It’s surprisingly easy to make the best caramel corn recipe! Pop popcorn, make a caramel sauce, scrape it onto a baking sheet and bake until crunchy… that’s it! Sweet, crunchy, and so delicious, this homemade caramel corn is the perfect holiday treat.
Homemade Caramel Popcorn
There’s no question that fall is the ultimate season for baking! And while I love apple recipes and pumpkin recipes as much as the next baker. I think CARAMEL is one of the most underrated fall flavors ever! And this sinfully delicious caramel popcorn recipe is one of the best recipes to come out of my kitchen in years!
I originally made this recipe for a ladies movie night and it was an absolute smash hit! It makes your house smell AMAZING while it bakes (envision a cinnamon roll/caramel scented candle, but even better). And it’s so crunchy and caramel-y… we couldn’t stop shoveling it down by the handful! Next time you have a movie night, skip the microwave popcorn and make this instead.
What Makes this The BEST Caramel Corn?
- Texture: This homemade caramel popcorn is crunchy, chewy, and so caramel-y! A million times tastier than anything you can buy from the store, the county fair, or candy shops.
- Taste: Unlike a lot of caramel corn recipes that just taste… super sweet… this caramel corn has delicious depth of flavor. It’s sweet, salty, buttery, and so delicious.
- Ease: This recipe is super easy and almost anyone can make it! Seriously, if you can pop popcorn, you can make this. And unlike some recipes that keep you at the stove for 45 minutes stirring, this recipe is baked. Making it much easier and user friendly!
- Impressive: Looking for the perfect homemade holiday gift? Need an extra delicious snack for movie night? Want a fun addition for your charcuterie board? Homemade caramel popcorn is the answer!
Ingredients for Homemade Caramel Popcorn
- Coconut Oil: This is my preferred oil, but canola oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil will all work instead.
- Popcorn Kernels: No need to be fancy here, just grab a jar of popcorn kernels from the store. Once you try this recipe, you’ll probably pop popcorn a lot more often!
- Brown Sugar: I prefer light brown sugar, but dark brown sugar will work perfectly fine. I do not suggest using granulated sugar.
- Corn Syrup: I do NOT suggest skipping or subbing this ingredient. Light corn syrup works best, but dark corn syrup will work in a pinch. The brown sugar corn syrup combination is what makes the sauce so magical.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is what I use, but salted butter will work just fine. You may want to reduce the amount of salt called for, or eliminate it completely, if using salted butter.
- Salt: Helps balance sweetness and enhance the other flavors in this recipe.
- Vanilla Extract: For the best flavor, be sure to use real vanilla extract, and not artificial or imitation vanilla.
- Baking Soda: Baking powder will not work as a substitute here! Be sure your baking soda is fresh and not expired.
How to Make Caramel Corn
- Baking Prep: 30 minutes before you plan on making your caramel corn, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Set baking sheet aside.
- Pop the Popcorn: A big and heavy pot works best for popping popcorn. Don’t walk away when you’re cooking the popcorn, it cooks fast and burns easily.
- Make the Caramel Sauce: The two secrets to caramel success? Stir the caramel frequently and don’t walk away when you’re cooking it. Caramel can burn very quickly – even on medium heat – so pay attention to color and smell when you’re cooking it. Be sure to remove the caramel from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.
- Let’s Make Caramel Corn: In a large bowl combine the caramel sauce with the popped popcorn and mix until well combined. Then scrape it onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.
The Best Caramel Corn Recipe
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1/4 cup (57g) refined coconut oil
- 1 cup (210g) popcorn kernels
- 1 and 1/4 cups (270g) light brown sugar packed
- 2/3 cup (208ml) light corn syrup
- 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees (F). Line a very large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the oil until it shimmers. Add the popcorn and partially cover the pot with a lid. Once the popcorn kernels start to pop, reduce the heat to medium and cover the pot completely. Continue cooking, shaking the pot every 30 seconds, until the popping has reduced to a couple of seconds between each pop. Don’t walk away, the popcorn may burn. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
- Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla and baking soda (note: the mixture may bubble and hiss a bit after you add these ingredients). Remove the pan from heat.
- Pour the caramel sauce into the pot with the popcorn and stir well to coat. Quickly spread the popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely, and then gently break apart before serving.