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! Caramel popcorn is perfect for parties, snacking, movie night, and gifting.
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The Best Caramel Corn Recipe!
I will show you how to make the BEST 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 easy Caramel Popcorn recipe 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 recipe – 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 popped corn.
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 – Stovetop popcorn, made in 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 Popcorn
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 this recipe for 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.
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
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: American
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