Sweet and crunchy, this caramel corn is so easy to make at home!
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 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.
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. I especially love enjoying a batch while decorating sugar cookies. Grandma’s 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.
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. A candy thermometer will be helpful here, and you can use it when making homemade toffee, too.
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.
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!
It’s also a wonderful option if you’re ever in need of gluten free dessert recipes.
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!Print
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 popcorn*
- 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 tartar*
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Spread the popcorn out onto 2 large baking sheets. Set aside.
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly as the butter melts and mixture comes to a boil. Boil, without stirring, for 4-5 minutes. (If you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should be 234°F-235°F (112-113°C). Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda. Caramel will be foamy and frothy. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir gently until all the kernels are coated.
- 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.
- Make Ahead Instructions: 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!
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Baking Sheets | Silicone Baking Mats or Parchment Paper | Medium Saucepan | Candy Thermometer
- Popcorn: 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.
- Cream of Tartar: Prevents 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.
Keywords: caramel corn, homemade caramel corn