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Baked Caramel Corn

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This recipe makes the perfect crunchy, buttery caramel corn.  Popcorn and peanuts are coated in a simple brown sugar caramel and baked until crispy. It is perfect for movie night, game night, and more.

Bowl piled high with crispy caramel corn with peanuts.

If you like Cracker Jacks, you are going to love this baked caramel corn recipe. It gives you the same sweet crunch, they only thing it’s missing is the prize!

It comes together quickly and then bakes to the perfect finish.  It is a must make for movie night, parties and game day!

When we decided to throw a baseball themed baby shower for my little sister, we knew we had to have all of the bases covered. (Ha! See what I did there?!)

Ingredients including popped popcorn, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, baking soda, and peanuts.

We needed to have peanuts, hot dogs and nachos.  We wanted plenty of pennants and of course we needed caramel corn.

After all, you can’t have a day at the ballpark without something along the lines of Cracker Jacks, can you? I was immediately volunteered for the role of caramel corn maker.  

I have been making my husband’s grandma’s recipe for the last few years and it is always a hit.

I knew I had all of the ingredients on hand, so I didn’t worry too much about it.  That is until I went to make it!

You see her recipe for microwave caramel corn requires putting everything in a brown paper grocery sack. You give it a few shakes and finish it off in the microwave.

So I went to the cabinet where we keep the paper bags and it was bare!  We almost always bring cloth bags to the grocery store, but I try to remember to get paper bags every so often.

I do like to use them to keep track of the paper for the recycling bin and of course to make an occasional batch of caramel corn.  But it looked like the recycle bin had been the lucky recipient of the last bag… and I needed to make caramel corn!!

So I went back to the classic way to make crispy caramel popcorn, the oven. And while I was at it, I figured I would share the recipe with you.

Because maybe you need caramel corn and don’t have a paper bag too. We need to be prepared for any situation!

Tips for Making Caramel Corn

Use a bigger pot than you think you need to make the caramel. It bubbles up quite a bit when you add the baking soda, and you don’t want a mess.

You can use any popcorn you would like as the base. Two or three bags of microwave popcorn will work, or you can pop some corn on the stove or in an air popper.

Hand holding cluster of caramel coated popcorn pieces and peanuts, showing crunchy texture.

Make sure you remove any unpopped popcorn kernels from the popcorn before you coat it. I find it easiest to do this by just transferring the popcorn from one bowl to another with my hands.

The kernels will drop to the bottom of the first bowl, so they are easy to leave behind. This keeps you from accidentally biting into any tooth breaking surprises.

I like to bake the caramel corn on two large rimmed baking dishes. That gives it plenty of room to heat evenly and get nice and crunchy.

Why add baking soda to caramel popcorn?

The alkaline baking soda reacts with the acid from the brown sugar and corn syrup in the caramel to make lots of little carbon dioxide bubbles. That is why the mixture foams up so much.

Those bubbles also allow the caramel to have a nice crisp texture without being tooth-breakingly hard.

Red and white popcorn containers with caramel coated popcorn, one spilled over.

Storing Baked Carmel Popcorn

The best part is you can make it ahead of time if you are wanting it for a party.  Just keep it sealed in an airtight container away from heat and humidity, and it will hold for a week or two.  

Or so I’ve heard. I’ve never actually managed to keep it around that long.  But, I know it does keep for at least 5 days.

cellophane bags filled with caramel corn and tied with ribbon.

The key is to make sure it is completely cooled before you transfer it to your storage containers. Putting it away hot can result in it losing some of its crispy texture.

So go ahead and make a batch, or maybe go ahead and make two.  You might as well!

More great popcorn recipes:

Check out my collection of popcorn recipes for even more inspiration. Or let me know about your favorite popcorn recipes in the comments below.

Bowl piled high with crispy caramel corn with peanuts.

Baked Caramel Corn

Carlee
This recipe makes the perfect crunchy, buttery caramel corn.  It is perfect for a party and just like what you get at the baseball stadium.  The best part is you can make it ahead!
5 from 8 ratings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 20 Servings (About 5 quarts)
Calories 304 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 5 quarts popped popcorn
  • 2 cups light brown sugar packed
  • 1 cup butter
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups peanuts or as desired

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 250°F and grease a couple of rimmed baking sheets.
  • Put popcorn and peanuts in a large bowl. Set aside.
    5 quarts popped popcorn, 2 cups peanuts
  • In a large saucepan, cook butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt until it begins to boil.
    2 cups light brown sugar, 1 cup butter, ½ cup light corn syrup, ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and carefully stir in baking soda.
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pour hot caramel over popped popcorn and peanuts to coat. Spread over the greased baking sheets.
  • Bake for 45 minutes at 250°F, stirring every 15 minutes.
  • Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 304kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 4gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 261mgFiber: 2gSugar: 25g
Tried this recipe?Mention @carleecooks or tag #cookingwcarlee!

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Recipe Rating




Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man!

Tuesday 16th of January 2024

I've never made or even read a recipe for caramel corn. Very interesting. By the way, I like the way you included the ingredients after each step. Very convenient!

Carlee

Tuesday 16th of January 2024

You have to give it a try, homemade caramel corn is so good!

Unknown

Sunday 29th of October 2017

I must be blind, I do not see the amount of salt. Thank you

Carlee

Sunday 29th of October 2017

Sorry about that! A pinch or about a 1/4 tsp will do it. There will be plenty of salt from the peanuts as well to give you that sweet and salty flavor.

Megan Chamberlin

Monday 3rd of July 2017

I've never thought to make my own caramel corn, that's awesome! #MerryMonday

Carlee

Tuesday 4th of July 2017

Oh my goodness, you have to try it! It is sooooo good!

Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies

Wednesday 28th of June 2017

Kind of embarrassed to say this, but I still have never made caramel corn! Maybe it's because I am afraid of eating it all! Seriously though, this sounds delicious!

Carlee

Saturday 1st of July 2017

Oh my goodness!!! March into the kitchen and make some right now! The fear of eating it all is real, though. I don't trust myself with a batch unless there is a group to share it with.

Deepika|TheLoveOfCakes

Tuesday 27th of June 2017

Who doesn't love to munch on some good popcorn :D...And buttery caramelly popcorn is even better!! Definitely need to try this recipe soon :). Thanks for sharing Carlee!

Carlee

Saturday 1st of July 2017

Isn't caramel corn the best? I hope you love it!