This miso caramel is a delicious way to add a salty-sweet umami flavour to any dessert. Whether you drizzle the creamy miso caramel sauce over vanilla ice cream, pancakes, pies, waffles or apple slices, it’s sure to take your after-dinner treat to the next level.
And the best part? This miso caramel recipe requires only three simple ingredients – sugar, cream and miso paste.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that homemade caramel sauce can be intimidating. It was my sweet nemesis for the longest time. But I’ve learned from many failed attempts to find a technique that I trust time after time.
Why you’ll love miso caramel
Miso caramel is a delicious twist on classic salted caramel. The combination of rich caramel and salty miso paste creates a flavour that’s hard to beat.
There are many reasons to love this Asian caramel sauce:
- It’s easy to make: Caramel used to be my dessert nemesis. But with this easy miso caramel recipe, there is nothing to fear!
- The ingredient list is short: There are essentially only three simple ingredients: sugar, cream and miso. And the ingredients are affordable. Especially if you buy large tubs of white miso paste as I do.
- You can make it ahead: Refrigerate the miso caramel sauce in an airtight container for up to two weeks. You can make it well ahead of time for a stress-free dessert.
And did I mention it’s also super delicious? The umami miso flavour adds a pleasant acidity and saltiness to balance the sweet, rich caramel sauce.
Ingredients and substitutes
You only need a few inexpensive ingredients to make white miso caramel:
- Sugar: I use granulated sugar (the regular white sugar served with a cup of coffee). It is typical of caramel sauce recipes. If you use a different sugar, like brown sugar, your caramel may have a more butterscotch or toffee-like flavour. But, I did not test this recipe with another type of sugar, so experiment with caution.
- Water: The water helps to dissolve the sugar and prevent crystallization. It is called a wet caramel, as opposed to a dry caramel that relies purely on heat to melt sugar.
- Cream: Heavy cream (heavy whipping cream in the US or simply whipping cream in the UK) contains around 36% fat. If you’re unsure what this is called in your country, check the nutrition label to estimate the fat content. Add a tablespoon of unsalted butter if your cream is low in fat.
- Miso paste: I use white miso paste. It has a fruity flavour with a more subtle fermented tang. But you can use red miso if that’s what you have. Look for gluten-free miso paste if you need the caramel gluten-free. Or try another miso substitute if you’re in the mood for experimenting.
- Flaked sea salt: The miso adds a deliciously salty and slightly fruity flavour to the caramel. But I like to add a small pinch of sea salt flakes when I’m in the mood for miso-salted caramel sauce. Taste the caramel sauce to see if you want an extra pinch of sea salt.
Recipe variation for adventurous cooks
- Soy sauce caramel: Swap the two tablespoons of miso for two tablespoons of all-purpose soy sauce for René Redzepi’s shoyu caramel.
- Vegan miso caramel: Swap the cream for canned coconut cream. It makes a dairy-free, vegan miso caramel with tropical hints of coconut.
How to make miso caramel
Making caramel is intimidating. And I’ve learned from my many failed attempts so that you can succeed.
Carefully follow the steps if you’re not used to working with hot sugar. And be safe – melting sugar is extremely hot. But don’t stress about failing.
If you miss a step and you can’t fix it, start again. It’s only caramel sauce.
It’s quick to make with inexpensive ingredients. And once you have the hang of it, you won’t need this recipe again.
Step 1: Melt the sugar
Place the sugar and water in a very clean, small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar melts.
Once the sugar dissolves, stop stirring. Really, don’t stir it at all.
Step 2: Simmer until golden brown
Turn the heat up to medium-high and give the pan a gentle swirl now and then for even heat distribution. Use a wet pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan.
Simmer, without stirring, until the syrup is amber-coloured – about five to ten minutes. A candy thermometer should read 248 °F (120 °C) if you want to be precise.
Step 3: Add the cream
Remove the syrup from the heat. Put on some baking gloves. Then, carefully pour in the cream – it will cause the caramel to bubble vigorously.
Use a clean wire whisk or silicone spatula and stir until well combined – be careful of the steam.
Don’t worry if the caramel seizes and turns sticky – returning it to the heat will help loosen it.
Step 4: Add the miso
Return the caramel to low heat. Whisk in the white miso paste and cook for another two minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow the miso caramel sauce to cool slightly before using. Taste carefully (the miso caramel is piping hot), and add a pinch of salt (or more if you want it saltier).
Tips for perfect miso caramel
Homemade caramel sauce can be scary. But it’s easier than you think!
Remember these tips for perfect miso caramel sauce every time:
- Clean surface: Make sure your saucepan is very clean before you start. Impurities in the pan can cause the syrup to crystallise.
- Room temperature ingredients: Using room temperature cream reduces the risk of the caramel sauce seizing up when you mix it in. But this is just a minor setback. Returning the seized caramel to low heat (which the recipe requires anyway), will allow it to soften again.
- Stirring: Making wet caramel is a bit more forgiving. So you can mix the sugar into the water with a clean metal whisk or silicone spatula. But stop stirring once the sugar melts before it reaches a simmer.
- Temperature: Cook the syrup until it reaches an amber colour. Stop well before the syrup reaches dark brown, or it will have a bitter flavour.
- Be careful: Melted sugar is super hot. Be careful when you add the cream to the sugar syrup. It bubbles vigorously and lets off a scary amount of piping-hot steam. Use baking gloves to hold your whisk. Also, never touch the caramel or syrup and wait for it to cool in your spoon before tasting it.
Waiting for the sauce to cool down enough to taste is the most difficult part of this recipe!
Miso caramel is an easy way to add a unique, umami flavour to your desserts.
Drizzle it over ice cream: Serve miso caramel sauce over vanilla ice cream for a sweet, umami-packed midweek dessert. Or, for a decadent ice cream sundae, top it with whipped cream, chopped nuts and a sprinkle of flaked sea salt.
Drizzle it over pancakes, waffles and French toast: Add a drizzle of miso caramel sauce to your breakfast pancakes, waffles or French toast. Or add it to your favourite pancake topping recipes, such as berry compote or lemon curd.
Stir it into milkshakes and smoothies: Add miso caramel to your next milkshake or smoothie for a unique twist on a classic.
Drizzle it over pies and tarts: Drizzle miso caramel over your favourite pie or tart for a delicious finish. Or use it to make a tasty tart filling.
Add it to cheesecake: Swirl some miso caramel into a classic cheesecake batter for a unique flavour. Or drizzle it over the top of a baked cheesecake.
Let me know in the comments how you plan to use your homemade miso caramel sauce!
Frequently asked questions
Miso caramel is a sweet and savoury confection made with miso paste, sugar and cream or butter. A dairy-free miso caramel can include dairy cream alternatives like coconut cream.
Miso is a fermented paste. It has a savoury, umami flavour that’s both salty and slightly fruity with an acidic fermented tang.
Miso has a flavour similar to soy sauce. But miso has a more nuanced and complex taste that includes a fruity and acidic flavour. There are many miso alternatives but none that match the flavour and texture exactly.
- Small sauce pan – I use a stainless steel 2 quart (1.8 litre) saucepan.
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup heavy cream * , room temperature
- 2 tablespoons white miso paste
- flaked sea salt , to taste
- Place the sugar and water in a very clean, small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar melts. When the sugar is almost dissolved, stop stirring completely – really, don’t stir it at all, ever.
- Turn it up to medium-high heat. And give the pan an occasional gentle swirl for even heat distribution. Use a wet pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan. Simmer, without stirring, until the syrup has an amber colour (a deep golden brown) – about 5 to 10 minutes. (A candy thermometer should read 248 °F if you want to be precise.)
- Remove the syrup from the heat. Put on your baking gloves. Then, carefully pour in the cream – it will cause the caramel to bubble vigorously. Use a wire whisk or silicone spoon and stir until well combined – be careful of the scalding hot steam. And don’t worry if the caramel seizes – returning it to the heat will help loosen it.
- Return the caramel to low heat. Whisk in the miso paste and cook for another 2 minutes. Taste carefully (the miso caramel is piping hot), and add a pinch of salt if you want it saltier. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly before using.
- Heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream) contains at least 36% of milk fat. If your cream has a lower fat content, add a tablespoon of unsalted butter for a luscious texture. It helps to use room-temperature ingredients to keep the caramel sauce from seizing, but it’s not strictly necessary – you may just need to whisk a bit harder.
- Refrigerate the miso caramel sauce in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Allow the sauce to cool down completely before refrigerating. It will thicken up in the fridge. Simply reheat small quantities in a ramekin in the microwave as needed. Or reheat the lot in a stovetop saucepan with a splash of water over low heat. You can also eat the thick and creamy miso caramel by the spoonful straight from the fridge – as I do.