Easy Homemade Caramel Popcorn has just the right crunch and chewiness that you want, without sticking to your teeth. It’s everything you hope for in the perfect caramel popcorn recipe!

I love everything about this easy homemade caramel popcorn recipe, especially that it only requires a few inexpensive ingredients that I usually have on hand. Have you tried Chicago Popcorn?  It’s essentially cheddar popcorn mixed with caramel popcorn! I also love Peanut Butter Popcorn!

A clear glass bowl full of caramel popcorn.

Caramel Popcorn

I  have noticed that a lot of caramel popcorn recipes out there just don’t have the right caramel to popcorn ratio. They’re either too sticky, or too hard. With a little trial and error, I believe I’ve created the Best Caramel Popcorn you can find!

The caramel is made on the stove, without the need of a candy thermometer. Then we drizzle the caramel all over the popcorn and bake it over low heat, stirring a few times, to allow the soft caramel to lightly coat all of the popcorn and bake until it’s the perfect texture and crunch.  Now, who’s ready for movie night?

Ingredients in Caramel Popcorn:
  • Popcorn– For a healthier version of Caramel Popcorn, pop your own popcorn without adding salt, sweeteners, or butter.  For over the top amazing Caramel Popcorn, use movie theater style popcorn.
  • Brown Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Butter
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Baking Soda
The individual ingredients needed to make caramel popcorn including a bowl of popped popcorn, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, baking soda and butter.
Did you know you can pop your own popcorn kernels without a popcorn popping machine?

Add ¼ cup popcorn kernels to brown paper lunch bags and fold the top closed.  Microwave for a minute or two, until you hear the popping begin to slow.

Add melted butter and salt and shake the bag to coat the popcorn.

Why does my caramel corn get grainy?

Grainy caramel (or crystalized caramel) occurs when the sugar crystals in the caramel seize up or cling together.  You can prevent this from happening by adding baking soda which will cause the sugar molecules to break up, or by adding a different type of sugar along with the table sugar (sucrose).

This Caramel Popcorn recipe will not result in grainy caramel because we have added baking soda and corn syrup, both of which will help break up the brown sugar molecules and prevent them from crystalizing.

How to make caramel popcorn:
  • Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once melted, stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt until smooth.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the caramel starts to gently boil, boil for 2 minutes stirring.

Four process photos for making caramel popcorn with the sauce made in a skillet and then poured over popcorn on a baking sheet.

  • Remove from the heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla
  • Immediately drizzle caramel over popcorn. Toss gently with a spatula until coated. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.

One corner of a cookie sheet with caramel popcorn in it.

Pro Tip: I use a large non-stick skillet to make the caramel sauce for the popcorn because it’s much less messy to clean afterwards, and it comes to a boil faster. I also use a silicon spatula to stir the caramel because it’s heat resistant and doesn’t get as messy as say, a wooden spoon would.

How to keep caramel popcorn fresh:

To keep your caramel corn fresh, be sure to store it in an air tight container or ziplock bag (making sure to press as much air out as you can). The better you seal your container, the longer it will last.  You can store it at room temperature on your counter for up to 2-3 weeks. (Though at my house it’s all eaten in about 2-3 hours.)

Why add baking soda to the caramel?

You will notice that when you add the baking soda to the caramel mixture, the caramel will start to foam.  This foam is basically carbon dioxide air bubbles that are the result of the chemical reaction between the brown sugar and the corn syrup.  Essentially, the baking soda allows the caramel to have a softer, silky texture that sticks to the popcorn and keeps it from getting hard.

Close-up photo of caramel corn in a bowl.

Check out my other DESSERT RECIPES!  Some of my favorite snack-like desserts include:

 

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Recipe

Prep 10 mins
Cook 50 mins
Total 1 hr
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Ingredients
  

  • 8 cups popped popcorn (about 1 microwaveable bag, or ¼ cup kernels)
  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons light karo syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (heaping)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
  • Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper or tinfoil sprayed lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Add popcorn to pan in an even layer and place in the oven to warm
  • Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once melted, stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt until smooth.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the caramel starts to gently boil, boil for 2 minutes, stirring.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.
  • Immediately drizzle caramel over popcorn. Toss gently with a spatula until coated.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 322kcalCarbohydrates: 62gProtein: 2gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 205mgPotassium: 91mgFiber: 2gSugar: 53gVitamin A: 284IUCalcium: 39mgIron: 1mg

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Have you tried this recipe?!

RATE and COMMENT below! I would love to hear your experience.

 

*I originally shared this recipe March 2015. Updated March 2019.

 

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this! I just made a batch, substituting a casein-free margarine for the butter, and not only was it good enough to pass my own high standards, but, even more important, my 23-year-old daughter, who had never tasted caramel in her life due to various food sensitivities, loved it! Now it will be unthinkable for me to make it any other way!

    It’s a rare treat to be able to find something new that my daughter and I can both enjoy so much. Thank you again!

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