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Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup)

5 from 2 votes

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The perfect snack recipe, this Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup) is a fast and easy sweet and salty dessert. A great appetizer or party food for fall. Gluten free.
A white bowl full of Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup) on a white counter.

A white bowl full of Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup) on a white counter.

Why You Will Love This Recipe

Homemade caramel popcorn is a delicious treat that’s perfect for a movie night, parties, or just satisfying your sweet tooth.

Crunchy caramel corn makes a great snack and great holiday gift!

No candy thermometer is required here! You can adjust the caramel to your desired level of crispness when you bake it in the oven at the end.

Making caramel popcorn without corn syrup is possible and can be just as tasty. And this is the best caramel corn recipe I have made!

This easy caramel popcorn recipe is great for fall, Halloween, and as a snack with sweet and salty flavors.

Ingredients

These are the ingredients you need to make the recipe, with some notes. You can find quantities and the full recipe in the recipe card below.

Popcorn – I like to use home-popped stovetop popcorn, which is how this recipe is written. This is done by popping kernels in a pot on the stove. You can skip this and use bagged popcorn if desired, but it is best to use unsalted, unflavored plain popcorn. You will need approximately 8 cups of popcorn.

Unsalted Butter – unsalted butter is better than salted butter so that you can control your salt, but you can use salted and cut back on the salt in the recipe if needed.

Brown Sugar

Vanilla Extract

Baking Soda – this will lighten up the caramel sauce and make it perfect to coat the popcorn

Vegetable Oil – to cook the popcorn kernels in (or coconut oil). A neutral oil is best. Do not use olive oil as its strong flavor will interfere.

Salt

Top view of two small bowls full of Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup) on a white counter with more popcorn around them.

Instruction Overview

Full detailed instructions can be found in the recipe card below.

Pop your popcorn. I like to pop mine from kernels in a large pot over medium heat with some vegetable oil. (You want to use a neutral oil).

Remove any un-popped kernels if there are any.

Make your homemade caramel sauce by heating a medium saucepan over medium low heat.

Combine butter and brown sugar in the pot and cook gently. Melt the butter mixture until it is melted and the two ingredients are combined.

Add the vanilla and salt, and stir to combine.

Let the butter mixture sit, without touching it, until it comes to a simmer.

Once it starts simmering, set a timer for 7 minutes.

Do not touch the caramel! This can mess up the development of the crystals and end product.

After the simmering is done, add the baking soda and stir.

The caramel will bubble up, which is what we want! You now have hot caramel

Remove from the heat and mix the caramel mixture with the popcorn either in a large bowl or in the popcorn pot.

Spread the caramel popcorn out on a cookie sheet or sheet pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spread into an even layer.

Bake at 250F for 15 minutes to set and crisp up the caramel.

Let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

A close view of Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup) in a small bowl.

Modifications

If you are using microwave popcorn, it is best to use varieties with no butter and minimal salt. As plain as possible is ideal since we are adding so much flavor!

If you want a softer texture caramel corn, simmer the brown sugar and butter for just 5 minutes instead.

If you want it really crunchy like cracker jacks, you might have to cook it longer. The longer you cook the sugar butter mixture, the crisper the caramel will be. If you want to use a candy thermometer, you want it to read closer to 275-300F for it to be crisp. Without a thermometer, we rely on time cooked, scent, and color to determine how crispy it will be. But do not cook it too far as it can easily burn!

The exact cooking time to set and crisp up the caramel will vary based on your preference, your environment (humidity, etc.) and the exact ingredients you used.

Elevate this easy homemade caramel corn by adding some chocolate chips, candy pieces, or a drizzle of maple syrup to the mix.

FAQs

What is a substitute for corn syrup in caramel?

This recipe uses a homemade caramel mixture with sugar, butter, and flavors to stand in place of corn syrup.

Is caramel corn the same as caramel popcorn?

Yes, these names are typically used interchangeably.

What gives caramel its flavor?

Caramel is the process and flavor of caramelizing sugar, which is heating it to where it is melted and browning.

Why is my caramel popcorn not crispy?

The longer you cook the sugar butter mixture, the crisper the caramel will be. If you want to use a candy thermometer, you want it to read closer to 275-300F for it to be crisp. Without a thermometer, we rely on time cooked, scent, and color to determine how crispy it will be.

A small white bowl full of Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup) on a counter.
Pin of Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup) in a white bowl on a counter with title at top.

More Popcorn Recipes

More Homemade Popcorn

Easy and fast homemade popcorn recipes! Use on bagged or fresh popcorn for a delicious snack!

A white bowl full of Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup) on a white counter.

Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup)

The perfect snack recipe, this Homemade Caramel Popcorn Recipe (without Corn Syrup) is a fast and easy sweet and salty dessert. A great appetizer or party food for fall. Gluten free.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, International
Keyword: Fall/Thanksgiving, Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 cups
Calories: 253kcal

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 250℉.
  • Heat a large pot over low heat with the oil and kernels. Put a lid on the pot slighty adjar.
    2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, ¼ cup popcorn kernels
  • Cook the kernels to pop them, shaking the pot occasionally, until the popping slows. Remove from heat and remove any un-popped kernels.
  • Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt.
    ¾ cup unsalted butter, ¾ cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Once the sugar is dissolved and everything is melted, it will come to a simmer. Once simmering, DO NOT mix or touch the caramel. Let simmer for 7 minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Add the baking soda and stir. It will foam up.
    1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pour the caramel over the popcorn and mix to combine.
  • Spread the caramel corn out in an even layer on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or longer if desired, to crisp up and dry out the popcorn.
  • Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Notes

The caramel corn is best eaten same day but can last three days in an airtight container.
This caramel corn is not super crunchy. If you want extra crispy or crunchy caramel corn, increase the simmering time by a couple minutes. The longer you cook the sugar butter mixture, the crisper the caramel will be. If you want to use a candy thermometer, you want it to read closer to 275-300F for it to be crisp. Without a thermometer, we rely on time cooked, scent, and color to determine how crispy it will be.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 253kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 218mg | Potassium: 48mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 532IU | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 0.3mg
By on October 13th, 2023

About Kim

Kim has grown up with a passion for cooking good food! You can find her in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, making dog treats, and eating Italian food!

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