DIY Caramel Popcorn

By America’s Test Kitchen | March 2nd, 2022

This homemade caramel popcorn is perfect for a cozy movie night at home

The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for your DIY caramel popcorn to cool before you eat it!

America’s Test Kitchen brings us their tested recipe for DIY caramel popcorn. The hardest part is waiting for your caramel popcorn to cool before you eat it! 

Did you know that popcorn comes in different shapes? There are two main kinds: butterfly (also called snowflake) and mushroom. Most of the popcorn you get at the movies or buy as kernels in the supermarket is the butterfly shape, which pops up light and fluffy with lots of “wings” sticking out. Caramel popcorn, however, is often made with mushroom popcorn, which has a rounder shape (like a mushroom with a cap) and a more sturdy texture. Both popcorn shapes work for this recipe, but if you find mushroom popcorn in a specialty store or online, give it a try in caramel popcorn!

DIY Caramel Popcorn

Makes 7 1/2 cups

  • 7 cups popped plain popcorn
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup salted peanuts (optional)


  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Spray inside bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch metal baking pan with vegetable oil spray. Place popcorn in baking pan.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Carefully add vanilla and baking soda (mixture will bubble and foam). Add peanuts (if using) and stir to combine.
  4. Carefully scrape caramel mixture onto popcorn in baking pan. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir until popcorn is evenly coated. Spread popcorn into an even layer.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Use a rubber spatula to carefully stir popcorn, scraping up caramel from the bottom of the pan. Spread popcorn back into an even layer.
  6. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake until popcorn is a deep golden brown, about 40 minutes, repeating stirring halfway through baking.
  7. Remove baking pan from oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Carefully stir popcorn one last time. Let caramel popcorn cool completely in the pan, about 30 minutes. Break popcorn apart with your hands and serve. (Caramel popcorn can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to five days.)

CAPTION OF IMAGE ABOVE: The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for your caramel popcorn to cool before you eat it! CREDIT: Ashley Moore.

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