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Homemade Caramel Corn with Nuts

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Making Homemade Caramel Corn tossed with cashews and pecans has been a holiday tradition at our house since the early 1990s. I promise, no one can resist this crunchy, sweet and salty treat!

Cook butter with brown sugar and white corn syrup to make homemade caramel. Then, coat freshly popped popcorn and bake it in a slow oven until the popcorn is perfectly crunchy—but not so rock hard that it breaks your teeth!.

So much better than a box of Crunch ‘n Munch, this caramel corn recipe is pretty much fool proof!

Nutty Caramel Corn in a white bowl on a Christmas plaid tablecloth

Homemade Caramel Corn

Way back when, I clipped the the original recipe for Nutty Caramel Corn from a Southern Living magazine and tucked it away in my card file recipe box.

For you younger readers, that was way before pinning recipes on Pinterest became popular!

I first started making caramel corn to package as holiday treats for my co-workers, teachers, and neighbors. The thing is, once someone was the recipient of a bag of homemade caramel corn, they expected it again the next year!

One recipe of homemade caramel corn with pecans and cashews makes a BIG batch and is great for gift-giving!

ingredients for caramel corn

Ingredients

  • Popcorn — For this recipe, I prefer to use popcorn kernels that I pop myself, but you can use microwave popcorn as long as you choose the kind without butter or salt.
  • Whole cashews and pecan halves — Adding nuts is totally optional, but they do make this caramel corn extra special!
  • Butter — unsalted
  • Brown sugar — the best caramel starts with brown sugar!
  • White corn syrup — the ingredient that helps the caramel not become grainy
  • Kosher salt — What’s popcorn without salt?
  • Vanilla extract — adds flavor and richness
  • Baking soda — creates air bubbles in the caramel so that it’s easier to coat the popcorn and helps keep it from becoming too hard

How do you make caramel corn from scratch?

  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine freshly popped popcorn, pecans, and cashews.
  2. In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then boil for 5 more minutes WITHOUT stirring.
  4. Remove the caramel from the heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will foam up — this is normal!
  5. Pour the caramel over the popped corn and nuts and stir well with a silicone spatula.
  6. Bake for 1 hour, stirring the popcorn with a rubber spatula every 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
Nutty Caramel Corn in a white bowl on a Christmas plaid tablecloth

What’s the best way to pop popcorn?

Growing up, we always popped our popcorn on top of the stove. To pop corn on the stove top, you first heat up oil in the pan, then add the kernels, cover with a lid and shake until the popcorn is done.

A much easier way to cook popcorn is in this Cuisinart Microwave Popcorn Maker. Simply add popcorn kernels—with or without oil—to the bowl and cover with the lid. It just takes about 4 minutes in the microwave and the popcorn comes out light and fluffy!

PRO TIP: Storing your popcorn kernels in the freezer ensures the popcorn doesn’t lose any moisture so that every kernel pops! Use it straight from the freezer to the popcorn maker.

Is kettle corn and caramel corn the same thing?

Both kettle corn and caramel corn are salty and sweet, but they are very different. For caramel corn, you cook the caramel (butter, brown sugar, and white corn syrup) then pour over popcorn and bake. Kettle corn is made entirely on top of the stove by popping popcorn with white sugar and does not require baking.

How long does caramel popcorn last?

Homemade caramel corn will remain fresh for 2 to 3 weeks when stored in an airtight container, but there’s never any left around my house for that long!

Why is my caramel corn chewy?

Caramel corn must bake low and slow to help crisp up the caramel. Baking for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes, should result in crunchy caramel. Doing so helps the corn become crunchy and stay fresh longer.

More tips for making caramel corn

Always be careful when cooking the caramel and use a pot that is large enough so that it doesn’t overflow—melted sugar is hot!

Always use a metal pan. DO NOT bake the caramel corn in a GLASS roasting pan or baking dish because when the caramel cools, it will be difficult to remove from the pan.

Use a silicone spatula to stir the caramel corn for easier clean up and less sticking.

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Yield: 18 servings

Nutty Caramel Corn

Nutty Caramel Corn in a white bowl on a Christmas plaid tablecloth

This yummy homemade Nutty Caramel Corn recipe with pecans and cashews makes a big batch and is great for gift-giving!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 qts. freshly popped corn, 1 cup unpopped
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine the popped popcorn, pecans, and cashews.
  2. In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then boil for 5 more minutes WITHOUT stirring.
  4. Remove the caramel from the heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will foam up — this is normal!
  5. Pour the caramel over the popped corn and nuts and stir well with a silicone spatula.
  6. Bake for 1 hour, stirring the popcorn with a rubber spatula every 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Notes

  • Homemade caramel corn will remain fresh for 2 to 3 weeks when stored in an airtight container.
  • Always use a metal pan. DO NOT bake the caramel corn in a GLASS roasting pan or baking dish because when the caramel cools, it will be difficult to remove from the pan.
  • Stir the caramel corn with a silicone spatula for easier clean up and less sticking.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

18

Serving Size:

1 Servings

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 287Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 294mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 1gSugar: 28gProtein: 2g

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sheila thigpen in her kitchen

Sheila @ Life, Love & Good Food

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Home Cook, Wife, Mom, Nana

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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