Butternut Caramel Tarts

Desserts – Butternut Caramel Tarts

I posted a throwaway remark about baking caramel tarts on our Facebook page last week and the comments came tumbling in immediately. If there is such a thing as a food radar, surely caramel tarts can be spotted at a 250km distance.

For years I made them with shortcrust pastry, but then I stumbled across the recipe using butternut biscuits as a base and my fate was sealed. And then I added sea salt to the tops of the caramel and I think, just quietly, I have a recipe here that should be raised to hero status.

There’s no quiet way to enjoy these. They are worth every groan of delight given to them, a hedonistic combination of caramel, chocolate, honeyed biscuit and sea salt. I’ll stop now before I drool all over the keyboard.

Butternut Caramel Tarts

Makes 12


  • 1 x 375g tin condensed milk*
  • 250g Butternut Snap biscuits (or make your own from this recipe)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 100g  butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g dark chocolate, melted
  • sea salt (optional) for topping

* Condensed milk is often packaged in a tin with a ring-pull top and for a while, there was a concern that one couldn’t use them in boiling water for making caramel as before without the risk of exploding the tops. I have simmered them this way over the last few years and found that, simmered gently, there is no problem with cooking the milk in the tin as we have enjoyed doing for generations. As always with this activity, watch the water levels in the saucepan and don’t leave it unattended.


Place tin of condensed milk in a saucepan and pour enough water into the pan to come two-thirds up the sides of the tin. Bring to a simmer, cover the saucepan with a lid and slowly simmer the condensed milk, in the tin, for the next 2 hours. From time to time you may have to top up the water. Remove tin and allow to cool to room temperature, unopened, over the next hour or so.

While the caramel is cooking, brush a 12 cup patty pan tin or tart tray with a little melted butter (you can also make these in  a muffin tray, however this amount will only make 8).

Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is the consistency of coarse sand. Add ginger, vanilla and melted butter and pulse until combined.

Divide biscuit mixture evenly between the tart tins or patty pans and press the mixture firmly into the base and sides of the tins. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Put a spoonful of melted chocolate in each tart case and evenly spread all over the base and side. Refrigerate again until firm.

Open the cooled tin of condensed milk – you will find a very thick dark caramel in the tin. Tip it into a bowl and whisk it briefly to loosen it up and smooth it out, then place a spoonful of caramel into each chocolate lined tart base.

If you want a completely over the top finish, sprinkle the caramel with a little sea salt flakes just before serving – it must be sea salt, rock salt simply won’t give the same crunch or sweetness.Just sprinkle a little as you want to eat them, to stop the salt dissolving into the caramel.

Serve immediately or keep cool in an airtight container.


$6.50 for 12 tarts (slightly less if you make your own biscuits)


This biscuit mixture doesn’t give the rough-textured biscuit we buy in supermarkets, but it does match the flavour very well.

Butternut Cookies

Makes 20 -24 biscuits


  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp milk


Preheat oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Place sugar, cream of tartar, bicarb, salt, flour and coconut in a large bowl and mix well to combine.

Melt the butter in a small bowl in a microwave then add golden syrup, milk, egg and vanilla and whisk briefly to combine. Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir well to combine.

Roll even tablespoons of the mixture between your clean wet hands and place at 5cm intervals on the baking tray.

Bake for 15 minutes until the biscuits turn a golden brown. Cool on trays.


$2.10 for 24 biscuits

10 thoughts on “Desserts – Butternut Caramel Tarts”

  1. I make something very similar to this but instead of blending the biscuits i place them in the patty trays, put them in the oven until the biscuits are soft and then gently press down on the biscuits with the back end of a spoon so they ‘dip’ into the tray and allow them to harden again. I then fill with the caramel and drizzle a little melted chocolate over the top.. they are always a big hit with the family and friends

  2. Of course you could always cheat and buy the tins of the already made caramel from Nestle…I use these for my banoffee pie, and although it isn’t as thick as the caramel you get when you boil the can, it is a very good substitute!

  3. I might be wrong, but don’t they tell you not to boil modern condensed milk tins because of the chemicals in the tins? I thought it is dangerous?

      1. My understanding is that chemically it’s fine for tin-plated steel cans like the ones we use for condensed milk and most other canned goods in Australia. Steel is not toxic, and the tin plating on the cans is not made toxic by household levels of heating, although in the presence of very acidic contents there is a small potential for creating tin salts (not likely to be an issue with condensed milk, LOL).
        The main reason it’s not recommended, especially by the Nestle and other companies who make the stuff, is because people have had the can explode and had burns from it. This is usually because they heated it too quickly (i.e. stove up too high) or because there was an imperfection in the can.

      2. The reasin you dont boil condensed milk in the tin is not so much related to the chemical side as the structure of the tin. Whilst there were many who boiled the old cans with success, the “new” ring pull tops allow the potential of a can to rupture under heat and pressure. Personally, given the temp of hot sugar, it is not a risk I would take.

  4. You can make the same caramel on the stove or microwave in a few minutes. No need to supervise a potentially dangerous can on the stove for two hours (who has two hours to hover in the kitchen?).

    Just put the condensed milk in with a tablespoon of butter and a couple of tablespoons of golden syrup and stir gently on low heat until it has thickened a little and turned into a lovely soft caramel colour. Use too much heat and it will go lumpy. Use more butter for a more butterscotch flavour.

    Do the same in the microwave, but only cook in short bursts, starting with about 30 seconds and reducing down to 10 second bursts, stirring between each time. Cook for too long and it will start to bubble at the edges and then it’s ruined.

    Sorry I don’t have a set recipe… I’m a cook by instinct sort of person, but I’ve been making caramel this way for years! We used to have this recipe done on butternut snap biscuits softened in the oven on a patty pan tray (as Kristy does), cooled and filled with caramel, then topped with a little dark chocolate or whipped cream. They are an old favourite party treat.

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