Crunch, sweet and buttery, the BEST Caramel Corn recipe is quick and easy to make from scratch. A classic sweet snack we absolutely love, crunchy popcorn is blanketed in sweet caramel for the ultimate treat.

Caramel Popcorn in a white bowl on a blue background.

Caramel Popcorn

Summer’s at the beach mean buckets of Caramel Popcorn from Johnson’s on the boardwalk. It’s a definite must have as soon as the weather heats up and we swap our boots for flip flops for the next few months. And then as soon as the weather starts to cool off, we miss our summer treat because all the boardwalk shops close up for the winter. 

The buttery caramel coating the crunchy popcorn is the ultimate sweet and salty treat….I miss it so much by the middle of September. So, I did what any self respecting food blogger would do and created my own version of Johnson’s Caramel Corn. And I did a great job because this is the BEST Caramel Corn recipe….even better than the original.

Overhead shot of caramel corn on a baking sheet with a wooden spoon.

What is Caramel Popcorn?

Caramel corn, or caramel popcorn, is a sweet treat made of popcorn coated in a sugar or syrup based caramel candy shell.

Homemade caramel syrup is made with butter and sugar being heated until it begins to turn golden brown then the syrup is poured over the popcorn while it’s still hot.

Close up of caramel corn in a white bowl on a blue background.

How To Make Caramel Popcorn

This homemade Caramel Corn recipe is one of the miracles of corn, in my opinion. Fluffy popcorn coated in a quick and easy caramel sauce, it doesn’t get better than that. And it’s insanely easy to make, too!

  1. Preheat the oven.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream of tartar and salt. 
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda.
  5. Immediately pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn and toss to coat.
  6. Spread the popcorn on a baking sheet lined with parchment and transfer to the oven. 
  7. Bake the popcorn for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.
  8. Allow the caramel corn to cool on the baking sheet and then break apart. Transfer to an airtight container to store.

I like to use this Stovetop Popcorn recipe to get things started. It’s much better, and healthier, than using microwave popcorn.

If you’re looking for a snack that’s more on the savory side, this easy White Cheddar Popcorn is simply amazing and crazy easy to make, too!

Caramel sauce being poured over popcorn on a baking sheet.

Why Baking Soda in Caramel Corn

The reason for using baking soda when making caramel corn is so that it creates a reaction with the brown sugar and corn syrup which creates air bubbles. Your caramel sauce will look foamy which is the carbon dioxide bubbles forming making the sauce softer in texture once the caramel has cooled.

If you forget the baking soda in your caramel corn, you can still finish the recipe but your caramel corn will be a little harder when it cools.

Caramel corn on a baking sheet about to be stirred with a wooden spoon.

Why Cream of Tartar in Caramel Popcorn

The cream of tartar in this caramel popcorn recipe prevents the caramel from crystallizing. 

Overhead shot of caramel corn in a square white bowl on a blue background.

More Easy Corn Recipes

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Overhead shot of caramel corn in a square white bowl on a blue background.

Get the Recipe: The Best Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Super easy Caramel Corn is butter, crunchy and sweet!
5 from 5 votes


  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 10 cups unsalted popped popcorn


  • 1 saucepan
  • 1 baking sheet


  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread the popcorn out in an even layer. Set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the sugar and corn syrup.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil stirring constantly. Turn the heat to low and allow to simmer, untouched for about 4-5 minutes.
  • Stir the sauce and then continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes stirring occasionally until the mixture turns a deep golden brown.
  • Turn off the heat. Whisk in the salt, baking soda, cream of tartar and sauce being careful because the sauce will bubble up.
  • Immediately pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and toss to coat. (This is easier to do if your baking sheet and popcorn are warm so you can pop the whole sheet into the oven for a couple minutes before this step.)
  • Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring ever 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the popcorn to cool.
  • Break apart the caramel popcorn and transfer to an airtight container. Store at room temperature.
Calories: 193kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 298mg, Potassium: 65mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 23g, Vitamin A: 254IU, Calcium: 18mg, Iron: 1mg