Easy Microwave Caramel Corn

Put your favorite snack into overdrive with Microwave Caramel Corn—an easy way to turn savory to sweet in no time!

Easy Microwave Caramel Corn featured image above

Far be it for me to badmouth popcorn buuuut sometimes plain popcorn just doesn’t cut it. Maybe it’s a well I’ve gone back to far too many times. Or maybe, while I enjoy it’s salty ‘n’ savory goodness, I want something sweet while still taking advantage of that inimitable popcorn crunch. That’s why I’m all about Microwave Caramel Popcorn.

It takes the convenience of microwave popcorn but adds a touch of class (in the form of brown sugar, butter, and syrup) to elevate the snack you thought you knew. It reminds me of touring the local fair every summer, back before microwaves were even a thing (yes, I’m that old). I would wait in line for what seemed like forever to get a hot bag of caramel corn. Was it worth that eternity? You bet it was! Nowadays, if I’m not eating it myself, I’m filling up festive jars of the stuff for friends and neighbors come the holidays.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Stovetop Popcorn and Buttered Popcorn (for when I want that authentic movie-theater experience) but when I crave something sweet, there are few recipes I’d rather reach for. One variation I also like is Salted Caramel Popcorn

Is Popcorn Healthy?

Funny you should ask. I actually wrote on this very topic over here. If you want the long answer, take a gander. If you want the short answer, then… yes, it is.

Popcorn is considered a whole grain, like spelt, barley, or oats, and as such, comes with it a number of nutrients that benefit your body. It’s also low in carbs, fat, and calories, making it the ideal snack. Where we run into problems, however, is with the toppings. Once you sprinkle on that salt and flavoring or pour on that melted butter, its nutritional value is compromised. So, while it still has those nutrients, it also has an increased amount of sodium, fat, and calories. And yes, the same logic applies to this recipe, in which we add butter, syrup, sugar, and salt. The secret is moderation. While I eat plain popcorn like it’s going out of style, I reserve Caramel Corn for special occasions. It not only keeps my waistline in check, the absence makes me appreciate it more!

Ingredients

  • 8 cups microwave popcorn
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup syrup
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp baking soda
Easy Microwave Caramel Corn ingredients

How to Make Microwave Caramel Popcorn – The Steps

Step 1: Pop the popcorn in the microwave according to the package instructions.

Step 2: Pour the butter, brown sugar, syrup, and salt into a microwave-safe jug.

Easy Microwave Caramel Corn featured image step 2

Step 3: Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes.

Easy Microwave Caramel Corn featured image step 3

Step 4: Give the jug’s contents a stir. Microwave it again for 90 seconds. Stir again.

Easy Microwave Caramel Corn featured image step 4

Step 5: Pour in the baking soda and vanilla essence. Mix together. It should become bubbly and lighter in color.

Easy Microwave Caramel Corn featured image step 5

Step 6: Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn. Stir thoroughly to completely coat the popcorn.

Easy Microwave Caramel Corn featured image step 6

Top Tips For Perfect Caramel Corn

  • The finished caramel corn will be very hot so you may want to spread it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to let it cool before taking hold of a few kernels. For other variations, here’s one for a holiday-themed caramel corn .
  • Every microwave is different so keep an eye on your popcorn throughout the recipe’s stages and make sure your gourmet dessert hasn’t burned. For an alternative method, check out instant pot popcorn.
  • To be more efficient while making the caramel corn, you can divide it into two bowls; this way, while one bowl is being microwaved, you can be stirring the other.
  • If you want to make caramel corn balls, spray your hands with nonstick spray then roll the kernels together while they are still warm but not too hot to handle. For a different twist, try a taco popcorn.
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FAQs

Is there a particular brand of popcorn you recommend?

Nope. That said, I would probably choose a brand you’re familiar with (i.e., you know exactly how long it needs to be microwaved for without burning) and a plain flavor (i.e., minimal salt and butter). Given you’ll be adding a sweet topping to it, you don’t want to have too much of a good thing. Of course, this is purely up to you and your taste buds, so choose as you please

Can I use stovetop popcorn instead of the microwaved stuff?

Sure. In fact, I have this Stovetop Popcorn recipe you can try.

Why is my caramel corn soggy?

Caramel absorbs moisture from the air, which can translate to the kernels, making them soggy. If you’re making your caramel corn on a humid day, this would explain its limp texture.

Why is my caramel corn chewy?

You could be undercooking the caramel and not letting it achieve the right consistency. Or it could be particularly humid in your kitchen (caramel “sweats” badly). And if you store it in a closed container too soon after making it, the steam in the container will make your snack overly chewy.

How many calories are in each serving?

The recipe makes 8 servings (1 cup per serving) with 217 calories in each. That’s pretty much all down to the caramel.

What does the vanilla extract do? Can I leave it out?

The vanilla extract, while it isn’t an essential to the recipe, does enhance the taste and aroma of the popcorn. I also find it balances out the sweetness and masks any unfortunate odor that might arise during the cooking process. But no, you don’t have to include it or refrain from making the caramel corn if you don’t have any on hand.

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Serving Suggestions

Given that this is a cross between a snack and a dessert, there aren’t many dishes you can serve by its side. That said, with the holidays around the corner, you can make some caramel corn and other treats for when you have visitors who would like something to nibble on. For instance, what would the holidays be without cranberries? So try my Cranberry Lime Tart. Or, for something bite-sized, I have Nanaimo Bars or, for that holiday home run, try this No-Bake White Chocolate Cheesecakes with Mulled Wine Fruit. It’s cheesecake… with mulled wine! (Although I probably had you at the ‘no-bake’ part.)

How to Store Caramel Corn

Let the caramel corn cool completely then divvy it up into smaller serving sizes. You can use airtight containers but I actually like using brown paper bags; it makes it easier to serve (my kids can just grab one without disrupting the whole mess of kernels). I keep mine in the fridge where it lasts for up to 2 weeks. When you want some more, you can always re-crisp it by putting it in the oven at 200°F, stirring it every 5 minutes until the desired texture is achieved.

Easy Microwave Caramel Corn featured image below

Easy Microwave Caramel Corn

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 217 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 8 cups microwave popcorn
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup syrup
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Instructions
 

  • Pop the microwave popcorn in the microwave according to the package instructions.
  • Pour the butter, brown sugar, syrup, and salt into a microwave-safe jug.
  • Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes.
  • Give the jug's contents a stir. Microwave it again for 90 seconds. Stir again.
  • Pour in the baking soda and vanilla essence. Mix together. It should become bubbly and lighter in color.
  • Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn. Stir thoroughly to completely coat the popcorn.

Nutrition

Calories: 217kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 1gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 410mgPotassium: 70mgFiber: 1gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 374IUCalcium: 17mgIron: 0.3mg
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