Salted Caramel Popcorn Without Corn Syrup Recipe

Last Updated on

by Maggie Turansky

Disclaimer: This article may contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.

Regardless if you don’t like to use fructose syrups in your cooking, don’t have it on hand or you’re like me and lived in a place where corn syrup wasn’t easily available – it can be super frustrating to find that it is almost always on the ingredient list for homemade caramel popcorn recipes.

While using corn syrup certainly makes caramel-making a lot easier, if you’re patient and know the right techniques, making caramel popcorn without corn syrup is actually incredibly easy!

You are going to need to know how to make a classic wet caramel to execute this recipe, but I will guide you through all of the steps below!

Caramel Popcorn Without Corn Syrup
Caramel Popcorn Without Corn Syrup

How to Make Caramel Corn Without Using Corn Syrup

The first step is to make the popcorn. I recommend popping your own kernels on the stovetop (or in a specialised popcorn popper, if you have one) in order to make sure you have the right amount.

I also like to add my own salt and seasoning to my popcorn so I have more control over the final product.

To pop your popcorn, add a couple of tablespoons of neutral oil to a saucepan for which you have a lid. Then, add in one or two popcorn kernels.

Ingredients for this caramel popcorn
Ingredients for this caramel popcorn

Put the lid on the pot and set it over high heat. Wait until the test kernels have popped before pouring in the remaining popcorn kernels. This is exactly the same process I use in my miso popcorn recipe!

Replace the lid on the saucepan and wait, again, until the first few kernels begin to pop. Then shake the pot vigorously over the heat until all of the corn is popped and you begin to hear a pause of 2-3 seconds between popping.

Remove the pot from the heat and wait until all of the kernels quiet down before removing the lid and pouring into a large, heatproof bowl. Season very generously with salt and set aside.

Popping the popcorn kernels
Popping the popcorn kernels

Next, preheat your oven to 100°C/210°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and, if you desire, brush lightly with melted butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Now, it’s time to tackle the caramel. I have covered how to make a classic wet caramel in my peanut brittle recipe, candy apple recipe, caramel apple recipe and my chewy caramel recipe and this follows the exact same method. This is a different method to the dry caramel I use for my miso caramel sauce.

Making caramel popcorn will require a bit more vigilance and patience than if you did use a liquid sugar of sorts, but it is doable and really easy once you get the hang of it. I have also ruined my fair share of caramel so I do know how to avoid mistakes!

Add your sugar to a small saucepan and pour a bit of water over it. Set the pan over very low heat and stir the sugar continuously until it is completely dissolved but be careful, during this phase, that the syrup does not come up to a boil until there are no sugar crystals remaining.

This can take time, so be patient because this is absolutely the most crucial step. Your caramel will seize and crystallize if you do not get all of your sugar dissolved. If needed, remove the caramel from the heat periodically if you’re worried that the syrup is coming up to a boil too soon.

Once the syrup is boiling, it is super important that you do not stir the mixture anymore. As soon as bubbles begin to break the surface, remove your heatproof spatula from the syrup.

Using a pastry brush dipped in water, very gently brush down the sides of the saucepan to get rid of any errant crystals on the sides. You can do this periodically while the syrup is caramelising, but be very careful not to get the brush in the syrup itself.

Brushing down the sides of the pan
Brushing down the sides of the pan

It can take a long time for the syrup to take on any colour, but make sure that you do not walk away and watch your caramel like a hawk because it can burn very quickly. Simply watch the syrup bubble away and you will begin to notice it turn to a light honey colour, to a mild amber and finally to a deep amber colour.

Once your caramel is at a deep amber colour and very small wisps of smoke are emerging, immediately remove your saucepan from the heat and add in your butter.

The mixture turns amber very quickly!
The mixture turns amber very quickly!

The mixture will sputter and foam when this happens, so don’t be alarmed but do be careful. Then, stir in your baking soda, salt and vanilla extract and mix until it is thoroughly combined.

Pour the caramel over the popped popcorn and, using a heatproof spatula, stir the popcorn until it is evenly coated in caramel.

Pouring the caramel over the popcorn
Pouring the caramel over the popcorn

Then, transfer the popcorn to your prepared baking sheet and spread it out until it is in one thin layer.

Move the baking sheet into your preheated oven and dehydrate the caramel corn for about 45 minutes to one hour, or until it is crisp. Then remove it from the oven and allow it to cool completely.

Transferring the caramel popcorn to a baking sheet
Transferring the caramel popcorn to a baking sheet

Next, all you need to do is break the caramel popcorn up and move it to an airtight container — or dig in right away!

Caramel Popcorn Without Corn Syrup

Caramel Popcorn Without Corn Syrup

A classic caramel popcorn that doesn't require any corn syrup. It uses only a handful ingredients and easy to execute.
4.6 from 34 votes
Servings 10
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes


  • 75 g (½ cup) popcorn kernels
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 200 g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar (see note)
  • 50 g (4 tbsp) butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract


  • Set a medium saucepan over high heat and add the oil and 2 popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and wait until both kernels have popped. Add the remaining kernels, cover, and shake the pot continuously until all have popped and you hear a 2-3 second gap between popping sounds. Transfer the popped popcorn to a bowl and immediately season generously with salt. Set aside.
    Popping the popcorn kernals
  • Preheat an oven to 100°C/210°F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Add sugar to a small saucepan and pour over 60ml (1/4 cup) of cool water. Set over low heat and, stirring constantly, allow the sugar to completely dissolve.
  • Wash down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent any sugar from crystalizing. Once the mixture has come to a boil, stop stirring and allow to boil until the sugar mixture reaches a deep amber colour, whisps of smoke appear and an instant-read thermometer registers at 160°C/320°F. DO NOT stir the mixture at all once it has come to a boil.
    The mixture turns amber very quickly!
  • Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter. It will sputter and foam so do not be alarmed. Add the salt, baking soda and vanilla and stir until thoroughly combined.
    Stirring in the butter
  • Pour the caramel over the popped popcorn, stirring until all of the popcorn is completely coated. Pour the popcorn into the prepared baking sheet, spreading it out to ensure it is in an even layer.
    Pouring the caramel over the popcorn
  • Transfer the popcorn to the oven and cook for about 1 hour, or until the popcorn has dried out and the caramel has set. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before breaking up and transferring to an airtight container – or enjoying right away!
    Transferring the caramel popcorn to a baking sheet



I recommend using caster sugar (also known as superfine sugar) here as it dissolves more easily and quickly in the water. However, you can use granulated sugar if this is all you have.


Calories: 166kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 320mg | Potassium: 22mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 125IU | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 0.2mg

Disclaimer: Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

Tried this recipe or have questions?Click here to leave a comment!

Making caramel popcorn without using corn syrup is not difficult if you practice patience and are vigilant when your sugar syrup!

Are you wondering how to make caramel corn? Have any questions about this recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Like It? Pin It!
Avatar photo

Maggie is the creator behind No Frills Kitchen. She is a world traveller, home cook and recipe developer who loves to experiment with new cuisines and techniques at every chance she gets. No stranger to improvising and making do with the equipment and ingredients she has available, she is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others. Read More


4.62 from 34 votes (33 ratings without comment)

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating