Many people have nostalgic feelings when it comes to caramel corn. It might be the smell that makes you think of the state fair. Or maybe your favorite ice cream store sold it. Or the Christmas tins with three flavors of popcorn, and the caramel was always gone first.
For our family, it’s my mom’s homemade recipe the brings back memories. I had kind of forgotten about it until one of my nieces brought it up. So I chased down the recipe from Mom, fired up the air popper, and made a batch. Rather, several batches over the past six months or so.
Caramel corn is fun to share with others, makes a great filler in a cookie or candy gift, and tastes especially good while playing cards or games together.
What You Need for Caramel Corn
Start with unseasoned popped popcorn. Yellow kernel corn pops best, so stay away from the white corn. White produces smaller kernels with more crumbs. The yellow corn is fluffier. Who knew, right? Pro tip from Mom with much experience!
I use an air popper. Some people have mastered popping corn on the stovetop. Either method produces good corn for this caramel corn recipe. Then shake your popped popcorn in a clean bag or large bowl and transfer it to the large roasting pan. Do this by hand or with a large scoop, and you will leave behind all of the unpopped kernels.
Other ingredients to make sure you have on hand are brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine or butter, vanilla flavoring, and baking soda. That’s what makes extra crunch.
- Air Popper or ability to pop popcorn on stovetop
- 1 cup unpopped popcorn yellow kernel
- 2 cups cocktail peanuts or dry roasted nuts of choice optional
- 1 stick margarine
- 1/2 c light corn syrup
- 3/4 c brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla flavoring
- 1 pinch salt
- Pop the popcorn. Air pop, stove top, or purchase an unseasoned pre-popped variety. Place into a clean paper bag and shake to get all of the unpopped kernels down to the bottom. Scoop out the popcorn and place into a large roasting pan. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 250°.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, combine margarine, corn syrup, brown sugar, and salt and heat to a boil. Keep at a rapid boil for 6 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and add vanilla and baking soda. It will foam up. Pour caramel sauce over the popped popcorn and fold the corn, scooping from underneath and turning over until all the pieces are coated with sauce.
- Place roasting pan into oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
- Turn out hot caramel corn onto a large, clean tea towel and allow to dry and get crispy. Store in an airtight container.