Homemade caramel popcorn

Craving a buttery, sweet, crunchy nosh? Our homemade caramel popcorn can’t be beat! It’s addictive, easy to make and ready in less than an hour.

Sure, you can run to the supermarket and grab a tub of pricey caramel popcorn or even settle for a box of Cracker Jacks, but once you make a big batch of your very own, you’ll forget all about those store-bought options.

Homemade caramel popcorn

If you’re not familiar with caramel popcorn, you’re missing out. It’s a delectable confection made of popcorn that’s coated with a buttery, salty, sweet caramel shell. One handful will have your snack-loving senses exploding.

Homemade caramel popcorn

The popcorn matters

Start with fresh, plain popcorn that you’ve air-popped or popped on your stovetop with a little oil. You can also substitute a couple bags of plain microwave popcorn, but don’t make the mistake of using butter-flavored microwave popcorn (it’s not real butter!) or seasoned popcorns. Really, the best popcorn for making caramel corn is fresh, plain and unadulterated.

Homemade caramel popcorn

Microwave popcorn shortcut: You can make your own (much healthier) microwave popcorn. Just toss 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels with a bit of oil in a large brown paper lunch bag, fold it to seal, and microwave for 2 to 4 minutes or until the popping slows to about a pop every 2 seconds.

Making the caramel coating

You don’t have to be a candy-making pro to whip up the caramel coating. In fact, you don’t even need a candy thermometer! It’s just a combination of corn syrup, water, and sugar cooked until it turns a beautiful amber color. A little baking soda and butter, and the caramel’s ready to coat your popcorn in pure, sweet bliss. After a sprinkling of salt, all you’ll need is a hefty dose of self-control.

Homemade caramel popcorn

Fair warning: You’d better make extra. If you do have any left over, you can store it in a sealed container for up to three days — or until you remember it’s there and devour the rest, whichever comes first.

Caramel popcorn

Yield 8–10 servings


  • Nonstick vegetable-oil spray
  • 6 cups freshly popped popcorn (or plain microwave popcorn -- no butter or other seasoned types)
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2-3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sea salt


  1. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spray pan, bowl and handle of large spoon or rubber spatula with nonstick vegetable oil spray.
  3. Transfer popped popcorn to large prepared bowl, discarding any unpopped kernels.
  4. In large deep pot over moderately high heat, combine corn syrup, sugar, and 1/4 cup water, stirring well to combine. Cook, undisturbed, until mixture develops light amber color, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from heat, add baking soda and butter, and stir continuously until butter is melted and well combined.
  6. Immediately pour caramel over popcorn, then use prepared spoon or rubber spatula to stir.
  7. Transfer from bowl to baking sheet. Spread out caramel corn evenly over baking tray.
  8. Sprinkle with sea salt and allow to cool and harden, at least 20 minutes.
  9. Once cooled, break up caramel corn into bite-size pieces.
  10. Serve, or store in airtight container for up to 3 days.


  1. Once the sugar begins to caramelize, swirl the pan to evenly distribute the color, but don't stir. Stirring will cause the sugar to crystallize and harden.
  2. The mixture will be very hot and will foam. Stir constantly until the foaming subsides.

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Homemade caramel popcorn