How to Make Homemade Caramel Corn

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Homemade caramel corn is easy to make, and is an addictively delicious treat. This caramel corn recipe has been a family favorite since I was a kid, and though I've tried other recipes, I always come back to this one. It's perfect.

Tried and true recipe for homemade caramel corn.

The Irish step dancing party (celebrating my friend passing her T.C.R.G. exam) happened to fall the week before St. Patrick's Day this year. What perfect timing! And because it was so close to St. Patrick's day, I couldn't resist a little bit of kitsch--a pot full of golden caramel corn for the dessert table.

What more delicious kind of edible gold could you imagine?

Caramel corn in a black plastic cauldron for St. Patrick's day.

A cauldron (found in our stash of Halloween decorations) and this delightful golden treat made the perfect addition to the dessert table. Little nibbles of crunchy, salty-sweet delight, easy to grab and go.

Homemade caramel corn ingredients on a wooden cutting board.

How to Make Homemade Caramel Corn

  • 4-5 quarts of popped popcorn. NO unpopped kernels!
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup light Karo syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

1) Pop popcorn (equal to 4 to 5 quarts once popped) in an air popper, on the stovetop, or in the microwave. I don't mean to say that microwave popcorn is an option (for one thing, that would be expensive!). I simply mean that there are some cool tools for making your own microwave popcorn. I really love my Nordicware microwave popcorn bowl.

Popcorn popped in a Nordicware microwave popcorn popping bowl

No oil necessary--just 1/3 of a cup of popcorn, 3 minutes in the microwave, and I have popcorn! Couldn't be easier. And it doesn't overheat and stop working like so many air poppers do. Plus, it's easier to store than a bulky air popper. If you don't want to buy a gadget, you can even use your own brown paper lunch bag to make microwave popcorn with no crazy artificial ingredients.

Popped popcorn in a large metal roasting pan for making homemade caramel corn.

1) Put popped popcorn in a large roasting dish.

Important Tip for Making Caramel Corn:

  • Be very, VERY sure you don't get any unpopped popcorn kernels in the roasting pan. If you do, those unpopped kernels et all coated with the caramel and hidden in the clusters of delicious caramel corn. You could break a tooth crunching down on one of those unpopped kernels. So don't let them into the baking pan in the first place.

2) Put brown sugar, butter, karo syrup, salt, and molasses together in a large saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally until bubbly at the edges. Continue cooking over medium heat for five minutes.

Caramel for caramel corn being cooked in a saucepan on the stove.

Remove the caramel mixture from heat, and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will foam up.

3) Pour over popcorn, stirring until the corn is well coated.

Caramel corn in a large roasting pan being stirred with a wooden spoon.

4) Bake at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Tip for Cooling Caramel Corn:

  • Let cool on parchment lined sheet pans. Don't leave it in the large baking pan you used, or you'll end up with one solid, giant hunk of caramel corn. Delicious, but really very difficult to break apart without pulverizing the popcorn kernels. Letting it cool in a single layer is MUCH easier. Learned that one the hard way.

Homemade caramel corn in white paper bags decorated with rainbows and shamrocks.

Caramel Corn Add-Ins:

  • Add pieces of freeze dried apples to make amazing Caramel Apple Caramel Corn
  • Add peanuts to the caramel corn for a bit of ballpark crunch
  • Add pretzels to the caramel corn for a sweet and salty treat
  • Add chocolate chips when the popcorn is still hot and stir well to coat for a caramel and chocolate treat (a perfect flavor pair).

Printable, One Page Caramel Corn Recipe:

Click on the image below to get a one page PDF version of the caramel corn recipe.

Navigational image leading reader to one page, printable caramel corn recipe.

Other Popcorn Recipes You Might Like:

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Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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