Homemade Caramel Corn

January 30, 2013 by Ali

I loved being in Europe for this holidays this year. But one of the traditions I missed back in the States was my annual dose of holiday caramel corn. It seems like everywhere you go around the holidays, there are those big tubs with butter, cheddar and caramel corn a’plenty. And ever since I was a kid, the caramel corn definitely gets the most love from this foodie. ;)

So when I arrived home in January, I decided it was high time in my 29th year of life to learn how to make my own homemade caramel corn. Granted, I make stovetop popcorn all the time, so the idea of learning how to add in the extra sweetness didn’t sound like too many extra steps. But little did I know — homemade caramel corn is so easy!!! I was thinking it would be a complex process with candy thermometers, and 500 steps, and sticky caramel everywhere. But it turns out that this sauce is totally easy and pretty foolproof (as caramel sauces go), and the oven pretty much does all of the work. And within an hour, a huge batch of caramel corn is ready to go!

My biggest surprise, though, was realizing how much better homemade popcorn tastes than store-bought! I don’t if it’s the freshness, or the flavor, or the double-bonus of having your entire house smell like sweet caramel. But my friends agreed that this version is a definite winner, and they have been happily helping me eat the (um, three?) batches I’ve already made this month.

What do you love most about caramel corn?

Homemade Caramel Corn

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup light or dark corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 cups popped popcorn (about 1 cup kernels before popped), preferably warm from being freshly popped

Method

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with aluminum foil, and grease with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a large stockpot pot over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup, stir to combine. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer undisturbed for 5 minutes. Stir, then continue to cook for an additional 4 to 6 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is a deep golden color. Turn off the heat and slowly whisk in salt, baking soda and vanilla, being very careful as the mixture will bubble. Stir in the popcorn and toss until it is evenly coated with the caramel, being sure to scrape the caramel off the bottom of the pot.

Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet or pan in an even layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring to toss every 5 minutes, until the caramel corn has turned a deep amber color. Remove the caramel corn from the oven and transfer to a surface covered with parchment or wax paper to cool. Once it reaches room temperature, use your hands or a spoon to break up the caramel corn, then store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Recipe slightly adapted from Karo and Recipe Girl.

(c) 2013 Gimme Some Oven. All rights reserved.

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About Ali

Ali Ebright is a freelance recipe developer and food writer/photographer, and blogs at Gimme Some Oven and Gimme Some Life. She also loves all things music, traveling near and far, actually making things from Pinterest, cozying up with a good book and her sweet pup, Henry, and spending time with a wonderful group of friends. Come say hello and follow Ali on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ & Instagram.

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44 thoughts on “Homemade Caramel Corn

  1. I made this tonight. We came home from the movies with a large popcorn and used that. Movie popcorn is the best and made this recipe wonderful.Thanks. oh I added peanuts to. Yummmmmmmmmy!!!!

    - Joyce

  2. This is my go-to recipe for caramel corn and is a hit with my whole family!

    - Sharna

  3. Mine turned all granular in the oven :( Maybe I did something wrong with the caramel portion? It was perfect until I stuck it in the oven even though it was sticky ;)

    - Penelope Shepherd

  4. Isn’t a half cup of butter 2 sticks of butter? So what is it one or two sticks?

    - Jay

  5. the temperature when i need to bake the caramel popcorn in the oven is?

    - fyoseop

  6. I made this just a few days ago and it was PERFECT. UNTIL I put it into the oven. It was on fire in less than three minutes. Maybe it was just my oven but next time, I know for sure that I am skipping that step.

    - Sophie Kleinman

  7. This was so much easier than I thought it would be and even on the first attempt with several missteps it still turned out delicious!

    - Livingalamode

  8. I didnt have corn syrup so I used hungry jack original syrup instead. Fast & easy
    recipe! YUM!!! Thanks!

    - Rene

  9. Delish!! We multiplied all ingredient measurements by 1.5 and used a tad less popcorn (so it was really carmelly!) Turned out perfect! Thank you!

    - Lori

  10. All I have to say is, yum! Made this for my wife tonight. I couldn’t keep her out of it. I had to hide it! Thanks for the recipe!

    - Brad Wolter

  11. I tried the popcorn and I basically had the same results as some who posted before me. The caramel was to thick and it didnt spread all over the popcorn and ai was wondering would it make a diffrernce if we added a little more butter? Maybe we need to make more so the solution can spread? However the caramel was delicious and I will make it just to eat like candy.

    - Gloria Williams

  12. Well.. apparently second times a charm.. I completely burnt my first batch of caramel. What a smelly gross mess. But the second batch is turning out a lot better.

    - Jessica

  13. I think the caramel burnt… Sigh… :/

    - Jaana

  14. Fast, easy and delicious! I found keeping the caramel sauce on low heat and transferring the popcorn to a different bowl worked best. I also had to use drops of water to keep the sauce from turning into a glob. Other than that, great recipe.

    - epic

  15. I just made 2 batches! I rarely make treats, but this was so easy! Instead of corn syrup I used honey, delicious!
    Tips ~ I mixed the popcorn and carmel in a very large bowl, coated with canola cooking spray. I also covered the cookie sheet with tin foil and then sprayed it with cooking spray. After baking the popcorn, I just slid the tin foil off the pan and laid it on the cool counter!
    Thank you for this amazing recipe!!!

    - SandiSu

  16. I just made 2 batches! I rarely make treats, but this was so easy! Instead of corn syrup I used honey, delicious!
    Tips ~ I mixed the popcorn and carmel in a very large bowl, coated with canola cooking spray. I also covered the cookie sheet with tin foil and then sprayed it with cooking spray. After baking the popcorn, I just slid the tin foil off the pan and laid it on the cool counter!
    Thank you for this amazing recipe!

    - SandiSu

  17. Made this for the first time in my life and it turned out great. I’ve read most of the reviews and will add the peanuts the next time I make it. The only thing I changed was the salt and only did 1 tsp. I popped too much popcorn but stored In a ziplock and will use at a later date. I plan to invest in a Hot Air Popper.

    - Keith

  18. How much does your recipe make. Sounds like a great neighborhood Christmas gift

    - Shelia Yobs

  19. Store for up to a week – that’s funny! This will be gone in less than 48 hours in my house. I can’t wait to try this recipe. My daughter is allergic to dairy and I’ve been looking for a recipe for caramel corn that doesn’t involve milk (I’ll have to sub margarine for the butter, but that’s usually not a problem.) Thanks for helping me out!

    - Meredith Wouters @ thepalettemuse.com

  20. Just made this, AMAZING…. who knew homemade would be so easy and tasty

    - Athena

  21. Hi,
    So I cook a lot, but I don’t make candy-like stuff very often. Maybe this question will sound very basic, but that’s where my candy-like-making skills are at.
    I just made this and my caramel was too hard to mix nicely on the popcorn. I followed the instructions but had to estimate on the different times as our oven clock gets replaced by the oven temperature if the oven is heating and we have no other clock in the kitchen… I know. I’ll get a watch next time. It was very thick right from the start though. Is it that my caramel did not cook enough or could it be that I heated it too fast right from the start?
    I would welcome any thoughts before I try it again.
    Thanks so much!
    Oh, and I added peanuts in with the popcorn. That was tasty business.
    Evelyne

    - Evelyne

    • Evelyne,

      You may want to try heating your butter/sugar mixture more slowly over medium/low heat. Bringing the mixture to a full rolling boil tends to evaporate the sauce’s limited water content (primarily from the corn syrup, some smidgens of moisture from the molasses in the brown sugar) far to quickly; resulting in the gloppy mess you experienced. Though this will take a bit longer, the result of a simmer rather than a boil is a deep golden sauce that will have a “looser” more liquid texture making coating much easier. While boiling ensures that the sugar crystals are completely broken down you can achieve the same result with lower heat and a little patience. Hope this helps (^_^)

      - Gary

    • I made this last night and had the exact same problem. I followed the recipe and the caramel was very thick and, once poured onto the popcorn, it turned into a mass in the center and couldn’t be spread to the other popcorn around it. I scrapped it and started completely over, thinking I must have done something wrong. New popcorn, new sauce, went through every measurement and step exactly as written. Same problem again. The resulting caramel coating TASTED delicious, but just didn’t spread the way it should have. I think the instructions must have us cooking the butter/sugar mixture for too long. It should be much runnier in order to mix as a nice glaze, not a thick glop. I will try this again sometime, but was disappointed with this go round.

      - Lisa

  22. I made this for a party last night and it was a major hit! It is so fresh that it kind of melts in your mouth.

    - Sarah

  23. Aww. I hate this has corn syrup in it. But only because we don’t have corn syrup over here and I haven’t found a decent substitute! I am most definitely going to make this when I get my hands on some. I haven’t had caramel corn in years and miss it!

    - Erin @ Texanerin Baking

  24. YUM! Add some salted peanuts, and I’m in heaven.

    - Sarah

  25. I can’t believe how perfect that looks! I need to make some caramel corn, perfect yet unexcpected super bowl snack :)

    - Jackie @ Domestic Fits

  26. Caramel popcorn used to be one of my fave snacks when I was a little kid…

    - Margherita

  27. Oh man I can snack on this breakfast, lunch and dinner!

    - Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious

  28. Homemade is always better! Your caramel corn looks so tasty!

    - Laura (Tutti Dolci)

  29. Caramel corn is my Christmas favorite as well! My mom makes it every year and throws some peanuts in as well before baking. Love love love sitting around the fire with my family, sipping wine, and eating this stuff by the handful!

    - Meg Jones | The Spatularettes

  30. crazy question…. do you have the nutritional information for this recipe??
    Thanks

    - Kim