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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!

As it 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 somehow yields a better popcorn. The popcorn is just more evenly coated that way.

Homemade Caramel Popcorn in a Bowl

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.

A word of warning though: it’s highly addictive! If you’re on a diet, you’d better stay away.

Microwave Caramel Popcorn

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!

This classic snack goes way back to the 1890s and is still enjoyed today because it’s that good. 

The idea of cooking it in the microwave is a novel idea, though. I am so grateful to whoever came up with it. It simplifies caramel-popcorn making significantly. 

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! 

Sure, you’ll make caramel from scratch, which can be intimidating, but with these simple steps, it will be effortless. 

With a simple mixture of brown sugar, butter, light corn syrup, salt, vanilla, and baking soda, anyone can make caramel.

You need not worry about it burning! As long as you microwave the ingredients in short intervals, I’m sure you will nail it on the first try. 

Since it comes together in no time, it makes an awesome snack to serve at an impromptu get-together.

But because it tastes so heavenly, it also makes a wonderful holiday gift! I know I’d love to get some for Christmas.


  • 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 Popcorn

  • Old, dried-up kernels will not pop as much as fresh ones will. 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. 
  • You can cook popcorn in either a popper machine, the stovetop, Instant Pot, or the microwave. Choose whatever equipment works best for you.
  • If using microwave popcorn, use one without salt or butter.
  • Use a large brown paper bag – you’ll want to give the popcorn enough space to pop! 
  • To avoid scorching the caramel, cook it in the microwave at 1-minute intervals and stir in between. If your microwave’s power is too high, you may need to cook the caramel at 30-second intervals. 
  • Do not skip out on the baking soda. It ties the corn syrup and butter together. Without it, the two ingredients won’t integrate.
  • Work quickly once the caramel is cooked. Otherwise, the caramel will harden in the bowl.
  • Spray the paper bag with non-stick spray to prevent the caramel from sticking.
  • Be careful when working with caramel – it’s extremely hot! One touch, and it will burn skin.
  • Use real butter instead of margarine for a deeper caramel flavor.
  • If you want chewy caramel corn, cook the caramel for a total of 3 minutes. For crunchy caramel corn, cook it for a minute longer. 
  • 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.

Do I Need To Use a Bag?

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

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

Microwave Caramel Popcorn



Prep time


Cooking time






  • 4 quarters cooked popcorn

  • 1 cup 1 brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 butter or margarine

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 light corn syrup

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 salt

  • 1 teaspoon 1 vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 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!
Microwave Caramel Popcorn

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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 :)

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