This super easy recipe for Caramel Popcorn takes 10 MINUTES start to finish! You make it in a brown paper bag in the microwave. It is SO crunchy and flavorful! And you don’t have to stir a giant pan in the oven for an hour. WIN.

Caramel Popcorn

Originally posted Decebmer 5, 2017

The other day I was on the phone telling my sister Laura just how tacky I am. I bought a new sweater but wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep it, so the tags were still on. I wore it to preschool drop off…and then again to preschool pick up, because by then I had decided to keep the sweater but had still forgotten to take off the tags.

That was when Laura told me that she was also wearing a new sweater. With the tags still on…because she was still thinking about whether or not to keep it. Welcome to my family. We’ve got all kinds of class.

how to make caramel corn

Classy kind of like the other day when I walked past Truman hanging out on the couch, poking at his belly. A minute later I’m in the kitchen and I hear, “Mom…is there such a thing as belly button boogers?” (Okay, gross, but actually a totally valid question, especially if you’re 4.)

Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Are you ready for another AUNT SHIRLEY recipe?? I hope you guys aren’t feeling overloaded. (How could you feel overloaded by creamy mashed potatoes, famous dinner rolls, and sparkling Christmas slush? I’M NOT SORRY.)

Caramel Corn Recipe

This recipe is KILLER you guys. I’ve made traditional Caramel Corn before, and while delicious, it involves stirring a giant pan of popcorn in a crazy hot oven. I am the worst at burning myself (I literally have a burn on the back of my hand right now from trying to stir this cauliflower rice while it baked in the oven. Doh!)

How to make Caramel Corn (In the microwave!)

Some things you will love about this recipe: You don’t need a candy thermometer. You don’t need to wait for a special temperature. You don’t have to stir forever, on the stove OR in the oven. And you can have crunchy, caramel-y popcorn in your mouth in 10 minutes flat.

Freshly popped corn & stovetop caramel

Paper Bag for mixing caramel corn

Paper bag with mixed caramel corn inside

Spreading out freshly mixed popcorn

All you need is a clean paper bag from the grocery store (not the lunch sack size–the big guy.) Oh, and a microwave. The microwave is pretty important. It’s what gets you out of using your oven. Basically, you add popped popcorn to the bag, boil some sugar on the stove for a couple minutes, then pour it over the caramel and shake, microwave, shake. That’s IT. You’ve got microwave caramel corn.

The recipe calls for already popped popcorn. You can either buy a bag at the store to make life easy, or you can pop your own at home. We have had this Orville Redenbacher Presto Pop for about 10 years now. It never fails! It’s so much cheaper than buying bags of microwaveable popcorn. Plus you can add whatever amount of butter and salt you want. It is totally worth the 15 bucks.

Microwave Caramel Popcorn

If you do microwaveable popcorn, buy whatever kind you can find that has the least amount of butter and salt. If you use regular movie theater style buttery popcorn, it might be a little overwhelming once you add the caramel.

Making Caramel Popcorn a Neighbor Giveaway

I can’t think of an easier neighbor gift for Christmas. (Okay well actually this Sticky Sweet and Salty Chex Mix might give the Caramel Corn a run for it’s money. That stuff is legit and also done in about 10 minutes.)

Gifting options for caramel corn

Here are some packaging ideas. These are mini paper bags, I think I got them at Hobby Lobby. A regular size lunch bag would be cute too, with a ribbon and tag. (Here are some I found that have Christmas designs on them!) Or you could get these cute red and white popcorn bags.

More delicious sweet snacks:

Easy Butterscotch Popcorn Balls << Butterscotch and Peanut Butter FTW!

Mint Chocolate Covered Almonds << These are a fun and healthy snack

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries (Strawberry Blossoms) << A really pretty party appetizer

2 Ingredient Nutella Puff Pastry << I could eat 10,000 of these!

No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Bites << A quick, healthy snack

Edible Egg-Free Brown Butter Cookie Dough << Why bake cookies when you can just scarf the dough??

Here are some other ideas for giveaways!

Caramel Nougat Pecan Rolls << I give this to my neighbors every year for Christmas. It’s really something special for the holidays!

Sticky Sweet and Salty Chex Mix (Christmas Crack) << another great neighbor gift idea :)

Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies << if you haven’t made these, you haven’t lived!

Sweet and Spicy Curry Cracker Jack from Snixy Kitchen

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10 Minute Caramel Popcorn in the Microwave

4.86 from 7 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 16 cups popcorn
This super easy recipe for Caramel Popcorn takes 10 MINUTES start to finish! You make it in a brown paper bag in the microwave. It is SO crunchy and flavorful! And you don't have to stir a giant pan in the oven for an hour. WIN.


  • 4 quarts of popped popcorn
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, 1 stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


  • Add the popped popcorn to a large paper grocery sack that hasn't been used (make sure it's clean).
  • Grease a baking sheet with plenty of nonstick spray.
  • In a 3 quart saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, salt, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.
  • When the mixture is at a rolling boil, set a timer for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. It's going to bubble and foam up, be ready!
  • Add the vanilla and stir.
  • Immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn in the bag. It's nice if you have someone around to help you hold the bag open, but I managed it on my own. Stir the caramel in with the popcorn a little bit.
  • Fold the bag down several times. Place the bag in the microwave and microwave for 1 minute on high heat.
  • Take it out and shake the heck out of it! Keep the top folded obviously.
  • Put it back in (top folded) and microwave for 1 more minute.
  • Shake it like a polaroid.
  • Pour the popcorn out onto the prepared baking sheet, breaking up any chunks.
  • Let cool for a couple minutes, then stuff your face! 


This recipe is from my Aunt Shirley!


Serving: 2cups | Calories: 177kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 243mg | Potassium: 68mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 197IU | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Calories: 177
Keyword: 10 Minute Recipe, caramel, microwave, popcorn
Did you make this? I'd love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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  1. Hi, I would love to do this recipe any thoughts on what you can use instead of corn syrup for those of us who can’t eat.
    Thanks J.

    1. Hello Jeraldine! The corn syrup in this recipe prevents the sugar crystals from becoming grainy. Making caramel popcorn without corn syrup can be done, but unfortunately requires a different caramel making process and definitely isn’t a 10 minute microwave recipe.

  2. 5 stars
    I have always made caramel corn in the oven, but don’t always have the time to stir it every few minutes for an hour so don’t make it often. I saw your recipe and frankly thought it probably wouldn’t actually work out all that well, but it was fast & cheap to make so why not try it. WOW! So crispy and lightly and evenly coated with caramel. (I always had clumps when done in the oven). Next time I will add pecans or peanuts for the last minute in the microwave. I did pop the popcorn in the microwave with no oil, and used a Silpat sheet to pour the finished recipe. Should have prepared two baking sheets since it makes so much. The biggest problem I see is that it is so easy to make, I’ll be making it much more often. My husband just got home and started eating some, “This is really good!”. So it was a hit with both of us. I think I will have the ingredients ready to pop in the microwave on Thanksgiving evening when everyone is watching a movie. Will be a fun treat. Thank you so much for a fantastic recipe.

    1. Hi Waneta! If you’re referring to Chester’s Puffcorn, we haven’t tried this recipe with puffcorn yet (Chester’s or any other brand). If you give it a try, let us know how it turns out!

  3. Hi Karen! All your recipes are fantastic, thankful to have found your site! Just wondering, do I have to use light corn syrup, or can I substitute for something else?


    1. Hi Benita! I’m not sure what you could use. You could try dark corn syrup maybe? I would be nervous about using maple syrup, but you could give it a shot. Let me know how it goes!

    1. Hi Lisa, the recipe is right at the bottom of this post. Above the comments section. Enjoy!

    1. Hi Sweet Toothed! In step 12, you pour the popcorn out onto a greased pan. You can leave it in the bag if you like, but you risk having your popcorn stiffen into one giant mass instead of easy to break apart pieces. Hope this helps!

  4. I’ve made this multiple times since finding this recipe and it’s always a big hit!! And it’s SO easy and quick! Very popular to bring to holiday parties. Thank you so much for making this treat so simple!

    Only thing is, everyone, don’t try to do a double batch at once like I did…the sauce doesn’t distribute as well over the popcorn and it’s all too heavy for the paper bag. I found it was best to make one batch at a time, and use a fresh bag each time (don’t reuse it for additional batches….it breaks! you might get away with 2 uses max but that’s pushing it).

    1. Great tips, thank you so much for sharing! I’ve never tried doubling this so that is good to know. I’m so glad you are liking the recipe, thanks for coming back to comment!

  5. OMG❣️ I am a 72 yr old great-grandmother and never made caramel corn because of the time involved. I made this today and WOW 🤩 it is really fantastic‼️  I see myself making this recipe time and time again 👍👍.  Thanks for posting!

    1. That’s so great Pat! I’m glad you loved the caramel corn and have found an easy recipe! Thanks so much for commenting!

    1. I’m glad you liked it Ron! The less mess part is one of the reasons why this is my favorite caramel popcorn!

    1. Isn’t it so great when a recipe that seems to good to be true actually turns out well?? ;) I’m so glad you enjoyed it Janeen, thanks for commenting!

  6. I popped my own corn, added cool melted butter and set aside. I followed the caramel sauce and microwave instructions to the letter. OMG!!! It was, what word is bigger than delicious? I will be smuggling this into the movie theatres every time I go!
    Loved it! Thank you!

    1. What word IS bigger than delicious?? I need it, stat! ;) SUCH a good idea smuggling this into the movie theaters! you’re a genius!

    1. Hey Darlene! You can’t either buy popcorn kernels and pop them yourself, or buy already popped popcorn. Hope this helps!

  7. I see one big problem with this recipe Karen. I can’t remember the last time I got a PAPER bag at the grocery store! Both of our stores only give you plastic – oh wait. I own a hardware store. And we have paper bags. Problem solved! (Thanks for letting me talk myself through this crisis.)

    1. Come to California. You won’t be able to find a plastic bag to save your life. And you will have paper sacks coming out your ears, because you STILL forget to grab the reusable bags when you head into the store so you have to buy 10 cent paper ones. (EYE ROLL) Ah well. At least I will always have supplies to make this caramel corn at a moment’s notice!

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