No holiday gift or snack is quite as scrumptious as this recipe for caramel corn. It features freshly popped popcorn coated in a sweet homemade caramel sauce.
Several years back, I got the bright idea of making homemade caramel corn to take to Thanksgiving to help sustain us 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! This is now my personal Thanksgiving tradition.
But this delicious snack has many more uses than that! This gluten-free recipe for caramel corn is very easy and extremely inexpensive to make. I bet you even have most of the homemade caramel sauce ingredients in your kitchen right now, like honey, butter, brown sugar, and vanilla or butter flavoring. When combined with freshly popped popcorn, this caramel corn is so irresistible and addictive! It has a long shelf-life, but we all know it won’t last long!
This makes a lovely gift when packaged in a clear cellophane bag and tied with a little ribbon, like our picture above. Other snacks I love to gift during the holidays include candied peanuts or candied pecans, iced oatmeal cookies, and my 3-ingredient Oreo cookie balls.
Let’s gather in the kitchen and make us up a batch!
- Popped popcorn
- Unsalted butter
- Brown sugar (you can use either dark or )
- Baking soda
- Vanilla extract
- Butter flavoring (or just use more vanilla instead)
How To Make Homemade Caramel Corn
1. Make Popcorn the Old-Fashioned Way
First, we’re gonna make some plain popcorn on the stovetop, the old-fashioned way.
Heat some oil in a large pot. I used about 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.
I love to use coconut oil (refined if you don’t like the taste of coconut or unrefined if you like a little coconut flavor).
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 sprinkle about a teaspoon of salt over this but I am going to use salt in my sauce so we’re good.
Place this over medium to medium-high heat and listen for it to start sizzling a bit. Stay close by!
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!
Warning: 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 or burner (for the Northerners reading this).
Once it stops popping, immediately remove the pot from the stove and pour the popcorn out into a heat-safe bowl or pan of some sort. This is your finished popcorn.
I pop three big pots of this whenever I make caramel popcorn and end up with about three gallons of popped popcorn. Let’s make the caramel now!
2. Make the Homemade Caramel Sauce
For the caramel part of this recipe for caramel corn, you’ll need the rest of the ingredients that were listed in the ingredient listed and pictured above. In case you need a refresher those were:
- Baking Soda
- Brown Sugar
In a heavy saucepot, place your butter, brown sugar, honey, and salt.
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.
Here’s a tip about the pan…
You need to use a pan with a rim on it because we’re going to stir it every 15 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 the saucepot from the heat and add in your baking soda.
This will make it foam up a bit, just stir it a little.
Now add in your vanilla and butter flavoring.
If you don’t have butter flavoring just use more vanilla in its place.
Pour 1/2 of your popcorn into a dishpan or very large bowl.
Pour 1/2 of the caramel mixture over the popcorn and give it a good stir.
Spread your homemade caramel corn onto your prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining popcorn and caramel mixture.
Place these sheets in the oven at 250 for 1 hour, stirring the every 15 minutes with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
NOTE: I have to use two baking sheets to be able to hold all of my caramel popcorn. After the first half an hour, I swap the sheets so the bottom one is on the top and the top on the bottom.
I set my oven timer for 15 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 package mine in these inexpensive clear party favor bags. I get them on the party favor aisle at Walmart.
Now you have a great snack or an impressive gift!
- One of the best things about this recipe for caramel corn is that it lasts forever. Or at least, when stored in an airtight container, it will remain crispy for up to 2 weeks.
- If you like, you can add 2 cups of salted peanuts to the baking sheets with the popcorn and coat it all in the caramel sauce.
- Some recipes substitute honey for corn syrup, but I prefer the taste of honey. If you want to use corn syrup though, you’ll want to watch your caramel popcorn in the oven as it might cook more quickly.
- Now, you can cheat and use , but you want it to be plain (no ed popcorn). Otherwise, it might be overly sweet. Another option is popping your popcorn in a popcorn maker.
You may also like these other caramel recipes:
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Unbelievably Blissful
Caramel Apple Dump Cake Tasty and Delicious
Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Cider
Caramel Apple Cake from Mama Reed
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup unsalted butter two sticks
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 gallons popped popcorn
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon butter flavoring can use more vanilla instead
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease two large baking sheets.
- In a heavy saucepot, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and salt. Place over medium heat and stir continuously until it comes to a boil. Stop stirring and let boil, undisturbed, for three minutes.1 cup honey, 1 cup unsalted butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt
- Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and flavorings. Place 1/2 of the cooled popcorn in a large dishpan (I do mine in two batches) and pour over half of the caramel sauce. Stir until evenly coated. Spread onto baking sheet and repeat with remainder on another baking sheet.1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon butter flavoring, 3 gallons popped popcorn
- Place in the oven and bake at 250 for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Allow to cool and break apart before placing in an airtight container.
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I’m so looking forward to sharing this as a gift this Christmas. How long does it last in a cellophane bag?
On the counter 2-3 days, but in the fridge it can last a few months.I hope your friends LOVE the gift 🙂
I also use a paper bag and pop my corn in the microwave. I’ve always used corn syrup too. I bet the honey adds a wonderful flavor! Looking forward to trying this. Yum!
I hope you get the chance to try it soon Donna!!
This is a wonderful recipe Christy!! I made it this last weekend and my husband who is not a fan of caramel corn, ate the most. It is wonderful and thanks for posting!
I know you tell us 1.5 cups kernels of corn, but that is not in the recipe for the people that skip down to the recipe. Going to make. Thanks for all the great recipes. GBY, Ruth
My husband has been craving caramel corn! He came to me with a great family recipe for caramel corn… basically this one, but with corn syrup rather than honey. I save myself the popcorn all over the oven floor by baking in a roaster pan I got from my grandparents garage. It had no lid, so it became The Caramel Corn Pan… and that’s what it’s been used for for 20 some years now. Gotta get it out and polished up!!!
I’ve never tried Carmel popcorn before, I think I will give it a try, will make a nice gift for families on my Christmas list. Thank you for explaining how to make it correctly.
Oh my goodness, you NEED to go make this right now Jeannie! I can’t wait to hear back after you have given it a try!!
I will soon be 67 years old and I’m a lady. I remember this from when I was a little girl the recipe I mean. I love it and I thank you for posting this recipe it looks delicious I’m going to do it God bless you have a nice holiday!
Blessings to you Edith, I hope you enjoy the Caramel Corn and have a wonderful Holiday Season!