Easy Caramel Popcorn Recipe, simple, homemade and delicious. Only requiring a few ingredients- you will make this caramel corn recipe time and time again.
It gets rave reviews from everyone who tries it and makes the perfect gift for holidays! Whip up a batch for a bbq or potluck, or just make it for your family at home.
It’s so hard not to eat up the entire batch every time I make it!
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Why I love this caramel corn recipe:
- It requires only a handful of ingredients
- The caramel corn is really easy to make
- It produces a deliciously sweet and crunchy treat every time
- It makes an excellent homemade gift
What ingredients do you need?
- 3 bags of Buttered Popcorn
- Brown Sugar- dark or light
- Corn Syrup- I use light but dark works too!
- Baking Soda
I learned how to make caramel corn from a dear friend and mentor from my church where I grew up. Her and her family were farmers and she is the sweetest, most patient person.
She taught me how to can jelly, how to sew, and how to make delicious homemade dishes like biscuits and this caramel popcorn.
When it came time for my wedding, I knew I wanted to give out this caramel corn as a party favor. She was the sweetest friend and made all of it.
The we got to sit around and visit while we bagged and labeled all 200 baggies.
The labels were so cute too- they said “Thanks for popping by!”
Anyways, this caramel corn is amazing, easy to make, and so good I had it at my wedding.
From the many batches I’ve made since learning how to make homemade caramel corn I have tweaked it just a bit for optimal caramel covering and figured out how to make the perfect caramel corn at high altitude- which I explain a little further below!
How to make caramel corn?
- Pop your popcorn and remove the unpopped kernels. Then divide popcorn between two large rimmed and parchment lined baking sheets.
- Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a sauce pan and melt. Stirring to combine.
- Once combined, stop stirring and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes then remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda.
- Pour over the popcorn, stir to coat, then bake 1 hour. Stir the popcorn every 15 minutes (so 4 times).
- Then remove from oven, allow to cool, and enjoy to your hearts content.
High Altitude Adjustments
How to adjust for high altitude when making for caramel corn
If you are at high altitude, I recommend reducing the time spent boiling by 30 seconds for each 1000 ft above sea level. So, for me, I live close to 4000 ft above sea level and boiled my sugar mixture for only 3 minutes.
Wanting to be thorough I measured the temperature after 3 minutes and it reached 241°F which is a perfect adjustment for my altitude.
If you don’t reduce the time and live at high altitude your sugar/caramel mixture will be thick and grainy. This is because water boils faster (and at a lower temperature) the higher in altitude you go.
Therefore, for the correct consistency at high altitudes you either need to increase the amount of liquids or decrease the amount of cooking time or temperature needed to be reached.
Here you can see the difference between reducing the time boiling and not does to the caramel. Have no worries though- both were still tasty and eaten up quickly- even if one was a bit grainier!
Don't miss these tips!
#1: Get rid of unpopped kernels by placing a cooling rack over a baking sheet and then pour the popcorn onto the cooling rack.
The unpopped kernels will fall through the cooling rack leaving all the popped popcorn on top. Easy peasy!
#2: Once all your sugar and butter are melted and combined and are starting to boil STOP stirring.
#3: Stir the popcorn every 15 minutes in the oven to help evenly coat all the pieces in caramel.
Caramel Corn FAQs
Do you stir caramel while cooking.
No. You stop stirring so that the caramel won’t splash onto the inside of the saucepan. If that happens it will cool and start to crystalize, and if that crystallization reaches the entire batch, it will set off a chain reaction of crystallization leading to grainy caramel.
Professionals will use a little water and a pastry brush and clean the sides of the sauce pan in addition to not stirring- but they have to be much more careful about their process since it’s their job.
However, for us at home, if you just stop stirring when it starts to boil it will be fine.
What temperature should the caramel be when it’s done boiling? Will it burn?
Caramel should be between 245-250°F after boiling for 5 minutes (see high altitude adjustments below)
It won’t burn. Sugar has to get 350°F and your caramel should be well below that.
Now 5 minutes over medium heat should be sufficient to bring it to temperature without having to actually use a thermometer- that being said if you do want to check with a candy thermometer go for it.
I love using my Thermoworks thermometer (the dash or the thermapen) for checking candy temperatures. It’s an easy to use, fast, and accurate way to get the temperature of anything you are making in the kitchen!
Why bake caramel corn?
Baking the caramel corn allows the caramel to create that nice crunchy crisp shell over the popcorn that we all love. The process of baking, stirring, and repeating for an hour is to ensure a nice even coating of caramel and the nice crunch.
This easy caramel popcorn recipe is simple, delicious, and satisfies any sweet tooth! It’s perfect to give as a gift or to enjoy with your family.
How do you keep caramel corn crisp?
Store the caramel corn in an airtight container. This will keep moisture out.
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Watch how to make this recipe!
Easy Caramel Popcorn Recipe
- 3 bags of popped popcorn
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Line 2 baking sheets with foil or parchment paper and preheat oven to 250°F.
- Pop bags of popcorn in the microwave. (3 bags of buttered popcorn)
- Remove unpopped kernels by placing a cooling rack over a baking sheet and pouring the popcorn onto it. The kernels will fall through but not the popped popcorn. Divide popcorn between prepared baking sheets.
- Melt butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in sauce pan, bring to a boil stirring constantly. (1 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, ½ cup corn syrup, ½ teaspoon salt)
- Once at a boil let boil 5 minutes* without stirring*. For high altitude instructions see notes below.
- Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. The caramel will foam up a bit- this is normal. (1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla)
- Pour over popcorn (half goes on each tray) and stir to coat the popcorn.
- Bake for an hour stirring every 15 minutes.
- Once done baking, allow to cool and then enjoy! *
- *If you are at high altitude, I recommend reducing the time spent boiling by 30 seconds for each 1000 ft above sea level. So, for me, I live close to 4000 ft above sea level and boiled my sugar mixture for only 3 minutes.
- If you don’t reduce the time and live at high altitude your sugar/caramel mixture will be thick and grainy. It will taste good but not have the smooth finish. See post above for photo examples.
- *Stop stirring once the mixture starts to boil. This prevents the sugar from crystalizing and the caramel from becoming grainy.
- * Store any leftover caramel corn in an air tight zip lock baggie.