Carol's Caramel Corn

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gluten free, quick-n-easy
Recipe photo
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 15 cups

Recipe photo

This caramel corn is wonderfully light and crisp, with just the slightest hint of stickiness. Salted butter enhances the corn's flavor, accenting the caramel notes of the molasses and brown sugar.

Carol's Caramel Corn

star rating (76) rate this recipe »
gluten free, quick-n-easy
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 15 cups
Published: 09/12/2010


  • 15 cups popped corn (1/2 cup kernels, unpopped)
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Tips from our bakers

  • Want to add a bit of saltiness to your sweet caramel corn? Add 1 cup of roasted, salted peanuts to the bowl of popped corn before pouring on the syrup. Homemade Cracker Jack®!
  • To make popcorn balls on a stick, omit the baking soda from the recipe. As soon as you can handle the corn without burning yourself, form it into 1-cup balls, inserting a lollipop stick or skewer at one end of each.
  • Be sure to assiduously remove any unpopped kernels; you'll get most of them by shaking the bowl of popped corn, and scooping out the hard kernels that sift to the bottom. If you don't remove them, the syrup will allow them to adhere to popped kernels, and the next thing you know — ouch! A dental bill.


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1) Preheat your oven to 200°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet (18" x 13") with parchment paper. Pour the popped corn into a large bowl (at least 6 quarts); remove any unpopped kernels. Set aside.

2) In a large saucepan over medium-high heat cook the molasses, brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Stirring occasionally, boil the syrup for 5 minutes. The syrup will darken slightly.

3) Remove the pan from the heat and add the baking soda. Stir well as the mixture turns foamy.

4) Immediately (and carefully) pour the hot syrup over the popped corn and stir until the corn is well coated.

5) Spread the hot caramel corn into the parchment-lined pan. Bake at 200°F for one hour. Stir the corn every 15 minutes during this time.

6) Remove from the oven. This caramel corn is a warm, sticky, sweet and crunchy treat straight from the oven. It can also be cooled and stored airtight for several days. This recipe doubles and triples very well.

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 1 cup (39g) Servings Per Batch: 15 cups Amount Per Serving: Calories: 170 Calories from Fat: 60 Total Fat: 7g Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 15mg Sodium: 105mg Total Carbohydrate: 27g Dietary Fiber: 1g Sugars: 21g Protein: 1g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.


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  • star rating 04/22/2015
  • M Williams from Nebraska
  • A great tip I have been using for years is to put the popped corn in a new brown paper grocery sack that you have trimmed off several inches from the top. Pour the caramel in all at once and stir until coated. Pour the caramel corn out and throw away the bag! Easy cleanup and my caramel corn has never stuck to the bag. I make sure that only boxed items go in my paper sack when I'm at the store. That way I know it's clean and safe for food.
  • star rating 03/29/2015
  • Jeremy from North Miami Beach
  • This is my 2nd time making this delicious caramel corn and the recipe is fantastic! The first time I followed the recipe step by step. I made it again today, but I didn't have any butter, or corn syrup on hand, and being that I am on a very tight budget after being laid off I decided to use what I had. I replaced the butter with coconut oil, and used agave to replace the corn syrup. I was a little worried at first because while making the caramel the oil separated, but after adding the baking soda it all came together great and I could hardly tell a difference!
  • star rating 03/21/2015
  • Laura from Maine
  • Yum yum this is very good and very addicting! I suggest doubling the recipe if your planning on bringing it anywhere because if you're anything like me you'll end up eating half of it throughout the process of baking and drying it! Plus, with all that tossing and turning, some inevitably hits the floor, which my dog most certainly appreciates. It's amazing how quickly dogs learn these things, I swear she knows when I take out the canister of popcorn kernels to stay close and has come running form a dead sleep when she hears even one crunchy kernel hit the floor!! I have made it three times now, and while it was easy and successful each time, I think I finally got the hang of getting full "coverage" my 3rd try. I think the key is to, working quickly and with a giant bowl, pour about 1/3 of the caramel at a time, tossing it salad style as you mix. You have to be pretty ginger with your touch in order to not crush all the popcorn, although I have not tracked down the specialty corn(I think it's the mushroom shape?) that is preferred for caramel corn which I assume would not be as brittle. As soon as it is cool enough, and my hands are pretty tough so I go in as soon as I've tossed the last 3rd of caramel in, I used my hands to work it all through and break up and separate the popcorn clusters as much as possible. It's still pretty clumpy when it goes onto the pans, but then again, at each 15 minute stirring I use my hands(after a few quick turns with the spatula to cool it down just enough), to separate out the clusters and continue to get that caramel goodness throughout all the corn. By the end of the hour baking time, it is finally separated and coated evenly. So, there is definitely a bit of technique to develop with this recipe, but still reasonably easy to make. The caramel itself is seriously the easiest and most foolproof I have ever made, and I have always been somewhat "caramel challenged." The 5 minute boil time is just right...and no candy thermometer needed, yay! I have made it with dark brown sugar, light brown, and once with a bit extra molasses because I was short on corn syrup and I think I like the flavor of the heavier molasses versions best. Twice I added salted cashew pieces, once right before I baked as an after thought and they did not stick, and once right before adding the caramel to the corn, and that worked great. FYI, you will definitely not get as thorough coverage if you add nuts since there is more mass, but it was still plenty of caramel, and the cashews were AMAZING! I made it last night for the cub scout Pinewood Derby with no nuts (due to allergies), and it was devoured, maybe more by the adults then kids! I read in one review that someone used maple syrup instead of molasses and I will certainly try that version, especially since it is just about syrup season up here in Maine! Wouldn't that be a fun addition to a Maple Sunday event? That is if it ever warms up enough for the sap to start running:) Happy spring!
  • star rating 03/13/2015
  • Susan from Minnesota
  • This is the bomb..My kids are coming home this weekend and I had to make a double batch,as I ate way more than I should have.. Even my husband liked this and he does"nt usually like caramel corn..
  • star rating 02/24/2015
  • jamie3755 from KAF Community
  • Seriously delicious. I have to note, I didn't have molasses but still really wanted to make this, so I substituted maple syrup. SOOOOOOO good. Might have to do that again. I'm jonesing for this again...might be on the menu tomorrow...
  • 01/29/2015
  • Karen from Maine
  • Can you substitute the corn syrup with honey? You can certainly try, but you might have better results trying Lyle's Golden Syrup. Happy popping! Laurie@KAF
  • star rating 01/26/2015
  • Linda from St. Louis, MO
  • We love this recipe and have found a variation, using okey doke puff corn. It is also wonderful. Only try it if you dare! Very addicting!!!
  • star rating 12/31/2014
  • Lori from San Diego, CA
  • 5 stars! My family loved this recipe and called it "addictive" and "just like Cracker Jack." I normally do not like or eat popcorn, but I have to say that even I thought it was pretty good and had a little bit. Very easy to prepare. Mine ended up darker in color than the pictures though, not sure why - maybe I used the wrong type of molasses. Anyway taste was excellent and I'll definitely make this for my family again.
  • star rating 12/17/2014
  • from Pittsburgh, PA
  • I can't stop eating it!!! Best caramel corn recipe I've had. Great for parties everyone loves it. I increase the amount of popcorn and add two cans of cashews so it's not entirely covered. It makes more and it's less sweetness in each bite. I also use my silpats instead of parchment paper so cleanup is a breeze and the bottom doesn't shift when stirring. If you're having issues with it covering slowly spoon some on then stir it, I keep the sugar mixture on low heat so I doesn't harden. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Make sure the oven is properly preheated so the mixture melts slightly while cooking.
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