Transform air-popped popcorn into a sweet and addictive treat with just a few baking staples. This easy homemade Caramel Corn makes an excellent food gift or favor as well as a stellar game-day or party snack.

Caramel corn in a paper boat.
Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Caramel Corn Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for caramel corn in various bowls.

Ingredient notes

  • Popcorn: Pop the kernels any way you like (variations are listed below), just be sure to choose a product without added butter or seasoning.
  • Brown sugar: Light or dark both work well.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Prepare two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. Using an air popper, pop popcorn into a very large bowl.
A bowl of popcorn.
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Stir until combined. Once bubbles appear in the mixture, simmer for 4 minutes without stirring.
Caramel sauce for caramel corn.
  1. Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the vanilla and the baking soda. The caramel mixture will begin to foam and increase in volume when you stop whisking.
Caramel sauce for caramel corn.
  1. Quickly pour mixture over popped popcorn and toss until well coated and the caramel begins to harden. Divide caramel corn onto the two prepared baking sheets and spread evenly.
Caramel corn on a baking sheet.
  1. Bake for 45 minutes, tossing about every 10 minutes. The caramel will remelt, allowing the popcorn to be more evenly coated. Remove the from oven and allow the Caramel Corn to cool on the pan. After the caramel has hardened, break apart large clusters if desired. Store in an airtight container.
Caramel corn on a baking sheet.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 10 cups of Caramel Corn, which I consider 10 portions (although it’s often more like 8 in my home!). Feel free to double or halve the ingredients if desired.
  • Make ahead: Store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.
  • Make popcorn in the microwave: Add 3 tablespoons of popcorn kernels to a brown paper bag. Tightly seal the bag by folding it over the top. Microwave the popcorn for approximately 1 minute and 45 seconds to 2 minutes on High, depending on your microwave. This will yield about 5 cups of popcorn. Repeat the process once more to make 10 cups for this Caramel Corn recipe.
  • Stove-top popcorn: Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add popcorn kernels and shake the pot to evenly distribute kernels. Cover with lid and shake once while popping. When popping stops, remove pot from heat. (When you can count to 3 between pops.)
  • Store-bought popcorn: Feel free to start with a natural-style microwave popcorn that does not have any butter added if you like.
Caramel corn in a paper boat.

More crunchy snacks

Caramel corn in a paper boat.

Caramel Corn

This easy homemade Caramel Corn makes an excellent food gift or favor as well as a stellar game-day or party snack.
0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins
Servings 10 servings (1 cup each)
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Calories 257

Ingredients 

  • 10 cups air-popped popcorn (from ⅓ cup popcorn kernels)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Prepare two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside. Using an air popper, pop popcorn into a very large bowl.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Stir until combined.
  • Once bubbles appear in the mixture, simmer for 4 minutes without stirring. Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the vanilla and the baking soda. The caramel mixture will begin to foam and increase in volume when you stop whisking. Quickly pour mixture over popped popcorn and toss until well coated and the caramel begins to harden.
  • Divide caramel corn onto the two prepared baking sheets and spread evenly.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, tossing about every 10 minutes. The caramel will remelt, allowing the popcorn to be more evenly coated.
  • Remove from oven and allow caramel corn to cool on the pan. Break apart large clusters if desired. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

  1. Popcorn: Pop the kernels any way you like (variations are listed below), just be sure to choose a product without added butter or seasoning.
  2. Brown sugar: Light or dark both work well.
  3. Yield: This recipe makes 10 cups of Caramel Corn, which I consider 10 portions (although it’s often more like 8 in my home!). Feel free to double or halve the ingredients if desired.
  4. Make ahead: Store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.
  5. Make popcorn in the microwave: Add 3 tablespoons of popcorn kernels to a brown paper bag. Tightly seal the bag by folding it over the top. Microwave the popcorn for approximately 1 minute and 45 seconds to 2 minutes on High, depending on your microwave. This will yield about 5 cups of popcorn. Repeat the process once more to make 10 cups for this Caramel Corn recipe.
  6. Stove-top popcorn: Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add popcorn kernels and shake the pot to evenly distribute kernels. Cover with lid and shake once while popping. When popping stops, remove pot from heat. (When you can count to 3 between pops.)
  7. Store-bought popcorn: Feel free to start with a natural-style microwave popcorn that does not have any butter added if you like.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 257kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 2gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 270mgPotassium: 69mgFiber: 2gSugar: 35gVitamin A: 305IUCalcium: 24mgIron: 1mg
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Meggan Hill

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