Do you want to make caramel popcorn without corn syrup? Whatever your reasons for this – maybe you don’t like to use fructose syrups in your cooking, don’t have it on hand and can’t be bothered to head back to the shop or you’re like me and live in a place where corn syrup isn’t easily available – it can be super frustrating to find that corn syrup is almost always on the ingredient list for homeland caramel popcorn recipes.
So can you make caramel corn without corn syrup? Of course you can! 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. I promise that you will get fantastic results and this caramel popcorn recipe is sure to be hit with all of your friends and family.
How to Make Caramel Popcorn without Corn Syrup
The first step of this caramel popcorn recipe 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. 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.
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 both my peanut brittle recipe and my chewy caramel recipe and this follows the exact same method, but I will go through it again. This is a different method to the dry caramel I use for my miso caramel sauce.
Making caramel popcorn without corn syrup 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.
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 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.
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.
Next, all you need to do is break the caramel popcorn up and move it to an airtight container — or dig in right away!
- 75g popcorn kernels
- 30ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
- 200g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 50g (4 tbsp) butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 180Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 385mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 1g
Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Making caramel popcorn without corn syrup is not difficult if you practice patience and are vigilant when your sugar syrup!
Are you wondering how to make caramel corn without corn syrup? Have any questions about this recipe? Let me know in the comments!