Caramel Corn is quintessential fall food and this recipe is quick, easy, and can be made in the microwave!  No candy thermometers or complicated instructions, just warm, buttery caramel coated bites.  Now there are generally 2 schools when it comes to caramel corn: those who like it warm and soft, and those who like it crisp and crunchy. This recipe is awesome because 1. It tastes amazing, 2. It’s suuuper easy, and 3. You can make it gooey or crunchy. You can even form it into popcorn balls.  Pretty much anyone and everyone who eats this asks for the recipe!

Caramel Corn

How do you make caramel corn in the microwave?

You’ll want a large, microwave save bowl.  I use a large glass mixing bowl.  Use a bowl that’s larger than your ingredients to leave room for the mixture boiling and growing in volume as it cooks.  You’ll combine brown sugar, butter, and a little corn syrup in the bowl and microwave just until everything melts together and is stirred smooth.

TIP: Cut your butter into small pieces so it melts quicker. 

Caramel Corn Ingredients in a bowl

After it’s melted and smooth, then you’ll cook it for a couple minutes to dissolve the sugar.  It will look like caramel after you pull it out (because it is caramel!)

caramel in a bowl

The magic happens when you add the vanilla (watch it sizzle!) and the baking soda.  Stir in the baking soda and you’ll see the caramel actually grow and become lighter in caramel and almost….fluffy.

caramel sauce in a bowl

What’s the easiest way to mix caramel corn?

At this point, your popcorn should be in a large bowl.  The largest bowl you can find.  Use one that is way bigger than you think you’ll need, it just makes it SO much easier to stir.  I use a ridiculously large bowl like this one for my caramel corn, and also rice krispy treats.  It’s one of my most favorite kitchen tools!

You’ll also want to make sure you carefully remove ALL unpopped kernels from the bowl so you don’t break a tooth.

Mix it up well with a big spoon.  The longer it sits out, the firmer it will get, but it won’t ever get crunchy-hard unless you bake it.

How do I make crunchy caramel corn?

If you’d like to turn your soft caramel corn into crunchy caramel corn, all you need to do is bake it! Just spread it all out on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes.

Caramel Corn

For a variation try this reader favorite: Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

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Caramel Corn

Easy Caramel Corn

  • Author: Sara Wells


The easiest buttery-soft caramel corn recipe made with pantry ingredients and in the microwave, with instructions on making it gooey OR crunchy!



12 cups popped popcorn (about 1/2 C kernels)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Karo syrup (light or dark is fine)
1/8 teaspoon salt (if you are using salted microwave popcorn then omit salt here)
1/2 cup real butter (1 stick)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla


Pop popcorn and set aside. Place brown sugar, Karo syrup, salt, and butter in a microwave safe dish. Microwave for 30 seconds. That should be enough to melt the butter at least half way. Stir it all to combine. No microwave on high for 2 minutes. Take it out and stir. Microwave for 2 more minutes.

While the caramel is cooking, put the popcorn in a big bowl. Use one that is way bigger than you think you’ll need.  Also, remove any un-popped kernels.  When the caramel is done cooking, take out of microwave and add baking soda and vanilla.  Stir well and then pour over popcorn and stir up popcorn immediately to coat.

Eat warm straight out of the bowl, or spread out onto waxed paper or foil and let cool to room temperature (for soft, gooey popcorn).

For crunchy caramel corn: spread out on a cookie sheet (you might need 2) and bake at 300 degrees for about 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes.  Pull out a piece and pop it in the fridge to let it cool quickly to test crunchiness!




  1. I like it gooey.

    I’ve been using this same recipe for years except with 1 tsp of baking soda. I got the recipe from my husbands grandmother, except it didn’t use the microwave because she’s been making it since the dawn of time LOL. I also always use the microwave to make it. So much easier!

  2. I will be making this for snack for after school today! Yum! Or maybe I should make a “test” batch for breakfast just in case I mess it up. Wouldn’t want to disappoint the chillins! 🙂

  3. Only crunchy! I think I am going to make this with the Young Women one wednesday. That should be fun. We dont have an oven so we can only do things that are micro friendly. Hope they like it chewy!

    1. I have a recipe that’s done in the microwave in a paper grocery bag (believe it or not) that turns out crunchy! However, I suspect that teenage girls will like anything that’s sweet!

  4. Oh my gosh, that photo makes me want to eat my computer screen. I am drooling right now. I’m a caramel corn finatic. Love it! Thanks for the nice comment on my blog! I read yours too, and I love it!

  5. Gooey for me! And fall is also my favorite time of the year! I love fall clothes and I love fall food even more!

    Also, I made the French Bread recipe for buns for BBQ pork sandwiches. The buns turned out so well! They were delicious.

  6. Gooey – but your version of crunchy with chocolate drizzled on the top sounds just divine.

    I have LUUUUUUUVVED this recipe – ever since I married your brother. Thanks!

  7. Yum! I love caramel corn, and it HAS to be gooey. My mom uses a recipe with sweeten condensed milk, it’s so good. But I will have to try this because it looks much easier!!

  8. This is just like a recipe my older brother brought home from his junior high school home ec class in 1981. We haven’t had it in years. Mmmm. Gooey.

  9. My hubbie doesn’t even acknowledge that there is any caramel corn other than gooey and I have to agree. My favorite thing about fall (besides my b-day!) is definitely the food and the way it always tastes better after the change in the air. Thanks for the fun post!

  10. I will eat caramel corn in any form! I have to admit, though, I probably prefer it gooey. Every time I make this I get sick because I eat so much. I have to have plenty of cold milk on hand.
    I also need to second the intruction to remove the loose kernels- ouch!

  11. Oh- and my favorite thing about fall (and I am not trying to suck up here!) is visiting your house. You decorate for fall like most people decorate for Christmas! I love being surrounded by all the fall colors, the pumpkins and soft warm lights, and most of all the smell of spices from the kitchen! I can’t wait for Thanksgiving!

  12. My husband’s family makes a recipe very similar to this, and it’s SO good gooey. They put plastic baggies over their hands before digging in to keep from getting too sticky, which I thought was brilliant. Last time I was over there, my brother-in-law put some cinnamon in it, holy cow…I made myself sick. Try it! I’m going to try this…thanks for the great recipes!

  13. I’ll take it however I can get it, but my perfect caramel corn is slightly crunchy gooey. Is that picky enough for you?? 🙂

  14. oooh Marc- I have a cinnamon variation that’s divine! I was saving it for another day so you may see that post coming up!

  15. I use a recipe kind of like this, and to make it crunchy, instead of baking it in the oven, I put the coated popcorn in a glass bowl, and microwave it for 2 more minutes, then spread it out to cool. Works great!

  16. What’s wrong with all you people, IT’s GOT TO BE CRUNCHY, gooey just gets all stuck in your teeth! This recipe is great cuz I like it crunchy and my wife loves it gooey. That’s the only way she makes it. Now I have an option for both. Thanks!
    My favorite fall food is anything with pumpkin in it. By the way have you tried the new Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses. They are to die for!

  17. This my favorite. Ever since Sara made this for me a coule years ago. We make it quite a bit because i always have the ingredients on hand.

    I was wondering if you have a good recipe for caramel. You know for dipping apples. Or do you just buy store bought stuff(gasp!)

  18. Amazing stuff…have to say I like it gooey, but Sara's newest creation of cinnamon white chocolate caramel corn is stupendous. It's better than Dale & Thomas!

  19. Alisa- I’m *pretty* sure that Kate’s fabulous carameled apples will be making an appearance here in the near future. Stay tuned…

  20. I come here and lurk alot!
    I love all your yummy ideas and recipes that you share! I love carmel corn! Love it love it love it!
    I am just wondering if you have ever heard of my old standby recipe. I almost always have the ingredients on hand and i can use mirco popcorn.

    Tausha’s Gooey/yummy popcorn

    1 cube butter
    3/4 c. brown sugar
    10-12 large marshmellows
    1 bag micro popcorn
    melt in a pan on med heat on the stove. When the butter and sugar are BARELY melted together-throw the marshmellows in. Cook until just barely carmel brown. I take it off the heat right before all the marshmellows melt.
    If you cook it too long-it will go hard.
    Pour over popcorn!
    Yummy and super easy. This takes about as much times as your yummy recips does.
    Just hope that you don’t care that I shared one of our fav popcorn recipes!
    Keep up the great work!

  21. Ok, I HAVE to leave a comment. I have been visiting your blog for several weeks and have probably made everything you have posted since then! Your bread sticks and rolls were to die for.. I have used this recipe for caramel corn quite a bit,, the only difference is that after my “goo” is made I pour it over the popcorn that is in a huge brown sack. I curl the top down and put in the microwave. and nuke it for 2 minutes. shake like crazy and repeat again. then dump onto a cookie sheet.. pretty darn good. I like it both crispy and gooey.. whats a girl to do??

  22. I’ve been making this caramel corn for years minus the vanilla-but I put it in a brown paper grocery sack like Elaine that commented right above me. It makes it so yummy and crunchy! Our family’s favorite quick treat. Next time I’ll add the vanilla though and take a vote!

  23. I just made your yummy Caramel Corn, and I am seriously having the hardest time just leaving it on the counter to cool. It may not even make it to book club tonight. Thanks for the awesome recipe, your blog is the bomb. Oh and I like gooey or crunchy. Easy to please.

  24. Gooey! For sure! I love this website and your personality and wit…not only do I get good recipes from here, but entertainment at the same time;)

  25. This has nothing to do with carmel corn, but I have to say that I tried your pizza dough and sauce tonight and it was absoulutly wonderful! And easy too! My husband asked if we could start making pizza once a week, so it must have been a hit! Good work ladies! And for the record, gooey is the best.

  26. I started popping the popcorn and then realized I didn’t have brown sugar! So I used 1 cup of white sugar and 1/4 dark corn syrup isntead – it was still really yummy! Half was gooey and half was crunchy. Both were great!

  27. I always liked crunchy, because they gooey kind I made always got stuck to your teeth. Then I tried a gooey kind made with sweetened condensed milk. Wow, it was really, really good, and didn’t stick to your teeth.

  28. I like it both ways, depends on my mood, but this weekend I think I will divide it and bake half to find out how my kids like it!

    Thanks! I already ahd a great microwave recipe but couldn’t bake it and get the crunch I sometimes crave!

  29. I can not tell you how many times I have made this recipe since it was posted (an embarrassing amount really) because it is SO delicious. THANK YOU!

  30. I made this yesterday and we re-named this Crack Corn..we seriously inhaled Thanks so much for an awesome recipe!!!

  31. aww you guys are amazing! I've had your button on my blog for well over a year now and I cant believe how popular you are now! I have no need to keep posting your recipes because people are now following you in droves – I LOVE IT! Congrats on the success! You ladies keep posting a-freakin-mazing recipes!

  32. Many thanks for this simple and easy tip.I knew how to make salted pop corn but the sweet variety always resulted in a burnt pan and smoke filled kitchen.I will try this for sure.Thanks

  33. Crunchy is sooo good and even more amazing if you drizzle on some melted chocolate after it cools…did you add some salted peanuts…bet you eat the whole batch!

  34. Thank you so much for posting this recipe! It is SOOOO GOOD!!! I've never tried a microwave recipe for caramel popcorn before and had never had it gooey until just last month. Amazing but true. And so easy to make! Woohoo! I'll be making this again soon. Even my daughter loves it! We were fighting over who could eat more of it. Ok, not really. But I was trying to push her out of the way so she couldn't eat anymore. 🙂 Thanks again!

  35. This recipe was awesome, thank you for posting. Today I made your coleslaw and have received raves from my daughters, one who said she usually didn't like coleslaw. Welcome to my kitchen!

  36. Hi, Rebecca from Taiwan again 🙂 I can't find Karo syrup where I am, but I've heard that you can use "simple syrup" (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, bring to boil stirring until sugar dissolves and cool) what do you think about that for this recipe? Thanks!

  37. Hey Rebecca!

    Do you happen to have honey there? That makes a really good substitute- I actually use it often here at home. I've never tried simple syrup, it's definitely a lot thinner than Karo, but you could give it a try if you can't find honey either. Good luck!

  38. So I tried this "updated" crunchy version and it tasted burnt. I think I am going to stick with your original posting cooking the popcorn for an hour on 200, stiring every 15 minutes because that has always turned out more than delicious.

  39. Lydia- one stick is 1/2 C butter

    Trisha- if it's soft and gooey, then it's best eaten fresh. If it's baked crunchy it will last a few days.

    Mary Kelly- bummer! I will update the instructions to add both options.

  40. I am seriously addicted to this popcorn. I was thinking about ways I could make it lower in calories and was wondering… Do you think you could use the brown sugar that splenda makes? Or would it not do the same thing that brown sugar does? Also I know that light butter works well instead of the full fat.

    Thanks, Sam

  41. Sam I'm not sure- the brown sugar is needed for the actual caramelization process and when you start playing around with it, it can do funny things. But splenda brown sugar mix does have some natural sugar crystals in it, so who knows. If you try it let us know!

  42. I am absolutely addicted to your site (well and the popcorn)!! I doubt if my boys will ever eat plain old buttered popcorn again. In fact they're at the table right now fighting over the last few kernels of your 'Caramel Corn'.

    I just had a quick question. Doubling this recipe will have the same result right…? I have family coming into town and wanted to make a larger batch. Thanks for all the great recipes! I will be a follower for life!!

  43. We make this recipe all the time. I add 1tsp. Cinnamon with the vanilla and baking soda mixture. Also, I spray a brown grocery bag with Cooking spray, add the popcorn then the mixture. Fold the top over and shake. It eliminates burned fingers if your bowl is too small when stirring. I nuke it in the microwave for 1 minute and then shake. It is a perfect mixture of crunch and soft.

  44. I just made this for the first time; I should have made a double batch I am not sure there is going to be any left for our drive-in movie this evening. Thank you for such a great recipe.

  45. Oh YUM! We make this every year for Halloween, and again for Christmas gifts, but we make them into popcorn balls. Just make sure you get your hands really cold and buttery before forming the balls 🙂

  46. HI there, I just fpund your recipe for the caramel popcorn. I received this recipeabout 20 years ago from a Tupperware lady. The only difference was that instead of baking it you put the popped popcorn in a double brown paper bag, pour the cooked caramel syrup over the popped corn & shake the bag. Microwave for 1 minute, take out & shake. Microwave for another 1 minute, take out & shake. Then repeat, only microwaving 30 seconds at a time (for 2 times). Split open bag (very carefully) & let cool. I use an air popcprn popper & can make a a batch start to finish in about 15 minutes. Try it & let me know just how great this recipe is! We love it!

  47. A friend recently sent me a photo of your Oreo Turkeys as she knows I have grandkids and love to make things with them around the holidays. Well today I have visited your website for the first time and have to tell you girls, I am in love already! We typically do seasona cut out cookies and ice them, but so many more options here. Have already shared your website with the room full of women and work with and will be spreading it to all my email friends. See you again, real soon, I’m sure.

  48. This caramel corn is the best!!! We always make 2 batches. One to eat and one to share. Love your website. I read it all the time.

  49. I like it gooey!! We made this for our Halloween party. It’s AMAZING. In fact out whole party was brought to us care of Our Best Bites!! We used your method of microwave pop corn in a brown paper bag, and made the carmel corn. I also combined your fun Black Light Beverage using tonic water and dry ice for a fun effect. In fact I used several of your recipies to make dinner for our goulish group. Don’t worry . . . your getting ALL the credit. I love your site. Thanks so much for all of the fun and EASY ideas you put out here for us to mimmic. 🙂

  50. I have “light corn syrup-karo” is that ok to use?

    I also don’t see any expiration date on the syrup and don’t know how long its been in my pantry. Think it expires?

  51. My aunt used to make caramel corn and put it in pretty tins as a Christmas gift every year, but she’d use food coloring to make half of it green and half of it red. I may have to try that with this recipe; this is making me very nostalgic!

  52. I’ve been making this exact recipe with my grandma ever since I was a child (mind you, I’m only 25). But it is incredible and always takes me back to my “younger days”. We’ve always eaten it gooey and I love licking the caramel off my fingers but I may have to try baking it so I can keep it for future snack-fests. Love your site ladies!!!

  53. If you really want gooey popcorn, use a candy thermometer. I did this because it was easy but all microwaves are different and I must have a powerful one because within minutes mine was hard and crunchy, which I don’t like. Use a thermometer so you can control it. I was so craving caramel popcorn and this disappointed me.

  54. Don’t know if anyone else mentioned this, but I’m not a fan of corn syrup, so I substituted molasses in my caramel corn and what a fabulous treat! My family and I thought we’d reached a new level of nirvana!

  55. I made this and put it in baggies with cute labels to hand out as favors at my boys’ first b-day party over the weekend. AMAZING!!! It tasted wonderful and was a huge hit. Everyone loved it and asked for the recipe. And it was an inexpensive, easy and unique party favor that kids and adults all like! Thank you Sara and Kate!!!

  56. Mmmmmmm. So delicious, and I even bumped it up to the next level of amazingness by drizzling semi-sweet and white chocolate over the whole batch while it was on the cookie sheet. Yummy!!

  57. I have made a similar recipe for almost 30 yrs. With my recipe you increase the baking soda to 1 teaspoon and no vanilla. Instead of putting in the oven my recipe you put the popped popcorn in a large brown paper grocery bag. After butter, sugar mixture if cooked pour over popcorn. Shake bag to coat popcorn. Place the bag in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes on power level 7. Remove bag and shake. Return to microwave to another 1 1/2 minutes on power level 7. Remove bag and shake. Pour onto a cookie sheet to cool.

  58. I love your Cinnamon Bun Popcorn, but tonight I felt like some ooey gooey caramel popcorn. I love that I could visit your site, do a quick search and find this. I’m so excited to make it, it looks so easy and super delicious! Thanks so much!!

  59. This is sooo good. I am excited for my stay-at-home date night now. Movie and the best caramel popcorn? Sounds perfect. Now if the kids will just go to sleep… Also, I like to add mini marshmallows to the popped corn before I add the sauce. It melts them a bit and you get bites of yummy, soft marshmallowey caramel. And I sprinkled on some kosher salt and it was so good.

  60. I’ve been making your cinnamon bun caramel popcorn for years and love it! I made this version tonight to hand out as a party favor for my daughters movie party birthday- it’s super good, too. One question though – when you bake it does the popcorn become kind of sugary as it dries? Mine becomes a little crystal-like versus the glossy look it has before it goes into the oven. It still tastes fantastic – just double checking that I’m doing things right. Thanks for your input. 🙂

  61. I learned waaay back in Home Ec that the easiest way to make caramel popcorn is in a brown paper grocery bag. You dump the popped corn in there, then pour your caramel over the top. Roll up the top of the bag and shake like a mad woman. Dump it out into your bowl (or cookie sheet for drying) and throw the messy, sticky bag away and forget about washing that dish. It’s sooooo much easier to mix and does a better job of it too! Now I always keep a paper bag or two on hand.

  62. I made this today and it turned out great! Your recipe is a keeper! Since I wanted it to be a little crunchy I put it in a 300 degree oven for just 10 minutes and it was perfect. No need to do a half hour.

  63. Seriously the most addictive caramel popcorn recipe ever! Made it for some friends and I to eat on a road trip…the popcorn didn’t make it to our destination. We devoured it!

  64. Hi. I made this recipe but halved all the caramel topping ingredients because I only had one bag of microwave popcorn on hand. I think I should have lessened the cooking time because my caramel turned crunchy pretty fast… It was still good but I prefer chewy! Anyway, I shall try again tomorrow. Thanks for the recipe!

  65. Seriously, this is one of my FAVORITE recipes from your blog. I make it all the time and always get requests for the recipe. I had a vegan friend ask about if my caramel corn recipe was adaptable to be made without animal products. Any advice? Or will this only work with real butter?

  66. I love Caramel Popcorn! Since the first time I went to the US and bought a little box of “Cracker Jacks”, I became a fan of it. And after trying different and better recipes, I started to find a way to make it myself. But I need to know one thing: Is it mandatory to use corn syrup? or Can I replace or avoid using Corn Syrup on this recipe?

  67. 25 years Aton I learned his in i. On g be except we poured to her the Carmel into the popcorn then put it in a brown paper sack and microwaved for 1 minute. Stirred the new repeat for 1 minute again. Im lazy and have skipped that step but not sure why we did it!

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