Oh Cracker Jacks! Recipe for Caramel Popcorn

by Alice Currah on September 21, 2009. Updated March 6, 2010

homemadecaramelcorn [donotprint]
Saturday night I had a special “Mommy-Daughter Night” with my 6yr old daughter. Her older sister was at a friend’s house and I took the rare opportunity to just have one on one time with my youngest daughter who also happens to be the “middle child”. She was so excited for special date night with mom! But if truth be known, I think I was even more excited to spend time with her. What I love about my daughter is her enthusiasm to bake and cook. She loves to just jump in and take ownership of any type of baking/cooking project and Saturday night was no different. We rented a movie and instead of the usual buttered popcorn we usually make, together we decided to make caramel popcorn similar to Cracker Jacks. This was so much fun to make and even better to eat. Although caramel corn isn’t necessarily a Fall type of snack, I think its a great and fun to kick off the autumn leaves falling, don’t you? Enjoy! [/donotprint]

Cracker Jacks Caramel Corn Recipe


1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels

1-12oz can of Spanish Peanuts

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 large cookie sheet, greased


In an air popper, pop the kernels according to your machine’s manual. My machine only allows you to pop 1/3 cups at a time, so make sure you follow your machine’s capacity instructions. You should have almost 4 quarts of popped popcorn using 1/2 cup of kernels. Dump the popcorn and the Spanish peanuts in a clean tall paper grocery bag. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a medium sauce pan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter,and salt over medium heat and allow to gently boil for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Carefully and immediately pour caramel sauce into the paper grocery bag and stir the sauce, popcorn, and nuts with a wooden spoon until the sauce is evenly distributed. Take the popcorn mixture and evenly scatter it between both greased cookie sheets. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes. Allow to cool and break up the pieces (if desired). Store in zip lock bags or airtight containers. Enjoy! *

*Side note, I changed the recipe to be for 1/2 cup of kernel from the original of 1 cup. I found 1/2 a cup to be ideal.  But for a lighter recipe, use a whole cup of kernels and it will not be as sweet.

{Related Recipe} Homemade Kettle Corn



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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Divina September 21, 2009 at 8:43 am

Beautiful and lovely popcorn. I have to make this. Thanks Alice.


Divina September 21, 2009 at 8:47 am

We used to have an air popper but dad gave it away. Sigh. I have to use the pan then.:)


Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction September 21, 2009 at 10:34 am

Yum! I love to make homemade popcorns… and this one looks delicious! I love the last picture of the cracker jack in the cute popcorn container!


MaryMoh September 21, 2009 at 10:39 am

Alice, awesome pop corn. I must make to take along when I go to movies again!


Maria September 21, 2009 at 10:41 am

What a great snack for fall!


Elizabeth September 21, 2009 at 10:55 am

Oh caramel. It’s everywhere right now, and I could not be happier. Bring it on. I could eat that whole bowl up there. It would be gone before my son would even be awake.


recipes lover September 21, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Yummy, I remember eating it from stands on the street.


jenn September 21, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Homemade cracker jacks and a even to spend with your little one. It doesn’t get any better than that. This is definitely a great anck the old fashioned way. I remember eating crackers by the bagful. hehe… Brings back memories.


Nutmeg Nanny September 21, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Looks like you and your daughter had a great time! This caramel corn looks really delicious. I have always thought caramel goes great with the Fall…it must be the color:)


Lori@FakeFoodFree September 21, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Beautiful! Caramel popcorns always hold a special place in my foodie heart. My mom makes caramel corn. It was always a special treat growing up. Reminds me of autumn too.


peabody September 21, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Oh yum! That looks way good. I think it would be dangerous for me to have it around the house though…at least to my waistline. ;)


Dana September 21, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Perfect looking caramel corn. I can’t even imagine how delicious that is!


Fuji Mama September 21, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Goodness, it is so crazy to see Fall-inspired recipes popping up everywhere! How can it be Fall already when it seems like Summer just started? But I won’t argue over Cracker Jacks… Does a prize magically appear in every bowl?


Sara September 22, 2009 at 12:01 pm

I’m so in love with caramel corn of any sort. That looks so yummy- and how fun to enjoy it with your daughter!


Chris September 22, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Great job on the Cracker Jacks! Where’s the toy prize inside? ha ha, they quit putting those in years ago, but had to ask!


Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen September 23, 2009 at 12:33 pm

This is a great post! Looks like you two had a wonderful evening together! :) That popcorn looks great!


Jennifer September 23, 2009 at 4:28 pm

I love making caramel corn. Brown rice syrup also works great in place of the corn syrup.


J September 23, 2009 at 4:54 pm

This is so delicious – the popcorn stays very airy on the inside and crispy-carmelly sweet on the outside. The perfect fall treat – thanks Alice!


Alta September 23, 2009 at 6:02 pm

See, caramel popcorn reminds me of fall, so I think this is great. My mom used to make caramel popcorn balls when we were kids around Halloween, and this would remind me of that! I should so make this with the kids – yum!


Chef Gwen September 24, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Oh I think caramel corn is a perfect fall snack… and the toy? Where’s the toy? (Can you tell I ate my share of Cracker Jacks growing up?) Never had homemade CJ though… must add this to my list.


Kamran Siddiqi September 25, 2009 at 12:14 am

Your kids are lucky to have such an awesome mom! I’ll try this recipe this tomorrow when I’m having movie night with my friends… I’m baking stuff right now, and I’ll make some of this yummalicious looking popcorn!

Really awesome photos, BTW.


Debi (Table Talk) September 25, 2009 at 11:11 am

–Writing from an area of the country that still feels like summer. Caramel corn is a perfect way to transition into fall flavors. We always have a Halloween party for the kids…would be really cool to put this in little bags with a surprise, just the Cracker Jacks box. Thanks for the idea!


jen September 27, 2009 at 11:01 am

I’m sorry but mixing in the shopping bag is BRILLIANT. I’ve struggled trying to mix the caramel/popcorn in the pans I used to bake it in. You are a genius.


ecath September 27, 2009 at 10:49 pm

wow! i love popcorns!!! I can’t wait to have a bite! :D


Cakespy September 29, 2009 at 9:21 am

Awesome, Alice!! With the weather so fall-like, this seems like a perfect crunchy treat…delicious with some apple cider! Hot, of course!


JustPoppin October 4, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Really well done recipe (and NICE pics!). I look forward to giving it a try. 3 quick thoughts -

If you’re going to use a hot air popper, make sure to turn it on and let it heat up for a minute before adding your popcorn. Also, during the warm up, don’t put your popcorn in the little temporary holding cup that many poppers have at the top – it removes small amounts of moisture from the popcorn and reduces it’s “POP”. No one likes wimpy, teeny popcorn!

Try using Mushroom Popcorn http://bit.ly/gGnne – it really steps up your gourmet game and adds a lot to homemade caramel corn. You get big, fluffy caramel corn and not a lot of broken pieces from mixing with the caramel.

For folks concerned about the glycemic impact of the sugar but still a caramel corn lover, try using coconut sugar (find it at Asian markets) as it has about 1/3 the GI as regular sugar.


Malia December 8, 2009 at 9:44 pm

I came across this post when I googled “caramel popcorn recipe”. I’m making it right now (it’s in the oven) but from what I’ve already sampled (how could I not?) I know it’s going to be super yummy!

Thanks for sharing!


Isaiah January 8, 2010 at 2:16 am

just made this tonight – so good! Used a full cup of unpopped kernels to keep it a little lighter and get more out of it.


Julie March 13, 2010 at 12:13 am

LOVE cracker Jack! thanks so much for sharing the recipe! It looks fab.


Nika May 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Hi! This looks indecently delicious. But, I’m just wondering–why would you need the baking soda? Thanks…


Suzette May 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I have made this delicious stuff for over 50 years but I have never tried it using a paper bag. I just pour the syrup over the popcorn in a very large bowl. It works for me and is not messy.


Sandra Maye from Baltimore, Md February 2, 2012 at 6:23 pm

OMG – I loved this recipe. I substituted spanish peanuts with fresh picked pecans from Farmville, NC. Best Cracker Jack recipe ever.


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