Featuring a thin, crispy-crunchy, delightfully caramelized coating, this Caramel Popcorn is an incredible grazing snack, quirky dessert, or holiday gift! Homemade Caramel Corn is made with simple, pantry-staple ingredients and stays fresh for weeks! If you love this, you will love this Bacon Popcorn and Salted Caramel Popcorn Brownies!
If there’s one thing you should know about the city of Chicago and its inhabitants, it’s that they don’t play with their popcorn. Since 1949, when Garrett’s Popcorn stepped onto the scene, Chicago-style kernels have been an integral part of the city’s food culture, like deep-dish pizza.
Garrett’s founders, Claude and Gladys Garrett, started their business slinging fresh, warm caramel and cheddar cheese popcorn. Noticing that their customers were mixing the two together, the Garrett’s made the ingenious choice to sell the mixture themselves. The rest is history!
I love Garrett’s popcorn, and I enjoyed it pretty often in my childhood. But, honestly, I was the kid who picked out the caramel kernels because savory popcorn wasn’t my jam. I’d carefully pick out the golden-brown, sticky pieces, then munch and crunch until my teeth stuck together and kernels became lodged in the gaps.
Since then, I’ve grown up a little. Rather than pick out the caramel corn, I make large batches of it myself! Salty, sweet, and crunchy, my Homemade Caramel corn is what snack dreams are made of!
CARAMEL POPCORN INGREDIENTS
LIGHT BROWN SUGAR contains molasses which imparts a deep, robust flavor. Dark brown sugar can also be used.
UNSALTED BUTTER helps to create a smooth, luxurious caramel. Salted butter will also work, just omit the added salt.
LIGHT CORN SYRUP adds sweetness, while also preventing the sugar from crystallizing before the caramel forms. If corn syrup is not available to you, glucose is a perfect substitute.
SALT balances out flavor. If desired, sprinkle on extra sea salt before baking for a Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn.
VANILLA EXTRACT enhances flavor and adds aroma. The better the quality of vanilla, the better your popcorn will be!
BAKING SODA is the secret to an even, thin coating of caramel on the popcorn. When added to the caramel, baking soda creates a reaction and increases the volume of the mixture, making it easier to coat the numerous kernels.
LARGE GRAIN POPCORN works best for this recipe. Do not try to use pre-buttered or flavored popcorn here.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CARAMEL POPCORN
- POP THE KERNELS- Using the method of your choice (stovetop, microwave, popcorn maker, etc.), make the popcorn and pour it into a large bowl or pot.
- MAKE THE CARAMEL- Simply simmer butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt until a thick, syrupy caramel forms. Make sure to continuously stir!
- ADD IN THE BAKING SODA- To the caramel, add vanilla and baking soda. The caramel will begin to foam and rise. Give the caramel a few good stirs to combine, then remove from the heat.
- TOSS THE POPCORN- The caramel will harden as soon as it begins to cool, so work fast and do your best to fully coat the kernels. I’d recommend using a rubber spatula for easier cleanup.
- BAKE AND COOL- To achieve that super crisp exterior, additional baking is required. Spread the popcorn over 2 parchment paper lined baking sheets, then transfer into an oven preheated to 250 degrees. Bake for an hour, tossing the popcorn once or twice to ensure the kernels are evenly coated and set.
WARNING: Handle the caramel with extreme caution and care; it is very hot and quite dangerous! Do not attempt to eat/taste the caramel straight out of the saucepan.
FULL COVERAGE VS. LIGHTER COATING ON CARAMEL CORN
The ratio of caramel to popcorn will determine how saturated each kernel is. The fewer kernels used, the more caramel coverage you’ll get. The popcorn you see pictured in the photos has medium caramel coverage, meaning there are visible white splotches studded throughout. Medium to light coverage caramel popcorn is definitely still as sweet and indulgent as ever.
Full coverage caramel popcorn is supersweet! So, depending on your personal preference, adjust the measurement of kernels.
HOW LONG DOES CARAMEL CORN LAST?
Caramel Corn doesn’t really spoil, but it can get stale if not stored properly. Use large airtight containers or sealable freezer bags to keep the popcorn fresh and crisp. Keep the popcorn in a stable, cool environment.
Caramel Popcorn (Caramel corn)
- 2 cups light brown sugar packed
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 5 quarts popcorn
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Add brown sugar, butter, light corn syrup and salt and stir together in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Finally add vanilla and soda and stir until foamy.
- Pour over popped corn and continue stirring until well coated.
- Spread the popcorn on the baking sheets and bake for 1 hour until set and crisp.
- Keep in an airtight container to keep fresh.