Caramel Corn

Classic caramel corn recipe, with freshly popped popcorn and caramel sauce made with brown sugar, butter, molasses, and corn syrup. Photos, step-by-step instructions.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

The memory has faded some, but the feeling of pure joy is as strong as ever—dad coming home and pulling out from behind his back, to the raucous squeals of us kids, boxes of Cracker Jack, caramel corn that rattled when you shook the box. (Remember those commercials?)

We had to have our own box, couldn’t possibly share, because each box had a surprise gift and we each had to have our own gift. (Is that brilliant marketing or what?) No wonder I love caramel corn.

Caramel Corn

Caramel Corn Recipe

  • Yield: Makes about 5 quarts.

Caramel corn is quite easy to make, just don't attempt to make it (or any candy) on a humid day. Be careful as the caramel sauce is quite hot; as a safety precaution do not have children running underfoot while making this recipe.


  • 4-5 quarts popped popcorn (a double batch of this popcorn recipe, unsalted, unbuttered)
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups salted peanuts (optional)


1 Heat oven to 225°F. Place popcorn in large roasting pan; set aside.

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2 Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses and salt in a thick-bottomed, 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer reaches 250°F or small amount of mixture dropped in ice water forms a hard ball (about 12 to 14 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. The caramel will foam up a little and turn a lighter color when you add the baking soda.

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3 Carefully pour hot mixture over the popcorn in a large roasting pan. (If you would like peanuts with your popcorn, sprinkle the salted peanuts over the caramel sauce at this point.) Using a wooden spoon, stir until all popcorn is coated. (Be careful not to let the caramel touch you; it's very hot.) Place in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir to more evenly coat the popcorn with the caramel sauce. Return to oven. Continue cooking for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately spread caramel corn out onto waxed paper. Let cool completely. Break into bite-sized pieces. Store in tightly covered container.

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Showing 4 of 24 Comments

  • Couldn't Be Parve

    This sounds delicious. Just a quick question. How long will this caramel popcorn last before it gets stale? I want to make some for gifts and am wondering how far ahead I can make it. Thanks

    Don’t know. We usually eat it up within minutes. ~Elise

  • Mrs4444

    This is exactly the same recipe my family’s used for generations. One tip I would add is to take the time to remove any seeds at the end–Dental work is such a DRAG!

  • Elsa

    It was my first time popping my own popcorn and everything turned out great! I visit this site religiously and have used multiple recipes from here. Thanks for all the good recipes and the nice helpful tips along with it!

  • Lydia

    Made this tonight it was terriffic! Made a few modifications… 6 bags of microwave popcorn. Cut bag on the butter, didn’t have corn syrup so I used pancake syrup. The molasses really added nice flavor! We used about 6 quarts of popcorn because the caramel was so sweet. I like my caramel corn googey and hot so omited the baking. Will deffinatly make this again!! New family favorite!!

  • Meena

    re: the baking soda question. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) acts as base and reacts with an acid (the molasses, the brown sugar) to form carbon dioxide and water. My guess is that the function of the tiny carbon dioxide bubbles is to create pockets of “air” as the sugar cools and reforms its crystalline structure. I believe this makes the brittle, the caramel, etc. easier to bite through versus biting into a completely solid block of hardened candy – like breaking through three layers of giant bubble wrap, versus punching through a a 3-inch-thich layer of saran wrap.

    Thank you for the explanation of the chemistry Meena, it makes sense. ~Elise

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