Caramel Corn · GF (about eight cups)

From Caramel Night Zone

3.75 ounces corn kernels, popped

7 ounces water
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
15.25 ounces sugar
5.5 ounces maple syrup, honey, or corn syrup
2.5 ounces unsalted butter (use a neutral-flavored oil for a non dairy version)
1/2 + 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 + 1/8 tsp kosher salt

Have ready a baking sheet greased lightly with butter.

Caramel Corn In a large pot, bring the water to a boil with the vanilla bean and simmer for one minute. Remove the vanilla bean (squeezing out any vanilla-y water from the inside) and add the vanilla seeds, sugar, corn syrup, and butter or oil to the pot. Turn the heat to medium high and stir until the butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.

You don’t have to go to any crazy extremes to keep sugar crystals from the sides, the corn syrup and butter will keep everything from crystallizing. Cook until the mixture begins to take on some color.

How far you cook the mixture depends on your caramel preferences. Keep cooking until it’s a nice foxy color for a more complex flavor, but if you prefer a simple Cracker Jack flavor, just cook the mixture until it’s a rich tan color.

I hate to be that vague, but there is no right answer in the realm of caramel corn. There is only what you like.

At any rate, when the color Hot caramel is where you want it, you’ll need to work fast. Shut off the heat (and move off the heat if you use electric) and stir in the salt and baking soda, it will foam up a little. Quickly add in your popcorn (or pour the mixture over the popcorn) and stir until the kernels are evenly coated.

Quickly pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.

If you like your caramel corn clumpy, don’t do a thing more, just let it cool as is. If you’d rather have the kernels remain somewhat individual, use a spatula to break up the clumps before they harden. After the mixture cools, you can use your hands to keep breaking up the clumps.

Making the Caramel Corn
Store in an airtight container. The caramel corn has a great shelf life, but it rarely lasts long. (I particularly enjoy it over ice cream. )


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Any questions?

Sep 27, 2010 · 10:58 PM

Can’t wait to try this one…..yum!

 · Auntie B · 

Sep 28, 2010 · 10:40 AM

Brenda, definitely give it a try! Take some pictures and let me know how it turns out. I am so addicted.


Apr 13, 2012 ·  2:31 PM

How is the vanilla bean caramelized if you take it out at the beginning?

 · cecemama · 

Apr 15, 2012 · 12:04 PM

@cecemama, oh, you caught my typo! I always leave the vanilla bean in until the end (I like having a caramelized vanilla bean in my life), but I thought for many it would be a potentially hot/sticky/dangerous mess, so I decided to skip that step. Looks like I only halfway removed it though, I’ll go back in and edit it out. Sharp eye!


Apr 17, 2012 · 10:27 AM

Thanks, I was a little confused! Made this recipe Friday night and put it with vanilla bean gelato and the cornmeal shortbread (also your recipe!). The husband was quite impressed!

 · cecemama · 

Apr 17, 2012 · 10:37 AM

@cecemama, the mysterious case of the disappearing vanilla bean! I love this over ice cream, good call! Your dessert combo sounds like an awesome montage of corn and vanilla, that’s so cool. Glad it’s husband approved.


Jun 14, 2012 · 12:51 AM

We are currently in search of a new, more tooth-friendly, version of carmel corn and YES, we’ve always made our own (from a very old recipe)! We were wondering if this is a tooth cracker or if it has a nice crunch but a mellow chew-factor to it. We’re sick of breaking nails trying to pry a gooey mass off of our back molars!!!

 · Hamrsark · 

Jun 14, 2012 · 10:26 AM

@Hamrsark, for the most part, this is pretty tooth friendly! There can be some super-crunchy places, especially if the caramel doesn’t evenly coat the corn and ends up pooling together in a thick layer. The best way to prevent that is to toss/stir very vigorously. A friend of mine makes hers by coating a brown paper shopping bag with pan spray, filling the bag with popped corn, pouring the caramel in and then folding the top of the bag down and shaking like a crazy woman. I haven’t tried this method, but she swears by it for even distribution. Hope that helps!


Aug 27, 2012 ·  5:44 AM

how much killos / g is one ounce?

 · reborned one · 

Aug 28, 2012 ·  8:41 AM

Hi reborned one; sorry for the delay, I’ve been out of town over the weekend. You may have better luck just asking Google when it comes to questions like this, as you can have an instant answer and not wait for me. There are 28.35 grams in one ounce.


Sep 12, 2012 ·  6:19 AM

I have looked at this recipe in the past but I JUST noticed that it’s not a baked caramel corn. Exciting! I love no-oven desserts.

 · emily | nomnivorous ·

Sep 12, 2012 ·  8:48 AM

@emily, say whaaaa? I’ve never even heard of baked caramel corn…


Jun 07, 2013 ·  5:03 PM

Can vanilla extract be used instead of bean? If so how much?

 · aileeniweenie · 

Jun 07, 2013 ·  7:32 PM

Hi aileeniweenie! I’m afraid it can’t in this particular recipe. The high-heat cooking process will kill pretty much all of the vanilla flavor in the extract, but if you add it at the end it creates moisture that eats away at the crispiness of the caramel corn. You can absolutely leave out the vanilla, though. There is still plenty of delicious caramely flavor, so it’ll still be tasty. Hope that helps!


Jul 28, 2013 ·  8:00 PM

Hi Stella! What are your thoughts on using vanilla bean paste instead of an actual vanilla bean?

 · Nicole V · 

Jul 28, 2013 ·  8:34 PM

Hi Nicole. In this case, vanilla bean paste would work fine, so feel free to make the swap!


Sep 17, 2013 ·  9:05 AM

Man, I just made this…and this is AMAZING!
You are a genius, Stella.

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