How Is Caramel Color Made?

The process of caramelization is similar to the cooking we do every day. Common food ingredients such as sugar, malt syrup, corn syrup or molasses are cooked in the presence of other ingredients that assist in caramelization. The result is a desired color – somewhere on the spectrum from pale yellow to deep brown. Then the color is cooled and filtered.

What Does Caramel Color Taste Like?

Caramel color tastes different from caramel candy, mainly because it’s not actually a flavor. It tends to be slightly more bitter, and also has a scent of burnt sugar.

Are All Caramel Colors the Same?

There are four classes of caramel colors, according to the United Nations Joint Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives. They range from lightest (Class I) to darkest (Class IV). Below are examples of the products in which the different classes of caramel color are used. For more additional information, see JECFA 2011 “Caramel Colours” monograph.

  1. High-proof alcoholic beverages (e.g., whiskey)

  2. Cognac; sherry; vinegar

  3. Beer; soy sauce; candy

  4. Soft drinks; dark bread

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