Craving a buttery, sweet, crunchy nosh? Our homemade caramel popcorn can’t be beat! It’s addictive, easy to make and ready in less than an hour.
Sure, you can run to the supermarket and grab a tub of pricey caramel popcorn or even settle for a box of Cracker Jacks, but once you make a big batch of your very own, you’ll forget all about those store-bought options.
If you’re not familiar with caramel popcorn, you’re missing out. It’s a delectable confection made of popcorn that’s coated with a buttery, salty, sweet caramel shell. One handful will have your snack-loving senses exploding.
The popcorn matters
Start with fresh, plain popcorn that you’ve air-popped or popped on your stovetop with a little oil. You can also substitute a couple bags of plain microwave popcorn, but don’t make the mistake of using butter-flavored microwave popcorn (it’s not real butter!) or seasoned popcorns. Really, the best popcorn for making caramel corn is fresh, plain and unadulterated.
Microwave popcorn shortcut: You can make your own (much healthier) microwave popcorn. Just toss 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels with a bit of oil in a large brown paper lunch bag, fold it to seal, and microwave for 2 to 4 minutes or until the popping slows to about a pop every 2 seconds.
Making the caramel coating
You don’t have to be a candy-making pro to whip up the caramel coating. In fact, you don’t even need a candy thermometer! It’s just a combination of corn syrup, water, and sugar cooked until it turns a beautiful amber color. A little baking soda and butter, and the caramel’s ready to coat your popcorn in pure, sweet bliss. After a sprinkling of salt, all you’ll need is a hefty dose of self-control.
Fair warning: You’d better make extra. If you do have any left over, you can store it in a sealed container for up to three days — or until you remember it’s there and devour the rest, whichever comes first.
Serves 8–10 servings
- Nonstick vegetable-oil spray
- 6 cups freshly popped popcorn (or plain microwave popcorn -- no butter or other seasoned types)
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 2-3/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1-1/2 tablespoons sea salt
- Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spray pan, bowl and handle of large spoon or rubber spatula with nonstick vegetable oil spray.
- Transfer popped popcorn to large prepared bowl, discarding any unpopped kernels.
- In large deep pot over moderately high heat, combine corn syrup, sugar, and 1/4 cup water, stirring well to combine. Cook, undisturbed, until mixture develops light amber color, about 10 minutes.
- Remove pot from heat, add baking soda and butter, and stir continuously until butter is melted and well combined.
- Immediately pour caramel over popcorn, then use prepared spoon or rubber spatula to stir.
- Transfer from bowl to baking sheet. Spread out caramel corn evenly over baking tray.
- Sprinkle with sea salt and allow to cool and harden, at least 20 minutes.
- Once cooled, break up caramel corn into bite-size pieces.
- Serve, or store in airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Once the sugar begins to caramelize, swirl the pan to evenly distribute the color, but don't stir. Stirring will cause the sugar to crystallize and harden.
- The mixture will be very hot and will foam. Stir constantly until the foaming subsides.
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