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Quick and Simple Caramel Popcorn

Caramel Popcorn or Caramel Corn

When I was younger, the best part of shopping at Target with my mom was getting a box of Crunch ‘n Munch (a type of caramel popcorn) to eat on the car ride home.  There is something extremely satisfying about biting into a handful of caramel corn.  The normally salty snack is transformed into a sweet and crunchy treat.  This quick and simple Caramel Popcorn recipe is so delicious, you won’t be able to eat just one handful.    

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Ingredients for Caramel Popcorn
Caramel Popcorn Ingredients
Equipment
Making the Popcorn

Pop the popcorn kernels using your preferred method.  I like to use this popcorn machine because it makes perfectly popped kernels without burning any of them or letting them get tough (something that used to happen to me when I made popcorn on the stove).  

Preparation Steps

Spray a metal bowl with non-stick spray (you could also use butter or a flavorless oil to grease the bowl).  Do NOT use a plastic or glass bowl when making caramel corn.  The hot caramel can melt plastic and cause glass to shatter.  

Pour the popcorn into the metal bowl and form a well in the middle (i.e., the sides should be higher than the middle).  Also, place two sheet pans covered with parchment paper on the counter.  

Making the Caramel

Combine the water, granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter into a large saucepan with high sides and cook over medium-high heat.  Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula until the sugar dissolves and then add the candy thermometer.  Stop stirring and let the mixture continue to cook.  If you notice the caramel cooking unevenly, swirl the sugar mixture rather than stirring it to evenly distribute the cooked caramel.  Stirring caramel can sometimes cause crystallization to occur and the caramel will be grainy (not what we want).  

Once the temperature reaches 300°F/149°C, remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the baking soda and salt.  Be very careful at this point.  The baking soda will react with the caramel to create large bubbles.  If you get caramel on your skin, it will burn.  

Making the Caramel Popcorn
Making Caramel Popcorn - Stir to evenly coat

Immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn in the metal bowl and gently, but quickly, fold the caramel into the popcorn.  Avoid pouring the caramel onto the sides of the metal bowl because this will cool the caramel prematurely and it won’t sufficiently cover the popcorn.  Continue folding until the popcorn is completely covered.  

Pour half of the caramel popcorn onto each sheet pan.  Using your hands, break up any large clumps of popcorn.  The caramel will still be quite warm at this point, so it might be helpful to wear heatproof gloves or latex gloves to avoid getting burned.  

Caramel Popcorn or Caramel Corn

Let the caramel popcorn sit until the caramel is set (i.e., the caramel should not be sticky) and it is completely cooled.  

Storing Caramel Popcorn
Caramel Popcorn or Caramel Corn

Store the popcorn in an airtight container at room temperature and enjoy within 2-3 days.  I’ve found that if the kernels are completely covered with caramel, they will remain fresh for at least up to a week. 

Level Up Your Caramel Popcorn

If you are like my parents, and love nuts with your caramel popcorn, then you can mix 1½ cups of roasted peanuts to the caramel sauce immediately before pouring the caramel onto the popcorn.  The peanuts make the caramel popcorn salty AND sweet.  A perfect combination for nut lovers.

More Snack Ideas!
Caramel Popcorn or Caramel Corn
Did you make this recipe?

I’d love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving your thoughts below. Or snap a photo and share it on Pinterest or Instagram (@windycitybaker).

Notes
  1. To get the best coverage, you can heat the metal bowl in the oven (set to 350°F/177°C) for a few minutes while the caramel is cooking.  Having a warm bowl will decrease the likelihood of the caramel cooling too quickly when it hits the bowl.  The longer the caramel stays warm, the longer you will have to coat the popcorn.  Make sure to wear heatproof gloves when handling a heated metal bowl to avoid burning yourself.
  2. This recipe was adapted from the “Caramel Popcorn” recipe in the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook.

Caramel Popcorn

This quick and simple Caramel Popcorn recipe is so delicious, you won't be able to eat just one handful.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack

Equipment

  • Large saucepan with high sides (at least 3 quarts)
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Silicone spatula
  • Large metal bowl
  • 2 sheet pans
  • Parchment paper
  • Heatproof gloves or latex gloves

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (112g) water
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp (225g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup + 1½ Tbsp (112g) light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp (100g) light corn syrup
  • 5 Tbsp (70g) of unsalted butter
  • cup (70g) un-popped popcorn kernels
  • 2 tsp (9g) baking soda
  • 1 tsp (6g) table salt

Instructions

Making the Popcorn

  • Pop the popcorn kernels using your preferred method. I like to use a popcorn machine because it makes perfectly popped kernels without burning any of them or letting the popcorn get tough (something that used to happen to me when I made popcorn on the stove).

Preparation Steps

  • Spray a metal bowl with non-stick spray (you could also use butter or a flavorless oil to grease the bowl). Do NOT use a plastic or glass bowl when making caramel corn. The hot caramel can melt plastic and cause glass to shatter.
  • Pour the popcorn into the metal bowl and form a well in the middle (i.e., the sides should be higher than the middle). Also, place two sheet pans covered with parchment paper on the counter.

Making the Caramel

  • Combine the water, granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter into a large saucepan with high sides and cook over medium-high heat. Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula until the sugar dissolves and then add the candy thermometer. Stop stirring and let the mixture continue to cook. If you notice the caramel cooking unevenly, swirl the sugar mixture rather than stirring it to evenly distribute the cooked caramel. Stirring caramel can sometimes cause crystallization to occur and the caramel will be grainy (not what we want).
  • Once the temperature reaches 300°F/149°C, remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the baking soda and salt. Be very careful at this point. The baking soda will react with the caramel to create large bubbles. If you get caramel on your skin, it will burn.

Making the Caramel Popcorn

  • Immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn in the metal bowl and gently, but quickly, fold the caramel into the popcorn. Avoid pouring the caramel onto the sides of the metal bowl because this will cool the caramel prematurely and it won’t sufficiently cover the popcorn. Continue folding until the popcorn is completely covered.
  • Pour half of the caramel popcorn onto each sheet pan. Using your hands, break up any large clumps of popcorn. The caramel will still be quite warm at this point, so it might be helpful to wear heatproof gloves or latex gloves to avoid getting burned.
  • Let the caramel popcorn sit until the caramel is set (i.e., the caramel should not be sticky) and it is completely cooled.

Storing Caramel Popcorn

  • Store the popcorn in an airtight container at room temperature and enjoy within 2-3 days. I’ve found that if the kernels are completely covered with caramel, they will remain fresh for at least up to a week.

Level Up Your Caramel Popcorn

  • Mix 1½ cups of roasted peanuts to the caramel sauce immediately before pouring the caramel onto the popcorn. The peanuts make the caramel popcorn salty AND sweet. A perfect combination for nut lovers.

Notes

1. To get the best coverage, you can heat the metal bowl in the oven (set to 350°F/177°C) for a few minutes while the caramel is cooking. Having a warm bowl will decrease the likelihood of the caramel cooling too quickly when it hits the bowl. The longer the caramel stays warm, the longer you will have to coat the popcorn. Make sure to wear heatproof gloves when handling a heated metal bowl to avoid burning yourself.
2. This recipe was adapted from the “Caramel Popcorn” recipe in the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook.

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