Cooking With Cordova: Sea Salt Caramels … in the Microwave

February 20, 2018


Easy-to-make sea salt caramels

Caramels made in the microwave? Director of Culinary Arts Marcus Cordova tells you how to make this happen and how to do it safely. We are back with another Cooking With Cordova episode and you will not be disappointed with the outcome. All you will need is a candy thermometer and the ingredients below. Is this your first visit to our Cooking With Cordova series? Follow along with our latest recipe that is a proven crowd-pleaser: Baked Candied Brie. A simple appetizer to prep your guests for the dessert to come. Watch for Cordova’s secret tip on how you can heat a metal bowl in the microwave for this delicious caramel ending. Let’s get started!


  • Butter for greasing pan
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup light-color corn syrup
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1–2 teaspoons flaky sea salt (Be sure to use crunchy coarse salt that doesn’t melt into the candies)



  1. Line a 3-quart rectangular baking dish with foil, extending foil over edges. Butter the foil; set aside.


  1. Place butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, condensed milk and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large microwave-safe bowl. As long as this is a thick metal bowl, it is safe to place it in the microwave. Set microwave at 100% power (high) for 4 to 5 minutes or until butter is melted, stirring every minute. Microwave for 9 to 16 minutes more or until a candy thermometer inserted in center of mixture registers 245 degrees (firm-ball stage). (In a 1,000-watt microwave, begin checking temperature at 8 minutes; in an 850-watt microwave, start checking at 12 minutes.)


NOTE: Thermometer tip: To get an accurate reading, gently swirl the thermometer through the mixture to stir it slightly, then hold it in the center. Do not leave the thermometer clipped to the bowl.


  1. When candy reaches firm-ball stage, stir in vanilla. Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle top of caramel mixture with sea salt. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or until firm.


NOTE: To test for firm-ball stage: Shortly before reaching temperature, dribble a small spoonful of the hot mixture into a bowl of cold water. Using your fingers, form the mixture into a ball. Out of the water, it should hold its shape but will flatten quickly. If mixture is too soft, microwave for 1 minute more, and then retest using a clean spoon and fresh water.


  1. To slice, use foil to lift caramel out of the dish. Cut caramel into 100 pieces with a buttered knife.


  1. Wrap caramels in squares of waxed paper, twisting ends.


  1. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.


VARIATION:  They’re delicious on their own, but they play well with flavor variations. When you stir in the vanilla, consider adding a teaspoon of orange zest or a half-cup of finely chopped walnuts, dried apple or pretzels.


Did you enjoy this recipe? Would you like to see more? Let us know in the comments what recipe you would like to see chef Cordova demonstrate next. See you next time!