Cayenne Caramels with a Pretzel Bacon Crust

December 17, 2015

Cayenne Caramels with a Pretzel Bacon Crust

Sorry guys, but I’m not over the bacon trend yet. Ever since I learned to cure my own bacon, I just can’t get enough! Maybe someday I will, but not today. And to be honest… I’m totally ok with that because the salty chew that bacon lends to the crust of these caramels is friggin heavenly. It’s like bacon and pretzels were destined to be together at the bottom of a luscious, spicy caramel lake. Divine intervention may have been responsible for the creation of these Cayenne Caramels with a Pretzel Bacon Crust.

I’m really struggling to find the right words to accurately describe these treats today. I just want to make delighted grunts and other happy unintelligible sounds and hope that my love for them translates through the screen, but that would be weird. So, let’s start with the caramel! This caramel is a generations old family specialty.

Cayenne Caramels with a Pretzel Bacon Crust

I can’t remember a Christmas that my Aunt Barb didn’t make this. I can still picture her cozy kitchen with a bowl of these golden morsels lovingly wrapped in wax paper sitting on the counter. My sister has since picked up the tradition and she is the Aunt Sarah that my kiddos adore with the yummy caramels on her counter.  Sweet, delicious memories. That same caramel recipe plays a starring role in these jazzed up caramels I’m sharing today. It’s old school, but totally unbeatable. Add in the subtle heat from the cayenne and these caramels will rock your Santa socks off.

The perfect, chewy cayenne caramel is drizzled over a buttery, sugary, savory pretzel bacon crust. The crust at the bottom adds the most amazing crunch and texture to the caramels. It’s like a salty surprise that hits you right at the end of the bite and then melts into the warm heat from the cayenne. It also makes these already addictive caramels completely irresistible. Be prepared to eat half of the pan by yourself while you are wrapping the rest up as gifts. Hallelujah.

Cayenne Caramels

Oh, PS, these make the absolute best neighbor gifts on the planet. Reason being, they are spicy so the kids don’t want them and the adults actually get to enjoy the treats. Ha! If you are feeling like being accommodating, you can just make a separate batch of just the plain caramels (sans cayenne) for the kiddos.


Three cayenne caramels stacked on a wooden board surrounded by more caramels.

Cayenne Caramels with a Pretzel Bacon Crust

4.34 from 3 votes
Prep Time : 10 mins
Cook Time : 40 mins
Total Time : 6 hrs 50 mins



  • 1 cup margarine (or equal amounts butter)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Pretzel Bacon Crust

  • 1/2 lb bacon (cooked, drained, and crumbled)
  • 1 1/2 cups mini pretzels
  • 4 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar


  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large food processor, pour in the pretzels, bacon, brown sugar, and butter. Pulse 10-15 times until the pretzels have broken down to very small pieces. Press the crust into an even layer on the bottom of a 9x13 inch glass pan that has been coated in non-stick spray. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove from the oven to cool.
  • While the crust is baking, begin making your caramel. In a large 3-5 quart mixing bowl combine the margarine, sugar, and corn syrup. Microwave for 5 minutes.
  • Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon and slowly add in the can of sweetened condensed milk. Continue stirring until the milk is well combined.
  • Microwave for and additional 12-18 minutes, stopping the microwave to stir the caramels every 3 minutes. Stir the mixture each time until no more bubbles appear. Temperature test the caramel each time if comes out of the microwave. Your target temperature for the perfect chewy texture is 245-250 degrees F and the color of the caramel closely resembles a brown paper sack. Use a quick read digital thermometer to take your temperature readings.
  • If your caramels are close to the correct temperature, but not quite done after 12 minutes, return to the microwave in 1 minute intervals until the correct temperature is reached. 
  • When the caramel is done cooking, stir in the vanilla and cayenne pepper. Carefully pour the hot caramel over the pretzel bacon crust and allow to cool for about 6 hours before slicing into 1 inch squares and wrapping in wax paper. You can let them cool in the fridge to speed up the process and have a firmer caramel, but cold caramels are harder to slice than room temperature.
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29 thoughts on “Cayenne Caramels with a Pretzel Bacon Crust

    1. Hey Brad! I like to cook my bacon on my pellet grill, but if I’m in the house I use a cast iron frying pan. I don’t think I’ve ever microwaved bacon, I like the flavors I get from the grill or cast iron.

  1. Could I make this caramel on the stove top instead of the microwave? My microwave is an old, temperamental beast!

    1. Absolutely! The cook time may be a bit different, so just keep an eye on the color. You want a medium golden color (not too light or dark). The ice water test will help you get it just right!

  2. I made these last night. I tried following your directions very carefully, but they got too hard — overcooked, I assume. They taste delicious!! But are impossibly hard to cut and must be carefully eaten so they can soften in our mouths and we won’t break a tooth on them. I plan to try them again. One question: What did you mean by “no more bubbles appear”? I was going for that and never got there. I think that’s how I ended up with one too many 3-minute sessions in the microwave.

    1. So sorry there was confusion! The no more bubbles instruction is for each time you remove the caramels from the microwave. Every interval that I take them out of the microwave, I stir them until the bubbling conpletely stops before returning them for another 3 minutes. My suggestion next time would be to start testing in the ice water a few rounds of microwaving sooner. Caramels can require a little bit of trial and error just because every microwave is a little different. I hope your next batch works better!

  3. Dumb question maybe, but is the margarine melted or just soft when you’re making the crust? Thanks. I want to try these for a family Christmas dinner. How spicy is the caramel?

  4. I followed the directions to a tee, did the least amount of microwaving time she recommended, and they turned out hard as a rock. I had to break them with a mallet and they were super difficult to eat. Wondering if doing the caramel on the stove, or in the microwave under less power might help.

  5. Hello! I was wondering have you ever made this recipe with store bought caramels or do you think the recipe would become to hard? Can’t wait to try it!

    1. Hey Melinda- I haven’t tried them with store bought caramels, but they should be ok if you just melt them enough to pour over the crust. Don’t overcook the caramels when they melt or you will probably run into them becoming hard.

  6. I am a chef. Your flavors are all there. However, when I microwaved the caramel, I got to 12 minutes total, breaking every 3 minutes, stirring til the bubbles were gone but had to stop. It was too well done. So I didn’t refrigerate it. I just left it on the counter for dessert tonight. It was too hard for my family. Although, I love a hard chewy candy one leaves in their mouth for a long period of time, I did find that without refrigeration, I was able to cut it into small candies to wrap. Too bad, only I will be eating them ????

    1. It can be tricky determining the cooking times on this one as you can imagine. Each microwave is different. My sister can cook it for 15 minutes and it is fine, where I can’t go that long. If you do make it again, I suggest testing the caramel when you get to 9 minutes in cold water to check the firmness.

  7. I made these and they turned out perfect! Wow! My tongue couldn’t decide is it sweet or spicy. Great choice of flavors! I give this a 5 stars

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