This Easy Caramel Puffed Corn came to me the same way most of my best recipes did! From friends and family. This recipe is from one of my dear Minnesota friends, Jenni.
We kind of parted ways before I came down to Georgia; when you’re part of a young couple, both working and babies coming, life can get hectic. Then covid hit which changed everything. Luckily I can think of Jenni and fam whenever I taste this Easy Caramel Puffed Corn.
About Easy Caramel Puffed Corn:
I gotta tell ya, the first time I tasted this I went nuts over the sweet, salty, chewy crunchy treat. Jenni, knowing how much I loved it surprised me once with a large bag. A bag I hid in my closet and shared with no one, it’s that good! Now, you might not go to those extremes, but I can almost guarantee you’re gonna want to!
And then to find how easy this recipe is? It’s so easy, it makes this treat somewhat dangerous. There are a few fussy steps, and it does take a bit of attention, but a timer solves that. Let’s get to it! The sooner I finish the sooner you, too, can have this treat in your life
BTW, this Easy Caramel Puffed Corn doesn’t hafta be a fall treat. It’s gonna be perfect for birthday parties (try putting it in paper cones for individual servings, stacked in a bowl), football, or any game day parties. And at any buffet or party where there will be kids, whether they’re small or grown-up ones like me~!!
The Puffed Corn:
Depending on where you live, you’re going to probably find different brands of puffed corn. I am not getting paid for saying so, but I like Clancy’s best and you can buy it at Aldi. It’s a little sturdy and holds up well and it comes in a 5-ounce bag.
You can usually check your grocery stores online these days to see if they carry your preferred puffed corn or order it if you want to. If you’re short a little on the amount, you’re likely to get little chunks of extra caramel that haven’t adhered to the puff corn. That’s not necessarily a bad thing!!
Making Easy Caramel Puffed Corn:
When you make this Caramel Puffed Corn, the process is much like making caramel corn – and btw, you CAN use the caramel sauce to make caramel corn if you wish. (You’ll need about 10 cups of popped popcorn.)
First, you’ll make the caramel sauce. It’s so simple. Bring brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup to a boil and boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add a tablespoon of baking soda and two teaspoons of vanilla. It will boil up, so use a two-quart pan.
Then you’re gonna lovingly pour that caramel all over your puffed corn. Be patient and stir to coat. At this point it doesn’t have to be perfect; you’ll place the pans in the oven and stir the mixture together several more times.
Some people prefer to place their puffed corn in a paper bag, drizzle with the caramel and then shake the bag. Pour the contents onto your sheet tray or into your pan. I have not tried this method of coating.
- Use two sheet trays, dark ones if possible, to get the crispiest, deeply flavored caramel puffed corn.
- Using a pan that crowds the puff corn more creates a lighter, stickier Caramel Puffed Corn.
- You can also use a large pan like a broiler pan or maybe a lasagna pan.
The caramel covered puffed corn bakes in the oven for about 40 to 45 minutes and you’ll remove the sheet trays or pans several times to stir – about every 10 to 12 minutes is perfect. A metal spatula works great because it scoops up any caramel that has melted down to the bottom of the pans. If you use more than one pan, keep rotating them from top to bottom shelf.
This is key: You can tell the caramel puffed corn is done by removing a piece and letting it cool to room temperature – it only takes a minute or two. If it is crispy you are golden!!
The last step is to spread it out on parchment or waxed paper and let it cool. When it is cool enough to handle but not completely cool, separate out any clumps. Once it is completely cool, if you try to separate, the clumps will break apart leaving some areas of the puffed corn without any coating. If it is still a little warm it’s still pliable enough to separate without breaking.
Once the Easy Caramel Puffed Corn is completely cool, store it in an airtight container. You can go as simple as Ziploc bags, or use a tin or a glass container.
If you are giving this as gifts, check your party store for pretty bags; they can be a cost-effective alternative to tins or other containers.
And don’t forget to make at least a small bag to hide in your closet!
Saving Money on Easy Caramel Puffed Corn:
- Corn syrup has a bad rap these days, and has plummeted in popularity ever since the public outcry about high fructose corn syrup came about. Even though plain old corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are two different things, the end result is that the lack of popularity means corn syrup is seldom on sale. On the plus side, it keeps almost forever (make sure the top of the bottle and cap are clean when you put it away or you’ll never get it open again!) so you’ll have opportunities to use it in other recipes. It is pretty much essential to the recipe; it keeps crystallization from happening and helps the caramel texture.
- I don’t think there is anyone out there who isn’t aware of the rising cost of real butter. Shop around. Be aware of prices at discount groceries like Aldi or Lydl. Know the prices at your buyer’s clubs, and know what a good holiday sales price is. Buy at the best price and in quantity and freeze until needed.
- Brown sugar costs quite a bit more than white. Take a peek at my post for making your own. You’ll need to buy molasses, another product that keeps almost forever and again, keep the top of the bottle and the cap clean or it will glue itself so tight you won’t be able to open it again.
- Do shop around for the best value when buying your puffed corn. Keep in mind that the most inexpensive way to make any kind of caramel treat like this would be to use popcorn you’ve made yourself from kernels, stovetop, or air-popped. If you want to do a sub in, you’ll need about 10 cups of popped corn, which means you’ll start with 3 tablespoons of kernels. You can see my post on Freshly Popped Homemade Popcorn.
I guess I’ve posted two sweet, snacky recipes in a row! Last week was Magic Seven Layer Bars. What can I say? I’ve got a sweet tooth these days! Hope you guys don’t mind too much. Take care, all!
Easy Caramel Puffed Corn
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: about 10 cups 1x
- Category: desserts
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 5 ounces puffed corn
- 1 cup peanuts, optional
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Spread puffed corn (and peanuts if using) out on two baking sheets (see body of post for other options.)
In a 2 quart saucepan, melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted and mixture comes to a full boil, set timer for two minutes. When time is up, remove from heat and add the baking soda and vanilla. Stir.
Immediately pour over puffed corn, stir to coat and place sheet trays in the oven. Total cooking time will be about 40 to 45 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes. To test for doneness, let one puff corn cool to room temperature. It should be crispy. If not, continue to cook for a few more minutes, stirring as needed.
Remove puffed corn to wax paper or parchment paper covered sheet trays to cool. Break up any large clumps as soon as the puffed corn is cool enough to handle.
Store in an airtight container.
Keywords: Caramel, Desserts, Popcorn, puffed corn