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The Best Christmas Caramel Popcorn

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This is the best Christmas Caramel Popcorn you will ever eat. Period. Loaded with sweet gooey caramel, salty Peanuts, Pecans, and colorful M&M’s. This an irresistible treat you won’t be able to stop eating.

christmas caramel popcorn

One of our favorite snacks to munch on during the holiday season is this caramel popcorn. From September through December, this treat is hands down the easiest crowd pleaser sweet snack and can be whipped up in less than 20 minutes.

The fun thing about this recipe is how easy it is to customize to your own tastes or the season. Chocolate chips, pretzels, cashews, bacon (oh yes!), marshmallows…you name it, it will be delicious. One of our favorites in the fall is my Halloween caramel popcorn loaded with Reese’s Pieces for an extra peanut butter punch.  For Christmas the added red and green M&M’s make it festive and chocolatey.

The key to this particular recipe is the ratio of caramel to popcorn. Too much caramel and it’s just a gooey mess, too little caramel and it’s a bit dry and crunchy. While crunchy caramel popcorn certainly has its place, this isn’t it.

Why you will love this Caramel Popcorn:

  1. Easy. This is so easy, even a novice cook can make it. It only requires 5 essential ingredients, and the rest are optional depending on your desired flavor outcome.
  2. Quick. This Christmas Caramel Popcorn can be ready to serve in less than 20 minutes. Perfect for busy moms or when you need a large batch for a party or bake sale.
  3. Crowd Pleaser. There aren’t very many people who will object to this treat. It becomes hard to stop eating it once you start.
  4. Customizable. You can be creative with your add on ingredients to tailor it to your tastes or theme.
  5. Great Gift. This is a quick and inexpensive gift perfect for loved ones, co-workers or neighbors. Package it up in a cute holiday tin with some ribbon and you’ve got a perfect homemade tasty treat to share.

Ingredients needed for Christmas Caramel Popcorn:

  • Popcorn Kernels. Any brand of kernels will do. I like Jolly Time Organic Popcorn.
  • Salted Butter. The higher the quality the better.
  • Brown Sugar. I use dark brown sugar for a stronger flavor, but light brown sugar will work too.
  • Light Corn Syrup
  • Vanilla. This is optional, but highly recommended.
  • Baking Soda
  • Peanuts. I use the salted variety.
  • Pecans. Chopped coarsely.
  • M&M’s Candy. The red and green ones for Christmas.
christmas caramel popcorn

Tools you will need to make Christmas Caramel Popcorn:

  • Large Mixing Bowl. I use this stainless steel mixing bowl, which makes for easy clean-up.
  • Large Saucepan. If you are needing a great quality set, I highly recommend Cooks Standard. I’ve been using (and abusing) my set for over 10 years.
  • Cookie Sheet. I use a half sheet by Nordic Ware which I love.
  • Spatula. Any large spoon will work, but I find that a nice thick stiff spatula works well with the sticky caramel to help spread it around and scrape the bowl.
  • Popcorn Popper. You could also do it the old-fashioned way and pop it on the stove.
christmas caramel popcorn before the M&M's have been added.

How to make Christmas Caramel Popcorn:

  1. Start by measuring out your popcorn kernels and add them to your popcorn popper. Pop them directly into your large bowl and set aside.
  2. Next, gather your remaining ingredients and have them ready to add as the caramel sauce will cook fairly quickly.
  3. In a large saucepan melt the butter.
  4. Add the brown sugar and corn syrup and cook for 4-5 minutes (max) stirring occasionally. Note: I suggest setting a timer for 5 minutes as soon as you add your sugar and syrup to prevent overcooking the caramel. The longer it cooks the harder it will be, and we are after soft chewy caramel.
  5. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and baking soda. Stir to combine completely.
  6. If you are using nuts add them now and stir to coat evenly.
  7. Pour the caramel mixture over the popped corn and use a sturdy spatula or spoon to mix it all together.
  8. Pour out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread it evenly.
  9. Let it cool just enough so that the M&M’s won’t melt, but not so cool that they won’t stick to the caramel. Add the M&M’s on top and let cool completely.
  10. Break apart and enjoy.
christmas caramel popcorn

Can I use microwave popcorn?

You can, but make sure it is a variety with as little butter and salt added to it as possible. You may also want to substitute the salted butter for unsalted, so you don’t end up with salt overload.

Why do you add baking soda to the caramel?

The quick science behind it is that the baking soda reacts with the sugar and corn syrup to create tiny air bubbles which create a softer texture in the caramel. You’ll notice the caramel sauce turns a lighter color once you add this in. This results in that chewy, soft, stick-to-your-teeth texture we are after.

Why don’t you bake the Caramel Popcorn?

Some people choose to do this in their recipe, but it will make it crunchier…and that’s not what we’re after. We want the chewy gooey sticky caramel.

How to store the Caramel Popcorn:

Store in an airtight container at room temperature. This will stay fresh for several days. But I’ll be honest my caramel popcorn never lasts that long.

christmas caramel popcorn

Treats you may also like:

christmas caramel popcorn

Christmas Caramel Popcorn

Treat your loved ones to the delightful taste of Christmas caramel popcorn. Loaded with gooey caramel, salty nuts, and M&M candies, this is a treat they won’t be able to resist.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:5 minutes
Total Time:15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Popcorn Kernels
  • 1 cup Salted Butter
  • 2 cups Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 cup Salted Peanuts
  • 1/2 cup Pecans coarsely chopped
  • 4 oz. Red & Green M&M Candies

Instructions

  • Pop the popcorn kernels into a large bowl. Set aside.
  • In a large saucepan melt the butter, then add the sugar and syrup. Cook for 4-5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and add the vanilla and baking soda. Stir to combine.
  • Add the nuts and stir to coat evenly.
  • Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn in the large bowl and quickly mix to coat evenly.
  • Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle the M&M candies on top.
  • Once cool, break apart and enjoy.

Notes

  1. I suggest setting a timer for 5 minutes as soon as you add your sugar and syrup to prevent overcooking the caramel. The longer it cooks the harder it will be, and we are after soft chewy caramel.
  2. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. This should easily stay fresh for several days.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: christmas caramel popcorn
Servings: 10

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