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


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 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!

  2. 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!

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

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  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. 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!!

  10. 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!

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