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!
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
- 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.
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.
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.
Remove Heat: Take skillet off of heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.
Drizzle over popcorn, tossing gently with a spatula until the popcorn is evenly coated.
Bake at 200°F for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Serve homemade caramel corn for movie night, game day, or anytime!
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.
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!)
More Dessert Recipes:
- Butterfinger Bars
- Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- S’mores Bars
- Key Lime Pie
- Red Velvet Cookies
- Chocolate Fudge
- Chocolate Milkshake
- Oreo Balls
- World’s Best Peanut Butter Bars
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- 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
- 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.
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*I originally shared this recipe March 2015. Updated March 2019 and September 2022.
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