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Our sweet and salty easy Caramel Popcorn Recipe with Butter Toffee Peanuts is the perfect snack for all occasions. It’s also really terrific for movie night and gifting during the holidays!
Impossible to resist, amazing Caramel Popcorn Recipe
Adults and kids of all ages LOVE this buttery, sweet Caramel Corn Recipe. The aroma of baking popcorn will draw the whole family to the kitchen for a bite, or two, or three! You might want to make a double batch 😉
Have you ever bought one of those giant tins of popcorn from Costco, BJ’s or Sam’s Club during the holidays? We love them too, especially with the three different kinds of popcorn. One section is usually cheesy, one caramel and one plain.
While those tins are an easy gift or snacking solution, there’s no telling how old that popcorn really is. Making your own homemade caramel popcorn will open your eyes to what fresh really tastes like. It’s dramatically better than store-bought and easily adapted to your favorite add-in’s and variations.
- 16 cups fresh popped plain popcorn (1/2 cup popcorn kernels)
- unsalted butter
- light or dark brown sugar
- light corn syrup
- salt (omit if using salted popcorn or salted butter)
- vanilla extract
- baking soda
- salted peanuts like skin-on or off Spanish or cocktail style
How to make Caramel Popcorn
1. First prep the ingredients and tools
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Lightly spray a large roasting pan, baking sheets or two smaller disposable aluminum pans with vegetable cooking spray.
2. Make the popcorn
Make 16 cups of fresh popped popcorn.
Since we’re already a big popcorn family we use our Franklin’s Original Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper with neutral flavored Canola oil and no salt. This popcorn maker pops the best popcorn! (Watch for sales after Christmas or on black Friday)
Pour the popped popcorn into the prepared roasting pan.
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3. Make the caramel sauce
Combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt in a large saucepan. Pre-measure all remaining ingredients and have them ready to go next to the stovetop.
Bring the butter and sugar mixture to a boil over medium heat to medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Don’t overcook! You don’t want the mixture super thick or grainy.
Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda and vanilla. Once combined add all the peanuts to the mixture and quickly stir to coat the popcorn. Pour the hot caramel peanut mixture over the popcorn. Gently toss and stir the popcorn using a large spatula or spoon.
4. Bake the popcorn to set the caramel
Bake the popcorn for 90 minutes stirring gently every 15 minutes until the popcorn is no longer tacky, mostly dry and the caramel is set. Cool and enjoy!
If for some weird reason your popcorn is soft and not crispy, return it to the oven and continue baking in 15 minute intervals until crunchy.
What kind of popcorn can you use for Caramel Popcorn?
For this recipe you’ll need about 15 to 16 cups of fresh popped plain popcorn (1/2 cup kernels).
Air popped popcorn or oil popped both work well. If making oil popped popcorn be sure to use a neutral flavored oil like Canola or vegetable (not movie theatre-style flavored oils).
If using microwave popcorn skip the buttered or seasoned varieties. Skip the added salt if using popcorn that’s already salted.
How to store homemade Caramel Popcorn
Caramel Popcorn is best stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Make sure the popcorn is completely cool before sealing to avoid added moisture which can make the popcorn sticky.
We use zipper bags, storage containers, tins or jars for storing caramel popcorn. If you’re gifting this popcorn to friends and family I recommend placing it in a zipper bag then seal in a decorative tin.
The popcorn will keep for up to a week at room temperature if well sealed. It also travels well if packed tightly in the container.
Variations and Add-ins
1. Make your own Harry & David style Moose Munch
Instead of adding peanuts use a combination of cashews and almonds.
Add about 4 cups of fresh popped popcorn to the pan for a total of 20 cups instead of 16.
Once baked, spread the popcorn in a single layer on wax or parchment paper to cool. Drizzle the popcorn with 1 cup of melted milk chocolate chips. Allow the chocolate to set before storing.
2. Add seasonings
For subtle and unique flavors add up to 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, pumpkin spice or 1/8th teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
3. Caramel Corn Snack Mix
Cut the amount of popcorn in half. Add 4 cups Rice Chex cereal, 2 cups miniature pretzel twists and use pecans in place of the peanuts. This is my sister-in-law Windy’s specialty!
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Caramel Popcorn with Butter Toffee Peanuts
- 16 cups popped popcorn (1/2 cup kernels)
- 1 cup unsalted butter (226g)
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar (452g)
- ½ cup light corn syrup (5oz)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups salted peanuts (4oz)
- Preheat oven to 225°F. Lightly spray a large roasting pan with vegetable cooking spray. You can also use 2 disposable aluminum pans if desired. Pour the popped popcorn into the roasting pan and set aside.
- PRO TIP: Have all ingredients pre-measured and close by the stovetop.
- Combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted and the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 full minutes.
- Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the vanilla and baking soda. Add the peanuts to the mixture and quickly stir to coat. Pour the hot caramel mixture over the popcorn. Gently toss and stir to coat using a large spatula or wooden spoon.
- Transfer the popcorn to the oven and bake for 1 and 1/2 hours (90 minutes) stirring gently every 15 minutes until the popcorn is no longer tacky, mostly dry and the caramel is set. Cool completely before storing.
- If using microwave popcorn avoid using brands with heavy butter seasonings.
- Unflavored, unsalted fresh popped popcorn is best in this recipe. I typically use Spanish peanuts with the skin on or cocktail peanuts for this recipe.
Great Holiday Snacks
We love this having this buttery Caramel Popcorn recipe on hand to share when company arrives. It’s also a terrific gift for neighbors and friends.
This caramel popcorn is delicious to eat, easy to make and so much better than store-bought!
If making popcorn treats around Halloween try these Quick and Easy Popcorn Balls too.