Vietnamese Caramelized Sugar

Different than its neighbors in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, Vietnamese cooks don’t use a lot of hot chilies or white sugar in their dishes. A more subtle and mild heat comes from liberal use of white and black pepper. Sugar is caramelized to add a more savory and mild burnt flavoring. Sugar used this way is uniquely Vietnamese and is a cornerstone, along with fish sauce and lemongrass, of Vietnamese cooking.

Vietnamese caramelized sugar sauce

Vietnamese Caramelized Sugar Sauce

Although excellent caramelized sugar sauce can be purchased online, it can also be made at home with just sugar and water.
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Course: Condiment, Sauce
Cuisine: Southeast Asian, Vietnam
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1 cup
Author: My Hungry Traveler


  • Small and medium saucepans
  • Large skillet
  • Wooden spoon
  • Jar with lid


  • 1 cup Sugar (granulated white or palm sugar)
  • ½ cup Hot water
  • ¼ cup Tap water


  • Prep – Fill skillet partially with water and ice cubes and place on the next burner over. Heat a small saucepan with ½ cup of tap water and keep warm on a back burner.
  • Cook – Mix the sugar and ¼ cup tap water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. DO not stir the mixture during the full time it cooks or it won't caramelize. Mixture will turn an amber color at this point. If mixture browning more on 1 side than the other, pick up the saucepan and give it a swirl. From here on, watch things very closely.
    Simmer for another 5 minutes. It will turn darker until it reaches a dark amber color and becomes syrupy. Pull it from the heat just before it reaches the point of burning. If the mixture turns too brown too fast, set the saucepan in the skillet filled with ice water to cool slightly and then return it to the burner to finish.
    When it reaches the desired dark amber color, remove from heat and carefully stir with a wooden spoon. Transfer saucepan to the kitchen sink and stir in the ½ cup of warm water. It will bubble and splatter a bit to be careful. Let it cool to room temperature.
    The sauce will thick with a dark amber color, but won't solidify due to the water added at the end. Store at room temperature in a tightly covered jar.


Calories: 770kcal | Carbohydrates: 199g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 4mg | Sugar: 200g | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 0.1mg

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