This delicious caramel popcorn is made without corn syrup and baked for maximum crunch and flavor. Its perfect for family movie night or game night and makes mouthwatering edible gifts for Christmas or any other time of year.
Caramel popcorn, also called caramel corn, is a delicious, moreish treat but it can be tricky to get right. Follow my tips and tricks for how to make the perfect caramel popcorn.
What does baking soda do in caramel popcorn?
Adding baking soda causes the caramel to puff up like honeycomb. The bubbles in the caramel help coat the popcorn and create tiny bubbles, giving a thinner, crispier caramel coating.
Why is my caramel popcorn bitter?
Your caramel popcorn is mostly likely bitter because the caramel has been over cooked, either on the stove top before adding it to the popcorn, or the oven has been up to high when baking.
The caramel should be a lovely golden color on the stove top before adding to the popcorn. If its to dark your caramel might be bitter by the time you've baked it in the oven.
Why is my homemade caramel corn chewy?
Your homemade caramel is probably chewy because moisture has gotten into it. As soon as caramel popcorn its made water in the air can get into it and start to make it chewy.
You can solve this by baking your caramel popcorn in a low, slow oven to help bake out the moisture and crisp up your popcorn.
Once baked, store your popcorn in a airtight container, the smallest container the total amount will fit into reduce the amount of air and therefore moisture, in it.
Why bake caramel popcorn?
You can find lots of recipes for both baked and unbaked caramel popcorn. You might be wondering why you need to bake it? When I made this recipe I tested both baked vs non baked.
The non baked popcorn was still crunchy and delicious but was lighter in color and had a milder caramel flavor.
The baked popcorn had a darker color and a richer, more intense caramel flavor. The popcorn its self was also dryer and crispier and kept for much longer without going chewy.
If you are running short on time and are eating it straight away you could get away without baking if you like.
If you prefer darker, more flavorful, crispier popcorn and/ or you are giving it as gifts I highly recommend following the full method and baking the popcorn.
Ingredients and substitutions
Popcorn: this recipe uses un-popped popcorn kernels, which I then pop in a popcorn maker. You could pop your pop corn on the stove if you prefer, or use a bag of mild flavored microwave popcorn.
White sugar: helps to make it easier to see when the caramel has reached the right color. You could use light or dark brown sugar if you prefer, but be careful not to over cook the caramel as it will naturally be a darker color.
Butter: this recipe uses un salted butter and then add salt to taste. You could use salted butter if you prefer, which case taste and adjust the amount of added salt to suit. For a vegan option you could replace the butter with non dairy margarine.
Honey: I use a mild flavored honey in this recipe. The honey adds some lovely extra flavor without competing with the caramel flavors and helps stop the caramel from crystalizing. You could replace the honey with glucose syrup or light corn syrup if you prefer or to make it vegan.
Bicarb soda: also called bicarbonate of soda or baking soda. This makes the caramel puff up and helps create a lovely thin, crunchy caramel coating. Note this is NOT the same as baking powder and you can NOT substitute one for the other. You can leave the bicarb soda out if you prefer, but you may end up with a thicker caramel coating on your popcorn.
Salt: a good amount of salt in this recipe really helps balance the sweetness in this recipe. You can use whatever type of salt you like, and adjust as you normally would when cooking.
Salted, roasted peanuts (optional): you can add some salted peanuts to the popcorn after baking to make homemade cracker jacks or lolly gobble bliss bombs. You can any type of nut your like, or leave them out if you prefer.
How to make caramel popcorn
Pre-heat your oven to 210°F (100°C) and get out two large baking trays.
Pop the popcorn in your popcorn maker, on the stove or in the microwave as is your preferred method. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Hot tip: this recipe is nicer if you remove an un popped kernels before making it. To remove the un popped kernels put the popcorn into a colander or large bowl and swirl around. The un popped kernels should fall to the bottom. Scoop the popped kernels from the top, leaving the un popped kernels behind.
Add the butter, sugar and honey to a small pot on the stove. Cook on a medium heat, stirring well until the sugar dissolved and the mix is bubbling. Cook for a further five minutes without stirring until the mix is a lovely golden caramel color.
Working quickly add the bicarb and stir well. The caramel will start to bubble and puff up. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and mix well to coat the popcorn with the caramel.
Spread out over two baking trays, trying to get a single layer of popcorn over each tray. Bake in the oven for one hour or until popcorn is golden and crunchy, stirring every fifteen minutes or so. To test of the popcorn is done remove one piece, allow to cool for minuet and test it. If its nice and crunchy the popcorn is done. If its still a bit chewy, give it a bit longer.
Hot tip: this recipe was made in a fan forced oven at sea level. All oven can vary, so adjust them temperature and baking time as needed for your oven and location. As with my coffee meringues remember you want to bake this popcorn low and slow.
Remove from oven and allow to cool. Break apart into pieces and sprinkle with salt.
How to make caramel popcorn gifts
This caramel popcorn makes a great and inexpensive gift at Christmas or any other time of year. If giving as a gift you want to reduce the amount of popcorn in this recipe to half a cup, to give a more thorough caramel coating and longer shelf life.
To give as a gift fill a cellophane bag with popcorn and tie firmly at the top with curling ribbon to prevent any air getting in. Curl the ribbon into pretty circles and you're done! Alternatively if you have some spare jars you can put the popcorn with that with the lid on and a pretty ribbon tied around the top. Just make sure your jars and thoroughly clean and dry before filling with popcorn.
How to serve
To serve this popcorn scoop it into a large bowl and much away. You may want to make a double batch, especially if you have people coming over as it won't last long once you serve it up! For a family movie night why not try serving it in some pretty red and white stripped boxes for extra fun!
How to store
This popcorn will store well in an airtight container lined with baking paper for two to four weeks, but I doubt it will last that long!
Looking for more yummy dessert recipes?
Why not try making
- Popcorn maker *optional
- ¾ cup (150gms) popping corn kernals *or one bag microwave popcorn
- 1 stick (115gms) butter
- ¾ cup (165gms) white sugar
- 2 tablespoons (40gms) lightly flavored honey *or glucose syrup or light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 210°F (100°C) and get out two large baking trays.
- Pop pop corn, either in a popcorn maker, a pot on the stove or in a suitable container in a microwave. Put into a large mixing bowl.
- *Try to remove the un popped kernels before adding them to the mixing bowl. You can put it into a colander and swirl the popcorn around. The un-popped kernels should end up at the bottom, allowing you to scoop the popped popcorn into your bowl.
- Add butter, sugar and honey to a small pot on the stove. Heat on a medium high heat and stir to dissolve sugar and mix in bubbling. Turn down the heat and allow to bubble for a further five minutes or so or until caramel is a lovely golden color.
- Remove pot from heat. Add baking soda and stir quickly. The caramel will puff up and expand.
- Pour caramel over popcorn and mix well to coat.
- Spread out evenly onto baking trays.
- Bake for approximatly one hour, checking and stirring every fifteen minutes or so.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before breaking apart.
- Pile into a bowl and eat immediately, or store in a airtight container lined with baking paper for up to X weeks.
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