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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

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. 

More favorite sweet and salty snacks!

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Grandma’s Caramel Corn

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Yield: 10 cups
  • Category: Snacks
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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

212 Comments

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your grandma – she lives on through your beautiful recipes 🙂 Excited to try this popcorn as a treat in the next upcoming Holiday!

  2. Your grandma sounds like an amazing woman. This recipe looks severely addictive. I think I would lose control after one bite. Love this! Pinned.

  3. Oh my gosh this looks amazing! My mom craves caramel corn and I’ve been trying to find the perfect recipe this is for sure on my list of things to make soon! Thanks for the recipe! I love all of your grandmothers recipes in your book, you just can’t beat good old fashioned recipes that have been used for years!
    Have a wonderful day Sally! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Shelby and I’m glad you’re loving her recipes that are in my cookbook. I appreciate that so much! I’m sure she does too. 🙂

  4. Yum! I love caramel corn and the part you wrote on your grandma. My grandma has Alzheimer’s too, it is hard.

    I saw your cookbook at our book store and was so excited for you! Congratulations! What an accomplishment.

    Happy baking!
    ~Kloe ♥

  5. I’m lucky enough (or young enough) not to have experienced the death of a loved one. Your thoughts have reminded me to treasure my moments with my family and friends, however annoying and frustrating it can be to deal with them at times. On a lighter note, this caramel corn looks awesome! 🙂 Would it be possible to reduce the sugar to 2/3 cup for my sister’s not-very-sweet tooth, and substitute the corn syrup with honey or maple syrup? Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and a beloved recipe with us!

    1. Thanks Bianca. And no, this caramel must be made as is. It’s homemade caramel which is not very forgiving! Perhaps a lighter recipe option would be better for your sister? Thank you! https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/category/healthy-recipes/

  6. Oh gosh.. this looks dangerous. Very dangerous. It’s a “once you pop, you can’t stop”-kind-of-recipe.. I have a house-warming this weekend, so I think I’ll be making these for the guests and maybe with a twist. (sharing is caring, right?^^) Thank you for sharing this heartwarming recipe.

  7. Love this stuff…my same recipe we used in our family…except we add 1 tsp of Vanilla when adding the baking soda in. 🙂

  8. Hi Sally, i’m from Venezuela and your big fan, I love your ideas and recipes! thanks for sharing all that you know. I can’t wait to have your book in My hands! I have learned a lot from your blog.. Kisses! XOXO

  9. Tried and true recipes from one’s family are the best! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.

    Can you post the home-made Chex mix recipe, please?

  10. This popcorn looks delicious! I love homemade caramel popcorn! Thanks for sharing your grandmother’s recipe. I know she is smiling down on you 🙂 Your blog is amazing!

  11. I love love love family recipes! Always so much love behind each one… I’m sure your grandmother would be so proud of how far you have come 🙂

  12. Sally, you’re the sweetest granddaughter to publish one of your grandma’s best recipes in your cookbook and on her birthday. She’s smiling down on you right now! And your mom’s cookbook party looked like so much fun. All of those cookies — I would’ve given anything to have a sample straight from your kitchen! 🙂 Any caramel corn that won’t break my teeth is automatically amazing in my book. Great little tip about the baking soda (and you knew that me, the ex-chemist, would love that little acid-base tidibit!)!

    1. Amy, wish you could’ve been there on Sunday. It was a blast! Thanks so much for the kind words. I know she would be so happy that so many readers know about her!

  13. I am SO making this recipe. I love caramel corn.

    On another note, my daughter and I made your M&M cookies the other weekend, and they were fantastic! My husband, who doesn’t like M&M cookies at all, said they were amazing. Super high praise coming from him! So glad I found your site. I’ve also made your confetti cake mix cookies and those were bought up super fast at my company’s holiday bake sale. THANK YOU for making me look good 🙂

    After I make this recipe, I am on to chocolate chip cookies, since I have been on the hunt for the perfect one. No doubt that the perfect one will be yours.

    1. Thanks Nicole – I appreciate all the kind words about my recipes! I love the M&M cookies – and this caramel corn too! Hope you try this recipe. And the chocolate chunk cookies. Yes, an absolute favorite. Very popular recipe on my blog! Enjoy.

  14. Hi Sally! I can’t believe the timing with your posting of this recipe. I was buying expensive bags of gourmet caramel popcorn for a sweet snack and I thought, I should just make my own, it’s got to be a lot cheaper! I’ve been looking for a good recipe for a couple weeks and what do you know, you just posted one! I just tried this out today and it’s delicious! Even better than the expensive bags I was buying! This is going to be in my regular rotation. I love you and your site and I can’t wait to get your cookbook! I am making your Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cookies next and I can’t wait! Thank you for satisfying my sweet tooth!

    1. Thanks Ruby – and I’m so glad you already tried this recipe! Truly a favorite and I’m happy you love it so much. Those salted caramel dark chocolate cookies are incredible. Hope you love them just as much!

  15. 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!

    1. 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!

      1. 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!

  16. 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. 🙂

    1. 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.

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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

  21. 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

    1. 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.

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