Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Caramel Popcorn is without a doubt the best part of a popcorn tin. Making your own is easy to do, which is great news since it’s a marvelous snack for any occasion. 

top view of caramel popcorn recipe spilling out of a popcorn container

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If you travel to the same place enough, you develop habits. 

Or at least you do if you’re anything like me. 

Maybe you always stop at the same donut shop or visit the same hot dog stand. Maybe you always stop at the same farmers market stand. 

For me, it’s popcorn. Whenever I have a layover in Chicago, I have to pick up popcorn. 

caramel popcorn kernels on a white surface

Yes, even touristy airport popcorn. It’s my favorite food souvenir. 

I learned this from one of my college advisers who used to insist we stop for popcorn during our layovers. 

The Chicago classic mixture is a combination of caramel popcorn and cheddar popcorn. (I’m just a popcorn fiend, so I won’t fight with anyone about whether Garrett’s or Nuts on Clark does it better.)

The sweet and crunchy caramel notes always complement the salty, cheesy notes of the cheddar coating. 

caramel popcorn recipe spilling out of a popcorn container

You know me — I can’t have a food memory and not try to recreate it myself. 

That’s how I wound up with recipes for herbal limeade and penne rosa

This caramel popcorn recipe is another one of those hankerings I am bringing back into my life. 

Because sometimes movie theatre butter popcorn just isn’t enough. 

a red and white popcorn container filled with a caramel popcorn recipe

Tell me about this caramel popcorn recipe.

Caramel popcorn is a crunchy, sweet type of popcorn. 

It’s the same kind you get in those popcorn tins at the holidays. 

Popped popcorn is coated in a caramel sauce, then baked to help the caramel sauce set. 

It’s a trickier recipe than you might be used to here at Feast + West, so make sure you read the recipe through a few times. 

caramel popcorn kernels on a white surface

How do you make caramel popcorn from scratch?

First, spread popped popcorn over a couple baking sheets lined with parchment paper. I use one of these silicone popcorn bowls to pop mine.

You’re going to start on the stove and make a caramel coating for popcorn with brown sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar and butter. Bring all of these to a boil for about 5 minutes. 

Working fast, you’ll remove the mixture from heat and stir in the baking soda. This will force the mixture to — quickly — become thick and bubbly. 

Then pour it over the popcorn and toss it gently to coat all the kernels. And carefully! Hot caramel is incredibly dangerous. 

Lastly you’ll cook the caramel popcorn in the oven to help the caramel set on the popcorn.

closeup of a red and white popcorn container filled with a caramel popcorn recipe

And voila! Perfection. Now you have the perfect caramel popcorn recipe. 

You can even upgrade it, if you like. Try caramel popcorn with sea salt to get your sweet & salty fix, or try bourbon caramel popcorn for a boozier twist.  

I love making it for a homemade popcorn tin to give friends for Christmas.

Hope you love this caramel corn as much as I do! // susannah

top view of caramel popcorn recipe spilling out of a popcorn container

Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Yield: 10 cups
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Make this Caramel Popcorn Recipe for a snack or for your next movie night! Just like the Chicago classic.

Ingredients

  • 10 cups popped popcorn (see note)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) 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 degrees. Spread the popcorn out onto 2 large baking sheets. Remove any unpopped kernels. Set aside.
  2. In another medium saucepan, melt butter on medium-high heat. Add sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar and salt. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil for about 5 minutes. Working quickly, remove saucepan from heat and stir in the baking soda. Mixture will become thick and bubbly. Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and toss gently until all the kernels are coated.
  3. Place baking sheets in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pans one at a time and stir each one again before heating for another 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven. Let the popcorn cool on the pan. If desired, break apart any large clusters. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

If making popcorn on the stove: In a medium saucepan, bring 1/4 cup vegetable oil to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often. Add 1/2 cup popcorn kernels in a single layer and cover saucepan with a lid. When the popcorn begins to pop (after about 2-3 minutes), shake the pot over the heat for about 3 minutes, until popping slows. Remove from heat immediately and let cool.

If making in the microwave: In a small mixing bowl, stir together 1/2 cup uncooked kernels and 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil. Pour into a brown paper bag and fold the bag closed. Microwave for approximately 2 minutes (will vary based on the microwave). Remove when popping has slowed. Remove from microwave and let cool before handling.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 5 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 295Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 488mgCarbohydrates: 58gFiber: 2gSugar: 49gProtein: 1g

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