Hot Spiced Caramel Apple Cider

This homemade 4-ingredient spiced apple cider inspired by the Starbucks recipe is easy, and can be made iced, in a slow cooker or on the stove! Perfect fall drink.

A pot of hot spiced apple cider on a table with an apple, cinnamon sticks, caramel candies and star anise to the side.

Making spiced apple cider is one of my favorite traditions come fall, winter or holidays. There’s something so comforting and nostalgic about letting a big pot simmer on the stovetop while the mouthwatering smells of apples, and cozy cinnamon and spices waft throughout my home.

I love kicking the warmth up a notch by adding soft caramel candies. They bring a richness and depth to the cider that makes it really something special.

Nothing beats putting a pot of cider on the stovetop for Thanksgiving and Christmas (or whichever holiday you get to celebrate!) because it just might be the easiest thing you make all day. Dump some stuff in a pot. Forget about it for a while. Come back to absolute sweater weather magic.

This cider recipe requires just 4 ingredients, but is extremely flexible. I like to make mine with cinnamon and star anise (more on this spice below), but you can add or substitute other spices such as cloves or nutmeg if that’s more convenient.

Jump to Recipe

I’ll give you tons of ideas of ways to customize this recipe later. You might already have some of them in your pantry.

Ingredients

Apple juice, caramel candies, cinnamon sticks and star anise on a table.
  • Jug of apple juice or apple cider
  • Soft caramel candies (such as Kraft caramels) or caramel sauce
  • Cinnamon
  • Star Anise

Optional: 

  • Whipped cream
  • Extra cinnamon sticks for garnish

Watch Me Make This

Can’t see the video below? Watch it on Instagram.

How This Homemade Cider Stacks Up

I got the idea for this recipe after trying the iconic caramel apple cider Starbucks drink. 

Just a reminder, calories do not count if you’re having dessert or celebrating holidays, lalalalalala I can’t hear you, but it is true.

That being said, if you are inclined to keep an eye on your calorie intake, a 16 oz.-serving of this recipe will run you about 280 calories. Here’s how my version compares.

Caramel Apple Cider Starbucks Recipe

The Starbucks version of this drink runs at about 380 calories in a 16-oz. grande size. Starbucks also adds whipped cream, which I’ve included in the optional section of my ingredient list. They also add a little drizzle of caramel sauce, if you happen to have that around.

Biggby Caramel Apple Cider Recipe

Like Starbucks, Biggby’s caramel apple cider drink comes with a healthy dollop of whipped cream and extra caramel-y goodness on top. A 16-oz. Will run you about 430 calories.

Your honor, I rest my case. This caramel apple cider is basically health food.

Hot homemade spiced apple cider with caramel being poured into a mug, with an apple, caramel candies, star anise and cinnamon stick on the table, with a pot of cider in the background.

Customize This Apple Cider

Apple cider is, frankly, screw up-proof. You can dump all kinds of stuff in there and it will be delicious. 

Think of my recipe as a blueprint. If you’ve got the extra time and ingredients, here are some other ingredients you might consider adding to your cider.

Spices:

  • Cloves
  • Allspice
  • Nutmeg
  • Cardamom
  • Ginger
  • Vanilla bean
  • Vanilla extract

Sweetener:

  • Brown Sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Caramel sauce

Fruit:

  • An orange, quartered with rind on
  • An orange, studded with whole cloves
  • Orange zest
  • Orange extract
  • Real apple slices

Why Star Anise Is Magic

If you’re new to star anise, this spice adds a fantastic warmth to desserts. The spice is so named because it comes in these gorgeous, star-shaped pods that are as pretty as they are delicious.

Star anise is one of the ingredients of chai. The closest thing I can compare it to is spiced licorice, but I actually hate licorice and love star anise. Weird, I know. You just have to try it to find out! Start with one, then add another if you like the smell.

This might not be readily accessible everywhere, but you should be able to find star anise in a well-stocked grocery store. It’s a little pricey, so you can certainly forgo it for some of the other suggested spices above if the cost is off-putting to you.

If you have leftovers, I am obsessed with the way star anise tastes in a simple rice pudding with condensed milk. Another recipe for another day in the future, perhaps?

How To Make Iced Caramel Apple Cider

To make a refreshing cider drink to enjoy on warmer autumn days, allow your cider to cool as close to room temperature as possible.

Pour into a glass over ice (use more if your cider is still hot). Garnish with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon, if desired.

A ladle hovers over a pot of hot spiced apple cider with star anise and cinnamon sticks inside.

How To Make A Hard Apple Cider Cocktail

There are a lot of avenues you might go here.

Depending on how strong of a cocktail you want to make, you might consider adding 1- to 2-ounces of bourbon, spiced rum, Fireball whisky or caramel-flavored vodka. 

If you’re looking for an iced drink, you might try serving pouring some of this apple cider over ice and mixing with ginger beer or one of the liquors mentioned above.

Try Crock Pot/Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Cider

This is a great option for those busy holiday mornings when each and every stove top burner is a valuable commodity!

Place ingredients into your slow cooker on low and allow to cook for at least 2 to 3 hours. Be sure to stir at 1-hour intervals. If using caramel candies (as opposed to caramel sauce), stir after the first 30 minutes as caramels start to disintegrate.

A pot of hot spiced apple cider on a table with an apple, cinnamon sticks, caramel candies and star anise to the side.

Hot Spiced Caramel Apple Cider (Easy Starbucks-Inspired)

This homemade 4-ingredient spiced apple cider inspired by the Starbucks recipe is easy, and can be made iced, in a slow cooker or on the stove! Perfect fall drink.
Prep Time 3 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 9 cups

Equipment

  • medium-large pot

Ingredients
  

  • 1 64-ounce apple juice jug
  • 1-2 star anise pods
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 c. caramel candies or ½ c. caramel sauce (for ice cream sundaes) approx. 2 handfuls of candies
  • whipped cream and cinnamon sticks for garnish

Instructions
 

Stovetop instructions:

  • Place all ingredients in a covered medium-large pot over medium heat. If using caramel candies instead of caramel sauce: As the cider begins to heat, stir approx. every 5 minutes until caramels have dissolved.
  • Allow to simmer at least 30 to 40 minutes, stirring intermittently. The longer you allow it to simmer on the stovetop, the better!
  • Serve with garnish of a cinnamon stick or whipped cream, if desired. Any extra cider can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for approx. 1 week.

Crockpot instructions:

  • Place ingredients into your slow cooker on low and allow to cook for at least 2 to 3 hours.
  • Be sure to stir at 1-hour intervals. If using caramel candies (as opposed to caramel sauce), stir after the first 30 minutes as caramels start to disintegrate.
  • Serve with garnish of a cinnamon stick or whipped cream, if desired. Any extra cider can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for approx. 1 week.
Keyword apple cider, drink recipes, fall recipes

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