How To Make Caramel Popcorn

Popcorn always sounds like an easy thing to make – it is a go-to snack. However, the idea of home-made caramel popcorn tends to scare people away.

So, we’re here to show you how easy it is to make caramel popcorn from scratch! 

How To Make Caramel Popcorn

What Is Caramel Popcorn? 

Caramel popcorn is fairly self-explanatory as a concept; it is popped corn, that has been coated in caramel (either sugar-based or molasses-based).

This is normally left to harden so that it isn’t runny when you go to eat it. This also reduces the amount of mess it will create! 

Before we start talking about caramel popcorn, however, we should cover the basics of how to make normal popcorn. You can then add your caramel to this. 

There are two main methods of making plain popcorn: you can buy microwave popcorn, and cook it in the microwave for the allotted amount of time.

Or you can make popcorn from scratch, by popping the kernels in a pan and heating them. We will go into more detail on how to do this below. 

How To Make The Popcorn Base

You Will Need: 

  • A pack of corn kernels
  • Oil or butter
  • A large saucepan (with a lid)

Method: 

  1. Put your pan on your stove and start heating it up to medium heat.
  2. Drizzle a small amount of oil (or butter) on the bottom of your pan. You can try and get some on the sides of the pan too!
  3. Depending on the size of your pan, work out how many corn kernels you could realistically fit in it. Do this by imagining how many popped kernels you would be able to fit in the pan first. 
  4. Put your kernels into the pan! 
  5. Immediately put the lid on. You will start to hear popping noises! 
  6. Wait until the popping noise quietens down, so you only hear a couple of pop here and there. Turn off the heat and take the pan off the stove. 
  7. Open the lid to reveal your cooked popcorn. 

Now you have your popcorn, you can start on the caramel. The trick to caramel is the baking soda. Up until a certain point when making caramel, the mixture is made up of a lot of acid (from the sugar and corn syrup).

You need the baking soda, an alkaline, to react with the acid to form small carbon dioxide air bubbles. Once cooled, these bubbles make the caramel softer to eat when it’s on popcorn. Without it, the texture would be more similar to toffee. 

There are two ways of approaching caramel. You can do it the microwave way, or the oven way! We will cover both of these below. 

Microwave Caramel Popcorn

You Will Need: 

  • 4 quarts of your newly popped popcorn
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter/margarine
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda 

Method:

  1. Put your popped corn kernels into a large paper bag. This is going to go into the microwave, so you have to make sure it is paper – anything else will melt/burn! 
  2. In a heat-proof glass dish, mix your sugar, butter/margarine, corn syrup, salt and vanilla until they are all combined. 
  3. Put this into your microwave and heat it for 3 minutes. Give it a stir to fully blend the ingredients, and then cook it in the microwave again for another 1 and a half minutes. 
  4. Take the dish out of the microwave. Stir in your baking soda. 
  5. Grab your paper bag with the popcorn in it and pour your syrup all over the popcorn. 
  6. Now, you’re going to need to secure the top of the bag. You can do this rolling down the top a couple of times, making sure it is folded over tightly. 
  7. Shake the bag to make sure all of the popcorn is coated! 
  8. Heat up the bag in the microwave for roughly 1 minute (or just over). Give it another shake, make sure the bag is turned the other way, then pop it back in the microwave and heat it for another minute. 
  9. Remove the bag from the microwave. You’re going to need to lay out a sheet of waxed paper on a flat surface. Pour the popcorn on to the paper and spread it out, checking that all of the pieces are thoroughly coated in caramel. 
  10. Let this cool until your caramel coating has properly set. If your popcorn is stuck together after it has cooled, break the pieces apart and enjoy! 
  11. This can also be stored in an airtight container if you aren’t ready to eat it yet. 

Now, if you don’t have access to a microwave, you can always make a batch of caramel popcorn in the oven. It takes a little bit longer, but it is just as delicious! Find the recipe below. 

Oven Caramel Popcorn

You Will Need: 

  • 5 quarts of your newly popped popcorn
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • ½ a cup of corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ a teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Method: 

  1. Set your oven to 250 Degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Pop your popcorn in a big bowl. 
  3. Put a large saucepan on a pre-heated stove (medium heat). Melt the butter in the pan. 
  4. Stir in your sugar, corn syrup and salt, making sure they combine well. 
  5. Bring this mixture to a boil, making sure to keep stirring. 
  6. Now, you need to boil the mixture for 4 minutes without stirring – don’t worry, it won’t burn! 
  7. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in your vanilla and baking soda. It should lighten in colour slightly and form tiny bubbles. 
  8. You need to pour the caramel mixture over your popcorn, making sure to coat all of the pieces. If you pour it thinly back and forth, you are less likely to have large clumps of caramel in spots. 
  9. Place the coated popcorn in two large baking dishes, spreading it out evenly. 
  10. -Bake the popcorn in your heated oven for an hour. However, you need to make sure to stir the mixture every 15 minutes so it doesn’t burn! 
  11. Once the hour is up, take the dishes out of the oven and leave them on the side to cool. 
  12. Once they are cooled completely, break the popcorn up into small pieces and enjoy! 

Whichever method of caramel popcorn you choose to make, please remember to wait until your finished product is cool before breaking it up/eating it – you don’t want to burn yourself!

Andy Waters
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