Grandma’s Caramel Corn.

Sweet and crunchy, this caramel corn is so easy to make at home!

Homemade Caramel Corn - sticky, salty, sweet, and irresistible!

Tomorrow, March 17th, is my grandmother’s birthday.

I started my blog two weeks after Grandma passed away from Alzheimer’s. Grandma was a baker, gardener, hard worker, and had a heart full of love. She always got my sisters and I excited about being in the kitchen. Grandma had a huge sweet tooth that she (thankfully!) passed down to me.

Grandma Harlett

Grandma was known for a few things. Her laugh, her sticky pecan rolls, homemade chex mix, pecan pie, and her buttery caramel corn. I published her sticky pecan rolls and caramel corn recipes in my cookbook and make her pecan pie each November. If you have tried any of them, you know her recipes are like finding gold!

I think about Grandma often this time of year and wanted to share her very favorite recipe with you on my blog today. This caramel corn recipe can also be found in my cookbook as Old-Fashioned Caramel Corn on page 94.

Homemade Caramel Corn - sticky, salty, sweet, and irresistible!

Homemade Caramel Corn - sticky, salty, sweet, and irresistible!

We make Grandma’s caramel corn every Christmas. It wouldn’t be a holiday without it! Sticky, salty, and sweet – it’s nearly impossible to not reach for a second (or third or fourth) handful. Her caramel corn recipe is simply the best of the best. Like the kind of old-fashioned caramel corn you get at a carnival. But better. And made with love.

I made her caramel corn again this weekend for today’s big cookbook signing party at my parents’ house. I have a feeling our family friends will be more interested in the caramel corn than my cookbook. But that’s fine by me, Grandma deserves the spotlight anyway.

Caramel corn is so easy to make from home! There’s hardly any work involved. In fact, I guarantee you’ll be shocked at its simplicity.

Homemade Caramel Corn - sticky, salty, sweet, and irresistible!

Start with some air-popped popcorn. Don’t have a popcorn maker? No problem!

Do a little shortcut version: Add 3 Tablespoons of popcorn kernels to a standard lunch brown paper bag. Seal the bag tightly by folding over the top 2 times. Microwave the kernels for approximately 1 minute 45 seconds on high, or up to 2 minutes depending on your microwave. This DIY air-popped popcorn method makes 5 cups of popcorn. You’ll have to do it twice to get 10 cups, which is what our caramel corn recipe calls for.

Spread your popcorn on two large baking sheets. Then, make the caramel. The caramel is made from a few basic ingredients. Brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream of tartar, and salt. It’s extra sticky, extra thick, and extra bubbly. Let it boil over the stovetop, remove from heat and add baking soda.

Why cream of tartar? Cream of tartar will prevent crystallization as the caramel cooks.

Why baking soda? The purpose of baking soda in the caramel is to react with the acid (the brown sugar and corn syrup), which creates tiny carbon dioxide air bubbles. Hence, the foaming you see in the photo above. Once the caramel has cooled on your popcorn, the air bubbles inside the caramel create a softer texture. The softer texture means you won’t be biting into hard caramel. Rather, the caramel is chewy and only slightly crunchy. It will melt in your mouth.

Once the caramel is mixed up with the popcorn, simply bake it at a very low temperature to get the caramel to “set” evenly over the kernels. Then, pop ’til you can’t stop.

Click through for a SIMPLE homemade caramel corn recipe on

There’s no denying you won’t fall in love with this stuff! Hardly any prep work is involved and you’re using very simple, straight-forward ingredients. Plus, it’s a great recipe to make ahead of time and in bulk. Bring to bake sales, on road trips, serve as a simple finger food at holiday parties – everyone loves it. I doubled the recipe for the party today; I knew 10 cups wouldn’t be enough!

Want to take the caramel corn to the next level? Add 2 cups of salted peanuts to the popcorn before pouring the caramel on top. I do this with my Peanut Butter Caramel Corn. The crunchy salty peanuts mixed with the sweet caramel will blow your mind.

So here you go. From my family to yours!

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make. 

Grandma's Caramel Corn

Yield: 10 cups

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Print Recipe

Sweet and crunchy, this caramel corn is so easy to make at home. You'll find yourself baking batch after addicting batch. It's a great make-ahead recipe for a party or guests and can easily be doubled.


  • 10 cups (100g) air-popped popcorn1
  • 1 cup (200g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (80g) light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar2
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Spread the popcorn out onto 2 large baking sheets. Set aside.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat. Stir constantly and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda.  Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir gently until all the kernels are coated.
  3. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.  Allow to cool on the pan and break apart large clusters if desired.  Cover the popcorn tightly once cooled.
  4. Make ahead tip: This caramel corn stays fresh for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container, so it's a great recipe to make ahead of time!

Additional Notes:

  1. If you do not have a popcorn maker at home, you can simply add 3 tablespoons of popcorn kernels to a brown paper bag.  Seal the bag tightly by folding over the top.  Microwave the popcorn for approximately 1 minute, 45 seconds on High, or up to 2 minutes, depending on your microwave.  This method will make 5 cups, so you'll have to do it twice. Alternatively, you can use natural-style microwave popcorn that has no butter added to it.
  2. Cream of tartar will prevent crystallization as the caramel cooks. If you're all out, you can make the caramel corn without it. Just know that its acidity helps to prevent crystals from forming in your caramel. Corn syrup does the same job too.

© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

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156 Responses to “Grandma’s Caramel Corn.”

  1. #
    Dianaposted March 10, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Yum! I love caramel popcorn especially with peanuts. Can you use honey instead of corn syrup?


  2. #
    Jana Inançposted April 9, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Popcorn is in the oven, but if it comes out tasting half as good as the caramel did I am going to be in heaven. Also I didn’t have a cream of tartar at home and skipped it, will that be a problem?
    Love your grandma story. Mine passed this Christmas and unfortunately I couldn’t go to her funeral, because I don’t live in my home country anymore, was pregnant at the time and my dr didn’t recommended flying. For two weeks I was making a desert we alway had when visiting her. Just simple custard layered with fruit and whipped cream on top, but I cried every time I tasted it.


  3. #
    Heatherposted April 12, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Was wondering if I could use glucose instead of corn syrup


  4. #
    Billposted May 18, 2015 at 3:10 am

    Looks devine, just tried this, had good coverage of the corn but it hardened very quickly and as the caramel mix dried it ended up resulting in a crumbly brown sugar consistency. Did I not boil it long enough perhaps?


    • Sallyreplied on May 19th, 2015 at 9:09 am

      It sounds like the caramel mixture may have been boiling for too long, Bill. Maybe reduce by a minute. That should help.


  5. #
    Angelicaposted June 2, 2015 at 9:26 am

    do you think it would be ok to decrease the sugar to 3/4 cup or 1/2 cup?


  6. #
    Lydiaposted July 10, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    This was fab the first time I made it. Subsequent tries though left my caramel popcorn a little too chewy post baking and cooking. I live in Singapore where it is humid so it doesn’t store too well and gets soft under the caramel. I really love this recipe and hence wondering if you could help me trouble shoot? Need to cook the caramel longer maybe or less caramel? Thanks much!


    • Sallyreplied on July 11th, 2015 at 9:49 am

      It’s most definitely the humidity. How about leaving it in the oven a little longer.


  7. #
    Deedeeposted August 22, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Hello Sally, I have been making this caramel corn for sometime now. It is amazing. But just wondering how far in advance I can make it. My daughter is getting married in 4 weeks and we are wanting to make it for wedding favors. Would it be to early to start making it and sealing it large ziplock bags?  

    Love your story about your grandmother. We both are lucky to have such strong women in our lives. I miss my Nana so bad. She was an amazing woman. She taught me about canning, cooking, and quilting. She was also a very hard worker. She and my Papaw farmed their whole married life together and passed that tradition on to my family. To me the is no better life:). Thanks for your story. . 


    • Sallyreplied on August 22nd, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      Thanks for such a kindhearted comment, Deedee. Very much appreciated. You can absolutely go ahead and make the caramel corn now for the upcoming wedding. It’s great for several weeks. Congrats to your daughter. My 1 year anniversary is in a few weeks!


  8. #
    Gayle Ballingerposted October 10, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Oh boy! You do have some yummy stuff going on! My favorite memories of my grandfather are when we would make caramel popcorn together. I can’t wait to see how the peanut butter version comes out! 


  9. #
    Patposted October 13, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Could I substitute the caramel in this recipe for your salted caramel recipe?


    • Sallyreplied on October 13th, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      No– the salted caramel will not set on top of the popcorn.


  10. #
    Kimposted October 15, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Can you used molasses instead of corn syrup?


  11. #
    AATIKAHposted November 16, 2015 at 10:41 am



  12. #
    Jolene Saizposted December 4, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    I tried my first batch tonight and it didn’t turn out too well.  It looked great each time I checked it in the oven, but when I took it out at the end, it got all hard and crystal like.  I have a second batch in the oven now, thought I wouldn’t cook it quite as long.  Any suggestions?


    • Sallyreplied on December 5th, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Jolene, I wonder if you are cooking the caramel too long? Try boiling for only 4 minutes. Then, bake the caramel corn for 30 minutes, stirring twice. This should help.


  13. #
    Shirley Robertsposted December 15, 2015 at 11:16 am

    I have just made my first batch of your caramel corn and it’s heavenly. Wanted to do a trail run so I can make for Christmas party. Now I KNOW FOR SURE I WILL. Easy to make also. Thanks so much for sharing!


  14. #
    meganposted December 17, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    this recipe is so delicious! seriously addicting! my only problem was my caramel mixture seemed to a be a bit thicker than it seemed to suppose to be so I couldn’t really coat the popcorn very much, just bigger chunks of caramel and some without out, I’m thinking I may have boiled the mixture to long….any help?!


  15. #
    Tina Carlsonposted December 22, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Hi Sally,
    I have made caramel corn for several years, but the last few years it seems like when I pour the caramel on the popcorn I can’t get it to mix well, only about half the kernels are coated. What am I doing wrong? I used to be known for making caramel corn so I don’t know what’s changed. Any ideas?


    • Sallyreplied on December 22nd, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Tina, are you using my recipe? I’m unsure. The caramel coats this popcorn quite well. You can always reduce the amount of popcorn.


      • Janetreplied on December 30th, 2015 at 12:26 pm

        I coat the popcorn in batches to ensure proper coating. As you know proper coating on caramel popcorn is very important. 

  16. #
    Marlenaposted December 24, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    The caramel had a wonderful flavor but I find I need to make a double batch of the caramel to get it coated evenly.


  17. #
    Janetposted December 30, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    YUM! Great recipe!  Added vanilla with the baking soda. It was a hit and everyone wants the recipe. 


  18. #
    Rachelposted January 15, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    I made this for the first time today, and there was not enough caramel to coat all of the popcorn. Next time I would use only half or three-quarters of the amount of popcorn suggested.


  19. #
    Erikkaposted January 30, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    I just made this popcorn! It’s amazing! Next time a double batch! Thank you for the awesome recipe!


  20. #
    Rachelposted February 19, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    I attempted this recipe for the second time today, this time doubling the caramel and boiling for four minutes rather than five, since the first time I made it, there wasn’t enough caramel to coat the popcorn and it seemed too thick. This time, I was able to coat the popcorn, but while much of the popcorn turned out to be perfectly crispy, many pieces have globs of softer, chewy caramel stuck to them (this seems to be caramel that pooled underneath the popcorn in the pan). Is this because perhaps I used too much caramel? The only other thing I did differently was that I popped the popcorn on the stovetop with a little bit of refined coconut oil.


    • Sallyreplied on February 21st, 2016 at 6:28 am

      It’s the coconut oil. That extra fat coating the popcorn seems to be combining with the caramel, so the caramel isn’t really becoming crunchy. Know what I mean?

      How does it taste? Because I’m sure it’s delicious!


  21. #
    Victoria Ponitzposted February 29, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Hi Sally,
    Your Grandma’s caramel corn recipe is the last one I will ever need to try.  My granddaughter is allergic to nuts and peanuts so on many occasions she watched others indulging in caramel corn without complaining.  I made up my mind to find a good recipe and have some for her to try .  
    I made your recipe (2X now) and everyone loved it.  My sweet granddaughter was very impressed – went home and told her dad that Nana made caramel corn without nuts so that she could have some and it was delicious!
    Thanks, Sally!  Your recipes are the best!


    • Sallyreplied on March 1st, 2016 at 9:28 am

      I’m SO glad you love it! Thanks for reporting back, Victoria!


  22. #
    Eveposted April 18, 2016 at 11:45 am

     This recipe is amazing, I had to raise some money for my class a few months ago and made this. In the end there was very little left to sell.


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