This truly is the best caramel corn recipe! It’s easy to make, and perfect for snacking or gifting during the holidays. Trust me — you won’t be able to stop eating this sweet, crispy, irresistible caramel corn!

My #1 tip for homemade caramel corn – add a little baking soda to the caramel! This is the secret ingredient for a crispy topping. Be sure to watch the video below for the full how-to!

caramel corn on baking sheet

A good friend shared this caramel corn recipe with me a few years ago, and it’s been a family favorite ever since!

Every piece is crispy and has just the right amount of sweetness and saltiness. It’s SO hard to resist eating just one more handful!

VIDEO: How to Make Caramel Corn

NOTE: Video shows the amounts for 1/2 a batch!

I look forward to making this recipe every fall. But really, it’s the perfect treat for any time of year.

This would make such a fun addition to movie night or a kids’ slumber party. The entire family will have a new favorite snack! (And thankfully, this recipe makes a lot of popcorn!)

This perfect caramel corn is so easy to make, but people are always impressed that it’s homemade. Surprisingly, you also only need a few pantry staples to make it.

Once you try the best caramel corn recipe, you’ll never buy store-bought caramel corn again!

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This crunchy, sweet caramel corn makes a great food gift to share with neighbors and friends during the holiday season. I like to keep the packaging simple with some clear treat bags and seasonal ribbon.

This truly is the best caramel corn recipe you’ll ever try! And the best thing about it is that it’s naturally gluten-free! Hooray!

You also might like these tried-and-true recipes for homemade caramels or rolo pretzels. This dairy-free caramel sauce is also a favorite.

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • Sweet and crispy
  • Irresistible texture
  • Great for gifting
  • Perfect fall treat
  • Easy to make

Ingredients You’ll Need

overhead shot of ingredients to make caramel corn

Here’s the ingredient list for the best caramel popcorn recipe:

  • Popcorn Kernels: Either white or yellow will work great.
  • Butter: A hefty 4 sticks is needed for this recipe, but it makes a big batch!
  • Brown Sugar: Light brown sugar gives the caramel corn a nice hint of molasses flavor.
  • Light corn Syrup: I don’t use corn syrup often but it’s very helpful for special treats like caramel corn and homemade soft caramels. I usually buy organic corn syrup.
  • Baking Soda: This is the secret ingredient to getting the caramel to foam and stick to the popcorn.
  • Salt: I highly recommend Kosher salt! A good pinch of salt is key to delicious caramel corn.

Caramel corn is easy to make at home, but you’ll need a few kitchen tools:

  • I highly recommend a good air-pop popcorn machine. Air-popped popcorn isn’t coated in any oil or additives so it’s perfect for mixing with the caramel sauce. I also think air-popped popcorn yields bigger pieces than microwave or stove-top popped popcorn.
  • It’s also helpful to have either 2 large oven-safe glass bowls or 2 baking sheets lined with silicone baking liners for baking the caramel corn.

How to Make this Recipe

Here are the steps to this easy caramel popcorn recipe:

  • Preheat oven to 250 F. Pop the popcorn kernels in air popper. Place popcorn in a large bowl (that is oven-safe) or large roasting pan. (Note: I had to use my biggest and next biggest Pyrex bowls and a 9×13 pan to fit it all. Just divide up the popcorn and caramel amongst the dishes as best you can.)
  • In a medium saucepan combine the butter, sugar, light corn syrup, and salt. Melt slowly over medium heat, stirring constantly. When mixture comes to a full boil, stir constantly to prevent burning for 5 minutes.
  • After caramel mixture boils for 5 minutes, remove from heat and add the baking soda. Mix in baking soda carefully as the mixture will expand when you add it. Pour a thin coating of caramel over the plain popcorn and mix well to coat the popped kernels.
  • Place in glass oven-safe bowls or on parchment-lined baking sheets and place in the preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and pour onto the prepared baking sheet parchment paper immediately. Cool and enjoy!
caramel corn on baking sheet

Storage Instructions

This caramel corn recipe will stay crispy and delicious for up to a week, if stored in an air-tight container or sealed bag. Keep at room temperature. Storing in the fridge could change the texture.

FAQs

Why is my caramel corn not crunchy?

Your caramel corn won’t turn out crunchy if the syrup is too thick. (You’ll have a chewy caramel corn instead.) To get a nice crunchy caramel corn, try heating the syrup longer to thin it out.

How do you keep caramel corn from getting soggy?

You can avoid soggy caramel corn by baking it at a low temperature over a long period of time. Make sure to stir the caramel corn to ensure it evenly bakes and is well coated with the syrup.

Why is my caramel corn gritty?

Your caramel corn will turn out gritty when the sugar crystals clump together. You can void this by adding baking soda, which breaks apart the sugar.

Why do you add baking soda to caramel?

You add baking soda to caramel in order to break apart the sugar molecules and create a softer caramel syrup texture. The baking soda will create a chemical reaction with the acid in the brown sugar and corn syrup to create bubbles. After the mixture creates tiny carbon dioxide air bubbles, it will cool down and create a softer texture. This is the perfect texture for evenly coating your popcorn.

Expert Tips & Tricks

  • Stirring this easy homemade caramel corn every 15 minutes while it’s baking is key for getting every piece coated with caramel.
  • Skip the bags of microwave popcorn for this recipe. Homemade caramel corn will turn out best if you make the popcorn in an air-pop popcorn machine. Even with this extra step, it’s still one of those easy recipes you’ll come back to again and again!
  • If you’re unsure of when to take the caramel mixture off of the heat, you can use a candy thermometer. Remove from heat once the mixture reaches 250F degrees.

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you try my best caramel corn recipe, be sure to leave me a comment/rating below. I’d love to hear from you!

close up shot of caramel corn on baking sheet
5 from 22 votes

Best Caramel Corn Recipe

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Servings 12 servings
This truly is the best caramel corn recipe! It's easy to make, and perfect for snacking or gifting during the holidays. Trust me — you won't be able to stop eating this sweet, crispy, irresistible caramel corn!
NOTE: Video shows the amounts for 1/2 a batch!

Video

Ingredients

  • 4 sticks butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup of unpopped popcorn kernels

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 250 F. Pop the popcorn kernels in air popper. Place popcorn in a large oven safe bowl. (Note: I had to use my biggest and next biggest pyrex bowls and a 9×13 pan to fit it all. Just divide up the popcorn and caramel amongst the dishes as best you can.)
  • In a medium saucepan combine the butter, sugar, light corn syrup, and salt. Melt slowly over medium heat, stirring constantly. When mixture comes to a full boil, stir constantly to prevent burning for 5 minutes.
  • After caramel mixture boils for 5 minutes, remove from heat and add the baking soda. Mix in baking soda carefully as the mixture will expand when you add it. Pour caramel over popcorn and mix well to coat the popped kernels.
  • Place in glass oven-safe bowls or on parchment-lined baking sheets and cook the caramel corn for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and pour onto parchment-lined sheet trays immediately. Cool and enjoy!

Notes

RECIPE NOTES
  • Either yellow or white popcorn kernels will work great for this recipe. Air-popped popcorn will yield the best results.
  • If you prefer you can use organic corn syrup
  • Be sure to stir every 15 minutes so each piece of caramel corn gets fully coated. 
 
 

Nutrition

Calories: 233kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 1g | Sodium: 307mg | Potassium: 86mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 46g | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 0.7mg

Categories: , , , , , , , ,

Hi, I’m Erin!

BS Food Science,

MS Nutrition

I believe you can make amazing, gluten-free food with everyday ingredients that everyone will enjoy. I’m here to share my tried-and-true recipes with you!

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Comments

  1. Erin,
    What could be used instead of butter is make it dairy, or more specifically, casein free? What do you think would taste good – ghee, coconut oil, a combination of ghee and coconut oil ?
    Gabby

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve made this caramel corn a half dozen times already, it is AMAZING! I usually double the amount of popcorn to caramel and it still covers the popcorn just enough. I bag it up and hand it out as gifts for the holiday. There’s never enough to go around as it gets snacked on immediately!! Thanks

  3. 5 stars
    Meaningful Eats is one of my favorite for GF recipes! I’ve never made caramel corn before, but it was pretty easy and the flavor was awesome! Three kids ate it up!!!

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe is very similar to the recipe I’ve used for many years. I actually add a tsp of vanilla extract when I add the baking soda. Adds a nice flavor! It’s always a special treat and it is definitely very easy to do!

  5. 5 stars
    This was super easy to make and very good. I cut the recipe in half as there are only 2 of us. It filled a gallon size plastic bag when done. I used popcorn made from a real movie theater like popcorn maker made with a popcorn kit that has the butter and popcorn. I used my metal large turkey roaster. I poured the Carmel over the popcorn in there and baked it in there. It is a light buttery Carmel, not too much, not sticky, not soaking the popcorn not brown molasses like. I will make this often.

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