A caramel affogato is an incredibly delicious twist on a classic Italian dessert, merging the robust coffee flavor with creamy vanilla ice cream and luscious caramel sauce. It’s a harmonious blend of hot espresso and cold ice cream, with the caramel’s rich sweetness balancing the coffee’s bitterness. Perfect for coffee enthusiasts, it offers a refreshing yet indulgent dessert experience, ideal as an after-dinner delight or a decadent pick-me-up.

What Is An Affogato?

Affogato is a delectable Italian dessert that combines the bold flavors of espresso and ice cream or gelato. While the origins of an affogato are still debated the meaning of affogato is derived from the Italian word for “drowned,” affogato perfectly describes this indulgent treat where a hot shot of espresso is poured over a scoop of cold gelato, resulting in a captivating temperature and flavor contrast.

Traditional affogato pairs vanilla gelato with espresso, but affogato’s versatility allows for endless customization. Explore various gelato flavors like salted caramel, chocolate, or coffee-infused varieties. Elevate your experience with toppings and garnishes like caramel sauce, cocoa powder, or chocolate shavings, enhancing taste and presentation.

Ingredients For Caramel Affogato


The choice of hot coffee is crucial in making a delicious caramel affogato. Freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee adds boldness, balancing the sweetness of caramel and the creaminess of vanilla ice cream. 

Freshly brewed coffee is an option for a milder coffee flavor. You can adjust the coffee strength to your liking. Your choice of coffee determines the balance and intensity of flavors in your caramel affogato.

Vanilla Ice Cream Or Gelato

You can’t make an affogato without ice cream or gelato. Traditionally, affogato is made with fior de latte gelato, but it can also be made with vanilla ice cream. 

Ice cream and gelato are both made using milk, cream, and sugar, although they vary in their ingredient ratios. Gelato generally includes less cream and a higher proportion of milk than ice cream and doesn’t usually contain egg yolks or eggs. Gelato is richer and denser, while ice cream is milkier and creamier.

The choice between using gelato or ice cream in your caramel affogato comes down to personal preference. Both options can deliver a satisfying and indulgent experience as long as high-quality vanilla ice cream or gelato is used.

If you desire a bolder caramel taste, you can opt for caramel or salted caramel ice cream or gelato if they are accessible. This will enhance the caramel flavor for a more indulgent Caramel Affogato experience.

Caramel Sauce

Caramel sauce is made by melting sugar until it turns golden brown, often with the addition of butter and cream for a rich, sweet, and buttery flavor. If you don’t have caramel sauce around you can use caramel syrup but it won’t be as thick, rich, or buttery.

Caramel sauce adds depth and elegance to desserts, beverages, and even savory dishes. Variations like salted caramel offer exciting twists, and its glossy appearance makes it a favorite for decorative purposes. You can use store-bought or homemade caramel sauce.

Optional Toppings and Garnishes

Optional toppings and garnishes can elevate your caramel affogato’s indulgence and visual appeal, adding layers of flavor and texture to this delightful dessert. Here are some popular options to consider:

  1. Whipped Cream: A dollop of freshly whipped cream adds a light and airy element to your affogato. Its subtle sweetness complements the richness of the caramel and gelato.
  2. Crushed Nuts: Sprinkle crushed nuts, such as toasted almonds or hazelnuts, over the top for a delightful crunch. Nuts enhance the texture and introduce a nutty undertone to the dessert.
  3. Chocolate Shavings: Grate some dark or milk chocolate over the affogato. The chocolate shavings melt slightly from the heat of the coffee, creating a harmonious blend of chocolate and caramel flavors.
  4. Cocoa Powder: A dusting of cocoa powder provides a hint of bitterness that balances the sweetness of the caramel. It also adds an elegant touch to the presentation.
  5. Sea Salt: For a sophisticated twist, sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over your caramel affogato. The saltiness enhances the caramel’s depth and complexity, creating a salted caramel sensation.
  6. Caramel Drizzle: If you can’t get enough caramel, why not drizzle more caramel sauce on top? It intensifies the caramel experience and creates a beautiful caramel swirl.
  7. Biscotti or Cookies: Serve a side of biscotti or cookies for some extra crunch. Dip them in your affogato for an added layer of flavor and texture.

Salted Caramel Affogato Recipe

Caramel Affogato


  • 1 shot of espresso or 1/4 cup of strongly brewed coffee (Espresso is bolder if you have it)
  • 1-2 scoops of vanilla gelato or ice cream (You can be substitute with caramel or salted caramel ice cream or gelato, but omit caramel sauce if doing so or use less)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of salted caramel sauce (You can substitute with regular caramel sauce, but add a pinch of sea salt)
  • Optional toppings: whipped cream, crushed nuts, chocolate shavings, or crushed biscotti


  1. Brew the Espresso: If you have an espresso machine, brew a shot of espresso. (You can also wait to brew the espresso directly onto the ice cream to save time and mess.) Alternatively, you can use strongly brewed drip coffee, but it needs to be as strong as possible.
  2. Prepare the Serving Glasses: Choose your serving glasses or cups. Affogato is often served in small drinking cups or dessert glasses.
  3. Scoop Gelato/Ice Cream: Place one or two scoops of vanilla gelato or ice cream into each serving glass.
  4. Drizzle with Salted Caramel Sauce: Generously drizzle salted caramel sauce over the top of the affogato. (If using regular caramel sauce, top with a pinch of sea salt.) The caramel sauce will combine with the coffee and meld with the creamy gelato.
  5. Pour the Espresso: Pour the hot espresso (or brewed coffee) directly over the gelato or ice cream. The heat of the coffee will begin to melt the gelato and create a creamy, caramel-infused mixture.
  6. Add Toppings or Garnish (Optional): If desired, top your caramel affogato with whipped cream, crushed nuts (such as toasted almonds or hazelnuts), chocolate curls, or anything else that will complement the coffee and caramel flavors.
  7. Serve Immediately: The key to a perfect affogato dessert is serving the affogato immediately so the coffee is hot and contrasts beautifully with the cold gelato.
  8. Enjoy: Use a spoon to stir and enjoy the blend of flavors and textures. Savor the rich caramel, creamy gelato, and boldness of the coffee.

Feel free to mix and match these optional toppings and garnishes based on your personal preferences. The beauty of the caramel affogato lies in its versatility, allowing you to create a dessert that suits your taste and style, whether you prefer it elegantly simple or lavishly adorned. If you loved this you should also try a hot chocolate affogato.