Caramel Corn {Sweet & Crunchy}


Quick Summary

Homemade Caramel Corn-sweet and crunchy caramel popcorn is easy to make and always a favorite snack! It’s a great make-ahead recipe for a parties, game day, movie nights, or gift giving!

caramel corn

We make popcorn almost every single week. It is our boys favorite snack. They love munching on big handfuls while we watch movies, sports, or play family games. We usually do regular popcorn with butter and salt, but sometimes we splurge and make marshmallow popcorn, kettle corn, peanut butter popcorn, or Homemade Caramel Corn.

Caramel corn really is the king of all popcorns. Sweet, salty, buttery, crunchy…it has it all! It is such a treat and it’s easy to make at home. You don’t need a candy thermometer for this caramel corn recipe and it’s made with basic pantry ingredients.

You do bake the caramel corn at a low temperature in the oven (stirring occasionally) so the caramel sauce can melt in an even coat over the popcorn. You want every piece of popcorn to be covered in caramel. Baking also crisps up the caramel popcorn so that it’s not sticky and soggy.

This recipe makes a lot of popcorn and can be made in advance, making it a great snack for parties or gift giving! We love making caramel corn during the fall months and for the holidays. It’s a great sweet snack to have around.

Kids and adults love grabbing handfuls of this sweet popcorn. Just a little warning, once you start snacking, it’s hard to stop! This caramel corn is TOO good, ha!

caramel corn recipe

Caramel Corn Ingredients

  • Popcorn– you will need 10 cups of popped popcorn. I like to use air popped popcorn. I love this popper. Make sure you don’t include any popcorn kernels, nobody wants to bite into a hard popcorn kernel.
  • Butter– use unsalted butter because you are adding salt to the recipe.
  • Brown sugar– make sure you use fresh brown sugar so your caramel doesn’t come out grainy. Always pack your brown sugar when measuring.
  • Light corn syrup– corn syrup prevents the sugar from crystalizing and becoming grainy.
  • Kosher salt– a must for popcorn!
  • Vanilla extract– love vanilla!
  • Baking soda– the secret to keeping the caramel from getting rock hard!
  • Flaky sea salt– for sprinkling on popcorn. This is optional but so good! I love a good sweet and salty combo!

How to Make Caramel Popcorn

  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. You want the oven at a low heat so you don’t burn the popcorn.
  • Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat baking mats. You can place the popped popcorn on the baking sheets and put it in the oven while you make the caramel sauce so the popcorn is warm. This will make it easier for the caramel to stick to the popcorn.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and salt; and stir until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is boiling, let it boil for 4 minutes without stirring.
  • Remove immediately from the heat and carefully stir in the vanilla extract and baking soda. The mixture will bubble up.
  • Place the popcorn in a large bowl, it needs to be a big one so it’s easy to stir. If you don’t have a really big bowl, you can use two bowls.
  • Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Use a spatula to gently stir until the popcorn is well coated.
  • Transfer the popcorn to the prepared baking sheets, making sure the popcorn is in an even layer.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, to make sure the caramel is evenly coating all the popcorn.
  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Let the popcorn cool on the baking sheets. Enjoy!
easy baked caramel corn

How to Store Caramel Popcorn

Once the caramel corn is completely cool, you can store it in an airtight container on the counter for up to 3 weeks. It is a great make ahead snack for parties or gift giving because it keeps so well. Plus, everyone loves it!

If you want to make the caramel corn extra special, you can drizzle it with melted chocolate after it has cooled. Use your favorite chocolate, milk, semi-sweet, dark, or white chocolate are all good options. After you drizzle the chocolate, make sure you let it sit until the chocolate hardens. Then, you can store it in an airtight container.

Caramel Corn FAQ’s

What kind of popcorn do I use for making caramel corn?

I like to use air popped popcorn. You will need 10 cups for this recipe. I recommend using organic popcorn kernels. I think they pop up better. The popcorn is larger, lighter, and more fluffy!

If you don’t have an air popper, you can make popcorn in a brown paper bag in the microwave. Add ¼ cup of popcorn kernels to a brown paper bag, fold the top over to trap the steam inside, and microwave it on high heat for two to three minutes. You need 10 cups of popcorn so you will have to make a few bags.

You can use microwave popcorn. If you use movie theatre butter popcorn the flavor will be slightly different. And of course, you can pop the popcorn in a pot on the stovetop.

How many popcorn kernels do I need?

You will need about ⅓ cup of popcorn kernels to get 10 cups.

Why do you add baking soda to caramel corn?

Add a little baking soda to the caramel right after it comes off the stove. The caramel will react with the acid (the brown sugar and corn syrup) and bubble and get foamy, filling it with air.

After the caramel cools on the popcorn, the air bubbles inside the caramel will create a softer texture and keep the caramel from turning rock solid. The caramel is crunchy, but still slightly soft in texture, making it easy to bite into.

Can I add nuts to caramel corn?

Yes! After the caramel corn has cooled, you can stir in peanuts, cashews, pecans, or almonds.

Why is my caramel corn chewy and sticky?

You have to bake the caramel corn at a low temperature, stirring frequently, so the popcorn gets evenly coated in a thin layer of the caramel. Baking will also crisp up the popcorn. Make sure you allow the popcorn to cool completely, it will get crispier as it cools.

More Easy Sweet Treats

Caramel Corn

Homemade Caramel Corn-sweet and crunchy caramel corn is easy to make and always a favorite snack! It’s a great make-ahead recipe for a parties, game day, movie nights, or gift giving!

  • 10 cups popped popcorn*
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling on popcorn, optional
  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat baking mats. You can place the popped popcorn on the baking sheets and put them In the oven while you make the caramel so the popcorn Is warm. Warm popcorn will make it easier to coat the popcorn In caramel.

  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and salt; and stir until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is boiling, let it boil for 4 minutes without stirring.

  • Remove immediately from the heat and carefully stir in the vanilla extract and baking soda. The mixture will bubble up.

  • Transfer the warm popcorn into a very large bowl or 2 bowls. Pour the hot caramel over the popped corn. Use a spatula to gently stir until the popcorn is well coated.

  • Transfer the popcorn back to the prepared baking sheets, making sure the popcorn is in an even layer.

  • Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, to make sure the caramel is evenly coating all the popcorn.

  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Let the popcorn cool on the baking sheets. Enjoy!

I use air popped popcorn, but you can use microwave popcorn or pop it on the stove. 
Store caramel corn in an airtight container on the counter for 2 to 3 weeks.
You can double this recipe, but don’t overcrowd the pans, just use 4 pans. 

Calories: 194kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 220mg, Potassium: 57mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 23g, Vitamin A: 254IU, Calcium: 19mg, Iron: 1mg

Have you tried this recipe?

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