I’m excited to bring this caramel corn recipe to you guys today. I made you some pumpkin spice caramel corn, to be precise. This makes a wonderful snack for movie night or pretty much any night, and it’s also filled with pumpkin spiced pepitas. Yum, right?
For more pumpkin spice goodness, try my pumpkin spice donut holes and pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls.
For ease of browsing, here are all of my candy recipes in one place.
This post and recipe was created for #HalloweenTreatsWeek! I was sent samples by some of the sponsor companies but as always opinions are 100% mine.
Caramel Popcorn Is The Best
Who doesn’t love it, right?
I used to make enormous quantities of caramel corn at the restaurant–we made it spicy and salty because it was a bar snack. It was hard to stop eating.
I am here to tell you that caramel corn is pretty easy to make, so if you’ve never made it, stick with me. I will help you out, and then you won’t need to spend money on brands like Fiddle Faddle or Cracker Jack, because you can make your own!
What Makes This Recipe Work
Oftentimes, caramel corn doesn’t contain enough salt, so I find the flavor too sweet and a little flat.
This recipe has plenty of salt in it to make the pumpkin spice really sparkle.
You also get a double dose of pumpkin spice, both in the candied pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and in the caramel mixture itself.
I make sure to give measurements for plenty of the caramel “goo” so you don’t end up with any popcorn sad and naked and goo-less.
It also gets a trip through a low oven. Every 15 minutes or so, you give it a good stir. This makes double sure that all your popcorn gets coated with the caramel.
You don’t need a candy thermometer to make this–all you need is a timer.
What You’ll Need
Aside from the candied pumpkin seeds (recipe coming soon) and the actual popped popcorn, here’s what you’ll need to make the caramel corn:
- butter: use unsalted butter here. You’ll be adding a good amount of salt, so you don’t want to end up with too much
- brown sugar: adds sweetness and together with the butter, makes a butterscotch base (so technically it’s not caramel corn but butterscotch corn) I used Dixie Crystals, our sponsor brand. Thank you!
- corn syrup: keeps the mixture from crystallizing
- salt: brings out the flavor not only in the butterscotch mixture but in the pumpkin spice
- pumpkin spice: you can substitute apple pie spice or homemade pumpkin pie spice, which is a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. You can also add a touch of clove if you like
- baking soda: makes the mixture “puff up” like shaving cream when you mix it it, making it easy to spread and coat the popcorn. It reacts with the molasses in the brown sugar, creating a ton of bubbles so that when it sets up, it’s not as hard as a rock. We don’t want broken teeth!
Once you have your ingredients gathered and measured (plus the popped corn and the candied pumpkin seeds), making the actual candy doesn’t take too long.
Your finished caramel corn stays in the oven for about an hour, but you only need to worry about it every 15 to 20 minutes.
Here’s what you’ll do:
First, spread your popcorn out into two large pans. I used a 9″ x 13″ pan and a 12″ x 15″ pan I happened to have from my cake baking days.
You can use 2 9″ x 13″ pans with no problem.
Melt the butter and then add the rest of the “goo” ingredients to your pan.
Bring it to a boil, stirring frequently, and allow to boil for 5 minutes.
Pour half the caramel mixture over each pan of popcorn and candied pepitas and stir them together as well as you can.
Bake in a low oven, stirring every 15-20 minutes to make sure the popcorn in evenly coated with the caramel.
Once the corn is done, dump out both pans onto a large Silpat (the one pictured is a full sheet size). Allow it to cool, breaking it up as it does so you don’t get huge clumps of popcorn.
Tips and Tricks
Like most candy, caramel corn doesn’t really like to be made on a humid day, so save this recipe for a nice, sunny day.
It is best served the day you make it, but it will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container or containers.
PRO TIP: If it does start to soften up, you can refresh it by spreading it on a sheetpan and baking it for about 5 minutes at 350F. It will recrisp as it cools.
If you don’t want to pop your own corn, you can start with microwave popcorn or with storebought bags of popcorn.
PRO TIP: Whether or not you pop your own corn, start with plain popcorn. I cook mine on the stove top, but you can also use an air popper.
My favorite fat to pop corn in is coconut oil. It gives me that lovely old-school movie theater popcorn flavor. Other fats to consider:
- vegetable oil
- melted shortening
- avocado oil (high smoke point, which makes it especially good)
- ghee or clarified butter (higher smoke point than whole butter)
PRO TIP: Avoid popping your corn in all butter because the milk solids can burn. You can use a mixture of half coconut oil and half butter. That works just fine.
After you pop your corn make sure to sift through and get out all the unpopped kernels. Broken teeth are not what we want, so take a moment to ensure your popcorn is kernel-free.
If you don’t like pumpkin seeds, you can leave them out or substitute peanuts, sunflower seeds, or your favorite nut/s. For larger nuts, chop them so none are larger than a peanut.
Caramel Corn Q & A
It makes quite a lot! The popcorn itself fills my 5 quart Dutch oven to the top, and once you get the pepitas and caramel mixed in and baked, I’d say you’re looking at about 2 gallons of caramel corn
Yes, you absolutely can. It’s a simple matter of dividing all the ingredients by half. No weird math. I’ll put the half recipe in the Notes section of the recipe card below.
Oh, yes! Spread your cooled caramel corn out on a pan, and drizzle with your choice of milk, dark, and/or white chocolate. To avoid having to temper the chocolate, you can either use coating chocolate or you can make your own by weighing your chocolate and adding 10% of the weight in melted coconut oil. So if you have 5 oz dark chocolate, you’ll add .5 oz, or 1/10 the weight of the chocolate in coconut oil. It will take awhile to set up, so once you drizzle the chocolate over and stir (or not), allow it to set up for a good 3 hours. Again, note that you should make this on a sunny, low-humidity day so your corn doesn’t soften up.
No, it’s not. Kettle corn is popped with the sugar in the pan, and the sugar doesn’t caramelize. You make caramel corn by pouring a caramel mixture over already popped corn, stirring it and baking it until the corn is coated with the caramel.
I wouldn’t. The caramel can get gooey upon thawing, so store it air-tight and give away any extra. Keeping the neighbors happy is always a good idea!
If you have questions about this post or recipe, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment on the post and I will get back to you within about 24 hours.
If your question is more urgent, please shoot me an email, and I will respond within 4 hours, unless I’m asleep.
More Homemade Halloween Treats
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
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Don’t forget to keep scrolling beyond the recipe so you can get all the other recipes for #halloweentreatsweek and so you can enter the giveaway!
- 1 cup popcorn, popped plain (no butter, no salt)
- 1 cup pumpkin spiced pepitas, peanuts, or your favorite nut/s
- 10 oz (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 15 oz (about 2 cups, packed) brown sugar (I used sponsor Dixie Crystals)
- 3/4 cup corn syrup
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I use Morton's)
- 2-3 teaspoons pumpkin spice
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- Put the popcorn into two large pans and top each with half the pepitas or nuts. Set aside convenient to the stove.
- Heat your oven to 250F, and place a rack in the center.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Once most of the butter has melted, add the brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, and pumpkin spice.
- Increase heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
- Allow to boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- After 5 minutes, stir in the baking soda. Stir until the whole mixture gets bubbly like shaving cream.
- Pour half the caramel mixture evenly over each of the pans of popcorn.
- Stir the caramel into each pan of popcorn as evenly as you can, and then put both pans in the oven.
- After 15-20 minutes, remove one pan at a time and stir/fold the popcorn over itself, scraping the bottom of the pans to get any caramel off the bottom and back onto the popcorn.
- Put your popcorn back in the oven.
- Repeat steps 10 and 11 twice more.
- Once the popcorn is evenly coated with caramel, carefully pour all the popcorn out on a large Silpat or other non-stick surface and allow to cool, breaking it up as it cools so you don't have huge chunks of caramel corn.
- Store airtight for up to 5 days, and refresh in a 350F oven for 5 minutes if it starts to soften. Enjoy!
To Make a Half Recipe
- 1/2 cup popcorn, popped
- 1/2 cup candied pepitas or nut/s of choice
- 5 oz (1 1/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 7.5 oz (about 1 cup, packed) brown sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Follow the directions in the main recipe.
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Nutrition InformationYield 16 Serving Size 2 cups
Amount Per Serving Calories 376Total Fat 19.7gSaturated Fat 10.5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 38mgSodium 536mgCarbohydrates 50.2gFiber 2.8gSugar 30gProtein 4.6g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
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Halloween Treats Week Recipes for TodayHalloween Cookies & Bars:
- Meringue Witch Finger Cookies from BigBearsWife
- Pumpkin Snickerdoodles from Devour Dinner
- Shortbread Witches Fingers from The Flour Handprint
- Gingerbread Mummy Cookies from 4 Sons R Us
- Hocus Pocus Mini Pancake Cereal from Fresh Coast Eats
- Count Chocula Cream Pie from Sweet ReciPEAS
- Individual Halloween Parfaits from Tastes of Homemade
- Radioactive Jell-O Shots from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Spiced Caramel Corn from Pastry Chef Online (you’re here!)
- Halloween Strawberry Ghosts from I am a Honey Bee
- Easy Pumpkin Pudding Dip from Love and Confections
- Screamsicle Milkshake from For the Love of Food