Delicious and easy salted caramel popcorn is one of the simplest snacks to make. It’s great any time of the year, but it’s especially perfect when you start feeling that nip in the air and venturing outside means having to dress in layers.
Caramel popcorn is incredibly easy and a lot cheaper to make yourself than store bought, not to mention more delicious.
Just follow the steps to making this easy salted caramel popcorn and you’ll be on your way to caramel ecstasy!
Pop the Popcorn Kernels
You can pop popcorn in the microwave by placing the kernels in a paper bag. Fold the bag loosely and microwave on high for about four minutes.
You can also pop popcorn on the stovetop by placing the kernels in a deep pot with about a tablespoon of light vegetable oil. Cover the pot and turn the heat on to medium high. The kernels will start popping in a few minutes. The popcorn is ready when the popping slows down.
I thought I would get a popcorn popper, but rather than purchase another gadget that would just occupy space and eventually end up breaking, I opted to get this inexpensive nifty tub to pop popcorn in the microwave.
The tub is made of silicon and has a perforated lid to release steam. It pops the popcorn well leaving just a few unpopped kernels. What’s even better is, the tub collapses unto itself so it becomes flat for easy storage.
Transfer the popcorn to a roasting pan, lasagna pan or any dish or baking pan with high sides. Rather than pour the popcorn into the baking dish, scoop it out so that any unpopped kernels settle at the bottom and get weeded out.
Make the Caramel
Making the caramel for caramel popcorn is pretty simple.
- Start out by placing granulated sugar, water and a small amount of light corn syrup in a small pot.
- Swirl the pot to dampen the sugar but do not stir. Turn the heat on to medium high.
- Watch the syrup as it boils; when it turns a light golden color, add the cubed butter evenly over the syrup. Do not stir.
- Let the syrup boil until the butter melts, about 1 minute.
- Remove the pot from the heat then with a wooden spoon, briskly stir in the baking soda. Add the salt and continue to stir for a few more seconds.
- Pour the hot syrup immediately over the popcorn.
Some important notes:
- Don’t use a non-stick pot or the caramel will crystallize.
- Don’t wait until the syrup turns an amber color as that would make the caramel too dark.
- Do have the butter measured out and cubed ahead of time. Once the caramel reaches a light golden color, it should be added immediately.
- Do have the baking soda and salt measured and ready as well. These need to be added immediately once you move the pot away from the heat.
Following are the stages of cooking the caramel so you know which visual cues to watch out for.
The caramel will turn a beautiful opaque color when you add the baking soda.
Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn immediately before it sets.
Mix to evenly coat the popcorn with the caramel. To make the popcorn crisp, bake it in an oven preheated to 200°F for 30 minutes. Mix the popcorn after 15 minutes into baking, then give it a final mix when it’s done.
Here’s a quick reference card to recap all the easy steps to making delicious salted caramel popcorn.
This recipe makes between 18 – 20 cups worth of caramel popcorn which sounds like a lot, but it’s so good your family will likely polish it off in one sitting.
Fill some cellophane gift bags with caramel popcorn to make great giveaways. And it’s something you made yourself with hardly any effort.
Time for some homemade caramel popcorn!
- ⅔ cup popcorn kernels (makes 18 -20 cups popcorn) (124 g)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (161 g)
- 4 tablespoons water (66 g)
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup (20 g)
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, cubed (169 g)
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda (7 g)
- ½ teaspoon salt (3 g)
- Pop the popcorn kernels in two batches of ⅓ cup (62 g) per batch. Follow the directions on your popcorn machine, or if using the microwave, place the popcorn kernels in a paper bag and fold the bag over; then microwave for 3 – 4 minutes. If using the stovetop, place the popcorn kernels in a deep pot with 1 tablespoon of light vegetable oil. Cover the pot and heat until the popcorn starts popping, about 4 minutes.
- Transfer the popcorn into a deep baking pan such as a roasting pan or lasagna dish. Scoop out the popcorn, instead of pouring directly into the baking dish, so that any unpopped kernels settle at the bottom and are weeded out.
- Preheat the oven to 200°F.
- Place the sugar in a small pot. Do not use a non-stick pot. Without stirring, add the water distributing all over the sugar, then add the corn syrup. Do not stir, but swirl the pot to dampen the sugar.
- Turn the heat to medium high. Let the mixture boil until it starts to turn a light golden color.
- Still on medium heat, and without stirring, add the cubed butter distributing evenly in the caramel. Let boil until the butter is melted, about 1 minute.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Immediately add the baking soda. With a wooden spoon or better still, a wooden straight edge spatula, briskly stir the mixture. The caramel will turn golden at this point. Add the salt, and continue stirring for a few more seconds until well blended.
- Immediately pour the hot caramel all over the popcorn. Stir well to evenly coat all the popcorn with the caramel.
- Bake the popcorn for 15 minutes, remove from the oven to mix the popcorn again, then bake again for an additional 15 minutes. The popcorn will be crisp at this point. Give the caramel popcorn one final mix and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Easy Salted Caramel Popcorn