Homemade Caramel Corn

Our caramel corn is covered in the sweetest caramel coating, then baked in the oven to crispy crunchy perfection! It’s a long time family favorite.

This treat is two of my favorite things in one! Popcorn + Caramel. To get even more of a  caramel fix, try Salted Caramel Peanut Clusters or Microwave Salted Caramels

A batch of caramel corn in a white bowl

Homemade is Always Better!

Growing up, my grandma would always make huge batches of caramel corn. She’d give bags of it to all of her grandchildren… we loved it! I’m a sucker for sweet and salty so when Stephen and I were looking for something to snack on, I knew exactly what to make!

This caramel corn is really easy, can be made in advance, and the results are always amazing (trust me, I’ve eaten my fair share of it over the years). However, this was my first time making it, so I was extra careful to not burn the “caramel” and to stir frequently while it was in the oven.

It came out looking good and tasting right, so I guess that proves it is foolproof after all ;). I did toss in some roasted peanuts (which makes it more of a cracker jack), some sea salt, and added vanilla bean paste just to give it a little more flavor, which it did. Mmmm!

I’ll warn you now, this stuff is addictive, it’s like cracker jack crack! 

Freshly popped popcorn to use in caramel corn recipe

Ingredient Tips

Popcorn: it’s always better to use freshly popped corn, because the caramel mixture can more easily stick to it. However, you could use a microwave popcorn that’s very plain (definitely not the “extra butter” kind).

Brown Sugar: you can use light or dark brown sugar for this recipe. 

Corn Syrup: make sure it’s light!

Vanilla Bean Paste: this is totally optional, but I loved the extra bit of flavor it added!

Caramel mixture for homemade caramel corn

How to Make Caramel Corn

PREP. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Generously spray or butter one rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

POPCORN. Pop your corn kernels in a dutch oven or popcorn maker. Pour the popcorn into a large mixing bowl (you want extra room to stir).

CARAMEL. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, butter and salt. Bring to a simmer (or a slow boil), stirring often.

You’ll know the mixture is ready when it reads 250 degrees on a candy thermometer (it will take 5 to 6 minutes).Remove from heat, whisk in the vanilla and baking soda.

COAT. Pour the mixture over the popcorn and gently mix until all of the popcorn is coated (stir in peanuts if desired). Pour the coated popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading it out evenly.

BAKE. Place in oven and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let pan cool on a wire rack for 25 minutes. When caramel corn has cooled, break up into chunks. Serve or store for up to one week.

Why do you need to bake it? It helps the texture become crisper, instead of chewy and sticky.

How to make caramel corn by baking on a sheet pan in the oven

Storing + Gifting

Keep leftover popcorn STORED in an airtight container or sealed bag on the counter. Before storing the popcorn you need to make sure that it’s cooled completely, or else the condensation will make your popcorn chewy. It will last about a week before getting stale.

Caramel corn also makes for a great GIFT! Here are some ideas for giving it to a friend or neighbor:

  • Put it in a cellophane treat bag and tie with cute ribbon
  • Place inside a mason jar and attach a tag
  • Store it inside a metal treat tin (common at craft stores, especially around the holidays)
  • Use a brown paper gift bag with a treat “window”—also found at craft stores
Homemade caramel corn in striped popcorn containers

For more popcorn recipes, try:

 

Caramel Corn Recipe

Our caramel corn is covered in the sweetest caramel coating, then baked in the oven to crispy crunchy perfection! It's a long time family favorite.
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Pin Rate
Course: Candy & Snacks
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
Cool Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 35 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 279kcal
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar - packed
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp molasses
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Optional
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Generously spray or butter one rimmed baking sheet, set aside.
  •  In a cold large dutch oven or stock pot with a lid, add oil and pop corn kernels. Coat kernels with oil and turn on heat to medium. Once the first kernel pops (around 2-3 minutes after turning the heat on), place the lid on. Once the kernels have popped and you only hear one every few seconds, remove the pot from the heat. Pour the popcorn into a large mixing bowl (you want extra room to stir).
  •  In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, butter and salt. Bring to a simmer (or a slow boil), stirring often. You’ll know the mixture is ready when it reads 250 degrees on a candy thermometer (it will take 5 to 6 minutes).
  •  Remove from heat, whisk in the vanilla and baking soda. Pour the mixture over the popcorn and gently mix until all of the popcorn is coated (stir in peanuts if desired). Pour the coated popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading it out evenly.
  • Place in oven and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let pan cool on a wire rack for 25 minutes. When caramel corn has cooled, break up into chunks. Serve or store for up to one week.

Nutrition

Serving: 12g | Calories: 279kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 254mg | Potassium: 155mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 236IU | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg