Homemade salted caramel popcorn is a fantastic snack that combines salty popcorn with a rich, sweet caramel coating that you can prep in just 15 minutes. Each fluffy kernel is coated in a homemade caramel sauce made with butter, creating a perfect balance of buttery goodness and caramel sweetness that will have you reaching for handful after handful. It’s a snack that’s sure to please popcorn lovers and caramel enthusiasts alike!
Just the smell of freshly made salted caramel popcorn can bring up so many beautiful memories. Trips to the beach, family movie night, road trips; Like perfectly roasted s’mores, caramel corn is what memories are made of!
Made completely from scratch with real butter and brown sugar, the flavor is scrumptious. But you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make, you don’t even need a candy thermometer.
If you’ve never made your own homemade caramel corn, it will take a little over an hour to cook up a big batch. However, the heavy lifting is done in the first 15 minutes. The rest is just bake-time. As a bonus, your house will smell like the 4th of July with all the gooey caramel ingredients giving off their unmistakable aroma.
Caramel corn is the perfect snack to serve at your kids’ sleepover, with your game day appetizers, or to serve around the pool on a hot afternoon. It just makes everyone smile. This recipe is a lot better in both quality and taste than any store-bought caramel corn, and pairs well with other snacks like Chex Mix or spicy nuts, sweet and savory are a great combo.
Make extra and keep some in the freezer around the holidays for folks to munch on or to give as a gift.
What is homemade caramel made of?
Homemade caramel is typically made of sugar and butter. The sugar is heated until it melts, creating a rich and sweet flavor. Butter is added to provide richness and smoothness to the caramel. While other ingredients are added to help improve or enhance the texture and flavor, these 2 simple ingredients come together to create a magical flavor.
Where did caramel corn come from?
Caramel corn has a long history that dates back to the late 19th century. It became popular at fairs and circuses, where vendors would stir up large pots of caramel and coat freshly popped corn with the sticky goodness of buttery, melted sugar. It became popular at home with the introduction of Cracker Jacks.
Why You’ll Love this Salted Caramel Corn Recipe
- Easy Recipe: This recipe is straightforward and easy to follow. With just a few steps, you’ll have a batch of homemade caramel corn ready to enjoy in no time.
- Irresistible Flavor: Who can pass up caramel!
- Versatile Snack: Homemade caramel corn is a fantastic base for creating different variations. You can add nuts, chocolate drizzle, or even spices to give it a new and unique flavor.
What is light karo syrup?
In this recipe, one of the key ingredients is Karo syrup. Light karo syrup is a type of clear or pale yellow corn syrup that adds a smooth texture and sweetness to the caramel. It also helps prevent the caramel from crystallizing, resulting in a perfect coating for the popcorn. Light does not mean less calories, it refers to the color.
It can be found on the baking aisle or where the maple syrup is in most grocery stores.
Homemade Caramel Popcorn Ingredients
- Popped Popcorn: The star of the show! Start out with fresh popcorn, you’ll want to either pot your own kernels or use plain, unbuttered, and unsalted microwave popcorn. I use a silicone popcorn maker that goes in the microwave, it makes the best popcorn, an air popper also works great.
- Butter: Butter adds richness and flavor to the caramel. You can use either salted or unsalted butter and adjust the salt in the recipe to your liking.
- Light Corn Syrup: Karo syrup, helps create a smooth and glossy caramel coating.
- Light Brown Sugar: Brown sugar brings a lovely caramel flavor and color to the recipe. Feel free to use dark brown sugar for a more intense caramel flavor.
- Baking Soda: This might seem like an odd ingredient but baking soda creates tiny bubbles when combined with brown sugar and butter which will make the caramle creamy.
- Pantry Staples: Salt and vanilla.
How To Make the Best Tasting Caramel Popcorn
Step 1: Make your caramel.
Toss the popped popcorn in a large bowl, big enough to stir it all together with the caramel. Set it aside. On the stovetop, grab a medium saucepan and add in the butter, Karo syrup, and brown sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Step 2: Boil the caramel.
Once the mixture is boiling, add the salt, vanilla, and baking soda.
Step 3: Coat the popcorn.
Pour the mixture over the popcorn and stir well, coating all of the popcorn. You want to stir quickly before the caramel begins to set.
Step 4: Bake the popcorn.
Divide the popcorn between 2 parchment-lined rimmed cookie sheets and spread it out evenly.
Bake until it’s crispy. Let it cool and enjoy every bite!
Tips for Making this Homemade Caramel Corn Recipe
- When you make the popcorn, take a few minutes to sift out any unpopped popcorn kernels. Otherwise, those corn kernels will end up sticking to the popcorn when it gets coated in the caramel, and you’ll end up eating them.
- When you pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn, work quickly before it cools. This is how every bit of popcorn is going to end up coated in the caramel.
- You might be tempted to just eat the popcorn without baking it. But don’t skip the baking step! It’s crucial as it helps the caramel coating to set and become crispy.
- Stirring during the baking process helps make sure nothing burns, so set a timer and don’t forget to stir!
- Use a nice big saucepan to make the caramel. Sometimes, it can bubble up so you want a saucepan that can contain it. Cleaning burnt caramel off your stove isn’t fun.
- Let the popcorn cool fully before storing it. This will dry up any moisture and let the popcorn turn crispy.
How to Store Caramel Popcorn
Caramel corn can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. Keep it sealed and it should stay nice and crispy.
In the freezer: If you want to extend the shelf life of your caramel corn, you can freeze it. Place it in an airtight container or resealable freezer bags and store it in the freezer for up to three months.
What can I add to this easy caramel popcorn recipe?
One of the great things about making caramel corn at home is that you can adjust the recipe if you’d like to change up the flavor. Here are a couple of ways we’ve enjoyed it in the past:
Spiced Caramel Corn – Add a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin spice to the caramel sauce before pouring it over the popcorn. This makes your popcorn taste cozy, like an autumn day, and is perfect for fall parties, Thanksgiving dinner, or Christmas gifts.
Caramel Corn with Nuts: Nuts are the most addition to caramel corn, peanuts or almonds work great.
Chocolate: You can also add some M&M’s for a little chocolate similar to chocolate caramel bark. It’s best to add these after it has finished baking or just throw some in before you eat it.
More Easy Snack Recipes to Love
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Salted Caramel Popcorn with Homemade Caramel
- ⅔ cups popcorn kernels
- 1 cup butter 2 sticks
- ½ cup light karo syrup
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 250ºF. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place popped popcorn in a large bowl. Remove the kernels and set the popcorn aside.
- Add butter, Karo syrup, and brown sugar to a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a rolling boil. Add salt, vanilla, and baking soda. Remove from the heat.
- Pour the hot mixture over the popcorn and quickly stir it so that it coats the popcorn before it sets.
- Pour out onto the two baking sheets and bake for 60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so until it is crispy.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- Remove un-popped kernels.
- Work quickly when adding the caramel to the popcorn so that it doesn’t harden. .
- Don’t forget to stir every 10 minutes or so while it’s baking.