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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151 Responses to “Grandma’s Caramel Corn.”

  1. #
    Caroleposted March 19, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Whoa… this looks SOOO good!!! a MUST try :)


  2. #
    Cindy H.posted March 19, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Hi Sally, I got your cookbook a few days ago and I sat down that night and read the entire book. This caramel corn was already on my “have to make that” list. Now that I saw this post it bumped the caramel corn up to my “have to make this NOW” list. I didn’t have corn syrup so I had to wait until I went to the store. I’m preheating the oven right now and can hardly wait to try the finished product!

    I bought your cookbook because I have made several of the recipes from your blog, and we have enjoyed everything! Even my dog, Jetta, and her friends are waiting for another batch of the dog treats!


    • Sallyreplied on March 19th, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Cindy, I’m so happy Jetta and her friends love the treats! That’s one of my favorite recipes – only because I know how much pups LOVE them! Thanks for buying my cookbook. Means so much to me. I can’t wait for you to try this caramel corn!


      • Cindy H.replied on March 19th, 2014 at 10:05 pm

        Oh my goodness, the caramel corn is delicious! If you taste test it during one of the stirring steps while baking (I might have tried that), it will stick to your teeth. It doesn’t once the baking is completed though. YUM!

  3. #
    Megan {Country Cleaver}posted March 19, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    What a gem of a woman and what a sweet tribute, Sally!


  4. #
    Christineposted March 21, 2014 at 9:31 am

    My Nana loved to cook and bake too. I love that you have turned a passion your grandmother instilled in you into a full time career. That must be the ultimate in happiness. :-)

    This is such a terrific idea for mailing to loved ones as a treat…I have twin brothers who have a birthday next month and I think this would be fun to include in their birthday boxes. Thank you for sharing this recipe with all of us. :-)


    • Sallyreplied on March 21st, 2014 at 10:27 am

      The best little treat to send, Christine. It packages so easily. Just put into a fun party bag – or even a large ziplock bag. Then box up and ship. It lasts for a couple weeks, too.


  5. #
    Terriposted March 24, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    This is the greatest Caramel Corn recipe ever! I made it not once, but TWICE this weekend! Thanks for another great recipe Sally :)


  6. #
    Laura Dembowskiposted March 28, 2014 at 8:36 am

    I love caramel corn and this recipe sounds and looks great. I miss my granny all the time. She was also a great cook, but almost none of her recipes were written down or saved so I just have to be inspired by her.


  7. #
    Carolina Marinhoposted May 2, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Hey, Sally! Can I use honey instead of corn syrup?


  8. #
    Cindy H.posted May 12, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    You are right about this being addicting. I have made the caramel corn 3 or 4 times and it seems to taste better each time. We enjoyed a batch over the weekend. I’ll be making a huge batch today for my husband to take to work for an all day meeting tomorrow. It costs 5 Weight Watchers points for a serving (11 for 2 servings–LOL), but it is so worth it!! Thanks again for a great recipe.


  9. #
    Amyposted August 21, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Hi Sally,

    Can you use stove popped corn for this recipe?? What are the advantages of using the air-popper?
    Thinking of making it as wedding favours but don’t have an air-popper!

    Thank you!


    • Sallyreplied on August 22nd, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Air popper seems to be a little quicker and can make a larger batch. Stove popped works too!


  10. #
    Skye Mansourposted September 15, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    OMG Sally this recipe is absolutely scrumptious!I have just made a double batch for my Son’s first birthday party this weekend and I can not stop eating it! You American’s have without doubt the best recipes for cakes and sweets. I am loving all of them but my jeans are feeling much tighter this last month since I have found your website! I am obsessed! I am now about to make the rice krispie recipe – they sound delicious also so fingers crossed they work out fabulously well. Tom’s first birthday is really all about Sally’s Baking Addiction. I can see after this weekend you will have a whole lot more of Australian followers….

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful family recipe.
    Hats off to your Grandma!

    Skye x


    • Sallyreplied on September 15th, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Thanks so much for the sweet comment, Skye! I truly appreciate every word. Happy birthday to your son!


  11. #
    Martha Growallposted September 27, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Can you use kettle corn for this recipe and use an air popper? I loved the story about your grandmother. My family was all from Lexington Ky. We passed our caramel corn through three generations but mushroom kettle corn is my favorite. Maybe you could help me with the kettle corn if there is one. Thank you so much. Marty


    • Sallyreplied on September 28th, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Marty, I fear the caramel corn would be way, way too sweet if you begin with kettle corn. You may use an air popper to make the popcorn for this recipe, yes.


  12. #
    Glendaposted October 19, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    Hi, you mentioned your Grandma’s “famous” sticky pecan rolls….I’m wondering if you’ve posted that recipe. I’d love to try it! And the caramel corn looks great…will be trying that soon. =)


  13. #
    Ryanposted October 25, 2014 at 8:28 pm


    Delicious recipe! We can’t wait to try the peanut butter option.

    I had trouble mixing the popcorn when I first poured the caramel over it. The caramel hardened too quickly. I thought that maybe baking it would soften it enough to mix it, but I had the same problem after baking it. Do I simply need to boil the caramel for a shorter amount of time? Or should I try baking it at a higher temp?

    Thanks again!


    • Sallyreplied on October 26th, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      I would boil the caramel for a shorter time, yes. The longer is boils, the crunchier (and more hardened) your caramel will be.


  14. #
    Janiceposted October 27, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Dear Sally….this recipe was so easy and my stove top pop corn was perfect.
    Bravo to your Grandmother…she left you many happy baking memories!


  15. #
    Shelleyposted October 30, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Love the picture of your Grandma!


  16. #
    Simbalabimposted November 27, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    I used margarine & it seemed to work out fine until I started to bake it. Burned within the first 10 minutes in the oven. Took it out, picked the burned bits out & it’s pretty tasty! I’ll try it again with butter next time.


  17. #
    Jillianposted November 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    What’s the best way to store the popcorn so that it doesn’t go stale? Large Ziploc bags? Tupperware?


    • Sallyreplied on November 29th, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      either is fine– I usually store in a tupperware.


  18. #
    Annaposted December 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Thank you for this recipe Sally! I made a batch 3 days ago, but we finished it in 1 day, literally. (I know so embarrassing). Right now I have a double batch in the oven, my husband is a teacher and its for his students. But of course, I’ll take some out for myself. Thank you again for sharing you Grandma’s amazing recipe.


  19. #
    Amandaposted December 13, 2014 at 12:03 am

    The caramel is delicious and very easy to make! My only problem is that I can’t manage to coat all, or even most, of the kernals. I pour the caramel over and toss as quickly as I can but the caramel starts hardening before I get the popcorn coated. Any thoughts on how I can fix this issue? Otherwise, delicious!!


    • Sallyreplied on December 14th, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      Even when the caramel corn bakes, the caramel stays hard? You can try to use a little less popcorn so there is more caramel coating overall.


  20. #
    Heatherposted December 13, 2014 at 12:10 am

    I’m lazy and not a lover of the bland flavor that comes with popped – at – home popcorn. Twice now, I’ve opted for pre – popped and salted corn from the grocery and LOVED the result. The kernels are bigger and the popcorn takes the beating of stirring the caramel really well. If you’re in a time crunch (or just picky like I am), this is a great alternative!

    Awesome recipe! My best friend, who always swore no one can make caramel corn like her mother, is sold! We just don’t tell her mom!

    Two thumbs up!


  21. #
    Kristenposted December 14, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Just made this and it’s DELICIOUS!! I’m gonna try not to eat it all tonight!


  22. #
    Kathleenposted December 22, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Made this with microwave popcorn. Could not find it without butter, but I bought the one that had the least amount of butter added. I followed the directions exactly. The caramel was pretty hard to “pour” out onto the popcorn. I thought it was going to be a disaster, at first, but I proceeded with putting in the oven and mixing every 20 minutes. It ended up being perfect in the end. I made a second batch of the caramel in a smaller sauce pan and did not quite boil it for 5 minutes. It was much easier to pour the second time around and came out perfect! Making this for Christmas gifts for neighbors. Thanks for sharing your Grandmother’s recipe!


  23. #
    Steve Elkinsposted December 24, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Your blog compliments your grandmother; her life, and her values. Showing your friends, and family love throughout the year, not just through the holidays. I’m sure she is smiling from above. Thank you for this recipe. Next years personalized gifts for our neighbors. Merry Christmas! Steve


  24. #
    Cari Blanchardposted December 24, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    I cannot make this fast enough…everyone who has tried it wants MORE! Just make this recipe, no need to search for a better one :)


  25. #
    Aprilposted December 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    I made five batches of this yummy caramel corn this Christmas! My first batch was a disaster and the following batches were perfect after I followed these tips. Using a deep disposable aluminum roasting pan sprayed with cooking spray makes it so much easier to stir the caramel and popcorn for even coating. I found that a temperature of 225-250 made the caramel easier to work with during baking. Also, stir the caramel corn with 2 rubber spatulas sprayed with cooking spray. I made a couple of batches dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar, resulting in a caramel corn that almost tastes like toffee!


  26. #
    Jinposted January 2, 2015 at 10:13 am

    How long this Popcorn will be last in a refrigerator?


  27. #
    steveposted January 5, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    I have been crushing unsalted, roasted cashes and adding to this. So good. Thanks for this recipe; your grandma, your blog, and, of course, you all rock!


  28. #
    Caralinposted January 13, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    I’ve made this eight times in the last month – it’s delicious! I’ve made it with peanuts, just plain, with pecans… all fabulous.

    I first made it because I wanted to make caramel corn for a gift exchange at work. I made a test batch the day before – I found it hard to get an even coating when stirring it right on the pan, but it still tasted delicious. I took the “first try” to work as samples, and my colleagues gobbled it up! The next batch I made for the exchange came out perfectly – I just coated it in a big bowl sprayed with non-stick spray before spreading it on the pan to bake. It ended up being the hot-ticket item at the gift exchange – we played the game where you can open a new gift or steal an existing one, and the caramel corn kept getting stolen!

    I ended up making more to take in to share, then made a bunch with my family over the holidays, and finally the most recent batch at the request of a pregnant friend (how could I say no?). I also just calculated the nutrition info if I were to make a whole batch to eat myself (which I probably shouldn’t do, but I am tempted – at least I’d try not to eat it all in one sitting!).

    Anyway, thanks for sharing such a delicious recipe – it will be a regular for me now!!


  29. #
    Robinposted February 9, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    I made this yesterday (it’s been snowing A TON here in New England and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen!). It was a bit of a project because I don’t have a hot air popper ; I use the shake-the-pan-on-the-burner method. Also, I wanted to add peanuts but only had a bag of ones in their shells and shelling them took a while. Then I was afraid to try to mix the caramel into the popcorn on the cookie sheets – I could just see that going all over the floor. So I did it in a big bowl but that was tricky, too – that stuff hardens quickly! It all worked out beautifully in the end, though. Even my European husband, who claimed no knowledge of caramel corn and kept coming out to the kitchen to shake his head skeptically, can’t stop eating it. I will definitely be making this again!


  30. #
    Tracyposted February 26, 2015 at 9:46 am

    What a find! This is a gem of a recipe! Made it last night and it was absolutely PERFECT! I used white air popped popcorn. All I had on hand was salted butter so I cut back the salt just by a tad.

    Yummy yummy yummy!


  31. #
    Dianaposted March 10, 2015 at 11:36 am

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


  32. #
    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.


  33. #
    Heatherposted April 12, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Was wondering if I could use glucose instead of corn syrup


  34. #
    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.


  35. #
    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?


  36. #
    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.


  37. #
    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!


  38. #
    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! 


  39. #
    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.


  40. #
    Kimposted October 15, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Can you used molasses instead of corn syrup?


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



  42. #
    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.


  43. #
    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!


  44. #
    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?!


  45. #
    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. 

  46. #
    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.


  47. #
    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. 


  48. #
    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.


  49. #
    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!


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