Caramel Corn

Homemade caramel corn.

02 Feb Caramel Corn

Homemade caramel corn by The Messy Baker

Ahhhh. That’s better. Nothing like the taste of sweet success to make me forget last week’s garbanzo gaffe.

Back in university I used to make caramel corn on a 20-inch electric stovetop with only three functioning burners. My recipe said to cook the sugar until it reached the soft ball stage. Lacking a candy thermometer, I had to drip the hot sugar in a glass of ice water to determine its doneness. I never did get the hang of this test and ended up guessing most of the time. If I poured the coating too early, the popcorn was soggy. If I waited too long, the caramel hardened mid-pour.

Eventually someone gave me this no-fail recipe and for some unexplained reason, shortly thereafter, I stopped making it. Until this weekend…

Not one to be content with a 20-year-old recipe, I checked my tattered copy against the dozens cluttering the Internet to see what variations exist. Very few — unless you count the addition of nuts. While the quantities vary, the ingredients and ratio are almost always the same. Some claim it’s their grandmother’s (which I’m sure is true), others give no credit. I figure this is one of those dishes where the proportions are so crucial, no one dares fiddle with it.

With no candy thermometer or water test required, the main deterrent in this version is yield. This makes a mountain of caramel corn. See…

Homemade Caramel Corn by The Messy Baker

Oh, the kid in me swears she’s up to the challenge of 24 cups of sugar-coated crunch. But the adult in me knows this industrial-sized batch is a bit much for people (like my inner child) who lack willpower or a ravening horde to lend a helping hand.

Andrew, you do not constitute a ravening horde.

Homemade Caramel Corn is impossible to resist. The Messy Baker

If you’re sharing, make this version. It will disappear quickly. If you’re alone? Dana McCauley has a clever version scaled down to coat one bag of microwave popcorn. (Reality Check: Dana’s serves 2 people with good appetites. Mine remains party-sized.)

Either way, we’ve got you — and the popcorn — covered.

Big Batch Caramel Corn
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: North American
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 to 12
This recipe can be halved, but why?
  • 1 cup popcorn unpopped (makes enough to fill a Dutch over or about 6 quarts)
  • 1 cup butter
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Pop popcorn using your preferred method. Place popped corn in a very large bowl. If you don't have a big enough bowl, use two bowls. You will need lots of room to toss the corn when coating it.
  2. Preheat oven to 250F.
  3. In a 2-quart saucepan, over medium heat, gently melt the butter. Stir in the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the sugar mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 5 minutes. (Some recipes say to stir constantly, other say not to stir at all. I've tried both methods and the caramel coating is smoother if you don't stir.)
  4. Remove from the heat, stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will foam and become frothy. Pour the caramel sauce over the popped corn and toss to coat throughly. Don't worry about clumps as the caramel will remain spreadable while cooking and the coating can be evened out. Spread the popcorn evenly onto 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
  5. Spoon cooked popcorn onto waxed or parchment paper and allow to cool before breaking apart.
  6. Keep grubby handed scavengers at bay with a wooden spoon while you seal cooled caramel corn in an airtight container -- Or serve immediately.


Related Post

  • rachelbirds
    Posted at 11:41h, 02 February Reply

    That sounds so yummy —
    I drooled while reading the post.
    Must try this later.

  • jodi (bloomingwriter)
    Posted at 13:30h, 02 February Reply

    Ahah! Do I not remember a tirade you launched about all things caramel (or as so many dunderheads put it, carmel) about a year or so back? I’m sure Andrew will do his best to be a ravening horde.

  • cheryl
    Posted at 13:52h, 02 February Reply

    I would never trust myself around this much caramel corn. It looks like enough to fill a bathtub, and I’d probably find myself in the tub right there with it.

  • Dana McCauley
    Posted at 14:48h, 02 February Reply

    I love the way you view portion sizes! My recipe makes 8 cups of caramel corn and you see it as a recipe for one! I think you and I share a love of caramel corn!

    BTW, a nice way to update my recipe is to sprinkle the finished, still warm mixture with flakes of fleur de sel. Yummy!

    Thanks for the link.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 14:59h, 02 February Reply

    Rachel, I always love when you respond in haiku. It makes my day.

    Jodi, I’ll deal with you later.

    Cheryl, never dive into a bathtub of caramel corn. It scratches. Instead, sit by the side and bail with a measuring cup.

    Dana, I always eat an entire bag of popcorn myself — although it’s not covered in caramel. Even though your 8 cup version is 1/4 the size of mine, I guess my portions size borders on piggy. I’ll revise my stance. Your recipe serves 2.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 20:04h, 15 February Reply

    This looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing.


  • louise
    Posted at 16:04h, 02 January Reply

    hi there, tracked your through another site… we both did caramel corn this xmas… our recipes are very similar~ great minds think alike.
    happy new year,
    chef louise

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:38h, 03 January Reply

      @louise, caramel corn is an old favourite of mine and this recipe seems to be a classic. I’ve seen variations of it since I was a kid (which was only a couple of years ago, right?)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. And I hope 2011 is a wonderful year for you!

  • maryann
    Posted at 13:08h, 18 February Reply

    i just tried it and mine didint do the foam-thing and the caramel got burnt in the oven, around 30min :( what have I done wrong?

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 14:23h, 18 February Reply

      If the caramel didn’t foam, then I suspect your baking soda was old and no longer active. As for the burning, the caramel corn shouldn’t burn in such a slow oven (250°F). I’m just guessing here but a few things could be at play — the caramel sauce was overcooked before it was poured on the popcorn, the oven runs hot, or the oven was set to 350°F by mistake since it’s a more common temperature. I’m sorry your caramel corn didn’t turn out. It’s always disappointing.

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