About Homemade Caramel Popcorn
Ah, fall. The time of year that’s all about crisp winds and beautiful leaves and fun holidays… and delicious snacks like this homemade caramel corn.
Or is it caramel popcorn?
When you see this caramel-coated delight at parties and fairs, what do you call it?
I have no idea if this is a “regional thing”, but growing up in Virginia, we called this caramel corn. And I never questioned this until I began to think about publishing this recipe and I couldn’t help but wonder… why? I mean, lets be honest here – this caramel coated popcorn we’re talking about, not just corn. I’d have a whole different opinion of this snack of this was just caramel covered corn.
But thankfully for all of us, this is light and fluffy popcorn we’re talking about, so why doesn’t everyone call it that?
Well, between this baffled born-and-bred southerner and the rest of the world, I have no idea. It’s moments like this were I’m glad I’m not an ambassador for the south because, bless our hearts, we do an awful lot of head-scratching things.
At least we can all agree on one thing, though:
Caramel covered popcorn is delicious.
Another thing I like about classic recipes like this is that not only is it a crowd-pleasing snack, but it’s also a great flavor to build upon, too.
Like for example, when I told my mom (who also happens to be my recipe helper & taste tester) that we’d be making caramel corn that day, she immediately perked up and asked, “With nuts?”
And this is where my mother and I differ on food and why I love having her around to help me with recipes. Because while I tend to like my eats smooth and creamy she is all about the crunch. She helps bring a little more balance to the recipes you see here.
So while I normally would have skipped the nuts, because she asked, I figured… okay. Why not. Let’s go crazy and add some peanuts. See how it goes.
(Don’t tell her I told you this, but adding the peanuts created a salty and sweet combination that was awesome.)
notes & this for this easy caramel popcorn
- I mention this in the recipe instructions, but I think it’s worth stating again: making caramel corn is easy, but it’s also very messy. Make sure you have a large baking sheet, a silicone baking mat (parchment paper will not cut it for this recipe), and wax paper on hand.
- This is also mentioned in the recipe, but adding peanuts is completely optional. However, if you do like the idea of adding a little extra flavor, I went with normal salted peanuts and loved the sweet & salty combo. You could also go with honey roasted peanuts or cashews. Even walnuts would be a good fit. For a little extra fall flair, try some dried fruit (like apples!)
- If you’re in the mood for caramel, there’s also Caramel Apple Nachos and Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownies.
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How to make caramel popcorn
This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.
Step 2 – Quickly add vanilla, salt, and baking soda to the saucepan, then continue to whisk. The sauce will get a thick, fluffy texture and turn a much lighter shade of caramel (it’s actually pretty cool to watch!) The whole process should take about 2-4 minutes. Once sauce is ready, remove the pan from heat.
Step 3 – Line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, then arrange popped popcorn on top. Pour the caramel sauce on top of the popcorn and use a spatula to toss and coat the popcorn. Be sure to work quickly so the sauce doesn’t cool and harden too early.
Step 4 – Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the caramel popcorn, tossing it every 15 minutes or so to ensure the caramel is baked on evenly.
Step 5 – Remove popcorn from the oven. Line a flat surface with wax paper and pour the finished caramel popcorn out on top. If you’re adding peanuts, pour them over the caramel popcorn and then toss to mix. Spread popcorn out in an even layer.
Step 6 – Let the caramel popcorn cool completely.
Step 7 – Enjoy!
Watch the recipe video
Homemade Caramel Popcorn
With a rich homemade caramel sauce drizzled over fresh popcorn, this caramel corn is sure to bring back childhood memories of carnivals and fairs!
Add vanilla, salt, and baking soda to the saucepan, continuing to whisk constantly. Sauce will lighten and may rise a little in the saucepan. Once sauce has thickened and gets an almost "fluffy" texture (about 2-4 minutes; see above video for example) remove saucepan from heat.
Pour sauce over popped popcorn on prepared baking sheet, then use a spatula to toss popcorn to coat. Work quickly so that the sauce does not cool and harden. It's okay if not every piece of popcorn is covered at this stage.
Transfer caramel popcorn to the oven and bake for a total of 45-60 minutes. At 15 minute intervals, remove baking sheet to counter and toss caramel popcorn again to coat and break up clumps, then return to oven. Repeat this 3-4 times until popcorn is evenly coated in caramel sauce and the sauce is sticky and adhered to the popcorn.
Remove caramel popcorn from oven. Prepare a flat surface by covering it with wax paper, then pour finished caramel popcorn across it. While popcorn is still warm, sprinkle peanuts on top of popcorn (optional). Use a spatula to toss and spread out caramel popcorn in an even layer to cool, breaking up any remaining clumps.
Let caramel popcorn cool at least 1 hour before eating. Caramel popcorn can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.