The ultimate Easy, Homemade Caramel Corn recipe. Easy to make, stays crispy and crunchy for weeks, and you won’t believe how addictive it is! Perfect for parties, snacking, movie night, and gifting.
The Ultimate Homemade Caramel Corn
This is the Ultimate Caramel Popcorn! It has the perfect ratio of caramel to popcorn. Each piece is evenly coated in an EVEN, easy to make, absolutely delicious coating of caramel. No sticky globs of caramel here and there.
Be careful setting a bowl of this in front of you, it’s nearly impossible to stop eating it.
Caramel Popcorn is perfect for gifting!
I get so many requests to bring this Caramel Popcorn to parties and gatherings. Everyone loves it! It stays crispy and crunchy for weeks.
Fill a mason jar and tie a ribbon around it, and it makes the perfect gift. Plus, it’s cheap economical! One batch fills two quart-sized jars with a little left over.
The secret to perfect Caramel Corn
There are two secrets that make this the BEST Caramel Popcorn – baking soda, and baking.
Baking soda in Caramel Popcorn
Just before the caramel sauce is ready to be poured onto the popcorn, baking soda is added. This causes the caramel to get bubbly and foamy, filling it with air and making it easier to coat all of the popcorn.
Once the caramel has cooled on the popcorn, the air bubbles inside the caramel create a softer texture. The softer texture means you won’t be biting into hard caramel. Rather, the caramel is chewy and perfectly crispy and crunchy.
Baking Caramel Popcorn
The second trick is baking the popcorn in a very low oven and stirring it a few times. This lets the caramel sauce melt and thin so that it coats every piece of popcorn when you stir it. Baking also crisps up the Caramel Popcorn so that it’s not sticky and stays fresh longer.
During the baking process you’ll see the popcorn becoming less sticky and the individual pieces of popcorn will be easy to separate.
What’s in Caramel Popcorn?
Popcorn – whether made on the stovetop, an air popper, or microwave popcorn. Make sure your popcorn doesn’t have any unpopped kernels in it.
Brown sugar – I use light brown sugar for a mild, caramely flavor.
Light corn syrup – to prevent the sugar from crystalizing and becoming grainy.
Baking soda – makes the caramel sauce bubbly and foamy so it’s easy to coat each piece of popcorn.
How to make Caramel Corn
A rich, salty-sweet caramel sauce is tossed with freshly popped popcorn and baked in a low 250° F oven for 45 minutes, stirring three or four times during baking.
I stick the freshly popped popcorn in the preheated oven while I make the caramel sauce so that it’s warm when I pour the sauce on.
Use the biggest size baking pan that you have so there’s more room for the popcorn to spread out.
Don’t worry if the popcorn isn’t evenly covered at first. Just mix it the best you can, then spread it in the baking pan and put it in the oven. Here's how mine looks before it goes into the oven:
You can see that it clumps together, the caramel is sticky (you can tell from the strings of caramel), and the pieces aren't evenly coated.
During the baking time, the caramel will first melt so that the popcorn will be evenly coated when stirred, then it will start to crisp. The individual pieces of popcorn will be easy to separate.
How to make the caramel sauce
Have the popcorn ready and the oven preheated before starting the caramel sauce. The quicker and warmer you toss the caramel sauce with the popcorn, the more evenly it will spread.
Butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar are heated on low until the butter melts. It’s important to do this step slowly so that the end result isn’t grainy.
After the mixture is melted, it’s left to boil for 3-4 minutes on medium high heat until it reaches 255° F. The heat is turned off and the salt and vanilla are stirred in. Next, the baking soda is stirred until it’s well combined. The caramel sauce is stirred into the popcorn immediately.
How to keep Caramel Popcorn fresh
Store Caramel Popcorn in an airtight container at room temperature. It will stay fresh for two to three weeks. (The only time it’s lasted more than a day in my house is when I’ve hidden it.)
Can you add anything to Caramel Corn?
Add up to 2 cups of salted peanuts or almonds before pouring on the caramel sauce for a great salty-sweet combination.
Does the Caramel Corn have to be baked?
If you want the Caramel Corn to be dry and crispy and to stay fresh longer, yes it does need to be baked.
That being said, sometimes I just want to eat it right now, now, now. It tastes just as good without baking, although it’s sticky and not as evenly coated.
Can I make Caramel Corn lighter?
You can make caramel corn lighter by increasing the amount of popcorn you use. Try about ¾ cup of kernels. It’s actually quite good lighter, which is great for those would like to cut some calories or who don’t have much of a sweet tooth.
As you can see from the photos, the caramel doesn’t completely cover the popcorn with the proportions given in this recipe. I personally don’t like things cloyingly sweet so this is the perfect amount for me. If you want heavier caramel coverage, use less popcorn, about ⅓ cup.
Easy Homemade Caramel Corn
- Total Time: 1 hour
The ultimate Easy, Homemade Caramel Corn recipe. Easy to make, stays crispy and
crunchy for weeks, and you won’t believe how addictive it is! Perfect for
parties, snacking, movie night, and gifting.
For the popcorn:
- 3 tablespoons oil
- ½ cup popcorn kernels (freshly popped (about 13 cups of popped popcorn) (NOTE 1))
For the caramel sauce:
- ¼ cup (½ stick, 2oz, 57g) butter
- 1 ¼ cups (9.4oz, 266g) packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup (2.75oz, 78g) light corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- Large baking pan ((NOTE 2))
To make the popcorn:
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. To know when the pan is hot enough, add 3-4 kernels of popcorn. When they pop, the pan is hot enough. Remove the popped kernels and add the remaining ½ cup of kernels to the pan.
- Shake the pan or stir kernels so that they are evenly spread out in pan.
- Cover with a lid, leaving a small opening for steam to escape. Once the popcorn starts popping vigorously, shake the pot gently once.
- Remove from heat when the popping stops. You should be able to count to 3 between pops.
- Put the freshly popped popcorn into the baking pan. Be sure there are no unpopped kernels. (NOTE 3)
- Place in oven to stay warm while making the caramel.
To make the caramel:
- Combine the butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar in a pan and heat over low heat until the butter is dissolved.
- After the mixture is melted, turn the heat to medium and let simmer for 3-4 minutes until it reaches 255° F.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla.
- Stir in the baking soda until it is well combined.
- Drizzle on top of the popcorn immediately and stir gently, trying to coat as much of the popcorn as possible.
- Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.
- Gently break apart large clusters, if desired.
- Store in an air tight container for 2-3 weeks.
NOTE 1: Popcorn can be made in an air popper or in the microwave.
NOTE 2: I use a very large, nonstick baking pan. If you don’t have a nonstick pan, line your baking pan with parchment or a silicone mat. A baking pan with sides makes stirring easier.
NOTE 3: To be sure there are no unpopped kernels, I pour the popcorn into a bowl or pan, toss it around with my hands so the smaller, heavier pieces fall to the bottom, then lift out the popcorn and place it in the baking pan, being careful to leave behind any unpopped kernels or small, hard pieces.
Stir the caramel into the popcorn immediately after stirring in the baking soda while it's still hot. Work quickly because it firms up as it cools.
If your kitchen is cold, keep the pan of popcorn somewhere where it will be at a warm room temperature. The warmer the environment, the easier it will be to get the popcorn coated before it hardens.
If the popcorn is on a large baking pan, more of it will be exposed and it will be easier to get the caramel spread on all of it. If the layer of popcorn is to deep, the top layer will get coated and the bottom layers won't.
Drizzle the caramel lightly over as much of the surface of the popcorn as you can, rather than pouring a large amount in one area.
Most of the coverage of the popcorn will take place when you first pour the caramel on and stir it, rather than in the oven. In the oven it will dry out and lose some of its stickiness.
If you still have some pieces of popcorn that are bare and you're using the right amount of popcorn, you can increase the amount of the caramel. The amount I have used here will leave some pieces not fully covered so that it's not overly sweet.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Dessert, Snack
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: caramel corn, caramel popcorn
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Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop says
This is perfect for snacking and gift giving!
It sure is! And so easy to make! Thanks so much, Kathy!
Alexandra @ It's Not Complicated Recipes says
You are definitely speaking my language with this recipe! Caramel anything makes me happy - but caramel corn? Delicious! And what a perfect gift, I agree! (Better make an extra large batch though! Need some for me too! 😉 )
It was impossible taking the pictures - I kept eating my subject! Thanks so much, Alexandra!
It seems I don't need any airtight container to keep these beauties, same as you ! Will go with the speed of light ! Thank you Kelly !
It disappears so quickly! I've learned not to hand anyone the whole container. It comes back empty! Thanks so much, Davorka!
Cookie Monster says
Thanks so much, Cookie Monster!
David Scott Allen says
That is the most beautifully coated caramel corn I have ever seen, bar none! Brava!
Awww, thanks so much, David!
Everything with caramel has got to be GOOD and addictive :-)) Well, I am going to take the risk 🙂 These look so inviting!
It's so addictive. Just don't set a whole big bowl down in front of you and hide the rest! Thanks so much, Angie!
YUM! I watched the video (loved!) and was wondering what the baking soda does, so I was so happy you explained that. Very cool. I love giving edible gifts for the holidays. 🙂 ~Valentina
It's such a neat trick, isn't it? It reacts with the acid and bubbles up. It makes it easier to mix the caramel into the popcorn, and gives the caramel the perfect texture after it's baked. Thanks so much, Valentina!
What great tips! Now I really want to make this. I never have because I was afraid I’d eat it all before I gave it away as gifts! But I also don’t like stale popcorn, or when it’s mushy. So I can’t wait to try the baking step. Thanks!
I have to hide it when I make it, Mimi! It disappears so fast! Thanks so much!
No wonder you get so many requests to bring your Caramel Popcorn to parties Kelly. I'm surprised you haven't opened up shop to sell it! It looks amazing! And thanks for the recipe video too. It helps to see it being made, makes it look not to difficult for me to try! 🙂
Now that's an idea, Neil! Garret sells theirs for $30 a gallon! Glad you found the video helpful! Thanks so much!
Nancy Buchanan says
One of the BEST tutorials I've come across for making Caramel corn! With the holidays coming up, this is definitely going on my "must make" list!
It's so addictive, I have to keep making it! Can't stop with one batch! Thanks so much, Nancy!
David @ Spiced says
I absolutely love caramel corn, and this post reminds me that I haven't made any in...years!? It's time to fix that problem. Also, that's a great tip about the baking soda in the caramel. I'll have to try that out next time! Perfect snack for watching football on the weekends! 🙂
David, my kids won't let me forget about it - they love it! And it comes together so quick. Sometimes they don't even let me bake it! It's a perfect gameday snack. Give me all the football!
Oh, this does look deliciously dangerous! 🙂 It's been years since I've made caramel corn and, now that I have grandsons, it's a great excuse to make some again. Yum!
Oh yes it is! My kids love it. They don't even give me a chance to bake it! Thanks so much, Susan!
Haylie / Our Balanced Bowl says
Wow, Kelly!! My mouth is watering...what I would give to have a big bowl of this caramel corn right in front of me!! Although, i must say..it would be dangerous. I think I would eat it all! Worth it! YUM!!
It's so dangerous, Haylie! And the bad part is that it's so easy to make with things I always have on hand! Thanks so much!
Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary says
Oh goodness, this would be VERY dangerous around me!!! I'm a popcorn addict, and caramel corn is a total weakness of mine! This looks absolutely PERFECT!!!! This would make such a wonderful gift for the holidays... if I don't eat it all myself that is. 😉 Pinned!
I have to find a very clever hiding spot if it's for a gift! Thanks so much, Chey!
Katherine | Love In My Oven says
I am the worst with caramel popcorn. I CANNOT stop hah! Other things I have more willpower, but maaaaan caramel popcorn is my downfall. Just one more piece....haha! This look so crazy good Kelly!
It's so irresistible, Katherine! Just one more bite, just one more bite, just one more bite....and it's gone! Thanks so much!
Caramel Corn is my kryptonite! Can't. Stop. Eating. 😉 Can't wait to try your recipe!
Marissa, I completely agree! I sit with a big bowl in front of me and seconds later it's gone! Thanks so much!
All That I'm Eating says
Oh. My. God. This looks AMAZING! I am going to have to try this out, I love caramel popcorn.
It's so irresistible! Thanks so much, Caroline!
What a fantastic recipe. I need to try this for a movie night in. I remember trying to make my own when I was younger and it was a massive fail. With this recipe, I'm actually excited to try it again.
Marie, it's so easy and works every time! The only downside is that easy to make means easy to eat way to much of it! Thanks so much!
John / Kitchen Riffs says
Wow, this is gorgeous! I've never made caramel corn, and now I SO want to! That baking soda trick is priceless, BTW. Good post -- thanks.
It's so easy to make! And the baking soda makes it easy to spread and gives it the perfect texture. Thanks so much, John!
Wow this is mouthwatering. I often make pop corn for the children in my pan but I have never tried the caramel version. I probably will now. Your photos are stunning!
It's so irresistible and the kids love it! Thanks so much, Alida!
It will get polished off in no time in my house. They look perfect Kelly 🙂
It disappears fast! Thanks so much, Taruna!
Oh. My gosh, Kelly ! Anything sweet + salty has my name all over it! Great recipe, thanks!
It's so addictive! Thanks so much, Laura!
Absolutely have to give your recipe for Caramel Popcorn a try for Halloween - now if I can only get my hands on corn syrup, I will be all set. I like the tip about adding the baking soda just before coating the popped corn with the caramel and baking of the caramel coated corn.
Thank you for another showstopper of a recipe!
It comes out perfectly crunchy and crispy, Andrea! Thanks so much!
Kelly @ Kelly Lynns Sweets and Treats says
This would definitely be great for a gift, but I can guarantee you that my husband would eat it all before I could package it up to give away! Hahahaha. Caramel corn is his favorite. I will definitely need to make this for him! Pinning 🙂
It disappears so fast in our house! Thanks so much, Kelly!
So delicious, easy and not a mess to make! I used day old movie theater popcorn and it turned out fabulous!
So happy you liked it, Diane! Thanks so much!
Kay Thomerson says
This sounds so good. Can you leave out the salt? I know I need the baking soda for the reaction, but with both salt and baking soda it would be too much sodium for our diet.
Hi Kay! The salt is only for flavor so you can leave it out if you like. Thanks so much!
If I wanted to add some hennessy to the caramel when would I add it and how much?
Hi, Kayla. I haven't tried adding liquid to the caramel, but I would suggest using about 1 cup and boiling it to reduce it by half, so that it measures about 1/2 cup. Add that to the pan with the corn syrup.
okay! I will definitely try that! thank you for responding!
Ken Worthington says
Just as promised in thec recipe! Light, easily separated and perfectly sweet. Going to become my go to for carmel corn!
So happy you liked it! Thanks so much, Ken!
I don't use corn syrup at all, for anything. I was hoping to try your recipe and will sub agave syrup. Wish me luck!
Let me know how it turns out, Terri! Best of luck!
Rachael Gildea says
Yummy! Easy to make and delicious to eat!
Thanks so much, Rachael!
I scrolled thru the recipe 3 times and didn't find a video. Was it removed?
I'd like to see how u made this so I know where i went wrong. My caramel became somewhat firm in the oven and i wasn't able to stir it into the popcorn. Just stayed in clumps.
Hi Jody. The video is close to the top of the page, just under the first photo. Here are some tips:
1. Stir the caramel into the popcorn immediately after stirring in the baking soda while it's still hot. Work quickly because it firms up as it cools.
2. If your kitchen is cold, keep the pan of popcorn somewhere where it will be at a warm room temperature. The warmer the environment, the easier it will be to get the popcorn coated before it hardens.
3. If the popcorn is on a large baking pan, more of it will be exposed and it will be easier to get the caramel spread on all of it. If the layer of popcorn is to deep, the top layer will get coated and the bottom layers won't.
4. Drizzle the caramel lightly over as much of the surface of the popcorn as you can, rather than pouring a large amount in one area.
5. Most of the coverage of the popcorn will take place when you first pour the caramel on and stir it, rather than in the oven. In the oven it will dry out and lose some of its stickiness.
6. If you still have some pieces of popcorn that are bare and you're using the right amount of popcorn, you can increase the amount of the caramel. The amount I have used here will leave some pieces not fully covered so that it's not overly sweet.
I hope these tips are helpful!
Neil Sutton says
Good, clear directions. This was a success the first time out. Thank you!
So happy you liked it, Neil! Thanks so much!