Caramel popcorn is much easier to make than you think! Homemade caramel popcorn is made by coating freshly popped popcorn with a honey caramel mixture, then baking in the oven until set.
Table of contents
- Caramel Popcorn
- Caramel for Caramel Popcorn
- How to make Caramel Popcorn
- Secrets for the Best Caramel Popcorn
- How to make Popcorn
- The Best Popcorn Kernels to use for Caramel Corn
- Caramel Popcorn Flavour Variations
- FAQ for Caramel Popcorn
- A few wee tips for Homemade Caramel Popcorn
- For more Popcorn Recipes, Check out:
- Made this recipe and love it?
- A note on salt and oven temperature
- Why is this recipe in grams?
Hi hi! Just popping in to share this recipe for Caramel Popcorn! As a popcorn connoisseur, I've eaten more than my fair share of caramel corn in my life, and this has to be some of the best I've made. Homemade Caramel popcorn is so much easier to make than you think - you make a simple caramel and pour it over freshly popped popcorn, then bake the whole thing in the oven on low temperature to make sure that the popcorn is evenly coated.
I love making popcorn at home. This easy caramel popcorn recipe would go super well paired with my homemade kettle corn recipe too.
Caramel for Caramel Popcorn
The caramel component of this homemade caramel popcorn is super easy. A lot of recipes use corn syrup but I am not easily able to find that in New Zealand, so I make my caramel popcorn without corn syrup and use honey, which acts as an invert sugar in the recipe. You could also use an equal quantity of golden syrup. The caramel sauce recipe is super simple and just uses butter, brown sugar, honey, salt, vanilla extract, and baking soda.
It is important to bring the caramel up to the correct temperature when you are cooking it. This ensures that the caramel gets hot enough that it will set hard on the popcorn.
I use a candy thermometer to bring it to 250°f / 121°c. I haven't made it without a thermometer unfortunately so I am not sure on the cooking time without one sorry!
How to make Caramel Popcorn
There are a few steps to making Caramel Corn, but the process itself is fairly hands off and it is easy to make a big batch to have on hand!
- Make your popcorn: I do microwave popcorn and make it in a silicone popcorn maker that goes in the microwave. I love it so much, and it is mess free. You can use whatever method you like to make fresh popcorn. Spread it over a lined baking sheet - leave any unpopped kernels behind.
- Prepare the caramel: The caramel is made by adding almost all the ingredients and cooking to a certain temperature on the stove (250°f / 121°c, or the 'hard ball stage'). Baking soda is then added to help aerate. This goes quite quick so make sure you have your baking soda ready to go.
- Pour the caramel over the popcorn: Once you have the caramel all ready to go, it gets poured over the popcorn and given a good stir. This part is a bit tricky and the caramel will seem super sticky but just keep at it - it gets there eventually!
- Bake the caramel corn: Once the popcorn is coated in caramel, it goes into the oven for 30 minutes at a low temperature at 250°f / 120°c, and stirred often to help the caramel coat each piece of popcorn.
- Remove from the oven and cool: I like to have a second sheet pan ready for this part so that the pieces of popcorn can be separated out so they aren't clumpy.
- Store: Super important to keep caramel corn in an airtight container!
Secrets for the Best Caramel Popcorn
I have a couple of wee tricks I came across while I was testing and researching the recipe for this Homemade Caramel Popcorn. While the recipe itself is a super simple concept, there are a few things which really make a big difference to how the caramel corn comes out.
- Low and Slow Baking: This helps to slowly melt down the caramel without burning it, so that as you stir, the popcorn gets evenly coated in caramel.
- Add in some non-caramel popcorn pieces: This is my secret trick for the BEST caramel popcorn. To me, it tastes best when you have a variation of caramel coating on the pieces - so some more heavily coated than others. To do this, I hold back a couple of handfuls of the popcorn, and add them throughout the process. One handful goes in just after the caramel is added, and the other goes in just after it comes out of the oven.
- Stir often: Once the popcorn is baking, you want to stir it often to get a nice even coating.
- Separate when cooling: This step is a quick one but helps to keep the popcorn from clumping. Once it is cool enough to handle, separate out the pieces and leave them to cool individually. They harden quite quickly but it is more enjoyable to eat when you have individual pieces of caramel corn.
How to make Popcorn
To make popcorn for caramel corn, you can use your favorite method. I use a silicon popcorn maker which can go in the microwave. I have owned this for a few years and it works great.
Popcorn made on the stovetop works too - to do this I like to test the oil with a few kernels first. When they pop, you are good to add the rest of your popcorn and get it popping.
Popcorn is great to be made ahead of time - just make sure that you store it in an airtight container or ziploc bag to help it stay fresh.
The Best Popcorn Kernels to use for Caramel Corn
A few years ago I started making popcorn a few times a week for an afternoon snack, and found myself one afternoon on the internet down a deep popcorn kernel rabbit hole. There's a whole load of different types of popcorn which all give varying results of the popped corn. My favourite to use for Caramel Corn is Mushroom Popcorn Kernels, which give the big puffy popcorn pieces. You can use whatever you have on hand - i've given a weight measurement for the kernels for this reason. Feel free to pop a little extra just to make sure that you have enough so you can add some more in if you need!
Caramel Popcorn Flavour Variations
There are a few ways you can spice up your homemade caramel corn! I love it plain, but here are a few ideas:
- Tahini Caramel Corn: After you stir in the baking soda, add in 50g of tahini to the mixture. It will make the caramel look a little strange, but proceed with the recipe as directed.
- Peanut Caramel Popcorn: During the last 10 minutes of baking the caramel corn, add a big handful of roasted peanuts, or another nut of your choice - pecans or cashews would be great. Mix around to make sure that it gets nice and coated in the caramel. If your nuts are not toasted, add them at the beginning of the baking process, so they toast along with the popcorn.
FAQ for Caramel Popcorn
Can you make caramel popcorn ahead of time?
Yep! If you cool it properly so it's nice and dry, this will store super well in an airtight container.
How do you store caramel corn?
Store caramel corn in an airtight container that seals well. Stored this way it should keep for up to two weeks.
Can this recipe be doubled?
Yes, this caramel popcorn recipe can easily be doubled. Make one big batch of honey caramel and pour it over two sheet pans of popcorn. Just make sure you switch their position in the oven once or twice while you are baking, and mix it all up at the end in case one batch got a bit more caramel than the other.
A few wee tips for Homemade Caramel Popcorn
- It's going to feel like the caramel isn't going to coat the kernels properly. Don't freak out - as you stir them in the oven, they get a really nice coating.
- I like to spread the caramel caramel corn out to dry over two sheet pans. This means the pieces of popcorn dry individually, and don't stick to each other when it comes to storing.
- I clipped my parchment paper down with binder clips to my sheet pan, so that when I was stirring the popcorn, it didn't go anywhere.
- Things move fast once you are making the caramel, so make sure that you have your popcorn ready to go on the sheet pan. It may help to have a second set of hands to help quickly stir if you can. Don't worry too much about coating every piece - as it bakes in the oven the caramel melts down and coats the popcorn.
For more Popcorn Recipes, Check out:
Made this recipe and love it?
I would LOVE for you to leave me a review below to let me know how you liked it! Make sure to tag me on Instagram if you make it!
A note on salt and oven temperature
It is important to note the type of salt that is called for in a recipe. I use Diamond Crystal salt throughout my recipes - if you use a different sort of kosher salt or regular table salt you will need to adjust accordingly as some salt is 'saltier' than others. Morton's salt is twice as salty, so you will need half the quantity. Same goes for a regular table salt. I am working to get gram measurements throughout my recipes for salt but still getting there.
All oven temperatures are conventional unless otherwise stated. If you are baking on fan, you will need to adjust the temperature. An oven thermometer is a great investment to ensure that your oven is the correct temperature.
Why is this recipe in grams?
I post my recipes in grams as it is the most accurate way to bake. Cups are not only inaccurate but they vary in volume worldwide. There is no way for me to provide one cup measure that works for everyone. However, posting in weight fixes this issue. If you would like the recipe in cups you are welcome to convert it yourself via google, but please do not ask me to do it for you as I am not comfortable providing a recipe using a method that I have not tested. Baking with a scale is easy, accurate, and also makes cleanup super simple. Here is the scale that I use if you would like a recommendation! Here's to accurate baking!Print
Caramel popcorn is much easier to make than you think! Homemade caramel popcorn is made by coating freshly popped popcorn with a honey caramel mixture, then baking in the oven until set. This post is the ultimate guide on how to make the best caramel popcorn.
- 90g popcorn kernels of your choice, freshly popped
- 115g light or dark brown sugar
- 85g unsalted butter, cut into chunks (cold from the fridge is fine)
- 75g honey
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- ½ tsp baking soda, sifted
- Flaky sea salt to finish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 250°f / 120°c. Line two baking sheets with Parchment Paper, clipping with binder clips if desired.
- Spread popcorn onto one of the baking sheets. Remove two big handfuls of popcorn and place in a small bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, and honey. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil, and cook until it registers 250°f / 121°c on a thermometer.
- Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla, then add the baking soda and whisk to combine. It will foam up, so use caution. Pour the caramel over the popcorn. It is ok to just pour one big puddle of it and mix it around afterward.
- Stir well to combine - this may feel like it is going to take a while but just keep stirring. Once most of the popcorn is covered with the caramel, add one big handful of the reserved popcorn and stir to incorporate.
- Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake the popcorn for 30 minutes, stirring well every 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the remaining plain popcorn, and mix lightly to incorporate. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
- Transfer half of the popcorn to the second sheet pan, then using your hands, separate out the pieces of popcorn so that none of them are touching.
- Leave to cool completely, about 30-40 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container.
Have your baking soda pre-measured and your popcorn on the sheet pan before starting the caramel as it can go quite quickly.
If you are not using kosher salt, use less as it is likely more salty (see notes above the recipe)
Keywords: Caramel Corn, Caramel Popcorn, homemade caramel corn