I’m not sure there’s anything quite like homemade caramel corn popcorn. It’s buttery and sweet and utterly snackable. And salted vanilla caramel corn – while it’s really just a slight upgrade on the classic – is heaven. Every time I put out a great big bowl of this salted vanilla caramel corn popcorn, it’s gone in minutes. It’s positively addictive, in the best kind of way.
The sweet and salty of this salted vanilla caramel corn – with a coating that melts ever-so-slightly in your mouth as you chew into that glorious popcorn crunch – and an underlying touch of vanilla; this twist on a classic caramel corn is just TOO GOOD.
In my sugar-loving opinion, caramel corn is ideal for a great big group because you can easily double or triple this recipe for a crowd; a.k.a., a perfect summer treat.
Now I will say that I know a lot of people shy away from making homemade caramel anything because the idea of making your own homemade caramel sauce may seem daunting, but this caramel recipe actually doesn’t require a candy thermometer, or any fancy tools for that matter. Yep, you read that right. NO candy thermometer required. Seriously, the process of making this salted vanilla caramel corn is easy peasy.
Basically, in a saucepan, you’ll combine brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup, stir the mixture for a few minutes – just until it starts to slowly boil, and then you leave it be as it’s bubbling away on your stove for just five minutes. Watching it bubble away is half the fun.
Then, after those five minutes are up, you just remove the pan from the heat and stir your baking soda and vanilla extract into the bubbling mixture and add in a pinch of salt. It’s actually the baking soda that causes the key chemical reaction that fluffs the caramel; a.k.a., it’s science!
That golden fluffy caramel is then poured over your popcorn, where you’ll stir and coat quickly, getting as much of your popcorn coated as possible, put in a low oven to dry out and set. Once it’s rested in the oven, you can top the mixture with another small sprinkle of salt, and then you have the most insanely good salted vanilla caramel corn.
Once your homemade caramel corn has dried and cooled it will be crisp and chewy and AMAZING.
Read on for the full salted vanilla caramel corn recipe …
Salted Vanilla Caramel Corn
- about 14 cups popped popcorn (approximately one microwavable bag of popped popcorn)
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 250 degrees F, Grease a large (but shallow) roasting/cookie pan with butter or cooking spray. Set aside a large bowl and spray that with cooking spray as well. Put your popcorn into the greased bowl.
In a 2 quart saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt. Whisk over medium heat until it begins to boil. Allow to boil over medium heat (without stirring!!) for about 5 minutes. The mixture will be deep gold and bubbling.
Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the baking soda. The mixture will foam and froth. That’s ok. Keep stirring. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Quickly pour warm caramel syrup over the popcorn in your greased bowl. Use two large spoons to toss the mixture, coating all of the popcorn in caramel. Work as quickly as you can as it will cool quickly. Transfer coated mixture onto your greased roasting/cookie pan.
Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and toss. Return to the oven to bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss. Sprinkle with a little more salt; about a 1/2 teaspoon should do. Allow to cool before handling and packaging.
Caramel corn will last up to 4 days well wrapped at room temperature.
Optional: You can add things like peanuts, M&M's, cut up candy bar, broken up pretzel bits, etc. to your popcorn before pouring on the caramel; just substitute out each cup of popcorn for a cup of your add-on. For instance, if you want to add one cup of peanuts, use one cup less of popcorn. You can see our salted pretzel snickers caramel corn right here and our peanut M&M caramel corn on this EPIC holiday dessert buffet here.
Cuisine dessert, snack
Psst … if you really want to go wild, you can add things like peanuts, M&M’s, cut up candy bar, broken up pretzel bits, etc. to your popcorn before pouring on your homemade caramel; just substitute out each cup of popcorn for a cup of your add-on. For instance, if you want to add one cup of peanuts, use one cup less of popcorn. You can see our salted pretzel snickers caramel corn right here and our peanut M&M caramel corn on this EPIC holiday dessert buffet here.
So there you have it: one of our favorite simple sweet treats, that also happens to be a total crowd-pleaser; a.k.a., it’s perfect for your next party.
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