This is that recipe, ladies. The caramel corn your mom made for you as a kid. The one that she shipped in a box to you when you were away at college. You made it for your boyfriend to impress him. And now you make it for your husband and kids. This homemade caramel corn recipe cannot be beat.
The first time I tasted this amazing caramel corn, was at a spectacular Halloween party my parents threw for my brother, me, and all our friends.
It has been a staple in our family ever since. We make it year-round, but there’s just something about eating it in fall that makes you feel cozy and ready for falling leaves, all things pumpkin, Turkey, and scarves.
Apologies… I just went full-‘basic fall girl’ there for a second.
Whether it’s spring and you’re wanting a fun treat or autumn and you’re ready to cozy in, this is the perfect nut-free caramel corn recipe.
How to make caramel corn
Before you get started, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be warming up while you pop the popcorn and make the caramel.
If you’ve never done it before, you are going to love popping popcorn on the stove.
But how does one pop popcorn on the stove, you ask?
Easy! You’ll need a large deep-sided pan with a lid. Cast iron is great, but it can be heavy to shake. You’ll see what I mean in a second.
Put the pan on the stove and pre-warm to medium-high heat. Make sure it is good and warm before you move on.
When the pan is warm, put 1 tsp of oil in the pan and 1/4 cup unpopped popcorn. Gently shake to coat each kernel in oil.
Now you get to watch it for a few minutes. Shake gently every minute or so.
When 2 or 3 pieces have popped, put the lid on and lightly shake until the popping stops. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for another minute to make sure everything is done popping.
Inevitably, another piece will pop when you open the lid and popcorn is going to go flying.
Dump the popcorn into a large mixing bowl. Let that batch cool while you do the remaining batch.
Be sure to clean the bottom of the pan with a paper towel to get rid of any debris. It can scortch when cooking the next batch.
Homemade caramel is a 1000 times better than anything you buy in the store masquerading as caramel.
And it’s so easy to make.
Dump the butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows into a pot and turn on low heat. Gently melt everything together, stirring occassionally.
That’s literally it!
If you want to save some time, start the caramel before you start popping the popcorn. It can be slowly melting together while you’re getting the popcorn ready.
Mix everything together
TRANSFER THE POPCORN!
Don’t skip this step!! Pick up the popcorn by hand and transfer it to a new bowl. In the bottom of the old bowl, you’ll see the unpopped kernels. You really don’t want to bite into one of those suckers unexpectedly.
Now that you’ve gotten rid of the unpopped kernels, slowly dump the caramel onto the popcorn.
Mix it really well. Make sure everything is coated!
Dump the mixture onto a non-stick cookie sheet. I like to separate my batches onto two separate sheets so I can get it laid out flat.
A very quick bake
Here’s a decision-point for you. Do you want gooey caramel corn? Or do you prefer crunchy caramel corn. I can tell you many-a-family debate has been held on this topic. My mom prefers crunchy. EVERYONE ELSE (cough cough) prefers gooey.
But you’re the one making the recipe, so you’ve got to decide. Gooey is delicious but a bit messier for kids, as a side note.
If you want soft and melty caramel corn, only bake for 5 minutes.
If you like the crunchy caramel corn, bake for 7 minutes. It will not feel crunchy until it is cooled.
After you remove them from the oven, use a spatula to stir everything together while it’s cooling. This is especially important if you’ve baked everything on 1 sheet and it’s piled together.
I like to stir about 3 times while it’s cooling to break it up a little and make sure all the caramel stays evenly distributed.
Some folks like peanuts in their caramel corn. I am not one of those people. However, if you do, you can add 3/4 cup peanuts to the pre-baked caramel corn mixture. Bake like usual.
This dessert contains a number of allergens you want to avoid in many restricted eating plans.
Namely: corn, dairy, processed sugar
If you’re wanting to keep it as healthy as possible, you could always use olive oil for popping the pocorn. Keep the heat a little lower, though, so the oild doesn’t scortch.
Serve and enjoy!
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