ll remain nice & creamy. As noted, this is an update from a previous recipe which had 1 1/2 cups (300g) for sugar in the caramel custard, which some readers reported made the finished ice cream quite soft. I reduced it by 1/4 cup (50g). But if you like the caramel flavor stronger, you’re welcome to use 1 1/2 cups of sugar in step #5.
For the caramel praline (mix-in)
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt such as fleur de sel (see headnote)
For the ice cream custard
2 cups (500ml) whole milk (divided)
1 cup (240ml) heavy cream, warmed
1 1/4 cups (250g) sugar
4 tablespoons (60g) salted butter, cubed
scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
5 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. To make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup (100g) 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.) 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, 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 (250ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it. Warm the cream in a small saucepan or microwave oven and set aside.
5. Spread the 1 1/4 cup (250g) sugar in a large saucepan, with a capacity of at least 4qts/4l, 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 warm cream, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but stirring it over low heat should encourage those bits to melt. (A few bits may be stubborn, which will dissolve or can be strained out later.) Stir in the remaining 1 cup (250ml) 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 and scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170ºF (71-77ºC).
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, 1 cm). You can use a mortar and pestle or place it the caramel shards in a sturdy freezer bag and crush them with a rolling pan. If you used a silicone baking mat, you fold the mat repeatedly to crumble the caramel into bits.
11. Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm.

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.

Related Posts

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.

Salted butter caramel ice cream recipe


  • Tracey
    August 22, 2016 5:36pm

    Dear David,

    My daughter and I made this last night with butter that we brought home from France and it is magnificent– In fact, I just had some for breakfast! I think it’s the best salted caramel ice cream I’ve ever tasted. Thank you for a great recipe!

  • August 22, 2016 5:53pm

    The hardest part of making caramel is resisting tasting it. I know how hot it is, but it always looks so beautiful and delicious that the impulse is to try. Thanks for the update!

  • Ambalika
    August 22, 2016 5:53pm

    Hello David, I clicked on continue reading and a malicious site opened and my phone started vibrating to signal that something is wrong. Pls get it checked. Thanks

    I clicked on the “continue reading link” on my phone a number of time and couldn’t replicate the issue that you were having. It may be your browser. (My phone opens web pages in Safari.) – dl

  • Linda
    August 22, 2016 6:23pm

    This is definitely one of your all time best recipes David. great as affogato. PLease say your next book is “All about Caramel”

  • August 22, 2016 6:37pm

    This is definitely my favourite ice cream flavour of all time. But I can distinctly remember eating Salt Water Taffy ice cream at Baskin Robbins in 1965, which must have been pretty much the same thing, so I wonder why people are surprised by salt in ice cream?

  • Martha in So Cal
    August 22, 2016 6:37pm

    Your Perfect Scoop cookbook is one of my “go to” cookbooks, especially in summer. Your recipes get raves. Thanks for such a great cookbook. This recipe, too, is a keeper. I think it will make a killer profiterole variation.

  • August 22, 2016 7:26pm

    I love your book. Oh my, this flavor looks amazing!

  • Jill
    August 22, 2016 7:28pm

    I have made this ice cream many times and it turns out perfectly and gets rave reviews every time!

  • Sarahb1313
    August 22, 2016 7:31pm

    David- this is by far one of the most delicious things I have ever made. The recipe is divine. It spoils me from enjoying any fake caramel ice cream anywher, ever!
    It is so high in calories though that I have to employ all sorts of deterrents to eating too much!!!
    I have actually been thinking of making it recently, and I am afraid to put my ice cream maker in the freezer!!
    Thanks! Sarah

  • Terry
    August 22, 2016 7:42pm

    David, made this for the first time recently using the old recipe and I may never make any other flavor!! It is amazing. I always know that your recipes turnout perfectly! The Perfect Scoop is my ice cream bible!

  • Rob
    August 22, 2016 11:03pm

    So… how much salt do I add to make unsalted butter, salted? :-)

  • witloof
    August 22, 2016 11:44pm

    I have a friend who is a professional chef and it’s my turn to have him for dinner… this will definitely be a component of the dessert! Gorgeous recipe! Thank you!

  • Kathy Kasper
    August 22, 2016 11:56pm

    Hope to try this very soon as it sounds spectacular. May I ask, what up ice cream maker do you use? Do you have an opinion on the Kitchen Aid attachment for making ice cream?

  • citlalnahuac
    August 23, 2016 12:33am

    Have you seen the Serious Eats post that says you can caramelize sugar without melting it? I haven’t tried it yet, and it wouldn’t work for the praline, but maybe for the custard?

  • August 23, 2016 1:21am

    Bless you, David… my man and I are going to love this xxxx

  • Louise Divine
    August 23, 2016 4:45am

    I clicked on the link ‘good salt’ and got something unexpected and kinda salty, but not really about the stuff we cook with…..

  • Sarah j
    August 23, 2016 6:09am

    Thankyou for a lovely recipe! One question – do we really have to do the ice bath? Why can’t it just chill in the fridge, then start the machine process? Or, chill over the ice then skip the fridge step and hit the machine?
    I’m sure there’s a reason but if it can be cut out, it’d save huge time, surely? That’s my only downside with making ice cream, it requires huge advance time.

    • Deborah
      August 24, 2016 11:47am

      Tbh I’ve never bothered with the ice bath, just let the mix cool too room temp and transferred to the fridge. But this is in the UK where are eggs are produced differently so might not work in different countries, such as the US where there’s a higher risk of salmonella due to the way they produce their eggs.

      • August 24, 2016 11:59am
        David Lebovitz

        This is a cooked custard so salmonella should not be an issue as the eggs are cooked to over 160ºF. Anything with protein (including custards with cooked eggs) is best cooled quickly so it doesn’t linger at a warm temperature, which can hasten the growth of bacteria.

  • Gavrielle
    August 23, 2016 7:00am

    I made your Rich Caramel Sauce from Ready For Dessert this weekend – thank you for all the advice in there about making good caramel. I was pretty nervous, but your advice gave me the courage to take it to the darkly caramelly place and it was lovely. (I served it with your Chocolate Pave, which my guests could not stop raving about even days later.)

  • August 23, 2016 9:12am
    David Lebovitz

    Sarah j: The custard gets chilled faster in an ice bath for two reasons: One is that it’s more hygienic to cool is quickly, and the second is that it saves time. Ice cream custard should be as cold as possible before churning to shorten the churning time, which results in less ice crystals in the final result. (Jeni from Jeni’s ice cream puts the custard in a ziploc plastic bag and submerges it in icy water to cool it quickly, which is another possibility – although you might need an additional set of hands to hold the bag while pouring the custard!)

    Louise: Hmmm. Seems like my salt producer in France didn’t keep his site up (or he went out of business) and it’s spammy stuff now. Thanks, I removed the link.

    citlalnahuac: I read that and it seems faster to caramelize the sugar to a liquid form for ice cream, as I did, than the several hours (2 to 4 hours) of baking to caramelize the sugar in an oven. That sugar might be good in cookies or cakes, though, where dry sugar is better.

    Rob: One stick (4oz/115g) of salted butter has approximately 1/4 teaspoon of salt in it, so you can use that as a guide.

    Kathy: I really like the KitchenAid attachment for the stand mixer. It does a great job, although I mostly use a Cuisinart ICE-50 which has a built-in compressor and doesn’t need to be pre-chilled. There’s more info at my post, Tips on Buying an Ice Cream Machine, at the end of the post. The attachment is more affordable and takes up less space.

  • Will
    August 23, 2016 11:55am

    Something is messed up with your comment counter, David. I don’t see 170 comments.

    At the end of the comments there is a link that says “previous page” which will show previous comments (so people don’t have to wait for all previous comments to be downloaded). My web people are going to change that – it’s on the list of things for us to do. Thanks! – dl

  • Ambika
    August 23, 2016 3:34pm

    Hi David, though my husband and i eat eggs, many in my family don’t . So I want to know if this would work by substituting a cornflour slurry for same weight as the number of yolks. Please say yes as caramel is my all time favorite flavour and am waiting to try this recipe for all at home!
    Thanks, Ambika

    • August 23, 2016 3:48pm
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t tried it but you probably could. I have a cornflour or corn starch-based ice cream recipe (Fleur de Lait, pg 133) in my book, The Perfect Scoop, and if you have it, you could perhaps use the proportions of liquid to cornflour/corn starch. Happy churning!

      • Ambika
        August 23, 2016 6:35pm

        Thank you so much will try it! Also just looked up amazon india and found your book!! Going to order it:-) wish you had a Kindle version too!

  • Deborah
    August 24, 2016 11:54am

    This ice cream was so good that I want to try and see what a variation would be like by using the same weight in sugar for medjool dates for the ice cream part, then soak them in water till really soft, then drain, then use your recipe from there. I think it will be great. Any opinion welcome…

  • Mark Boxshus
    August 24, 2016 2:35pm

    David……..I made this many years ago with your original input, and it was to die for then. My stumbling upon a slightly burnt batch of caramel was the catalyst to make the ice cream when I thought all was lost. The caramel is sinful, and of course today…….salted everything is becoming more common. Cheers to breaking the burnt caramel ceiling!

  • Will
    August 24, 2016 4:41pm

    Heads up, David Ina Garten listed ‘The Perfect Scoop’ on her blog last week as one of her favorite books.

  • August 25, 2016 1:38pm

    Mouthwatering! I am definitely making this on the weekend.

  • Flavia Pariciani
    August 25, 2016 4:40pm

    I watched your introduction to this recipe with the compelling Instagram video of butter melting into the caramel sauce- what bubbly sounds can do to a sweet tooth like me! I love when good food meets interesting IT.

  • August 25, 2016 10:40pm

    Salt in ice cream sounds like perfection to me!!! This looks divine…salt and caramel are some of my favourite flavours!! They might not have salt in them but I’ve been enjoying gelato here in Sardinia Italy for the last two months. The flavour combos are out of this world-chocolate and sesame has become my all-time favourite!

  • Kathy Urbano
    August 27, 2016 2:25am

    This is so good with unexpected textures and creaminess! Thank you for this recipe!

  • Joni
    September 3, 2016 11:50pm

    Has anyone tried this with nuts added?

  • Amit
    September 4, 2016 1:26pm

    WOW . This Ice Cream Looks Awesome .:) Thank You for this Lovely Recipe .


  • Calisson
    September 5, 2016 5:20am

    To the Serious Eats plan of caramelizing sugar in the oven: I tried it, and it is long and slow, plus in the end the sugar tastes more like dulce de leche than delicious just-right burnt caramel.

  • JennyB
    September 6, 2016 6:50pm

    I made this for a Labor Day weekend party. Amazing flavor AND texture. I received two marriage proposals and an invitation to live in someone’s basement.
    I will definitely be making this again!!
    Thank you for the amazing recipe!

  • kevin
    September 9, 2016 3:55am

    Can you talk more about the temperature that should be reached when making your caramels? I’ve seen and heard so many different numbers it’s really confusing.

    Thanks Kevin

  • Alison
    September 10, 2016 6:27am

    Just curious. All your ice cream recipes say to refrigerate the mixture until “thoroughly chilled.” I noticed a Cook’s Illustrated recipe said to chill until the temperature reaches 40 degrees. Is that a good way to determine “thoroughly chilled?” Or just feel it and guess?

  • Mark
    September 11, 2016 6:03am

    Hi, David,
    Love your Perfect Scoop book and that you’re an American living in Paris. As an American in a VERY long distance relationship with someone in Paris, I’m always curious to read your thoughts on the subject.

    Anyway, two questions after trying to make your caramel ice cream.

    1) would you recommend a saucepan or a big ol’ pot for this?
    2) My caramel seized up and I was unable to make the snowball sized lump of caramelized sugar any smaller. Would you recommend warming the cream before adding to the saucepan (or pot)?


    • September 16, 2016 9:32am
      David Lebovitz

      I use a large pan, or saucepan, for making caramel. Some people do heat cream for adding to caramel but the butter brings the temperature of the caramel down and I find if I add cream slowing, I only get a few small (but, yes, stubborn) lumps. I’ve made this recipe a lot and never got a large lump of caramel that size. Warming the cream adds and additional step, and pot, so I don’t do it. But you certainly could.

  • September 16, 2016 11:28pm

    Oh my word. This sounds like absolute heaven. With chocolate fudge sauce? Yum!

  • Mark Boxshus
    September 18, 2016 3:06pm

    Hello David…….I just came across your genius recipe for dulce de leche on Food 52, and was immediately mesmerized with countless ways I could now use dulce de leche without the long, somewhat dangerous oven adventure normally involved. My question kind sir……..can you double or triple this recipe? I pray the answer might possibly be yes, but I’ll await word from the genius…