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Crunchy Microwave Caramel Corn

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Do you love buttery, sweet caramel corn? Now you can make this crunchy treat even faster with the help of the microwave.  It’s perfect for a snack and fun for a party!

white bowl filled with cracker jack style crunchy caramel corn with lots of peanuts.

There is just something about the buttery crunch of homemade caramel corn that makes you keep going back for more.  There is no stopping it and it’s ok, because you won’t really want to stop anyway.

The secret to getting that crunch is cooking the popcorn after coating it in caramel. That is what keeps it from being a gooey, sticky mess.

A lot of people finish their caramel popcorn in the oven, and it works great.  But my husband’s grandma has a secret that makes it so much quicker and even easier!

She uses the microwave to set the caramel and make it crunchy. It is done in just a few minutes and tastes amazing.

wax paper lined pan filled with cooling caramel corn.

Grandma’s Microwave Caramel Popcorn

When I asked my husband if his grandma had any recipes he really loved, this was the first thing he mentioned.  He remembers them making it together when he was a kid.

They liked it so much, that he and his sister asked her to make it a couple of years back.  We all went to Grandma’s house and made the caramel corn.

To be honest, I was shocked to see her dump it all in a paper bag and put it in the microwave. I had never seen it done like that.

We couldn’t wait for it to cool.  We ate it while it was still hot and sticky!

Movie style popcorn containers filled with crunchy microwave caramel popcorn, ready to eat.

So, next time you are at the grocery store, ask for a paper bag.  You’ll thank yourself!

My husband’s grandma also gave us her popular chicken broccoli casserole and her husband gave us Grandpa Joe’s pumpkin apple muffins. They are all winners! Have you ever made homemade caramel corn?

Tips and Tricks: 

Add as many or as few peanuts as you like.  We love the peanuts, so we add a ton.  You can leave them out and it’s good that way too.

Make sure the caramel corn is completely cooled before you bag it up.  If kept in an airtight container, it will keep its crunchy exterior for quite some time.  Humidity will make it soften quickly.

You can use two bags of microwave popcorn if you’d like.  Otherwise use your air popper or pop some on the stove.

Bowl of crunchy caramel popcorn and peanuts spilling onto counter.

Everyone will have a better experience if you really make sure there are no unpopped kernels in the mix.  I like to dump the popcorn into one bowl and transfer it a handful at a time into a second bowl.

The hard kernels naturally fall to the bottom of the first bowl and it’s easy to keep them out of the final mix.  Those guys make for an unpleasant surprise if you leave them in there.

Just make sure to get those unpopped kernels out before you add the caramel, You don’t want one sneakily stuck to a good piece of corn!

Serving Caramel Corn:

We find so many occasions where serving this cracker jack like mix is appropriate.  Like a baseball themed party or a snack for watching an actual game.

We almost always have some for a big game football parties as well.  It is a fun sweet snack that doesn’t require committing to a full slice of dessert.

Red and white striped popcorn container of caramel corn spilled showing individual pieces of popcorn coated in crunchy caramel coating and peanuts throughout.

Caramel corn will take your next movie night to the next level as well!

If you are going to serve it at a party, store it in an airtight container until it’s almost time for the party to start. Then transfer it to your serving bowls.

It is also a fun party favor.  Bag it up on small cellophane bags and give it to your guests as a parting treat!   This would make for a fun and different bake sale item as well!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you store caramel popcorn?

Keep your caramel corn in an airtight container. You worked hard to get all of the moisture out and make that crunchy coating, so keeping it away from humidity is key to keeping that crunch.

How do you make this caramel corn Chicago style popcorn?

Mix in some cheddar coated popcorn for the perfect sweet and salty snack. The mix of caramel corn and cheese popcorn is a midwestern classic.

More Fun Popcorn Treats

If you like caramel corn, try making peanut butter popcorn. It is crunchy and sweet like this but with nice peanut butter notes throughout.

Maybe you are in the mood for something more on the chewy side. Then marshmallow popcorn balls are for you. They are great plain and even better dipped in some melted chocolate.

Love this recipe? Give it a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review in the recipe card below!

white bowl filled with cracker jack style crunchy caramel corn with lots of peanuts.

Crunchy Caramel Corn in the Microwave

Servings: 24 Servings
Author: Carlee
Making your own caramel corn doesn't have to be hard or time consuming. This recipe features a perfect buttery caramel coating for your popcorn that is set in the microwave. That makes the process fast and easy and the results are delicious!
5 from 16 ratings
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 16-20 cups popped popcorn*
  • cups roasted peanuts optional
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda


  • Place popcorn in a paper grocery bag.  Add peanuts if using.
    16-20 cups popped popcorn*, 1½ cups roasted peanuts
  • In medium sauce pan, add butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Boil for 3 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
    ½ cup butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, ¼ cup light corn syrup, ½ teaspoon salt
  • Stir in baking soda.
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pour caramel mixture over popcorn. Roll down the top of the bag and shake.
  • Place bag in microwave and heat on high for 1½ minutes
  • Carefully shake (it'll be hot!) and place back in microwave. Heat for 1 minute 15 seconds.
  • Shake again and then pour onto a wax paper lined rimmed baking sheet to cool.
  • Cool completely before moving to an airtight container for storage. 


*You can use 2 bags of microwave popcorn or pop your own corn using your favorite method.



Serving: 1ServingCalories: 106kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 1gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 150mgFiber: 1gSugar: 10g

Nutritional Disclaimer

“Cooking With Carlee” is not a dietitian or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.

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Recipe Rating

Lynn Tjerne

Thursday 16th of December 2021

OMG this is great!!!! I usually do the oven method but thought I would try this. All I can say is thank you!!! My caramel is a bit different but I used your microwave times and it is fantastic! Same amount of popcorn 16-20 cups (5 Qts) 1 cup butter 2 cups brown sugar 1/2 cup corn syrup 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 5 quarts popped popcorn


Thursday 16th of December 2021

Yay! I am so glad you gave it a try. I had always baked it before too, but this makes it so much faster. I'll have to try your caramel recipe next time!

Penny Wolf

Wednesday 21st of April 2021

I would like to share a tip for sorting the old maids from the popped corn. Pour your corn onto a 2 piece broiler pan and shimmy the pan. The unpopped corn falls through the holes of the top of the broiler rack and into the grease catch. Thanks for this recipe!


Thursday 22nd of April 2021

That is such a great tip, thanks for sharing!

Amy (Savory Moments)

Thursday 7th of May 2020

I've always made it in the oven since we don't have a microwave, but this is so great to know! I love caramel corn -- such a great snack!


Saturday 9th of May 2020

We love the oven finished caramel corn too, but this makes it so much quicker!

Andrea Nine

Wednesday 6th of May 2020

I had no idea you could do it like this in the microwave! Totally going to do this! Have a beautiful day friend!


Thursday 7th of May 2020

It's so much faster than baking it and you get the same finish! I hope you love it!


Sunday 21st of January 2018

Ok, I think I can actually manage this one! Can't wait to make this! thanks for sharing it!


Thursday 7th of May 2020

You can for sure!