Today I’m going to share with you two secrets: 1) How to win friends instantly, and 2) how to make a sinfully delicious batch of caramel popcorn. Lucky for me, both secrets are one and the same. Make this recipe and share it with friends and you’ll instantly have your own entourage. I’ve just gotta’ add that homemade caramel popcorn was an essential part of my childhood diet. Heck, it’s still an essential part of my “diet.” In fact, every time I think of this recipe, I hear tiny voices in my head saying, “Eat me! Eat me!” It’s not always a good idea to listen to those tiny voices in my head, but in this case I tend to make an exception.
There are many caramel popcorn recipes out there, and I’ve tried many of them. I’m happy to report that this recipe has withstood the test of time and continues to be my favorite. It’s easy to make, its sweet, and its incredibly delicious. You can make it into caramel popcorn balls and even add nuts or other candy bits; it’s also quite versatile as far as ingredients are concerned. But my favorite part about it is the sticky chewy goodness that literally melts in your mouth, even hours after it’s made and has sat on the cupboard (that is of course, if it even lasts long enough to sit on the cupboard). At parties, this caramel popcorn is always first to go.
Originally, this caramel popcorn recipe was out of an old cookbook my mom had, but it’s been adapted over the years by my brother and I to become what it is today.
So, now that I’m done building it up and praising the very bowl this caramel popcorn is made in, I’ll let you make it and decide for yourself if it’s a worthy contender amongst your tasty snacks repertoire. I’ve added a printable recipe at the bottom of this post. When I make this, I pop the popcorn in a smaller bowl and then gently move the popped kernels to another larger bowl, leaving the old maids to throw away. There’s nothing more annoying when eating caramel popcorn than having a chewy bite rudely interrupted by little rocky un-popped kernels.
So, with that being said, enjoy! Munch munch. Oh, also I’d love to hear in the comments your thoughts on this recipe, or things that you love about caramel popcorn.
Homemade Caramel Popcorn
Pop popcorn before starting the caramel topping, and if desired add candy corns, nuts, M&Ms, etc. I usually don’t add anything extra, but this time around I decided to add some candy corns just for the heck of it.
In a small bowl, mix together the vanilla and baking soda. This will be added at the end.
In a large pan on medium heat, stir together the canned milk, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, and salt. Bring to a light boil stirring often. Add the optional marshmallows just before softball stage.
Once caramel has reached softball stage***, turn heat off and gently mix in the vanilla and baking soda mixture. The caramel will begin to foam lightly and rise.
Quickly pour 1/2 the caramel on to the popped popcorn and quickly mix together well. Once mixed, pour the remaining caramel mixture over the popcorn and mix, allow to cool for 5 minutes then serve.
If desired, after mixing the caramel and popcorn together, you can bake it for 10-15 minutes at 350°F and allow to cool for a crispy caramel popcorn.
* You can use heavy cream, canned milk (evaporated), or regular milk. You’ll end up with a sweeter caramel if you use heavy cream, and a less sweet caramel if you use regular milk.
** Using all light corn syrup is my personal favorite, but you can also use 3/4 cup light or dark corn syrup and then 1/4 cup molasses or honey for slightly different flavors. It’s quite interchangeable.
*** Softball stage can easily be determined by dripping some of the caramel mixture into a small bowl of cold water (allow tap to run on cold for a minute). If you can squeeze and roll the caramel together into a soft ball of goo while in the water, you’ve reached softball stage. You’ll want to check often if the caramel has reached the softball stage as overcooking it will ruin the flavor and texture.
One other tidbit of information. I’m a marshmallow lover, but I’ve found that if you add too many marshmallows to the caramel, it will ruin it. If in doubt, add fewer marshmallows. I personally would not add more than a 4 large marshmallows or a small finger full of miniature marshmallows.
Recipe for Caramel Popcorn (PDF, 1 page, 140 kb)
After writing all of this, I realize I’m going to have to update this post later with a few more pictures. Apparently I forgot to take some snapshots of some of the steps while making this. As always when making this, I was probably too excited that I forgot.