We’re going back to the basics with my simply delicious and easy Caramel Latte recipe. Made with just 3 ingredients in 5 minutes, this creamy, caramelized sugar-infused coffee drink is a classic for a reason. With my clear, step-by-step instructions for making either a hot or iced caramel latte Starbucks-style, you’ll be a pro barista in no time!
Does anyone else remember the 90s, when Starbucks was just becoming a cultural phenomenon? The menu was decidedly simpler — items like cold brew coffee and chocolate cream cold foam were decades away from being rolled out. During these burgeoning years, a hot caramel latte was exciting and innovative for the coffee scene, and I’ve been in love ever since.
Now that we’re bombarded with new seasonal offerings every few months (not that I mind — the holiday menu is always my favorite!), caramel lattes might be regarded by some as passé. Not with this gal, though! The dreamy blend of bold espresso, creamy steamy milk, and plenty of caramel goodness consistently ranks in my Top 10 Coffee Drinks of all time.
So, if you are nostalgic for the caramel latte Starbucks started serving way back when (when a Venti was just $3.45 🤯) you’ve come to the right place. Today, I’m going to show you how to make a caramel latte at home using simple ingredients and zero expensive equipment. Get ready for a blast from the past, because this homemade version promises to beat even 1990’s prices!
- What is a caramel latte?
- What does it taste like?
- Why You’ll Love This Starbucks Caramel Latte Recipe
- Ingredients Needed
- How To Make A Caramel Latte
- Optional Variations & Dietary Adjustments
- Serving Suggestions
- Recipe Success Tips
- Homemade Caramel Latte Nutrition
- Other Recipes for Caramel Lovers
- Easy Caramel Latte Recipe (Starbucks Copycat)
What is a caramel latte?
A caramel latte is a magical blend of rich espresso and steamed milk, all swirled together with the star of the show — homemade caramel syrup. It's creamy, it's dreamy, and it's got that perfect balance of deep coffee flavor with a kiss of sweet caramel.
To give it the full Starbucks treatment from back in the day, you can add a cloud of lightly sweetened whipped cream and an extra drizzle of ooey, gooey caramel sauce for an Instagrammable effect. Just remember it is a perfectly delicious latte without these yummy add-ons!
What does it taste like?
The taste of a caramel latte is a delicious throwback to simpler times, when the most stressful part of your week was cramming for an English exam. The rich, robust flavor of the espresso hits you first — it's, the kind of taste that wakes you up and whispers, "Today is full of possibilities."
Then comes the sweetness of the caramel, like a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds. It's the taste of life's simple pleasures, like sitting in a sunny window of a coffee shop with your favorite study buddies. The steamed milk adds a creamy, smooth texture, softening the espresso's intensity and echoing the buttery richness of the caramel.
For an extra special sip, add a final flourish of whipped cream and a caramel drizzle – it's a playful and joyous nod to youthful delights before counting calories was ever on your radar.
Why You’ll Love This Starbucks Caramel Latte Recipe
- Beautifully Basic - If you’re just starting out on your journey to becoming a home barista, this 3-ingredient wonder is the perfect place to start.
- Super Speedy - All you need is 5 minutes to whip one up!
- Deliciously Versatile - Hot or iced, regular or decaf, extra creamy or vegan — when you make it at home, you get to decide exactly what is in a caramel latte without paying any stupid surcharges.
Regardless of whether you want a hot or iced caramel latte Starbucks-style, you’ll need the same basic ingredients. Here’s what to grab:
- Whole Milk - When you order a plain or flavored latte from Starbucks, whole milk is the default milk option.
- Caramel Syrup - My simple homemade caramel syrup comes together in just a few minutes and is much cheaper than buying it in-store. That said, feel free to use store-bought!
- Espresso - You can use any espresso maker or espresso machine, moka pot, or a French press to make your espresso shots. For a delicious caffeinated jolt of bold, concentrated coffee flavor. Of course, you’re welcome to use a decaf roast if you prefer.
- Caramel Sauce - Optional, but delicious.
Want to make some swaps? Not to worry. Here are some easy ones to try:
- Whole Milk - Feel free to swap in the dairy or plant-based milk of your choice. Coconut milk, soy milk, and oat milk are especially good in this one. If you opt for plant-based, I recommend reaching for a “barista blend” for optimal froth-ability.
- Caramel Syrup - You can use thick caramel sauce like you’d use on ice cream, though you may need less if you do. Alternatively, swap in the coffee syrup of your choice.
- Espresso - You’re welcome to use a cup of strong coffee, or, if you’re making a the iced version, use 8 ounces of cold brew instead.
- Caramel Sauce - Have fun garnishing to your heart’s content. Whipped cream, mocha sauce, toffee bits, or crushed cookies would all be delightful additions. You can also just keep it clean and simple with nothing more than a frothy, foamy milk topping.
How To Make A Caramel Latte
This is a caramel latte recipe Starbucks wishes you didn’t have — it’s so simple, there’s no reason NOT to make it at home! Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Whisk together the milk and caramel syrup in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until starting to steam and foam.
Step 2: Froth. Remove from heat and froth the caramel mixture with a milk frother or whisk. Set aside.
Step 3: Brew your espresso into a mug.
Step 4: Top with the caramel milk, foam and all.
Step 5: Drizzle with caramel sauce if desired, and drink up!
How To Make An Iced Caramel Latte
It’s easy to adjust and make this an iced caramel latte recipe instead. Here’s how:
Step 1: Froth. Add the chilled milk and caramel syrup in a small container, then froth using a milk frother or whisk. Set aside.
Step 2: Brew your espresso into a glass filled with ice or coffee ice. Alternatively, use 8 ounces of cold brew instead of 2 shots of espresso.
Step 3: Top with the caramel milk, foam and all.
Step 4: Drizzle with caramel sauce if you’d like, then drink up!
Optional Variations & Dietary Adjustments
Friends, there’s no limit to the number of fun variations on this classic Starbucks drink. Here are just a few to whet your whistle:
- Skinny Caramel Latte - Use skim milk or a low-cal, low-fat plant-based milk alternative. You can make it even lighter by making your caramel syrup sugar-free! Omit any additional toppings.
- Vegan Caramel Latte - You can easily make or purchase vegan caramel syrup. Then all that’s left to do is figure out what type of plant-based milk to use!
- Salted Caramel Latte - If you prefer a little bit of salt to balance out your sweet, use salted caramel syrup and add a pinch of flaky sea salt (e.g. Maldon) as a garnish.
- Mocha Caramel Latte - Use a 50/50 split of caramel syrup and mocha syrup for a turtle-inspired drink that’s delightful.
- Caramel Vanilla Latte - Half vanilla syrup, half caramel syrup, 100% delicious.
- Caramel Chai Latte - For a touch of spice, add some caramel syrup to my dirty chai latte.
- Caramel Apple Latte - Replace half the caramel with my apple brown sugar syrup for a fall-flavored twist on a classic.
- Caramel Matcha Latte - Can’t handle espresso today? Try adding a touch of caramel goodness to your favorite green tea latte.
- Caramel Latte Affogato Sundae: Turn your hot caramel latte into a dessert extravaganza. Serve it in a large mug and top it with a scoop of vanilla, chocolate, or coffee ice cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a generous drizzle of warm caramel sauce. Add a few chocolate shavings or crushed nuts for that extra crunch. It's like a coffee shop and an ice cream parlor had a delicious baby!
- Brunch Style: Hosting brunch? Serve hot or iced caramel lattes alongside sweet breakfast favorites like monkey bread, scones, or fluffy waffles. Garnish each drink with a swirl of whipped cream and a caramel drizzle to make your guests feel extra luxurious.
- Caramel Latte Frappe: Blend a chilled caramel latte with a scoop of caramel or coffee ice cream for a decadent milkshake. Top it with whipped cream and caramel popcorn for a nostalgic movie night treat. Serve it in a retro milkshake glass with a long spoon and colorful straw alongside some salty french fries for dipping.
- Cookie-Powered Coffee Break: Pair your caramel latte with your favorite homemade cookies. Think oat flour chocolate chip, oatmeal, or even salted caramel cookies. Afternoon slump, who?
- DIY Latte Bar: Next time you're hosting a PTA meeting or book club, set up a DIY latte bar with various toppings and syrups. Let your friends and family customize their caramel lattes with all the fun fixin's like cinnamon sticks, flavored whipped creams, chocolate curls, dessert syrups, and crunchy bits for topping.
Recipe Success Tips
For Hot Caramel Lattes:
- Quality Coffee is Key: Start with a high-quality espresso or strong coffee, preferably from freshly ground beans. The richer and more aromatic your coffee, the better the base for your latte.
- Steam Milk to Perfection: For that silky, creamy texture, heat your milk until it’s just hot and frothy but not scalded. The ideal temperature is around 150-155°F (65-68°C). This creates the perfect texture and taste without overpowering the coffee.
- Pour Like a Pro: Pour your steamed milk slowly and steadily. If you're feeling adventurous, try some basic latte art. It's all about the angle and speed of pouring.
For Iced Caramel Lattes:
- Chill Your Glass: Start with a chilled glass to keep your iced coffee cool and refreshing. This little step makes a big difference in keeping your iced latte from becoming watered down too quickly.
- Cold Brew or Strong Coffee: Use cold brew for a smoother, less acidic taste, or a strongly brewed conventional coffee. Remember, the coffee should be cold or at room temperature to prevent the ice from melting too quickly.
- The Right Ice: Use large ice cubes as they melt slower, keeping your latte cooler for longer without diluting the flavor. Better yet, use coffee ice.
- Milk Matters: For iced lattes, consider using whole milk for a richer mouthfeel. If you’re going dairy-free, almond milk or oat milk are great options as they don’t separate or curdle when mixed with cold coffee. Also, don't use hot milk for iced lattes!
So long as you don’t have any issues with cross-contamination in your sugar, my homemade caramel syrup (and latte) are celiac-friendly.
Nope! I’ve included instructions for making a Starbucks caramel iced latte above.
If you’re ordering from Starbucks, you’ll get 3 pumps in a standard tall, 4 pumps in a standard grande, and 5 pumps in a standard venti. If you’re using a pump at home, I recommend measuring how much comes out of the pump, then reverse engineer the recipe to work with pumps rather than tablespoons.
While both drinks are a delightful mix of espresso, milk, and caramel, the primary difference comes down to assembly. In this caramel latte recipe, espresso or coffee goes into the cup first, then it's topped with frothy caramel-flavored milk.
In a macchiato (which in Italian means "marked") the frothed milk goes in the glass first, then the espresso is poured on top, thus marking the foam. By using the macchiato method, you get more of a layered drink with a more potent espresso flavor (especially for the first few sips). The latte method yields a more uniform drink that tastes the same from the first sip to the last.
Homemade Caramel Latte Nutrition
A standard caramel latte made as instructed in the recipe card below racks up about 272 calories. Not too shabby for a treat that feels like a big hug in a cup! It's got 8 grams of fat, which is part of what makes it so creamy and dreamy. Feel free to swap in low-fat milk to bring this number down.
You're also getting 8 grams of protein (hello, milk!), which is a nice little bonus for your muscles. There's about 115 mg of sodium – just a smidge, though that number goes up if you make a copycat Starbucks salted caramel latte. There’s also a substantial 43 grams of carbohydrates. The biggie here is sugar. 42 out of the 43 grams of carbs are sugar. It's a sweet one, but we're talking about a treat, not a green smoothie. It's all about balance, right?
It's also important to note that these numbers don't include that extra caramel drizzle on top – that's for when you need a little extra goodness. And if you're opting for thick caramel sauce instead of thin caramel syrup, the numbers will change a bit.
Total nutritional content per serving is:
- Calories: 272 calories
- Total Fat: 8 grams
- Protein: 8 grams
- Sodium: 115 mg
- Carbohydrates: 43 grams
- Sugar: 42 grams
*This nutritional information is an estimate and calculated based on the ingredients used to create the recipe. The nutritional value of your ingredients may differ slightly. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.
Other Recipes for Caramel Lovers
Easy Caramel Latte Recipe (Starbucks Copycat)
- Whisk together the milk and caramel syrup in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until starting to steam and foam.
- Remove from heat and froth with a milk frother or whisk. Set aside.
- Brew your coffee into a mug and top with the caramel milk, foam and all. Drizzle with caramel sauce if desired, and drink up!