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posted November 30, 2021

Cayenne Caramels with a Pretzel Bacon Crust

Whether you’re looking for a unique and addicting holiday treat, or you need something quick and easy to give out to neighbors and coworkers, these cayenne caramels with a pretzel bacon crust are the perfect holiday treat.

Three cayenne caramels in a stack with text overlay - Cayenne Caramels.

Cayenne Caramels

These chewy cayenne caramels are amazing by themselves but drizzled them over a buttery, sugary, savory pretzel bacon crust and you’re in for a TREAT. 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.

This caramel is a generations-old family specialty. 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.

That same caramel recipe plays a starring role in these jazzed-up caramels in this BBQ-inspired recipe. It’s old school, but totally unbeatable. Add in the subtle heat from the cayenne and these caramels will rock your socks off.

Pretzel crust being pushed into a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.

Ingredients for Cayenne Caramels

You don’t need much to make these caramels. In fact, most of the ingredients you’ll already have in your pantry. The rest can quickly be picked up at the grocery store. Here’s what you’ll need to make these caramels (exact amounts are in the recipe card below):

For the caramel:

  • Butter or margarine. My family recipe uses margarine, but butter will work great as well.
  • Sugar. With details.
  • Light corn syrup.
  • Sweetened condensed milk. 
  • Vanilla. 
  • Cayenne Pepper. The magic ingredient!

For the pretzel bacon crust:

  • Bacon. Cooked, drained, and crumbled.
  • Mini pretzels. 
  • Butter.
  • Brown sugar.

Sweetened condensed milk being poured into a glass measuring cup full of melted butter.

How to Make Cayenne Caramels

These caramels are so easy, just about anyone can make them. I especially love them because kids can get in on the fun and help make them as gifts for neighbors. Here’s the process:

  1. Crust. Mix pretzels, bacon, brown sugar, and butter in a food processor. Press the crust into a 9 x 13 glass baking dish coated in non-stick spray. Bake for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. 
  2. Caramel. The details for making this caramel are in the printable recipe card below, but the best thing about this is it’s made in your microwave! Simply combine all ingredients and heat until the caramel reaches 245-250 degrees F. 
  3. Assemble. Once your caramel has reached that magical temperature, add in vanilla and cayenne pepper. Carefully pour the caramel over the pretzel bacon crust.
  4. Cool. Allow the caramels to cool for around 5-6 hours before slicing. I prefer to cool these on my counter, but you can speed up the process in the fridge. Just be aware that cold caramels are harder to slice.
  5. Enjoy. These caramels are ready to be enjoyed immediately, or you can individually wrap them in wax paper to enjoy later or give as gifts.

Caramel being poured over a pretzel bacon crust in a glass baking dish.

Tips for Making Caramel Caramels

Here are some tips to ensure your caramel is cooked to perfection and these caramels are consumed quickly!

  • Use an instant-read thermometer. These are microwave caramels, and you will be cooking and stirring, and taking temperature readings at timed intervals. Having a quick-read thermometer will allow you to get your temperature readings quickly and efficiently, ensuring you don’t over or under-cook your caramels. You are shooting for a finished temperature between 245 and 250 degrees F for the perfect chewy texture.
  • Skip the cayenne. If you’re shy about heat, you can still enjoy these as sweet and salty treats by leaving out the cayenne. The pretzel bacon crust packs a huge flavor and texture punch, even without the spice of cayenne.
  • Swap the margarine for butter. The original recipe (from my aunt) called for margarine, and really, I think when I make these caramels is the only time I buy margarine, ever. It’s just one of those things. However, if you are completely opposed to margarine, you can absolutely swap it out for butter. I actually recommend salted butter if you are swapping, as it more closely matches the margarine flavor.

More BBQ Dessert Recipes

Got a sweet tooth that needs to be satisfied? These other BBQ desserts are here to satisfy any day of the week!

Cayenne Caramels Recipe

P.S. These make the absolute best neighbor gifts on the planet. The 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.

We’ve had a glow up! This post was originally published in December 2015. We recently updated it with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.

Three cayenne caramels in a stack.

Cayenne Caramels with a Pretzel Bacon Crust

Susie Bulloch
4.67 from 6 votes
Prep Time : 10 mins
Cook Time : 40 mins
Cooling Time : 6 hrs
Total Time : 6 hrs 50 mins
Servings : 12 people
Calories : 512kcal

Ingredients
 

Caramels

  • 1 cup margarine (or equal amounts butter)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Pretzel Bacon Crust

  • ½ pound bacon (cooked, drained, and crumbled)
  • 1 ½ cups mini pretzels
  • 4 Tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 4 Tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Make the crust. In a large food processor, pour in the pretzels, bacon, brown sugar, and butter. Pulse 10-15 times until the pretzels have broken down into 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.
  • Make the caramel. 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.
  • Finish cooking. Microwave for an 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 it 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.
  • Adjust cook time as needed. 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. 
  • Assemble. When the caramel is done cooking, stir in the vanilla and cayenne pepper. Carefully pour the hot caramel over the pretzel bacon crust and
  • Cool and slice. Allow the caramels 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 at room temperature.

Nutrition

Calories: 512kcal | Carbohydrates: 68g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 483mg | Potassium: 69mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 59g | Vitamin A: 835IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg
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