Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Homemade Caramel Corn (& Caramel Cheetos!)

Happy Wednesday, everyone! The work week is half way done. We're looking forward to a little bit of warmer weather the next few days here in KC so I'm hoping that it will melt the rest of the snow. I'm also hoping that it will make me not be such a bum in the evenings. When it's cold outside, all I want to do after eating dinner is sit on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket (much like I'm doing right now - except right now I'm also being productive by writing this post haha). It sounds like we recently sent all of our snow to St. Louis and then Ohio so I hope all of you in those places will thaw out soon too!

A few posts ago, I professed my new found love for our hot air popcorn popper. As I mentioned, we bought it so that I could make some "fancy" popcorn recipes for our Oscars party. The popper we got was $7 at a local thrift store, but it looks barely used. I found the exact same popper on Amazon and it retails for around $27. I've seen several poppers at thrift stores, so if you're looking to try one out then look there first! Just look for a clean one and definitely don't get it if it has any signs of burning. Odds are that someone bought it and then never used it so they just donated it. Anywho, the 2 kinds of popcorn I made for our party were buffalo ranch and Moose Munch caramel corn. Moose Munch is actually a treat you can buy from Harry and David and is essentially caramel corn drizzled in chocolate with nuts mixed in, I think. I made caramel corn, drizzled in chocolate with marshmallows mixed in. But for the recipe today, which is some I made to bring to a different event this past weekend, I nixed the marshmallows. They just got stale after a couple days though the caramel corn stayed crunchy. This recipe is simple, but does take a little time. But the end result is totally worth it! And I have to warn you, it's a little addicting.

Now you may have noticed in the title of this post that I also mentioned Caramel Cheetos. I can just see your faces now and I know what you're probably thinking, "GROSS" or maybe, "she's got to be kidding". But think about it, have you ever gotten one of those huge tins of popcorn that has cheddar, caramel and plain popcorn? Surely you've tried the cheddar and caramel types together. It's awesome! Caramel Cheetos are similar to that. You really don't taste much of the Cheetos at all, but you get a nice crunch from them. I promise they're good! Everyone who tried them liked them! Now for the recipe... I actually got the caramel corn recipe from a blog called Favorite Family Recipes and the caramel Cheetos came from Plain Chicken. But the caramel part for each recipe is almost exactly the same, so I'm just going to show one of them. It can be used for popcorn or Cheetos! Here's the recipe:

Caramel Corn (or Caramel Cheetos)
Total time: approx. 2 hours
Makes approx. 2 gallons of popcorn or 1 - 20 oz bag of Cheetos

1/2 cup of popcorn kernels (our popper uses 1/4 cup per batch so I made 2 batches)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 oz. bag of chocolate chips
any other mix-ins you may want like candy or nuts

- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Then pop the popcorn according to your popper's directions. If you want to make caramel corn but don't want to buy a popper, then you could use pre-popped bagged popcorn, or you could probably even use the microwave kind. Place the popcorn in the biggest bowl you have or if needed split between 2 bowls. It will be hard to stir in the caramel if your bowl is too full.

I had to show pictures of the popper in action :) This is the best part!

There she goes!

Each of those bowls was made from 1/4 cup of kernels!

- Place the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a medium sauce pan and cook over medium/high heat, stirring frequently.

- Bring mixture to a boil and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

- Remove the mixture from the heat and add the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. The mixture should get lighter in color and foam up. Stir to mix well.

It really foams up a lot when you add the baking soda.

- Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn in the bowl/bowls and quickly stir to coat all the popcorn with caramel. If you're using 2 bowls, you may need someone to help you so one doesn't start to harden too soon while you're stirring the other. Joe was my handy helper as always :)

- After the popcorn is coated in caramel, spread it onto 2 cookie sheets that are either lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

- Place both pans in the oven and cook for 1 hour, taking the pans out and stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes (that's the kind of tedious part).

- When the popcorn is cooked, let it cool in the pans, then melt your chocolate chips in the microwave or a double boiler and drizzle them over the popcorn. If you want to have other mix-ins with your caramel corn, mix them in on the cookie sheets before drizzling the chocolate. I poured my melted chocolate into a Ziploc and snipped the corner off to drizzle the popcorn. Then place the pans in the fridge to cool the chocolate.

- When the chocolate is cooled, break the caramel corn into pieces and enjoy! Then try not to eat the entire bowl.

* For the Cheetos, you do pretty much exactly the same steps. Make the same caramel sauce, then pour over a bowl of Cheetos. Stir, place on cookie sheets, and bake for an hour stirring every 15 minutes. You know you're curious to try some! :)

I see myself making this caramel corn A LOT in the future. It could be adapted for pretty much any holiday by adding things like seasonal M&Ms or candy corn at Halloween, or even just sprinkles on top of the chocolate. Plus it makes a ton of caramel corn so you could easily turn it into several gifts for people. Now go to the thrift store and find a popper! And have a great rest of the week :)

P.S. Let me know if you guys have any sweet or savory favorite popcorn recipes/combinations. I'm looking for some fun ones to try!


  1. Caramel cheetos sound delicious :D

  2. oh! there's this really good popcorn called Angie's I think, and they have it at cosco and target. It's technically kettle corn, but when you eat it, it taste's sweet and then buttery! its soooo good.

    1. Yes, I love kettle corn! I'll have to see if I can find a good recipe for it. And the caramel Cheetos are delicious, you should try them :)