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Microwave Caramel Popcorn

Microwave caramel popcorn is so delicious, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

I once thought that the only way to make this sweet and crunchy treat is through the stovetop. Boy, was I wrong!

Turns out, you can make life so much simpler by using the microwave to whip up caramel corn!

Not only is it a lot easier, but it also yields a better popcorn. The popcorn is more evenly coated that way.

Microwave Caramel Popcorn in a White Bowl
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Easy Microwave Caramel Popcorn

Whether you’re looking for a movie snack, a carnival-themed treat, or a holiday gift, microwave caramel popcorn is the clear winner. It’s every sweet tooth’s dream.

With this easy-peasy microwave caramel popcorn recipe, you can have your favorite county fair snack any time, any day. 

What makes this snack irresistible? The combination of light and airy popcorn and a sweet and buttery caramel coating, that’s what!  

When I say easy-peasy, I mean 15-minute, no clean-up, no stove-top level easy. All you’ll need is a bowl, a brown paper bag, and the microwave! 

But because it tastes so heavenly, it also makes a wonderful holiday gift!


  • Popcorn – Popped just the way you like it. 
  • Brown Sugar – For that deep, caramel sweetness.
  • Butter – For a rich and buttery caramel. Slice it into chunks for quicker melting.
  • Corn Syrup – It prevents the caramel from crystallizing. Light corn syrup works better than dark.
  • Salt – For a salty contrast to the sweet caramel.
  • Vanilla Extract – It’s a flavor enhancer.
  • Baking Soda – To meld the caramel ingredients together.

Tips for the Best Microwave Caramel Popcorn

  • Keep Your Kernels Fresh for Fluffy Popcorn. Old, dried-up kernels won’t pop as much as fresh ones. For nice and fluffy popcorn, be sure your popcorn kernels are sealed in an airtight container and stored on the counter or in the fridge. 
  • Use a large brown paper bag. This gives the popcorn plenty of space to pop and avoids crowding! 
  • Keep an eye on the caramel. Prevent scorching by cooking caramel in the microwave in 1-minute intervals. Stir between intervals.
  • Baking soda: the secret binder. Don’t skip the baking soda. It’s essential for binding the corn syrup and butter together in your caramel.
  • Speed is key. Work quickly once the caramel is cooked. Otherwise, the caramel will harden in the bowl.
  • Avoid touching the caramel. Be careful when working with caramel – it’s extremely hot! One touch, and it will burn skin.
  • Chewy or crunchy. You decide! If you want chewy caramel corn, cook the caramel for a total of 3 minutes. For crunchy caramel corn, cook for an additional minute.

Flavor Variations and Mix-In Ideas

Flavor variations:

  • Want a bit of a kick? Add sriracha sauce to the caramel for spice.
  • For fruity popcorn, mix in a little blackberry jelly.
  • I’m a sucker for salted caramel! If you are too, just stir in ¼ teaspoon of salt to the caramel, and voila.

Mix-in ideas:

  • M&M’s, chocolate chips, and crushed candies
  • Mini-marshmallows
  • Chopped almonds, cashews, pecans, and other nuts
Bowl of Caramel Popcorn

How Does This Differ From Kettle Corn?

While they’re very similar, kettle corn and caramel popcorn aren’t the same.

Kettle corn, or carnival corn, is coated in caramelized sugar. It’s cooked in a large cauldron and stirred with sugar over an open flame.

After a while, the corn pops and the sugar melts into caramel, coating the popped corn. 

On the other hand, caramel corn uses caramel sauce to coat popped popcorn. This is why it’s slightly sweeter and a lot stickier than kettle corn.

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Do I Need To Use a Brown Paper Bag?

Not really, but it’s a lot less messy that way. With a bag, you won’t have to worry about cleaning up! 

But if you don’t have a paper bag available, you can always use a microwave-safe bowl.

Microwave Caramel Popcorn



Prep time


Cooking time






  • 4 quarts cooked popcorn (1/2 cup kernels – 16 cups popped popcorn)

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine

  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


  • Place the popped popcorn in a large brown paper bag.
  • In a 2-quart casserole or heat-proof glass dish, stir the brown sugar, margarine, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla until combined. Heat in the microwave for 3 minutes at 1-minute intervals, stirring well in between. Stir in the baking soda until combined.
  • Pour the syrup over the popcorn and seal the bag by rolling the top once or twice. Give the bag a good shake to coat the popcorn with the syrup well.
  • Place the bag in the microwave and cook for 1 minute and 10 seconds on high powder. Shake the bag vigorously and microwave for another 1 minute and 10 seconds. Transfer the popcorn onto a piece of parchment or wax paper. Let the coated popcorn cool and set. Enjoy!


  • 1 standard-size bag of microwave popcorn makes just over 2 quarts.
Microwave Caramel Popcorn

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

2 thoughts on “Microwave Caramel Popcorn”

  1. I love the idea of microwave caramel popcorn but don’t understand what 4 quarters popped popcorn is. Could you please explain so I can try this recipe? Thanks!!

    • Hi Denise! Sorry, that’s a typo.
      It’s 4 quarts of popped popcorn. Which is 16 cups.
      You’ll get a little over 2 quarts in a standard microwave popcorn bag.
      Or, that’s 1/2 cup of un-popped kernels.
      Hope this helps!


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