Cooking with Alison

Caramel Popcorn Recipe

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Other Desserts on January 21, 2010 at pm

I love good caramel popcorn.  My favourite caramel popcorn comes from Kernels (from Canada) and Garrett’s (from Chicago), but their popcorn is ridiculously overpriced, especially considering how easy and cost efficient it is to make at home.  I eat this stuff until my mouth hurts.  🙂  My recipe always gets great reviews.

Krystal’s company holds an annual baking contest to raise money for charity (United Way).  The winner is determined by the employees’ votes.  But since employees have to pay for the baked goods that they want to sample, not everything gets tasted.  This is the most challenging aspect of this competition, because your entries need to be unique and visually appealing in order to get picked over the other, 30 or more, entries.  The best tasting brownies or cookies wouldn’t stand a chance in this bake-off, because no one would even try them.  In November, 2009, I competed for the first time with my caramel popcorn.  Only 3 people sampled it, haha  🙂  However, 2 of the 3 people that sampled it, voted for it.  So I consider that a success.  🙂  Update:  In November, 2010, I competed for the second time and won 1st place with my Chocolate Bar Cheesecake Bites (recipe here).  In November, 2011, I placed 3rd with my Butter Tarts (recipe here).

Caramel Popcorn Recipe

approximately 8 cups popped popcorn (use the popcorn recipe below, but omit salt and butter)
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter
6 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Place your popped popcorn in a large, heatproof bowl and set aside.  Line a baking sheet with a silpat (silicone) mat and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F with the rack set in the middle.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt over high heat.  Stir until smooth and well combined.  Then bring it to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.  Be very careful not to allow the caramel to come in contact with your skin as it will be very hot.  Turn the heat off and continue stirring constantly for 2 minutes.  Remove the pot from heat and vigorously stir in the baking soda and vanilla until well combined.  The caramel coating will lighten in colour and many tiny bubbles will form.  From this point on, you must work quickly, as the caramel coating will harden as it cools.

Pour the caramel coating over the popcorn and toss to coat.  Once again, do not touch the caramel coating with your skin, as it will burn.  It is okay if not all of your popcorn has been well coated with the caramel coating.  Spread the popcorn out onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Then working quickly and carefully, toss the popcorn until it is well, and evenly, coated with the caramel coating.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire cooling rack and allow the popcorn to cool completely.  Use your fingers to break up any large popcorn clusters.  Enjoy.  Store in airtight container for up to 3 days.  If you fill cellophane treat bags, tied with pretty ribbon, with caramel popcorn, you can sell them at bake sales or give them away as delicious gifts.

Popcorn Recipe

3 tbsp vegetable oil

rounded 1/3 cup popcorn kernels

large, covered pot

coarse Kosher sea salt to taste

unsalted butter to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Once oil is hot, but not burnt, add the popcorn kernels and cover the pot with the lid.  Move the pot around so that the kernels swirl in the oil and get coated.   Sprinkle salt over the kernels.  Once the popping starts, move the pot back and forth (away from your body and then towards your body) constantly.  As you move the pot away from you, lift the lid ever so slightly on the side of the pot that is furthest away from you.  This will allow the steam to escape, but be very careful as hot oil and popcorn kernels may splash out.  When the popping slows to seconds between each pop, remove the pot from heat and carefully pour popcorn into a large bowl.  Make sure that the pot is not facing your when you pour the popcorn out, as additional kernels may continue to pop.  Pour melted butter over the popcorn and mix.  Add more salt to taste if desired.

  1. Hi Ali, remember me? I saw this recipe and now want to try it, but I had a question. When heating the caramel, I understand it needs to boil. But how do I know when to stop? Is there a certain time or temp via a candy thermometer at which to remove it from the heat?

    I once tried making popcorn balls, boiled to a certain temp per the recipe, and it all got stuck in my teeth. Chewy and horrible.

    • Hi Kat! Of course I remember you 🙂 No need for a candy thermometer for this recipe. I allowed it to boil for only 5 seconds, because it still boils into the 2 minutes that you spend stirring it on the stove top with the heat off. I’ve made this 3 times now so I really hope it works for you too! I’ve been meaning to update this post, so thank you for the reminder 🙂

  2. […] I got sick of snacking on salads very quickly, so I started making granola bars (recipe to follow within 2 weeks) and plain popcorn. […]

  3. Just wanted to let you know that I love this recipe. Easy, fast, delicious. 🙂

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