Caramel Corn

Have a craving? This utterly snackable homemade caramel corn recipe is easier to make than you’d guess. Make a batch for giving or keeping.

Caramel Corn
Elise Bauer

The memory has faded some, but the feeling of pure joy is as strong as ever—my father 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!

homemade caramel corn in bowl
Elise Bauer

Tips to Ensure Great Caramel Corn

  • Pick through the popped corn to remove any un-popped kernels.
  • Don’t try to prepare on a humid day.
  • Make sure you have nothing else happening while you’re cooking — this requires your full attention.
  • Use a candy thermometer.
  • Use an oven-proof, heavy-bottomed pot that holds at least 2 quarts — the syrup will foam a lot from the baking soda.

Storage Tips for Homemade Caramel Corn

Caramel corn keeps well and actually improves a few hours after it’s made...so don't eat all of it immediately.

  • Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.
  • Put the lid back on the container immediately after removing a portion to eat to keep moisture out.
  • Stick some silica gel packets in the container to absorb moisture and ensure your caramel corn doesn’t get sticky.

Switch Up the Syrup

  • Reduce the corn syrup, if you like, and increase the molasses for more molasses flavor.
  • Omit the molasses if you don’t have any. No need to substitute anything for it.
  • Replace the dark corn syrup with light.

An Easy Method of Making Caramel Corn

A suggestion from commenter Sang: Throw the popcorn and the hot syrup mixture in a paper bag (the big ones from the grocery store) and toss them around until all the kernels are evenly coated.

Use a heavy-duty paper bag and hold it from the top, not the bottom. Make sure to fold the top of the bag over well so no hot syrup can fly out and burn your skin while tossing.

How to Make Popcorn Balls

It’s easy to form popcorn balls from this recipe. Follow these tips.

  • Have a parchment-lined tray ready when you begin.
  • When the caramel corn is cool enough to handle but still pliable, work quickly with buttered hands to form it into balls in whatever size you like.
  • Let the balls cool for a few hours, and then wrap in plastic wrap.
  • If you have them, stick some silica gel packets in the container to absorb moisture and ensure your caramel popcorn balls don't get sticky.
  • Tightly covered popcorn balls will keep up to 7 days.

More Great Homemade Candy Recipes

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Caramel Corn

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 60 mins
Total Time 70 mins
Servings 40
Yield 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.

Ingredients

  • 4 to 5 quarts popped popcorn (a double batch of this popcorn recipe, unsalted, unbuttered), any un-popped kernels removed

  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup

  • 1 tablespoon molasses

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 cups salted peanuts (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven:

    Preheat the oven to 225°F.

  2. Get the popcorn ready:

    Place the already popped popcorn in a large roasting pan. Pick through it to remove any unpopped kernels.

  3. Bring the sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses, and salt to a boil:

    Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses, and salt in an oven-proof, thick-bottomed, 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture comes to a full boil.

    How to make caramel for caramel corn
    Elise Bauer
    How to make homemade caramel corn
    Elise Bauer
  4. Bring the caramel to 250°F:

    Clip a candy thermometer to the pot.

    Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the candy thermometer reaches 250°F, or a small amount of mixture dropped in ice water forms a hard ball (about 12 to 14 minutes).

    Making caramel for caramel corn
    Elise Bauer
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in baking soda:

    The caramel will foam up a little and turn a lighter color when you add the baking soda.

    how to make caramel corn at home
    Elise Bauer
  6. Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn:

    Carefully pour the caramel into the popcorn that's in the 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.)

    spread caramel over popcorn
    Elise Bauer
  7. Cook in the oven:

    Place in the oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

    Remove from oven and stir to more evenly coat the popcorn with the caramel sauce.

    Return to oven. Continue cooking for 20 minutes more.

  8. Remove from oven and spread:

    Immediately the spread caramel corn out onto parchment paper or a silicone mat.

    Let cool completely. Break into bite-sized pieces. Store in a tightly covered container.

    spread caramel corn over parchment paper
    Elise Bauer
    spread caramel over popcorn
    Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
153 Calories
10g Fat
16g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 40
Amount per serving
Calories 153
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 12%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 12mg 4%
Sodium 138mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 16mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 79mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.