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 best caramel corn recipe!

Do you love candy recipes as much as I do? Try this Sweet Chex Mix, Peanut Butter Popcorn, or Chocolate Covered Marshmallows!

A bowl of homemade Caramel Popcorn, ready to eat!

Why I love this 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 recipe 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?

Caramel Popcorn Ingredients:

  • Popcorn– For a healthier version of Caramel Popcorn, pop your own popcorn without adding salt, sweeteners, or butter. If you like undertones of butter flavor, use movie theater style popcorn.
  • Brown Sugar – light or dark.
  • Corn Syrup
  • Butter
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Baking Soda – is key to achieving softer, silky texture of caramel sauce that sticks to the popcorn and doesn’t get tacky and hard.

How to make Caramel Popcorn:

Pop Popcorn: Use air popped popcorn or movie theater style popcorn. Pour on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

A cookie sheet lined with brown parchment paper with popcorn spread out, ready to be made into caramel popcorn.

Combine Ingredients: Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once melted, stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt until smooth.

Butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a pan to make a Caramel Popcorn recipe.

Boil: Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the caramel starts to gently boil, boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

A pan with caramel boiling in it with a white spatula.

Remove Heat: Take skillet off of heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.

Caramel with baking soda and vanilla added, ready to pour on to popcorn to make Caramel Corn.

Drizzle over popcorn, tossing gently with a spatula until the popcorn is evenly coated.

Fresh hot caramel being poured on to popcorn on a baking sheet, ready to be baked for the best Caramel Popcorn.

Bake at 200°F for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Serve homemade caramel corn for movie night, game day, or anytime!

Baked Caramel Popcorn on a brown parchment paper lined baking sheet.

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 then a saucepan. 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 Pop Popcorn Without a Popper:

Add ¼ cup popcorn kernels to a brown paper lunch bag 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 is my Caramel Corn Grainy?

Grainy caramel (or crystalized caramel) happens when the sugar crystals in the caramel seize up or cling together.  This easy 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.

Storage Instructions:

To keep your caramel corn fresh, be sure to store it in an airtight container or resealable 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!)

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Recipe

A bowl of homemade Caramel Popcorn, ready to enjoy!
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. Add popcorn to a large pan, spread out in an even layer.
  • 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 constantly.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.
  • Immediately drizzle caramel over popcorn. Toss gently with a spatula until the popcorn is evenly coated.
  • Bake at 200 degrees F for 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.

Notes

Storage Instructions: To keep your caramel corn fresh, be sure to store it in an airtight container or resealable 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!)

Nutrition

Calories: 322kcalCarbohydrates: 62gProtein: 2gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 197mgPotassium: 94mgFiber: 2gSugar: 53gVitamin A: 284IUCalcium: 40mgIron: 1mg

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*I originally shared this recipe March 2015. Updated March 2019 and September 2022.

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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
    Great recipe! Followed directions exactly except I mixed the carmel glaze with popcorn in a large metal pan. Used cooking spray on the pan to keep from sticking and kept pan with corn in the oven until ready to mix. Then spread out the glazed popcorn on sheet pan with parchment paper to finish baking. Gifting this for Christmas in cute tins I found at Target. Always have success with the recipes on your website. Thanks!

  2. GREAT caramel taste! I added 1 snack pkg of peanuts to the syrup mixture before pouring…I guess this is a throwback to my days as a Cracker Jack lover! This IS a great recipe! Thanks!

  3. 5 stars
    Tastes great! The only downside for me was trying to stir it in my pan without spilling it everywhere. I found it worked better for me to use two table knives to scrape and turn every 15 minutes.

  4. 5 stars
    Really great recipe! Everyone likes caramel corn but everyone loves homemade fresh caramel corn! So easy & quick to have a batch ready! After you’ve made the caramel corn go one step further and drizzle with some melted chocolate & chopped pecans! Thanks for this recipe! It definitely brings smiles in my house!

  5. This recipe looks delicious. I saw under nutrition that it has 322kcal. I looked that up and it converts to 322000 calories! Please tell me this is incorrect!

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