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Homemade Salted Caramel Corn

This sweet and salty classic caramel corn recipe will bring you back to childhood! Made without corn syrup and customizable to your liking will make this a time-honored treat for all generations!

bowl of caramel popcorn

It’s finally the time of year for my family’s favorite snack – easy homemade caramel corn!

Whether we’re having a movie night with the little kids or making popcorn balls as a treat for parties during the holiday season, this homemade caramel corn recipe will blow store-bought caramel corn out of the water.

Caramel Corn Recipe 

With freshly popped popcorn in a delicious caramel sauce, this easy caramel popcorn recipe will be a huge hit.

Although there are a lot of recipes out there for the perfect caramel corn, this kettle corn has a softer texture than most, with the perfect ratio of caramel to warm popcorn.

If you’re looking for a homemade caramel popcorn, I highly recommend trying this one, with a short ingredient list that creates a delicious snack.

Love popcorn as a snack? Try my Buffalo Ranch Popcorn, Peppermint Chocolate Popcorn, and Spicy Nacho Popcorn!

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labeled picture of caramel corn ingredients in small bowls

Ingredients Needed

White popcorn kernels – When choosing my un-popped kernels, I like a white corn but you can use any kind of popcorn that you prefer.

Sea salt – Look for kosher salt because it has the perfect texture. If you can’t find it at the grocery store, any sea salt will do.

Butter – I recommend unsalted butter, but you can use the cup butter of your choice. Butter can also be swapped for vegetable oil.

Brown sugar – Choose a light brown sugar if possible. You can also combine maple syrup with white sugar if you cannot find brown.

Pantry staples – Vanilla extract, baking soda.

Salt – For the teaspoon salt in the caramel coating, you can use any finely ground salt that you have.

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How To Make Caramel Corn

FIRST: Place popped corn in a large bowl. I recommend a dutch oven or large roasting pan. Preheat oven to 250F. Prepare a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

SECOND: In a medium saucepan or large saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat to medium-high heat. Melt butter, and cook until sugar dissolves.

THIRD: Bring caramel mixture to a boil. Boil for around 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla extra and salt. Stir to combine. 

Add a little baking soda and stir carefully. The mixture will foam, so make sure you have a big enough pot to handle it. 

FOURTH: Drizzle caramel over popcorn. Stir until popcorn is coated in an even layer. Sprinkle with salt.

FIFTH: Place popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread out evenly. Place in preheated oven for a baking time of around 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes with a rubber spatula.

SIXTH: Remove from oven and let cool until it reaches room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

For the full recipe and detailed instructions, please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

bowl of caramel corn

What extras can I add?

For the best caramel corn recipe, I personally recommend adding in pecan or nuts of some sort, because the flavor profile goes well with the caramel sauce.

If you prefer, you can also add on some melted peanut butter, to create a salty peanut butter popcorn.

For my chocolate fans, try adding in some M&Ms or chocolate chips. Here are some of my favorites!

  1. SnoCaps
  2. M&Ms
  3. Chocolate Chips
  4. Toffee Bits
  5. Pecans
  6. Peanuts
  7. Cashews
  8. Macadamia Nuts
  9. Toasted Coconut Chips – like in my Tropical Hawaiian Popcorn
  10. Sunflower Seeds
hand holding caramel popcorn

Can I make my caramel corn lighter?

If you prefer a lighter balance of caramel to popcorn, you can cut down on the amount of caramel sauce that you toss your popcorn in so that each piece of popcorn is lightly coated.

Pro tip – for the first time tossing it, start by adding in half of the syrup that you created before deciding whether to add in more or not. 

Can you make this without corn syrup?

Yes! The chemical reaction between the baking soda and sugar, and then baking the corn, makes a crunchy caramel corn without corn syrup.

close up of popcorn

Is there a fast way to pop my popcorn?

The quickest and easiest way to make your air popped corn for this recipe (if you don’t want to take the time to make stovetop popcorn) is using the microwave.

Place your kernels in a brown paper bag, and cover with a little oil. Microwave for 2 – 3 minutes, depending on your microwave’s strength. 

For larger batches, rather than using a lot of paper bags, you can also put your kernels and oil in a large microwave-safe bowl covered by a plate. Microwave for 5 or 6 minutes, or until the corn is all popped.

bowl of caramel corn

Tapas Tips & Tricks

  • Prepare all your necessary items ahead of time and place them within reach.
  • Give yourself plenty of room on the counter to work.
  • Use a pot or bowl big enough to stir the caramel corn while coating.
  • For easier clean up, coat your cookie sheet in aluminum foil or parchment paper. 
  • If you need to, make sure to prepare a few large baking sheets so that your popcorn can be spread out evenly. 
  • Use a candy thermometer to monitor the heat of the caramel sauce mixture, so that it doesn’t burn and stays the correct temperature. Continuously stir with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking to the bottom of the medium pot. 
  •  If you’re somewhere with a high altitude, reduce the temperature to low heat, adjusting by 2 degrees for every 1000 feet above sea level. 
  • For the stickier, thicker kind of popcorn you can add in a light corn syrup to your caramel sauce mixture.
  • Use a timer!

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

bowl of salted caramel popcorn with white banner and text

This is the best caramel popcorn recipe that I’ve found so far, and the holiday season is the perfect excuse to make a big batch to snack on throughout your week. If you’re on a lower calorie diet and want to find a great recipe for a salty sweet snack, you have to try this one, rather than eating store caramel corn, which can be high in fat and sugar. Overall, this recipe is a huge hit every time I make it, and I know your whole family will love it.

close up of bowl of caramel corn with blue napkin

Homemade Salted Caramel Corn

Yield: 16 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

This sweet and salty classic caramel corn recipe will bring you back to childhood!  Made without corn syrup and customizable to your liking!

Ingredients

Popcorn

  • 1 cup white corn kernels (16 cups popped)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

Caramel Coating

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Optional Additions

Instructions

Prepare your popcorn and pans

  1. Pop your popcorn. You can use the oil or air pop method just don't use the pre-packaged microwave kind.
  2. Place in a large mixing bowl. I use my dutch oven because it's wide and deep.
  3. Prepare the baking pan with nonstick spray.
  4. Preheat the oven to 250F.

Prepare the caramel coating

  1. In a medium saucepan combine the butter and brown sugar.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the brown sugar is dissolving.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract and salt.
  6. Stir to combine.
  7. Add the baking soda and stir carefully. THIS WILL CAUSE IT TO FOAM AND BUBBLE so make sure your pot is big enough to handle that.
  8. Quickly drizzle the caramel mixture over your popcorn.
  9. Stir to coat all the popcorn as evenly as possible.

Bake the popcorn to set the caramel

  1. Pour the popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet.
  2. Spread out as evenly as possible.
  3. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  5. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Notes

  • For easier clean up, coat your cookie sheet in aluminum foil or parchment paper. 
  • If you need to, make sure to prepare a few large baking sheets so that your popcorn can be spread out evenly. 
  • Use a candy thermometer to monitor the heat of the caramel sauce mixture, so that it doesn’t burn and stays the correct temperature. Continuously stir with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking to the bottom of the medium pot. 
  •  If you’re somewhere with a high altitude, reduce the temperature to low heat, adjusting by 2 degrees for every 1000 feet above sea level. 
  • For the stickier, thicker kind of popcorn you can add in a light corn syrup to your caramel sauce mixture.

(Originally Published 06/05/18 - photos and recipe notes updated to improve user experience)

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 249Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 556mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 1gSugar: 23gProtein: 2g

This nutrition information was generated via a third party, Nutritionix, and can not be held liable for any discrepancies in the information provided.

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(Originally Published 06/05/18 – photos and recipe notes updated to improve user experience)

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Lynne

Wednesday 15th of December 2021

Ugh. NonononoNO! I followed your recipe and ended up with black bitter yuck. I think if I didn't time the brown sugar and butter to five minutes it would have been better. Fortunately, I cooled off a tiny bit ona a spoon, before I poured it on the popcorn. Unfortunately, I had already poured in the nuts I was using.

The nuts washed off. There's that at least...

Jennifer

Thursday 16th of December 2021

I'm sorry that you had problems. I just made this recipe yesterday to take to the neighbors and didn't have any problems. What temperature was your burner when you were boiling it? Are you at a higher altitude?

Rebecca

Sunday 10th of January 2021

When do I add the salt? There's salt in the ingredients but it doesn't say anything about salt in the instructions. Do I add it with the brown sugar and butter? Or with the vanilla? Or after the caramel is on the popcorn? Or after it comes out of the oven?

Jennifer

Monday 11th of January 2021

So sorry for the confusion! My mom brain is kicking in and just going on auto pilot I guess LOL. You add the salt when you add the vanilla extract. When you take the sugar mixture off the heat. I hope this helps!

Sabine

Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

Hmm still in the oven but I think I boiled the sugar too long since it really doesn't pour.

Jennifer

Wednesday 30th of December 2020

If the caramel is too thick you definitely cooked it too long. It should pour like a thin gravy.

Loop

Saturday 18th of July 2020

Can you substitute oil for butter?

Tracy

Sunday 23rd of August 2020

That would probably be nasty!

Jennifer

Sunday 19th of July 2020

I haven't tried this but I am not sure that it would work. I would stick with the butter:)

Jim Szutowicz

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

What temperature do yo back it at?

Jim Szutowicz

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

Bake*

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