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Recipe: Homemade Caramel Corn

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Ever since National Popcorn Day, I've sort of been on a popcorn kick. After all the savories, the Parmesan dill and Spicy Cajun, I had a hankering for something sweet. I was never a big fan of that pseudo-homemade Act II caramel corn. It was always so goopy, and the caramel was never distributed evenly. Same with just melting caramel candies. I like the crunch of caramel corn, and soft popcorn is just sad. I looked around the web for a good half hour before deciding to go with (sigh) Paula's, because it looked pretty easy.

I was a little reluctant at first because her recipe calls for a substantial amount of (duh) butter, (really, most of the recipes I came across called for just as much), but Paula wasn't diagnosed with Type II because she strictly adheres to the healthy food pyramid uh, plate. As with all sweet treats, moderation is key. Plus, deprivation can lead to binge eating, and I didn't want anyone coming home to find me huddled in a corner with the sugar-shakes, caramel corn crumbs stuck to my face and clothing.

So back to Paula's recipe, titled "Grandma Paul's Caramel Corn".

For the caramel sauce, you need:

  • 1 cup butter (I know, two sticks...but it's going divided between 32 cups of popcorn so stay with me...)
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  • Over medium heat, combine butter, sugar, salt and corn syrup and boil for five minutes.
    • While it's boiling, pop up two regular-size bags of natural (no salt, no butter) popcorn. When done, shake bags around for a bit to send un-popped kernels to the bottom because your friends will thank you for the caramel corn, but not for a cracked tooth. By the handful, scoop popcorn out of bags and put into a very large bowl.

    • Back to the caramel mixture. Remove from heat and add baking soda, stirring very well. It will sort of...puff up a bit. This is okay.

    • Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and stir well with a wooden or plastic spoon to coat

    • Spread popcorn onto a baking sheet (or sheets) and bake for an hour at 200, flipping/ stirring every 15 minutes.

    • Spread on wax paper to dry/ harden.

    Sure, there's "a little" butter in there, it may be a little messy, and the whole "stir every 15 minutes" thing was sort of a pain in the ass, but the end result was absolutely delicious. Crunchy and sweet, then chewy, stuck-in-my-retainer goodness. I saved a teeny, tiny Ziplock snack bag for myself and brought the rest to work. I put the popcorn in a little basket after lunch and there were mere crumbs left 20 minutes later.

    With Valentine's Day in less than a month, this is a great, inexpensive little gift idea. Throw a few handfuls of homemade caramel corn, along with red or pink M&Ms, into some decorative baggies, tie with a little ribbon and hand out to friends, co-workers, the mailman, your therapist, parole officer, etc.

    Are you a fan of good, old-fashioned caramel corn? Would you give this recipe a shot? Do you know of other variations and would like to share? Drop us a line in the comments section!

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