Homemade Caramel Corn Fights Thanksgiving Munchies!


I don’t know how Thanksgiving works with your family but I imagine it is somewhat similar to how it works with mine. Siblings, spouses, kidders, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and anyone else who happens to want a good meal that day gathers at my mother’s house. Most of us come in toting various dishes full of our contributions to the meal and add them to the already heavily laden table of goodies. My mother’s oven is still going full blast with rolls, mac and cheese, or perhaps even the turkey. The smells of pies, cinnamon, smoked meats, and yeast rolls are so good they are positively torturous. If you weren’t hungry before, you sure are now!

Now the hard part: We have to wait. Whether its for a few more dishes to be done or more family members to make their way through the door, we always have to wait. Now, for the adults this isn’t such a bad thing. However, we have five little folks in our family ages nine and under and they are a different issue altogether. As the little faces look over the table and desserts and take in the smells of all of their favorite dishes, they are hungry NOW.

Several years back, I got the bright idea of making homemade caramel corn to take to Thanksgiving in order to help fight off the munchies until dinnertime. Not only was it a hit with the kids (and kept them considerably more patient) but the adults seemed to delight in being able to grab a handful of something to snack on even more! This is now my personal Thanksgiving tradition. Aunt Christy brings the caramel corn.

But this delicious snack has many more uses than that! Homemade caramel corn is very easy and extremely inexpensive to make. This makes a lovely Christmas gift when packaged in a clear cellophane bag and tied with a little ribbon.

First we’re gonna make some popcorn, the old fashioned way.

I was speaking with a girl in her early twenties a few months back and mentioned something about old fashioned popcorn, and she thought the old fashioned way of making it was in an air popper. She had honestly never heard of folks making it on the stove or even campfire for that matter. For that reason alone, y’all need to make some of this! Not to mention how incredibly inexpensive it is as opposed to microwave style. Did I mention how much better it tastes?

Heat some oil in a large pot. I used about 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.

Save your fancy oil for a fancy dish, we’re just making caramel corn here!

Pour in your popcorn kernels. I just have plain old kernels here. I am using about a cup and a half or so. Normally, I would salt this but I am going to use salt in my sauce so we’re good.

Now put a lid on your pot and continue cooking it on medium heat. It will take a few minutes for the kernels to get hot but once they do they will start popping all over the place!

This is the part my Katy absolutely loves to watch. We get a dining room chair and set it up near the oven and she waits for the popping to start while I stand nervously between her and the pot to make sure she doesn’t get burned.

If you’ve never made homemade popcorn before, please don’t forget the lid on your pot. Popcorn projectiles are VERY hot!

When it starts popping, I hold the handles of my pot and shake it gently from side to side to help get my kernels on the bottom distributed better so they will pop evenly. Keep the lid on and keep the pot sitting on the eye.

I really need more light in my kitchen but it’s so small though that even a candle would feel crowded :).

This is your finished popcorn. Now I popped three big pots of this. I ended up with about three gallons of popped popcorn. Lets make the good stuff now!

You’ll need: Salt, Honey, Vanilla, Margarine, Baking Soda, and Brown Sugar (there are two sticks of margarine pictured but one is hiding coz my margarine is shy)

The Morton salt is my Thiokol thing again. See this post on why I always use it (scroll down to the grandparent part).

In a heavy saucepot, place your margarine, brown sugar, and honey.

I stir that up a bit and turn the heat on medium.

Stir constantly while everything melts and it comes to a boil.

Once it comes to a boil, stop stirring and let boil for about three minutes, undisturbed.

Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. You need to use a pan with a lip on it because we’re going to stir it every fifteen minutes and you don’t want to drop a ton of popcorn into the bottom of your oven (which I always do anyway).

Once it has boiled for three minutes, remove from heat and add in your baking soda.

This will make it foam up a bit, just stir it a little.

This is how it looks when its a bit foamy.

Now add in your vanilla…

And your butter flavoring. If you don’t have butter flavoring just use more vanilla in its place.

I am a huge advocate for butter flavoring. I don’t know much that doesn’t taste even better with it!

Pour your popcorn into a dishpan or very large bowl. I use my big old red plastic dishpan.

I am also a huge advocate for big red plastic dishpans…Hey, we all gotta stand for something.

I wish I could show you this great artsy shot of the caramel sauce being drizzled over my popcorn. A shot like that would be awesome here, wouldn’t it? Well, Katy was taking a nap, Brady was at school, the newly enslaved webmaster was at work…so that left me and…

Daz, the cat. He didn’t seem too concerned so I just poured the caramel over the popcorn and got a photo of stirring it in  there.

Spread that out on your greased baking sheet and place in the oven at 250 for 1 hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. I had to use two baking sheets to be able to hold all of my popcorn. After the first half an hour, I swap the sheets so the bottom one is on the top and top on bottom.

I set my oven timer on fifteen minutes so I can remember.

After an hour take it out and let it cool. It will look all golden and pretty like this.

I packaged mine in those inexpensive clear party favor bags I told y’all about in my Chocolate Gravy Mix post. Those pretty bows are these babies…

I got them in the Christmas decoration department. Twenty for two dollars and they are perfect for using with these bags when filled with mixes, caramel corn, or little loaves of bread.

Now you have a great snack or an impressive gift!


Homemade Caramel Corn
  • 1 Cup honey
  • 1 Cup margarine (two sticks)
  • 1 Cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • ½ Tsp baking soda
  • 3 gallons popped popcorn
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp butter flavoring (can use more vanilla)
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease two large baking sheets. In heavy saucepot, combine margarine, honey, brown sugar, and salt. Turn on medium heat and stir continuously until it comes to a boil. Stop stirring and let boil, undisturbed, for three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and flavorings. Place ½ of cooled popcorn in a large dishpan (I do mine in two batches) and pour half caramel sauce over. Stir until evenly coated. Spread onto baking sheet and repeat with remainder on another baking sheet.
  2. Place in oven and bake at 250 for one hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. Allow to cool and break apart before placing in airtight container.

I thought I’d never get this post done today! Isn’t it funny how we make our plans and life interrupts at will? I’m going to bring you a yummy casserole tomorrow filled with nothing but comfort ingredients! It freezes well, too!

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  1. says

    It looks delicious! Jeff and I have made caramel corn like this before, and it’s so fun to do it together. Except for the one time when I was pouring the sauce and he was stirring the popcorn, and I accidentally poured some really hot sauce right on his hand! He had some severe blistering after that! But the popcorn sure tasted delicious anyway. :-)

  2. says

    I havent made homemade caramel corn in so long. I have never made it with honey eitehr. Love the bags and a great steal on the bows. I am making my list for goodies for chirstmas baskets i have serveral of you ideas to add Ü.

  3. says

    Hey Y’all!!! Thanks for reading and especially for commenting!!!! I LOVE COMMENTS!!! its like giving me doggie treats! lol
    Ashley, don’t you fret one little bit. Popping popcorn has never damaged my pots in any way, shape, or form! I can see how it would seem it would though but I’ve never had any problem and I’ve even made it in little inexpensive nonstick pots before, with no issues whatsoever!
    Its so much fun to make! If you do make it just for popcorn, pour about a teaspoon (or less) of salt over your kernels once you get them in the hot oil (before they pop).

  4. Gina says

    wow, you have GREAT timing! Haylo and I were looking for a recipe for popcorn balls to make for christmas when I got a new email alert and saw the title… We checked it out (as usual) and she saw the pic of Daz…and instead of popcorn balls everyone is getting this! (Daz could be our cats twin, only Boo is still young) So Daz saved me a load of time, and I bet everyone in my family would want to thank him! BTW I like the new site look ;)

  5. Caitlin says

    This just brightens my day Christy! I’m one of the youngest “adults” in my family (only 20!) and in my boyfriends family for that matter. All of our parents and grandparents are always talking about food from the “good ole’ days” and how no one ever makes it anymore. I can’t wait to have this in tow on Thanksgiving and shock everyone! This time around the “youngin” is bringin’ somethin from the old days. :)

    Ps: Your daughter is just beautiful! And the cat is pretty cute too- I have two (cats that is) and they love to lounge on the bar stools anytime i’m cooking. Almost like they’re just waiting for me to drop something!

  6. Mellany says

    I make a recipe very similar, except I pop my corn in the microwave in a brown bag and I use white syrup/Karo,corn syrup instead of honey (slightly cheaper):) But I will be tryin your recipe, I love to give mine out at church as a little treat at Christmas.
    This year I will try your recipe see if anyone notices the difference. Thanks for another great recipe.

  7. Connie Melancon says

    I was just telling my kids & grandkids (who LOVE popcorn) how we used to pop popcorn on the stove growing up. I can still see my mom shaking that pot! Can’t wait to share this recipe with the grandkids.

  8. says

    I use to make this caramel corn all the time when my kids were younger and I’ve been thinking about making it lately and then low and behold you put it on your blog. I think it’s an omen that I should make caramel corn. Thanks.

  9. Mary Masters says

    Thanks for this recipe. My daughter has to make little gifts for co workers and being on a budget she decided this would be a lovely way to give a gift. We are going to practice for Thanksgiving and then make more for Christmas gifts. I think we will have to make several batches to test it. *wink wink* LOL! It looks wonderful!
    Thanks for the great idea Christy!

  10. says

    wow, you have great timing! Haylo and I were looking for a recipe for popcorn balls to make for Christmas when I got a new email alert and saw the title… We checked it out (as usual) and she saw the pic of Daz…and instead of popcorn balls everyone is getting this!

  11. David Appenzellar says

    These look yummy and better than the Crunch’n Munch in a box. And alot easier on the hands than making Popcorn balls and having to deal with the hot Karo syrup when making them before it sets up. I do have to say I like the website 1000 times better now as I am old fashion and still use Internet Explorer and the old version took forever to the blog to load into your webpage. But with all good things that are worth the wait, I would sit and wait on Dial-Up for your pages to load. That is how much I enjoy your site, blog, and recipes. Thanks for all your hard work!!

  12. Donna says

    I can’t wait to make this popcorn. It does remind me of standing with my grandmother in her kitchen while she made popcorn balls. She would make these to hand out at halloween. She used the thick steens syrup that stick to your teeth. But they were yummy.
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Gina says

    Hello, Thanks or a great recipe. I just made a batch and it is wonderful. I only made one batch of popcorn. The 1.5 cup of kernells filled my 11 quart soup pot and even lifted the lid. I had a hard time covering all the popcorn and I ended up using 2 large roasting pans instead of cookie sheets as they would not have worked. Next time I will either cut the corn in half or double the caramel sauce. Love caramel…

    Thanks for the recipe.

  14. Betty in Va says

    Hi Christy, and thanks for all the wonderful recipes and work you do to make us better cooks. I’m into the holiday baking mode at present, gettin gifts ready to give at Christmas, and your site is a treasure to say the least.
    I’m subscribed to your email but I can’t get the printer friendly recipes to work. Can you tell me what I may be doing wrong?? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again for all you do!

  15. LAURIE STONE says

    well she used 1 cup and a half per batch. times 3 batches so I am figuring 4-1/2 cups of kernels. I am going to use my air popper and take a gallon milk container and slice the top off with an exacto knife just enough to be able to pour scoops of popped corn in it to measure out the 3 gallons….hope that helps.

  16. Annarose says

    Aunt Christys are the best :) I have one too and I love her! Your caramel corn recipe looks so good. My mom loves caramel corn and unfortunately I won’t be home for Christmas (it’s my first Christmas after getting married and we’re going to spend it with my husband’s family), but I’m going to make some caramel corn to mail to my mom. I would consider making some for Thanksgiving in a couple of days, but I always make Chex mix to snack on before Thanksgiving dinner’s ready and I already made the Chex mix earlier tonight! Gotta love the tradition of having something yummy to snack on while waiting, whether it be caramel corn or Chex mix :)

  17. Lynn Wilson says

    Just wondering… when you use the capital “T” as in Tsp, are you meaning Tablespoon? I got a little confused when I was making this because I had already put in a Tablespoon of salt and then I saw the 1/2 Tsp of soda and it kind of made me wonder if I had misunderstood. I ended up only using a 1/2 teaspoon of soda since I really didn’t know what it was for. It tasted good–like salted caramel so it didn’t really matter in the end. I’m just hoping you can clarify this for me. Thanks!!

  18. GmaMeMe says

    This recipe is less labor intensive and you get to enjoy it sooner.


    1 pkg. microwave popcorn (butter flavor is best, but not movie theatre flavor)
    1 stick butter
    ½ cup packed brown sugar
    15-18 large marshmallows

    Microwave popcorn as directed and put in large bowl. Set aside.

    Using a large frying pan or sauce pan, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and mix well until sugar is dissolved. Add marshmallows and stir until thoroughly melted and a golden caramel color.

    Pour marshmallow mixture over popped corn and mix well.

    OPT: Add nuts or chocolate chips at the end.


  19. Debbie says

    Christy, would you believe this is how I found your site? I was searching for how to make caramel popcorn and your site came up. That was the day after Thanksgiving… needless to say, I had to try out the recipe before giving it to others! All I can say is “Yum, yum! Wow is that gooood!” Since then I have checked out your site and used quite a few of your recipes, each and every one of them is delicious! Thank you so much for sharing so many things with us :)
    Merry Christmas to you and your entire family!

  20. JoAn says

    I have been making these treats for years……giving them in decorated holiday bags as well……to my teaching partners. I DO “kick it up a notch”, though, by dizzling melted chocolate wafers over the whole batch as it comes out from the oven. I use the chocolate wafers from ACMoore/Michaels/JoAnne fabric. My co-workers wait each year for these treats.

  21. Bonnie Dunston says

    My mother use to make popcorn like this and add peanuts. Talk about homemade we grew the popcorn and the peanuts! She made a big batch of the “cracker jacks” and popcorn balls and mailed to my brother who was in the Army. I think she used sorghum syrup when she made them. They sure were good.

  22. Mary Jefferson Rabon says

    I have also made caramel corn, and used the real popcorn. Just have to be careful not to burn the popcorn and keep it moving! I love it in October but what a great idea to have it for Thanksgiving! Thanks!

  23. Tena says

    When just making popcorn, you salt the kernels while IN the oil? I would never have thought of that!

    Being one of those who can’t stand air-popped ‘corn, I went out many moons ago and bought one of those fancy stove-top poppers which consists of a large aluminum pan, where the lid has a handle which is attached to spindle inside the pan, which has a paddle on it. The idea is that you turn the handle, and the paddle sweeps around and around the bottom of the pan to keep the kernels moving around in the oil (supposedly to minimize the likelihood of burning). I soon got fed up with cleaning the lid/paddle; ditched it and found myself an alternative.

    As it turns out, a pie tin from any Marie Callendar’s frozen pie (I believe it must have been Coconut Cream, because I am terribly addicted to those) is JUST the right size to to stand in as a lid! I punched 3 holes in it to let the steam escape (no chance of ending up with soggy popcorn!!), and with a couple of potholders and a lot of swirling the pan over heat, I get perfect popcorn every single time!

  24. William Winstead says

    you forgot to suggest that to get all your kernels to pop, you should store the corn in the freezer.
    I read this somewhere and tried it. now if I have 3 unpopped kernels I consider myself a failure.

  25. Gloria says

    Just read your recipe for Caramel popcorn. When I was growing up, the only way we knew to pop corn was in a pot on the stove. Also, saw your picture of Daz. I just got a kitten. He is solid black just like yours and his name is Sam. He has one spot of white about the size of a quarter under his chin and a little white on his belly that you can never see!


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