Salted Caramel Tart

A salted caramel tart on a white cake stand on a table

People often ask me how I get the ideas for my recipes. Some magically happen from ingredients in my fridge, others are inspired by restaurant meals or ingredient combinations that I like. And then there are those that come from the oddest of sources.

Several years ago I’d been perfecting my recipe for salted caramel sauce. When it comes to desserts, caramel is my weakness, and the combination of salted butter and caramel is close to perfection, with the salt accentuating the caramel and balancing its sweetness. During this time, one of the bakeries in my Paris neighborhood, which had been run by an accountant who had exchanged crunching numbers for kneading dough, was bought by the well-known Paris baker Eric Kayser.

Just after Kayser moved into my part of town, my friend Laura dropped by with a copy of his new tart book. It was full of mouthwatering photographs with short, seemingly simple recipes, each of which fit neatly on a single page. I flipped through it, thinking that perhaps his tarts were better than his bread. (Believe it or not, the accountant had actually made better bread.) When I saw a recipe for tarte au beurre salé, or salted butter tart (aka salted caramel tart), I knew I had to try it.

It took quite some tweaking, as the brief recipe instructions were not much help, but I finally made a rich, sweet, satisfying version of his tart. The secret, I found, is to be brave and cook the caramel until it is rich and dark without letting it burn and turn bitter. If you lack courage and don’t cook it quite to the daring point that I do, the tart will still be delicious–just sweeter.–Jennifer McLagan

LC Fatty Fat Fat Note

Mmmmm. Butter. And more butter. And even more butter. While butter is the primary component in this luxe tart, it takes a smidgen of its colossal creaminess from–you guessed it–heavy cream. Author Jennifer McLagan, a proponent of all things fatty fat fat, strongly suggests you buy some extra cream so you can dollop each slice of tart with a cloud of whipped cream. The cream cuts the sweetness—yes, it does work like that, says McLagan. And yes, this is just another benefit of eating fat. Should you end up with a half pint extra cream leftover, lucky you! Just put it in your cup of coffee like they did back in the day. It makes everything better.

Salted Caramel Tart

  • Quick Glance
  • (4)
  • 30 M
  • 2 H
  • Serves 6 to 8
5/5 - 4 reviews
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  • For the sweet butter pastry
  • For the salted caramel filling


Make the sweet butter pastry

Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles very coarse bread crumbs. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture and mix with a fork. Squeeze a bit of the mixture between your fingertips. If it holds together, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface; if not, add a couple of teaspoons of ice water and test again. Knead gently and form into a ball, divide the pastry in half, and flatten into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and line a 9-inch or 9 1/2-inch (23-cm or 24-cm) tart pan. Prick the base of the tart with a fork and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Place the sweet butter pastry-lined tart pan on a baking sheet. Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans. Bake until the pastry is just set, about 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and continue to cook until the pastry is a dark golden color, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the tart to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Make the salted caramel filling

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and butter in a deep, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir to mix and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter and sugar caramelize, 10 to 15 minutes. The sugar and butter will go through several stages: First the mixture will look like a flour-butter roux, then it will appear curdled, and then the butter will leak out of the sugar mixture. Don’t worry: It will all come together in the end.

While the caramel is cooking, pour the cream into a saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, then immediately remove it from the heat and set aside.

Keep stirring the butter-sugar mixture, watching carefully as it begins to caramelize and remembering that the heat in the pan will continue to cook the caramel once it is removed from the burner. You want to end up with a rich, dark caramel color, but you don’t want to burn the mixture, which will impart a bitter taste. When the caramel reaches a color that’s just a shade lighter than what you want, remove the pan from the heat and slowly and carefully pour in the cream; the mixture will bubble and spit. When the caramel stops bubbling, return it to low heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the caramel in the cream. Remove the pan from the heat and let the caramel cool for 10 minutes.

Slowly pour the cooled caramel into the cooled, baked pastry in the tart pan. Refrigerate the tart for at least 2 hours.

Remove the tart from the pan and, using a wet knife, cut it into wedges. (The tart is easier to cut when it’s chilled.) Serve the tart at room temperature. For maximum flavor, bestow a dollop of whipped cream upon each slice.

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Recipe Testers' Tips

This salted caramel tart is a FABULOUS dessert…but VERY RICH!!! A small piece is all you need…along with the unsweetened whipped cream to help cut the sugar of the tart.

This is a simple caramel tart and a good starting recipe for those cooks who fear making pastry dough and caramelizing sugar. The dough came together beautifully with the addition of several tablespoons of ice water. One helpful hint that I learned from Nathalie Dupree is to set aside the smaller portions of dough as they begin to come together. Then, combine all the parts together and knead. This prevents the dough from becoming overworked. Having caramelized several of my pans (not a fun job to clean up), I was fearful of yet another adventure into burned sugar. This was such an easy and foolproof method that yielded a beautiful thick caramel. The end result was luscious.

This is a simple recipe that works quite well as is or as a starting point for any number of variations. It makes caramel approachable by omitting the use of a thermometer, and you can make your own superfine sugar by pulsing regular sugar in a food processor. Plus, it can be made ahead and/or in brief installments of time for those with, say, infants.

The pastry dough came together easily without any water (or humidity in the air) and baked into a flaky, golden-brown tart shell. It was neither too sandy, as are some pie crusts with minimal water, nor too tough, as some tart doughs can be. The salted caramel also worked as written, with the caramel passing through the various stages the author describes. I cooked my caramel for 15 minutes and wound up with the color pictured here and a flavor that was just short of bitter (much like the taste of a Cadbury's Crunchie bar). One caution: the cream not only bubbles and spits when added to the caramel, but it also gives off a lot of steam. My only complaint is that the saltiness was not strongly perceptible, so I might add a bit of salt next time. After filling my 9-inch tart shell to the brim, I had about 1/3 cup of caramel left over. The tart was excellent in very small slices paired just with whipped cream, but I can imagine it with a drizzle or a layer of dark chocolate ganache, or spiked with liqueur.

Annie Barrons salted tart

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  1. The recipe was right on with clear and concise instructions—even including a note that the caramel sauce might not look right in its initial stages of preparation, and to relax, that it “would come together.” It certainly did, although I couldn’t get the dark-chocolate brown color in the recipe’s accompanying picture. However, the flavor of Jennifer’s caramel was exquisite. It was proclaimed by my wife as the very best caramel she had ever tasted. We’ll use it for sundaes and tarts. The crust portion was easy to prepare and tasted better than any crust that I’ve made over the years. It’ll be my basic tart crust recipe. I wouldn’t change a thing in the recipe. There was one deviation I made out of necessity, however: I used frozen butter to cut into the tart pastry. It worked well, leaving visible pieces of butter in the rolled-out dough.

  2. Hello Maria, the recipe says 6 to 8, but even cut into 8 this tart is indulgent. So if you are serving 6 people, follow Renee’s advice, I didn’t know she was so devious, but cut it into 8 and keep two pieces for later. If you are 8 at the table you’ll have to make another tart.

    1. Good morning, Marla. As noted at the top of the recipe, this ridiculously indulgent tart serves 6 to 8. But my advice? Plan on it serving six, slice the tart in the kitchen, hide a slice or two for yourself for later, and then bring your first slice and everyone else’s only slice to the table already plated. Works like a charm.

  3. Hello Barbara, Like you I only buy unsalted butter, except when making this tart or my Salted Caramel Sauce. In France you can buy demi-sel, which is only lightly salted and perfect for this recipe. I suggest you buy some good quality salted butter to make this tart rather than add salt. As David says you can make another tart, the sauce, or add it to vegetables or mashed potatoes where you would be adding salt anyway. You should also try it on toast with jam, the salt enhances the flavours of the jam, especial apricot.

  4. I buy ONLY unsalted butter for the many known reasons…not only can I control the salt level, it seems to me to have a fresher taste. That said, how much salt do I need to ADD to the concoction to get to the level of ‘salted butter’?

    1. Hi, Barbara. The salt content of salted butter varies significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer. My official answer is buy some salted butter. This recipe requires one stick, and if you get a half-pound box, you have an extra stick to make another tart! I hesitate to give you an exact amount, as It could over salt the butter. But if you don’t want to buy more, mix the butter with with 1/2 teaspoon of salt to start. Take a taste. You don’t want it to taste salty-salty, but rather just salty enough for the flavors to pop. Add more if you need it.

  5. Well, I didn’t officially test this tart, but I have made it twice and so thought I’d add my two cents (besides just agreeing that it’s a caramel addict’s dream). One thing you can do with this recipe with great success is make individual, bite-sized tarts using mini muffin pans (about 18 to 24 from the quantity of caramel in the recipe); add toasted pignoli pine nuts for added visual interest and some crunch; freeze for later; impress everyone who tastes it, and I mean everyone.

    1. Hi! I’m not sure if anyone will see this comment, but I’m also interested in making individual servings of this. Can you say anything more about how the method varies for tartlets instead f a whole tart? Specifically: 1) Do you still bake at the same temperature for the same amount of time? 2) In what kind of a container do you freeze them, and what’s your defrosting method? Thank you!

      1. Sandra, thanks for writing. There are many factors involved, most important being the size of the tartlets. You would indeed bake the tartlets at the same temperature, but for less time. Smaller tarts don’t always need beans to help them keep their shape; others will, depending upon the shape of the tartlet pan.

        So I would first experiment: Roll the dough, ease it into a tartlet pan, and bake (just one so as not to waste dough) for 10 minutes. Check it, and if it needs more time, continue baking. As far as freezing, I’d freeze just the baked, empty tart shells. I’d first freeze them on a cookie sheet until they were frozen, then stack them between parchment in an airtight container. To defrost, simply remove how many you need from the container and let them come to room temperature on a cooking rack, so the bottoms stay dry.

  6. Any idea of what temperature on a candy thermometer would be the caramelization stage? I am terrible at decifering the correct color.

    1. Sugar (sucrose) begins to caramelize and color around 340°F. At 355°F to 358°F it becomes amber or pale golden, by 365°F to 368°F it’s a rich golden brown, turning to chestnut. At around 370°F it begins to get quite dark, approaching the “burnt sugar” stage. Above 375°F or so, it begins to taste bitter. Incidentally, sugar becomes less sweet (due to the breakdown of various compounds) as it cooks.

      Here, from the description “rich, dark caramel color” I’d say you want about 365°F.


      1. I just made the tart again, and I took the caramel off heat at just under 300° — that seemed just perfect! I also added 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the cream to make it a bit saltier. Delicious! I’m so glad I gave it another chance after my first burned batch. Thanks for the great recipe!

    2. Hi Julie,

      If you live near a Sur La Table, they have a fantastic candy thermometer which indicates soft, hard and firm ball for carmelization which coincides with Cindi’s previous comments about the temperatures and the color of the carmel. The therrmometer is not expensive and I use it alot when making my carmels.


  7. This tart has such a lovely flavor. I made smaller individual ones for a plated dessert. As a professional chef, I can avow that this is one spectacular cookbook! Everything I’ve made thus far was great. The recipes are so straightforward and reliable, I’ve had no issues turning them over to even inexperienced prep staff. The Orange & Pepper Poundcake was a particular hit. Although very simple in execution, it’s wonderfully complex on the tongue.

  8. what should i do with the other half of the tart crust—can it be frozen? if so, for how long, and how should i defrost appropriately? this looks like the most delicious thing i have ever laid eyes on.

    1. The remaining half of the crust can be wrapped very well and frozen. To defrost it, simply slide it into the fridge overnight. You can use the dough for any tart—included another salted butter tart!

  9. I’m wondering if the recipe might be tweaked so it could be sprinkled with fleur de sel (or another good salt)…

    1. Patrick, I love the idea of serving the tart with a sprinkling of fleur de sel. I sprinkle fleur de sel instead of sugar on my shortbread. I don’t think you’d have to tweak the recipe much, try replacing a quarter of the salted butter with unsalted butter. Let us know how you make out.

  10. I am so looking forward to making this as soon as I have all the ingredients
    it looks absolutely amazing! Thanks for sharing!

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