The summer weather is over, and it is turning to the cozy seasons of autumn and winter. This time of year, nothing beats staying home and making some homemade nostalgic treats. What better snack to try out than making some caramel popcorn, right in your kitchen?

Making caramel popcorn is simple to make but you need to pay attention to your time and temperature. Besides the 6 cups of popped popcorn you will need butter, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla. Once the caramel sauce is made you drizzle it over the popcorn and mix until coated.

This recipe has minimal ingredients, a short preparation time, and a delicious result! Keep reading for how to make this easy and satisfying snack.

What Ingredients Do I Need To Make Caramel Popcorn?

As with any recipe, your first step will be to make sure you have all the right ingredients. You won’t want to have to stop in the middle to run to the store! Luckily, this is a very short list of what is needed.

  • One Large Metal Bowl
  • One Saucepan
  • Candy Thermometer OR Glass Of Cool Water
  • Popcorn (Popped)
  • Butter
  • Granulated Sugar
  • White Corn Syrup
  • Vanilla

How Much Popcorn Do I Need To Make Caramel Popcorn?

You’ll want to make sure you have your popped popcorn ready to go in a large metal bowl. It is important to use a metal bowl, not plastic. When you pour the caramel sauce on top it will be very hot and it could melt plastic, ruining both your snack and your bowl.

This recipe is based on approximately 6 cups of popped popcorn. Keep in mind that you can have more or less popcorn depending on how much caramel sauce you want on each piece.

If you are using microwaved popcorn, most bags make about 3 cups popped. You can check the box which should give you the accurate measurement. If it is the typical size, then you’ll need to pop two bags.

If you are using loose kernels and popping your own, you can measure out 2/3 cup of kernels which will make about 6 cups.

Pro Tip: Shake the bowl of popcorn good and then slowly dump the popcorn into another bowl. Most of the unpopped kernels will fall to the bottom of the original bowl. You can throw them out since nobody wants to munch on those!

How Do I Make The Caramel Sauce For Popcorn?

This step will not take long but it is the trickiest part of the recipe so be sure to read through before starting.

In a saucepan over medium heat combine the following three ingredients:

  • Salted Butter: 1 Stick (1/2 Cup)
  • White Corn Syrup:  1/2 Cup
  • Granulated Sugar: 1 And 1/3 Cup

Note for Easy Melted Caramel: You can also skip these ingredients and melt a bag of caramel bits and warm them up in the microwave. You need a microwave safe bowl, 2 tablespoons water and a bag of caramel bits. Melt on high for 2 minutes and mix until all the caramel bits are melted.

You will be cooking these three main ingredients for about 15 minutes total. For the first 3-4 minutes, you will only need to stir about once per minute.

After a few minutes, the mixture will start to bubble and change to a light caramel color. At this point, you should begin to stir at a more frequent pace. Give it a few more minutes, and it will start to turn into a beautiful medium-brown caramel color. You will need to now be stirring constantly to keep it smooth and even.

You can use two different methods to check if your caramel sauce is done:

  • Candy Thermometer: Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of the caramel sauce. Once it reaches 300-degree Fahrenheit, the mixture is done.
  • Glass Of Cool Water: If you don’t have a candy thermometer lying about, have no fear! You can use this trick instead. Drop a glob of the caramel sauce into a glass of cool water. If it remains soft, you need to keep stirring and cooking. If it turns hard, your sauce is done.

Once you know that your sauce is ready, using either the candy thermometer or the water method, add the following:

  • 1 tsp vanilla

Adding it towards the end like this will make the popcorn more flavorful. (If we had added it too early, the good flavor would have cooked away.) However, it can cause the caramel to steam a bit so stand back and be cautious when adding it in.

Give it a few more good stirs to be sure the vanilla flavor is mixed evenly throughout.

How Do I Combine The Caramel Sauce With The Popcorn?

Your popped popcorn is all ready to go in its metal bowl and your caramel sauce is the perfect texture and temperature. Now it is time for the final step!

You will want to work quickly because the mixture will cool and harden faster than you think. However, you want to be accurate as well so you don’t end up with a whole glob of caramel sauce on only a few pieces of popcorn.

Carefully but quickly drizzle the caramel mixture evenly over the popcorn. Once there is a nice layer on top, mix with a giant wooden spoon until there is another layer of raw popcorn on top. Drizzle caramel sauce on top. Repeat until you have a bowl of popcorn coated in warm, gooey, fragrant caramel sauce.

In about 15-20 minutes, your caramel popcorn will be completely cooled and ready to eat! Feel free to dig in and enjoy.

This treat is good enough to eat in one sitting. But if you want to store some for later, it saves best in a sealed Tupperware so that it doesn’t go stale.

Some people prefer to add some finishing touches to customize their treat. You can mix in some other candy to give this classic snack a unique twist. Some options include M&Ms, chocolate chips, Reese’s Pieces, mini marshmallows, or peanuts.  You can be creative or stick with the tried-and-true simple version.

Final Tips and Tricks

This recipe is pretty straightforward but there are always a few tricks to make sure you master your snack craft. These three tips will help you avoid soggy popcorn, keep it lasting a long time, and even help you make some gifts out of your new snack recipe.

To avoid having soggy popcorn, it is better to not have over buttered popcorn for your base. If you pop the popcorn yourself, don’t pour butter over it. It will not help the flavor and might end up making it soggy. Also, be mindful of your caramel to popcorn ratio. The sauce is delicious but overdoes it and you might end up with a soggy mess. It’s best to go for as even a layer as possible.

If you are looking for your popcorn to last a while, make sure you keep it in an airtight container. Make sure to store it within a few hours when it is at peak freshness. Within this timeframe, it can last up to two weeks.

Finally, if you are looking to share this as a holiday gift or party favor, keep it stored in an airtight container until a few hours before. You can then wrap it up in cellophane, tie it with a ribbon, and voila! The perfect snack to send home with your family and friends. 

Caramel popcorn is a classic treat that dates all the way back to the 1980s. Cracker Jack boxes first made the treat popular, as hailed in the song, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” Now that we know the trade secrets, you can enjoy this dessert anytime!

Follow these steps and you will have a new favorite treat. Caramel popcorn is great for a quick dessert, after-school snack, or party tray. It’s best in the autumn and winter months (maybe with some candy corn at Halloween) but we won’t blame you if you make this crowd-pleaser all year long!

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