Salted caramel popcorn is freshly popped, coated in a homemade caramel sauce then baked to golden, buttery perfection to create a delightfully crunchy snack. For those looking for baked caramel popcorn without corn syrup–you’ve come to the right place! Enjoy this sweet and salty treat on any occasion.
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Regular popcorn just got a tasty upgrade with this salted caramel popcorn recipe. Popcorn is a simple, classic treat but adding salted caramel takes it to another level. After just one mouthwatering handful, you’ll be addicted. So put down the stale storebought stuff because we are about to make the best salted caramel popcorn!
Why This Recipe Works
- Great for Any Occasion – Use this for movie night, a gift exchange, or party favors.
- Shareable Snack – This recipe yields 10 cups so it’s an affordable treat that everyone can enjoy.
- Stays Fresh for Weeks – Due to the baking process, popcorn has a longer shelf life than standard desserts.
- Easy to Prepare – This salted caramel popcorn recipe doesn’t require corn syrup and is made with just a few simple ingredients. Just make your popcorn and salted caramel, combine, then bake until crunchy!
Tools You’ll Need
Ingredients You Will Need for Salted Caramel Popcorn
- Popcorn kernels – Cooked on the stove and in a dutch oven.
- Avocado oil – Use this or another neutral oil.
- Cold water – Used to help dissolve the granulated sugar.
- Butter – Use unsalted to control the saltiness.
- Sugar – Use granulated sugar.
- Heavy Cream – Creates a delicious flavor and helps the caramel spread easily.
- Kosher salt – I use Diamond Crystal brand.
- Baking soda – This prevents the caramel from becoming too dense. Also, aids in making the caramel easy to spread.
How to Make Salted Caramel Popcorn Without Corn Syrup?
Although a lot of recipes call for adding corn syrup to making perfect caramel popcorn, this isn’t always necessary. While adding corn syrup aids in creating smooth caramel, you can still achieve this by leaving corn syrup out and leaving the sugar untouched until it turns amber in color.
Additionally, the heavy cream also aides in creating a smooth and spreadable caramel.
How To Make Salted Caramel Popcorn
Making salted caramel popcorn is easier than you think. You are just a few simple steps away from an unforgettable treat!
Preheat oven to 250°F.
Then add avocado oil to a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 kernels to the dutch oven, once they pop, remove and discard, then add remaining kernels. Cover with lid and (using oven mitts) carefully shake the pot so as to coat the kernels with oil.
Lower heat to medium and prop the lid on the pot to allow air to escape. Once the popping stops (2-3 seconds without hearing popping) pour popcorn into a mixing bowl. Discard any unpopped kernels.
Make the Salted Caramel
Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepan. Stir to combine, then cook over medium-high heat without stirring for 13–15 minutes, or until the mixture turns dark amber in color.
Turn off the heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until the mixture is smooth, then add the butter and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add baking soda and return pot to burner. Then stir over low heat. The mixture will foam but that is expected. Stir until one cohesive color forms.
Quickly pour caramel over popcorn and toss to combine. Then divide among prepared baking sheet and be sure to spread popcorn into a thin layer.
Baking Salted Caramel Popcorn
Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes then stir the mixture and repeat for another 20 minutes. Taste the mixture for texture and bake for an additional 15 minutes if you want it crunchy like traditional caramel popcorn.
Remove from oven and leave to cool. Finally, break them into pieces and serve.
Tips and Tricks
- Watch the caramel closely. It can burn quickly and will be unusable.
- Don’t stir the sugar. As the sugar transitions to caramel, do not stir as the mixture will crystalize.
- The caramel hardens as it cools. So pour it quickly over the popcorn to ensure it coats them evenly.
- Be careful when handling caramel. It is extremely hot so don’t be tempted to taste test with a finger while cooking it.
Have fun with some delicious add-ins. If you want to truly indulge, add your favorite candy or snack to the finished popcorn in order to make a popcorn mix. Some yummy ideas include:
- Chocolate drizzle
After the popcorn has completely cooled, store leftovers in a resealable bag or sterilized containers for up to 2 weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is caramel popcorn the same as toffee popcorn?
No. Toffee and caramel have different ingredients. Toffee popcorn is made with sugar (or light corn syrup) and butter. Whereas caramel popcorn is made with a combination of sugar (or dark corn syrup), milk (or cream), and water.
Can you make caramel popcorn without baking soda?
In short, yes, but you won’t have that signature crunch, which I feel, is a big reason why we love caramel popcorn! Baking soda reacts with the sugar to create tiny carbon dioxide bubbles yielding a soft light crunch and softer texture to the caramel.
Why is my caramel popcorn not crunchy?
Steam may have gotten trapped in the pot while you were making the popcorn. When this happens, the popcorn retains moisture. Prevent this by propping the lid open and allowing air to escape.
Do I have to bake salted caramel popcorn?
Although it isn’t totally necessary, baking is the best way to achieve crispy caramel popcorn. If you prefer chewy popcorn and plan to eat it all that night then go for it! Otherwise, it will be soggy after a few hours.
Baking the popcorn removes excess moisture so that it can stay crispy for weeks.
Looking for More Dessert Recipes
- Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Frosting
- Cardamom Apple Fritters with Maple Glaze
- Easy Apple Cobbler
- No-Bake Cheesecake Bars
Loving this Recipe?
There’s a reason this Salted Caramel Popcorn is loved by all! Leave a comment below and share your love for this recipe on Instagram and Pinterest. We love to see you get down in the kitchen. Thank you for supporting Whisper of Yum and happy eating!
Salted Caramel Popcorn
- Candy Thermometer
- 1 ½-baking sheet, lined with parchment paper
- Dutch Oven
- large mixing bowl
- Medium Saucepan
- ½ cup popcorn kernels, 10 cups total popped
- 1½ tablespoons avocado oil, or other neutral oil
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 1 cup sugar
- ⅓ cup heavy cream, room temperature
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, I use Diamond Crystal brand
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat oven to 250°F.
- In a dutch over medium high-heat and add avocado oil. Add 2 kernels to the dutch oven, once they pop, remove and discard, then add remaining kernels. Cover with lid and (using oven mitts) carefully shake the pot so as to coat the kernels with oil.
- Lower heat to medium and prop the lid on the pot to allow air to escape. Once the popping stops (2-3 seconds without hearing popping), pour popcorn into a mixing bowl. Discard any unpopped kernels.
- Make the salted caramel: Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepan. Stir to combine, then cook over medium-high heat without stirring for 13–15 minutes, or until the mixture turns dark amber in color.
- Turn off the heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until the mixture is smooth, then add the butter and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add baking soda and return pot to burner. Stir over low heat. The mixture will foam and that is expected. Stir until one cohesive color forms, about 30 seconds.
- Quickly pour caramel over popcorn and toss to combine. Pour onto prepared baking sheet and spread popcorn into a thin layer.
Baking Caramel Popcorn
- Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes then stir the mixture and repeat for another 20 minutes. Remove 2 pieces from the batch and allow to cool for 1 minute. Test for texture and bake for an additional 15 minutes if you want crunchier. (I bake my batch for 45 minutes, but keep in mind oven times may slightly vary.)
- Remove from oven and leave to cool. When cool enough to touch, break into pieces and serve. Store leftovers in a resealable bag or sterilized containers for up to 2 weeks.