Make Caramel Corn Without Corn Syrup

Last updated 11/9/2020 | |

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Sweet, crunchy caramel corn--you can make it easily, without using corn syrup! This tasty recipe is a perfect snack for after school or movie night, and uses ingredients you already have in your kitchen.

caramel corn in glass

We are serious caramel corn fanatics around here. Hubby and I love caramel corn, but I don't love all the weird ingredients you get when you buy it from the store. I thought I would make it at home, but every recipe I found used corn syrup...yuck.

With a little bit of experimentation, I was able to put together a delicious recipe for caramel corn without corn syrup. You can even add peanuts to it and make your own Cracker Jacks!

homemade caramel corn spilling out of jar

Hubby was gracious enough to test all of my efforts, which went something like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears:

I made caramel on the stove top and poured it over the popcorn. It was too gooey.

I made the caramel with honey and baked it in the oven. It was too burnt.

Then I made the caramel with brown sugar, baked it in the oven, and it was JUST RIGHT.

Enough chat...let's do this. 😉

You can make caramel corn without using corn syrup! This easy recipe comes together in no time, with ingredients you already have in your kitchen.

Homemade Caramel Corn

Ingredients

10 cups popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup unpopped)

Don't use microwave popcorn! Use an air popper or a WhirleyPop.

3/4 cup butter

1 cup packed brown sugar (extra credit if it's homemade)

1 teaspoon vanilla (same here)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions

Put the popcorn in a large bowl and preheat the oven to 250F.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter and mix in the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

Increase heat to medium-high and boil the mixture for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. It will change from grainy to smooth and then will begin to thicken and look like...well...caramel!

Delicious, homemade caramel corn without corn syrup: BrownThumbMama.com

Note: Don't leave the stove while the caramel is boiling. It takes about .05 seconds for the mixture to overcook and turn brown instead of caramel-colored. This is too dark:

Delicious, homemade caramel corn without corn syrup: BrownThumbMama.com

Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the vanilla, salt, and baking soda. The caramel will foam up when you add the baking soda, which is why you want to use a big saucepan.

Carefully pour the hot caramel over the popcorn (grab a friend to help) and stir gently to combine. Add the peanuts here if you're making Cracker Jacks.

Delicious, homemade caramel corn without corn syrup: BrownThumbMama.com

Pour the caramel corn onto two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Bake at 250F for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Allow to cool and munch, munch, munch!

caramel corn spilling from jar

Homemade Caramel Corn

Yield: 10 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

You can make caramel corn without using corn syrup! This easy recipe comes together in no time, with ingredients you already have in your kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 10 cups popped popcorn, about 1/2 cup unpopped
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions

  1. Put the popcorn in a large bowl and preheat the oven to 250F.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and mix in the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and boil the mixture for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. It will change from grainy to smooth and then will begin to thicken and look like…well…caramel!
  4. Note: Don’t leave the stove while the caramel is boiling. It takes about .05 seconds for the mixture to overcook and turn brown instead of caramel-colored.
  5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the vanilla, salt, and baking soda. The caramel will foam up when you add the baking soda, which is why you want to use a big saucepan.
  6. Carefully pour the hot caramel over the popcorn (grab a friend to help) and stir gently to combine. Yes, you could add some peanuts at this point and make Cracker Jack, but why mess with a good thing? I like to eat the caramel corn by itself.
  7. Pour the caramel corn onto two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Bake at 250F for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

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Hi, I’m Pam! I created Brown Thumb Mama to share my natural living journey, and help you live a greener life. Thanks for being here, and please check out the resources in my Natural Living Shop!

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I created Brown Thumb Mama to share my natural living journey and help you live a greener life. Thanks for being here! Learn more about me.

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