I love caramel, and milk chocolate with caramel pieces and nuts is simply my favorite.
I recently started baking and trying out new recipes, and this led me to wonder about the differences and similarities between caramel syrup vs caramel sauce.
I learned that these two aren’t the same thing, even though people sometimes call caramel syrup a caramel sauce, and vice versa.
Well, I’m here to help you know what exactly the differences are and how you can use caramel sauce vs caramel syrup in your kitchen.
Caramel Sauce vs Caramel Syrup
The only thing caramel sauce and caramel syrup have in common is the caramel taste. Caramel sauce is a creamy, ganache-like sauce that you can mostly use in desserts. It is quite sweet (unless you make salted caramel sauce) and it can be quite rich too. To make caramel sauce, you need to add a fat substance, like heavy cream, milk, or butter. The basics of making caramel sauce is pretty similar to making caramel syrup, but there are additional steps for adding the fat substance and other ingredients like vanilla and salt. On the other hand, caramel syrup is a syrup that is honey-like and thick in consistency. It is sweet, but can also be bitter depending on if you caramelized the sugar too much. To make a simple caramel syrup, you only need water and raw or granulated sugar. You can use caramel syrup as a drizzle over whipped cream, an alternative sweetener for your coffee, or in other recipes.
Main Takeaways Caramel Sauce vs Caramel Syrup
|Caramel Sauce||Caramel Syrup|
|Taste||Rich, creamy caramel taste||Sweet caramel taste|
|Consistency||Creamy and runny||Thick sirup|
|Sugar||2.9 g||3.4 g|
|Ingredients||Sugar, a fat substance such as heavy cream, butter or milk||Water and sugar, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt|
|Consistency||Thicker and Richer||Less Thick and Less Rich|
|Made With||Cow's Milk or Goat's Milk||Cow's Milk|
Caramel Sauce vs Caramel Syrup Comparison
The only thing caramel sauce and caramel syrup have in common is the caramel-y taste; however, in this similarity, there are differences.
Let’s look at the main differences between caramel sauce vs caramel syrup and how you’d use these two.
Difference 1: Definition
Caramel syrup is a syrup that tastes caramel-y; however, how sweet, rich, or soft the caramel syrup is depends on the type of sugar you use.
Caramel sauce is a sauce that tastes like caramel and it may have a ganache-like consistency, depending on the ingredients you use.
Difference 2: Taste
When I taste caramel syrup and caramel sauce side by side, the syrup tastes a lot sweeter than the sauce.
It is like a powerful sweet high, which can quickly become too much if you have too much caramel syrup.
I have also tasted caramel syrup that was bitter, so how the syrup tastes depends on the type of sugar (and possibly other ingredients added) to make the syrup.
The caramel sauce has a rich, creamy caramel taste that can also be sweet, but I found myself licking teaspoon after teaspoon during my tasting session.
Difference 3: Consistency
The consistency of caramel syrup is, well, like syrup.
It is quite thick like honey.
Caramel sauce’s consistency is more “runny” in comparison to that of caramel syrup; however, it is thick and smooth.
It sometimes has the consistency of a ganache.
Difference 4: Uses
Uses for caramel syrup:
- Add to your coffee
- Add to cocktails
- Drizzle over granola, yogurt, ice cream, French toast, and pancakes
- Drizzle over and decorate whipped cream
- Use in other recipes to make peanut brittle, a caramel cream cake, caramel cream filling, caramel fudge cake, caramel bread pudding, or caramel ice cream
Uses for caramel sauce:
- Topping for ice cream, waffles, French toast, pudding, pie, and flapjacks
- Mix into whipped cream, peanut butter, or chocolate
- Use in other recipes to make candy, pudding, pies, cakes, éclairs, icing, brownies, and cookies
- Sometimes used in meat marinades
- Dip for popcorn, pretzels, nuts, cookies, fruit, and pumpkin fritters
Difference 5: Ingredients
Caramel syrup can be made by using only two ingredients: water and sugar.
However, there are numerous recipes available that add other ingredients too.
I especially like to add some vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.
Caramel sauce also uses sugar as the main ingredient; however, you need the addition of a fat substance to make the sauce (and some other ingredients).
Lots of people prefer to use heavy cream, but you can also use butter or milk to make the caramel sauce.
Difference 6: How to Make It
To make simple caramel syrup:
- 6 ounces water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Add 2 ounces (¼ cup) water and the cup of sugar to a saucepan and heat up the mixture over low heat.
- Constantly stir the mixture to help the sugar dissolve.
- When the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat. Stop stirring and let the mixture reduce and turn amber.
- Add the remaining 4 ounces (½ cup) of water. However, be careful here not to get burned and stand back as the water can pop and sputter.
- Turn the heat to medium and cook the mixture until it is sticky, like syrup or honey.
- Let the syrup cool a bit and transfer it to a pouring or sauce jug.
- Serve and enjoy.
To make simple caramel sauce:
- 2 ounces water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch kosher salt
- Add the sugar and water to a saucepan and turn the heat to medium.
- Cook the mixture until the sugar dissolves. You can stir the mixture to let the sugar dissolve evenly.
- Once the mixture starts bubbling, swirl the saucepan occasionally.
- When the mixture has thickened into a honey-like consistency, add the butter.
- Whisk the mixture until the butter has melted and is well incorporated.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Pour in the cream and whisk until the cream is incorporated into the mixture.
- Add the vanilla and salt, whisking to incorporate these ingredients. You should have a ganache-like consistency.
- Let the mixture cool in the pan and then transfer it to a mason jar. The sauce will thicken even more when it cools, but you can serve it warm or at room temperature.
Starbucks Caramel Sauce vs Starbucks Caramel Syrup
Starbucks’ caramel sauce and caramel syrup aren’t quite like what I described above.
Starbucks’ caramel syrup is best used in iced coffees and frappuccinos and specialty drinks because the syrup is thin.
As such, it dissolves well in cold drinks.
Starbucks’ caramel sauce or drizzle is thicker than their syrups. The caramel sauce works better when added to hot drinks to add that special flavor to make your coffee or specialty drink pop.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Caramel Sauce vs Caramel Syrup
What is the difference between syrup and sauce?
In general, syrup is a concentrated sugar solution and is made of cooking water and sugar until the sugar is caramelized. Syrups are also more commonly used in sweet applications when cooking, like desserts. Sauce, on the other hand, usually has a fat base like heavy cream, and can be used in savory and dessert dishes.
Is caramel sauce the same as caramel syrup?
Caramel sauce isn’t the same as caramel syrup. Caramel syrup is sweet and has a thicker and stickier consistency, while caramel sauce is richer in taste and can be more runny. Syrups are generally used to decorate pancakes or drizzled on top of whip cream. Caramel sauce can be mixed with the dessert, drizzled over ice cream, or used as a dip.
Is caramel sauce and caramel drizzle the same at Starbucks?
Caramel sauce is the same as caramel drizzle in Starbucks. The sauce or drizzle is more commonly used in hot and iced coffees while caramel syrup is ideal to decorate whipped cream.
The Last Caramel
You can use caramel sauce and caramel syrup interchangeably unless you just use the sauce or syrup as a drizzle over food like pancakes.
However, you can probably eat more caramel sauce compared to the amount of caramel syrup (unless you are a serious sweet tooth), and the caramel sauce vs syrup will also affect the final taste of your dish.
Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)
Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.