Caramel Coated Popcorn Is the Ultimate Salty-Sweet Treat

When I think about eating caramel coated popcorn as a kid, the first thing that comes to mind is the crunchy and chewy texture. I remember gobbling it up in handfuls, in massive amounts. It was as if, if I stopped, the rest would surely disappear.

Vertical overhead image of a white ceramic bowl full of caramel popcorn, with more scattered around it in soft focus, on a white cloth, printed with white and orange text near the top and at the bottom of the frame.

For a child, and even as an adult, this is a very real fear when you are eating something so downright tasty.

This simple treat also makes me think of movie nights. Do you have these with your family?

For my mom and I, this was a weekly occurrence, and it was an event. We would go to the store, very Gilmore Girls-like, and raid the popcorn, candy, and other aisles, picking up as many treats as we could get our hands on.

We would skip dinner and gorge ourselves on junk food on a picnic blanket in the center of our living room floor, right in front of the television.

Vertical overhead image of a white ceramic bowl of popcorn, with more scatted on a folded and gathered white cloth with a red border.

I remember those nights so fondly, and I wish it was something that my husband and I recreated at home. Perhaps it’s something that is more fun when you have children in the house, but I think it would still be just as enjoyable as an adult.

But maybe we won’t skip dinner and eat nothing but junk food… Our metabolisms aren’t exactly what they used to be, after all.

Even today, caramel corn is one of those snacks that is an absolute must when I watch movies.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why more movie theaters don’t feature the chewy and sweet snack.

Vertical image of a white ceramic bowl of popcorn with more scattered on a white cloth with a red border, with a gray background.

It offers the ideal balance. The texture and flavor makes you feel like you are eating a sweet candy treat, but with the right popcorn, you get a tiny hint of salt that’s oh-so-tasty.

Did you know that making this homemade gourmet popcorn is actually a very simple process? It’s not one that you have to fuss over like you might think, with candy thermometers and special tools.

Instead, the caramel is created from a simple sauce that you can make on the stove. You coat the popcorn with it, and then you let your oven do the rest of the work.

Overhead vertical image of a white ceramic bowl of homemade caramel corn, with more scattered on the folded and gathered white and red cloth below.

The best part is that this homemade caramel corn tastes so much better than anything you can buy at the store.

I don’t know if this is because it’s made fresh at home, or maybe it’s the flavor of the caramel sauce itself, but you can really taste the difference with each mouthful. Not to mention, your entire house will smell like sweet caramel – an added bonus!

Vertical head-on image of a glass jar overflowing with homemade caramel corn, with more scattered on a folded and gathered white cloth, with a white bowl of the snack in soft focus in the background, against a mottled blue and white backdrop.

I like to make this in a big batch like the recipe indicates. You end up with about 20 cups in the end, and that’s plenty to munch on throughout many movies.

You can also think about bagging up your homemade snacks to give them out as holiday gifts or party favors. I’ll talk about this more at the end of the article, so keep reading through to the end for my tips!

Vertical overhead image of a glass jar on its side with caramel corn spilling out of it onto a white cloth with a red border.

This melt-in-your-mouth homemade recipe is truly delightful, and you really don’t need to worry about it being too complicated to make at home. Before you know it, it will be time to sit back and enjoy the movie.

Maybe you’ll even get out that picnic blanket and spread it out in front of the TV, and start a new tradition in your household.

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Horizontal overhead image of a white creamic bowl of caramel coated popcorn, on a white cloth with a red border, with scattered pieces of the candy-coated popcorn.

Caramel Coated Popcorn


  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings 1x

Description

Easy caramel coated popcorn is a family favorite that everyone will be gobbling down as soon as it is cool enough to touch.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 10 cups air-popped popcorn (about 1/3 cup popcorn kernels)
  • Cooking oil spray
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250˚F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the popcorn in a large bowl, one that is big enough for the popcorn to be tossed in. Spray two spatulas or large silicone or metal spoons with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. To make the caramel, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in corn syrup, brown sugar, and salt with a spatula until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.
  4. When the mixture is boiling, stop stirring and let boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla extract. Be careful, as the mixture will bubble up and become frothy. Once combined, pour the caramel over the popcorn.
  5. Use the prepared spatulas or spoons to toss the popcorn with the sauce, until the popcorn is evenly coated.
  6. Spread in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  7. Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes. The popcorn should be crispy when it’s done, so be sure to test it at 40 minutes and return to the oven for another 10 minutes if necessary.
  8. Cool completely on the baking sheet before breaking apart. Store in resealable bags.

  • Category: Snacks
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Snacks

Keywords: caramel, caramel popcorn, popcorn, caramel corn

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Pop Popcorn and Measure All Remaining Ingredients

Pop enough popcorn until you have 10 cups total (about 1/3 cup popcorn kernels).

Measure out all remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.

Horizontal overhead image of two small round and two small square bowls of vanilla, baking soda, salt, and light corn syrup, a medium-sized stainless steel bowl of light brown sugar, and a large stainless steel bowl of plain popcorn, with two sticks of butter in waxed paper printed with red text, on a sponge-painted blue-gray surface.

Preheat your oven to 250˚F. Line one large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add popcorn to a large bowl, making sure the bowl is much larger than the amount of popcorn.

Spray two spatulas or large silicone or metal spoons with cooking spray and set aside.

Step 2 – Make Caramel Sauce

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, stir in corn syrup, brown sugar, and salt with a clean silicone or rubber spatula. Continue to stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Horizontal overhead image of a green and black rubber spatula stirring brown sugar into a caramel mixture in a saucepan, on a gray surface.

Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir frequently as the mixture cooks.

Horizontal overhead image of a stainless steel saucepan of caramel sauce with a green rubber spatula with a black handle, on a gray surface.

Once it’s boiling, stop stirring and let boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla extract. The mixture will bubble and froth, so be careful when adding these ingredients.

Step 3 – Coat

As soon as the sauce is ready, pour it over the popcorn.

Vertical closeup overhead image of two red silicone spatulas with wood handles, being used to toss popcorn with a homemade caramel sauce in a large stainless steel bowl, on a gray surface.

Use the prepared spatulas or spoons to toss the popcorn until it is evenly coated.

Spread the popcorn in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Step 4 – Bake

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes.

The popcorn should be crispy when done. Test at 40 minutes and return to the oven for another 10 minutes if needed.

Horizontal image of caramel coated popcorn on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Cool completely on the baking sheet before breaking apart. Serve or store in resealable bags.

Give the Gift of Caramel Coated Goodness

If you are willing to share this snack, I think the best idea is to make a double batch and give some away as gifts.

I like to add caramel corn to mason jars and tie ribbons around the lids for a cute gift that recipients can enjoy, in a receptacle that they can also reuse. In addition, you can also wrap them up in resealable bags with ribbon and add them to a gift basket for the ideal movie night in.

Either way, people will adore the thought – and they’ll never know it took you so little effort to make.

Horizontal overhead image of a white creamic bowl of caramel coated popcorn, on a white cloth with a red border, with scattered pieces of the candy-coated popcorn.

Would you like more snacks to make your movie night (or afternoon playtime) easier? Try these Foodal favorites:

What are your favorite memories with caramel corn? Tell us in the comments below. Be sure to come back to rate the recipe once you try it.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on October 25, 2011. Last updated: October 6, 2019 at 19:00 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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