Easy homemade caramel corn is the perfect snack to munch on! It’s great to serve the family during the holiday season. The homemade stuff tastes so much better than the store-bought stuff in a tin. Caramel coated popcorn is also perfect for last minute gifting!
As a child I had a major love affair with caramel corn. My dad used to get these big tubs of popcorn at work every year, you know the ones that come with the cheddar popcorn and the butter kind too? Can you guess which one we all polished off the fastest?
Caramel corn is kind of a tradition of ours during the holiday season. It’s something that really reminds me of my childhood and it just takes me back. Considering the fact that one of us just celebrated their 28th birthday this weekend, it really takes me back. Moooving along.
How do you guys feel about Cracker Jack? You know the molasses-flavored caramel coated popcorn that are combined with a handful of peanuts. The snack choice of baseball fanatics everywhere. Cracker Jack has never been a favorite of mine. I love all it’s components 1.) peanuts 2.) popcorn 3.)caramel/crunchy stuff. I love peanuts but almost always in peanut butter form, I don’t like molasses in my caramel corn, and EH. I think that’s it. Maybe it’s because I consider the caramel stuff that comes out of a tin to be the epitome of caramel coated popcorn. <– Until now, that is.
I very recently discovered the bliss that is homemade popcorn. And if you’re following me on Instagram, you probably remember me saying, I’ll never (ever, ever, ever) make the stuff out of a bag again! Popcorn made in a dutch oven is just as easy as popping a bag in the microwave (that is if you have access to a stove) and not to mention a lot healthier too! With stovetop popcorn, you control your butter/oil intake.
You can use the bagged stuff for this recipe, air pop the popcorn, or make it the way I did, on the stove. All of those methods work just fine!
I’ll admit, when I started batch testing for the perfect caramel corn recipe, some not-so-totally delicious caramel drenched popcorn came out of this foodies’ kitchen. The caramel sauce is super easy to make. If you can toss a few ingredients into a saucepan than you can make caramel coating for the popcorn. My first batch of popcorn was delicious! The problem: I was greedy and wanted a lot of vanilla flavor in my popcorn. It turned out that the flavor was beyond amazing, the texture on the other hand wasn’t smooth like you’d expect from good caramel. Back to the drawing board I went. What finally worked, sticking to the same recipe and cutting the vanilla quantity back my half.
What I love most about my recipe for homemade caramel covered popcorn is that a.) you don’t need a candy thermometer, or any kind of thermometer really, b.) there aren’t a million steps to getting this caramel corn perfect, c.) no complicated steps!
I had never made caramel corn at home before but now that I have, I realize it’s better, much, much better than the store-bought stuff. It’s fresh, slightly warm, buttery, and as an added bonus your whole house will smell like a Bath and Body Works Buttery Caramel Coated Popcorn scented candle. I don’t really know if they have that scent, don’t quote me on it, but they should, shouldn’t they? Or you could just make a batch of this stuff, munch on it, and have the house smell amazing! I think i’ll go for the latter.
- 10 cups popped corn (about 1/2 cup kernels before popping)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Position a rack near the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of foil (grease with cooking spray) or a silicone mat. Lay the prepared popcorn on the sheet in a single layer, depending on the size of your baking sheet, you may need two.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the brown sugar and corn syrup and stir to combine. Bring to a rolling boil, without disturbing further, reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir, them continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, making sure to stir every 30 seconds, until the mixture deepens in color to a golden brown. Remove from heat and whisk in the salt, vanilla, and baking soda – be careful as the mixture will become violent when vanilla and baking soda is added.
- Drizzle the prepared caramel over the popcorn and using a nonstick spatula combine everything until most of the popcorn are coating with caramel. Spread the mixture evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 14-21 minutes, stirring every 7 minutes, until the caramel corn turns a deeper amber color. Remove from oven and transfer to wax paper lined baking sheets (countertop is fine too). Once the caramel corn comes to room temperature, break up any large clusters of popcorn. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.