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!
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Table of Contents
- About Homemade Caramel Popcorn
- How long does caramel popcorn last?
- Do you have to add baking soda?
- Why do you bake caramel popcorn?
- What if you prefer chewy caramel popcorn?
- What else can you add to caramel popcorn?
- notes & this for this easy caramel popcorn
- More great caramel recipes
- How to make caramel popcorn
- Recipe Details
About Homemade Caramel Popcorn
Whether you call this caramel popcorn or caramel corn, the results are always the same:
A salty-sweet snack that’s perfect for eating or gifting.
And with a simply delicious flavor profile like that, it’s easy to see why caramel-covered popcorn has become a fan-favorite at carnivals and binge-watching movie nights alike.
Only now you can make it at home!
How long does caramel popcorn last?
When stored in an air-tight container, caramel corn should remain good for up to five days.
Do you have to add baking soda?
Of all the ingredients you’d expect to be in caramel corn, baking soda is probably a bit of a surprise – and it’s absolutely necessary to make sure the caramel has the right consistency to work with.
The baking soda has a chemical reaction with the brown sugar and corn syrup, causing a foam of carbon dioxide air bubbles to form. This reaction gives the caramel sauce a soft, silky texture, and it helps keep the caramel from hardening too fast, giving you time to completely cover the popcorn in sauce.
Why do you bake caramel popcorn?
I’m all for consolidating steps or making recipes more simple, but in this case, it’s very important that the caramel popcorn be baked.
The short answer: Baking caramel popcorn gives this treat the dry, crispy texture we all love about it.
The long answer: After adding baking soda to the caramel sauce (see point above), the caramel sauce has essentially “transformed” from the quick-to-dry, sticky substance we all know caramel to be to a smoother, softer sauce. So in order to get the caramel to “set” on the popcorn and make it a finger-friendly food, it must be baked to remove the moisture, helping the sauce solidify around the popcorn.
What if you prefer chewy caramel popcorn?
This recipe makes a crispy, carnival-quality caramel popcorn, but if you prefer a softer or chewier texture, simply cook the popcorn for less time.
This recipe calls for 45 minutes in the oven, so you can start off by testing a piece of popcorn after 20 minutes of baking. Pinch the popcorn with your fingers first (careful, it may be hot!) and if it feels okay, try taking a bite. If the popcorn isn’t the right consistency yet, cook for another five minutes and try again. Repeat this step until the popcorn has the consistency you like.
What else can you add to caramel popcorn?
Nothing is better than snack food except for snack food you can customize with more snack food, and that is exactly what you can do with caramel corn.
So if you’re looking to jazz up this recipe, check out this list of my personal favorite additions:
- Peanuts (as pictured)
- Cheddar Popcorn (Garrett’s Popcorn style)
- Pretzels, candy-coated and classic
- Reece’s Pieces
- Peanut Butter-Stuffed Pretzels
- Reece’s Minis
- Mini Marshmallows
- Circus Animal Cookies
- Swedish Fish
- Raisins or other dried fruits
- Sunflower Seeds (shelled)
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.
More great caramel recipes
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 1 – In a medium saucepan, add butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Cook and whisk until butter is melted and sugar has dissolved.
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!
Homemade Caramel Popcorn
- 8 cups popped popcorn, (I used an air popper)
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup peanuts, flavor of your choice (optional)
- Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat (parchment paper is not recommended for this). Spread popped popcorn evenly across prepared baking sheet, then set aside.8 cups popped popcorn
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, and butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Whisk constantly until butter is melted and sugar has dissolved into a smooth sauce, about 3 to 5 minutes.1 cup unsalted butter, 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- 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.1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 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.1 cup peanuts
- Let caramel popcorn cool at least 1 hour before eating.
- Serve imemdiately.
I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.