Starbucks uses their own brand of caramel syrup in their drinks and food items. The caramel syrup recipe is proprietary to Starbucks and is not available for retail purchase. However, some information is known about the ingredients and production of the Starbucks caramel syrup.
Here are quick answers to key questions about the Starbucks caramel syrup:
- Brand name: Starbucks proprietary caramel syrup
- Manufacturer: Produced by Starbucks or a contracted food production company
- Ingredients: Sugar, corn syrup, water, natural and artificial flavors, potassium sorbate, salt.
- Flavor profile: Sweet, buttery, with toasted caramel notes
- Consistency: Viscous liquid syrup
- Packaging: Large bags or containers for use in Starbucks stores
- Availability: Not sold to the public, only used in Starbucks stores
Brand Name and Manufacturer
The caramel syrup used at Starbucks is a proprietary product made specifically for the company. It does not have a retail brand name. The exact manufacturer is unknown, but it is likely produced by one of Starbucks’ contracted food production companies. Starbucks has strict quality control standards for its ingredients and recipes.
Some sources indicate that Starbucks produces some of their syrups and sauces in-house at their own manufacturing facilities. If this is the case for the caramel syrup, it would allow Starbucks to closely guard the recipe and production details.
It is also common practice for large restaurant chains like Starbucks to outsource production of some menu items to third-party food manufacturers. These manufacturers produce proprietary products like the caramel syrup based on Starbucks’ specifications.
Starbucks has not publicly revealed who makes the caramel syrup or where it is produced. But a contracted national food producer would allow for efficient, large-scale production to supply Starbucks locations.
While the exact proportions and all ingredients are unknown, some key components of the Starbucks caramel syrup have been reported. It likely contains:
- Sugar – Provides sweetness and texture
- Corn syrup – Thickens the syrup so it coats beverages and foods
- Water – Dissolves the sugar and corn syrup into a syrup consistency
- Natural and artificial flavors – Give the caramelized, buttery, toasted taste
- Potassium sorbate – A mild preservative
- Salt – A touch of salt enhances the other flavors
The ingredients used, such as real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, contribute to the syrup’s signature flavor profile.
The basic syrup recipe is likely consistent across Starbucks locations, but there could be small regional or seasonal variations:
- Higher sugar content in some regions based on local tastes
- Different natural flavors or spices added, such as vanilla or cinnamon
- Limited seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice or gingerbread
Starbucks caramel syrup has a noticeably different taste than many pre-made retail caramel syrups. It is characterized by:
- Sweetness – Sweeter than many commercial brands, but not overly cloying
- Buttery caramel – Has a prominent cooked caramel flavor
- Toasted notes – Slightly burnt, toasted undertones
- Smooth – No harsh or chemical aftertaste
The syrup delivers the classic caramel profile Starbucks customers expect. It has a balanced sweetness along with butter, vanilla, and other flavor nuances. The taste complements both hot and iced coffee drinks as well as desserts like crunchy caramel toppings.
Impact on Beverages
When added to coffee, espresso drinks, lattes, and other Starbucks beverages, the caramel syrup brings its signature flavor. Just a pump or two imparts pronounced caramel sweetness and aroma. It mixes well with the coffee rather than overpowering it. The syrup’s viscosity results in a smooth mouthfeel.
Pairing with Food
Drizzled over Starbucks desserts and snacks, the caramel syrup contributes its thick, decadent caramelized flavor. It brings sweetness along with butter, vanilla, toasted, and salt taste sensations. The Starbucks caramel pairs well with chocolate, nuts, breads, and fruits.
The Starbucks caramel syrup has a viscous, liquid consistency, similar to honey or vegetable oil. This allows it to:
- Coat the inside of cups and glasses when pumps are dispensed
- Mix thoroughly into hot and cold liquids
- Adhere to foods likes waffles or drizzled over ice cream
- Flow smoothly through dispenser pumps
The thickness comes from the corn syrup in the recipe. The exact viscosity may vary between syrup batches depending on the ingredients and ratios.
The caramel syrup has a dark amber color. It sometimes has lighter golden highlights swirled throughout indicating butterfat content. The rich color comes from cooking sugar to a deep caramel color during production.
|Dark amber with golden streaks
|Viscous, thick liquid
|Opaque, cannot see through
|Smooth, coats inside of mouth
The Starbucks caramel syrup is not packaged for individual retail sale. Instead, it comes in large bulk containers for use in Starbucks store locations.
The caramel syrup may be packaged in:
- 3-5 gallon plastic pails
- Stainless steel tanks
- Bag-in-box pouches holding 1-3 gallons
The containers are likely stacked on pallets for shipping to Starbucks stores. Individual locations go through a high volume of the syrup, so large-format packaging makes sense.
The syrup containers sit under the counter and connect directly to the dispensing pumps. Baristas pump the caramel syrup into drinks in controlled serving sizes. The thick consistency allows the syrup to smoothly flow through the pumps.
The pumps and tubing system deliver the caramel syrup on-demand for customers’ beverages so it remains fresh. Starbucks likely goes through multiple packages of the syrup each week at busy locations.
Unlike many commercial syrup brands, the Starbucks caramel syrup is not available for purchase by the public. It can only be found at Starbucks locations.
Not Sold Retail
Starbucks does not bottle or sell their caramel syrup in grocery stores, online, or anywhere else outside their own stores. A few of their other sauce products are available retail, like the mocha and pumpkin spice sauces, but not the caramel.
Reasons for Limited Availability
There are several reasons why Starbucks doesn’t make the caramel syrup more widely available:
- They want to maintain exclusivity for their product
- The recipe is proprietary and secret
- Retail bottling and distribution would be costly
- They produce it only in large quantities for their stores
By not offering it retail, Starbucks maintains control and the product remains a special treat only available in their cafes.
Many Starbucks customers wish they could purchase bottles of the caramel syrup to recreate drinks at home. Copycat recipes try to replicate it, but it’s difficult to match the exact Starbucks flavor profile. The syrup’s uniqueness and unavailability help drive customers into Starbucks stores.
Because Starbucks doesn’t sell their proprietary caramel syrup, many DIY and copycat recipes have been developed to try to mimic it at home. However, it’s challenging to match the exact flavor.
Most copycat recipes include common caramel syrup ingredients like:
- Granulated white sugar
- Brown sugar
- Heavy cream
- Vanilla extract
These provide the basic sweet, buttery, and vanilla notes, but likely won’t perfectly replicate the Starbucks taste.
Here are two sample copycat caramel syrup recipes:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Cook sugars and butter until caramelized. Add cream and vanilla, simmer until thickened. Add salt.
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
Dissolve sugar and corn syrup in water. Cook to golden brown. Add butter and cream, stir until combined. Remove from heat, add vanilla.
These provide a homemade approximation, but Starbucks likely uses other signature techniques and ingredients for their authentic flavor.
For anyone wanting that Starbucks caramel flavor at home without replicating the recipe, there are some store-bought alternatives to consider.
Torani Caramel Sauce
Torani is a popular brand of coffeehouse-style syrups. Their caramel sauce is thicker than many grocery store varieties. It has a rich caramelized flavor that makes a decent substitute in coffee drinks.
DaVinci Gourmet Caramel Sauce
The DaVinci gourmet sauce has a smooth, buttery caramel taste. It comes in a convenient squeeze bottle and is a slightly thicker consistency for topping drinks.
Monin Caramel Syrup
Monin is a premium syrup brand used at many cafes. Their caramel flavor provides sweetness and aroma. It may be thinner than the Starbucks version, but dissolves well in hot and cold beverages.
While not exact replications, these products can provide that caramel flavor addition at home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Starbucks caramel sauce gluten free?
Yes, Starbucks states that their caramel sauce is gluten free. It is made without wheat, barley, rye, or other gluten-containing ingredients.
Can you buy Starbucks caramel syrup in stores?
No, the Starbucks branded caramel syrup is not available for sale in retail stores. It is only used in Starbucks cafes.
Does Starbucks use real caramel or artificial flavor?
Starbucks caramel syrup contains some natural and artificial flavors. But it primarily gets its flavor from real ingredients like sugar, butter, and cream cooked down into a caramelized sauce.
Is the caramel syrup vegan?
No, Starbucks caramel sauce is not vegan or dairy-free. It contains butter and cream for the signature flavor.
Can you order a bottle of the syrup from Starbucks?
Unfortunately no, you cannot order bottles of the bulk Starbucks caramel syrup. It is only available for use in their stores.
Starbucks proprietary caramel syrup remains an elusive, exclusive treat only available at their coffee shops. Customers continue to crave that signature caramel flavor. By keeping the recipe and production secret, Starbucks maintains control and drives business. Home cooks can try to recreate the taste with homemade caramel sauces or quality store-bought alternatives, but the true Starbucks caramel experience remains unique to their cafes.