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Holiday Caramel Pecan Popcorn

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This Caramel Popcorn Recipe is great for any party but we love it for Christmas. It brings back many memories of Christmases from years ago, as I got this recipe from my mother in law Lynda! See how to make your own caramel popcorn– and you won't want to buy the grocery store version ever again!

caramel popcorn christmas_canva

Homemade Caramel Popcorn with Pecans

The pecans in this recipe are completely optional but give this caramel popcorn an irresistible and delicious flavor. Many store bought caramel popcorn mixtures come with some kind of nut– most often peanuts. This is the traditional mix and of course it adds plenty of sweet and salty flavor that makes it perfect for snacking.

I actually prefer adding the pecans since they don't over power the flavor of the caramel corn so much. They also taste amazing with chocolate, if you prefer to drizzle the finished popcorn with melted chocolate or candy melts!

With homemade caramel, you probably aren't getting quite the level of sugar and salt the store-bought mixes have in them. Plus, there are no preservatives. So the flavors are a lot more simple.

Caramel Popcorn

The pecan variation goes perfectly with a secret ingredient — Amaretto! This can be substituted for the vanilla extract in the recipe. This Torani Amaretto Syrup is great for this recipe as well as coffee and beverages. You can find it at Walmart or Amazon.

Popcorn to Use for Caramel Corn:

Definitely pick out a popcorn with no additional flavoring if you're using microwave popcorn. I actually pop my own with popping corn, since it goes so much further. Freshly air popped popcorn has a great consistency too.

I use this popcorn popper, and just add the required amount a little at a time. You will need about 8 cups total for this recipe, so you may have to make 2 batches of microwave air popped popcorn.

Caramel Popcorn_canva

How to Make Caramel:

If this part of the recipe makes you nervous, don't be! The stovetop version of caramel does involve staying with the mixture– don't walk away and let it simmer, since it can scorch. 🙂 However, you don't need any expensive candy thermometer or expertise. Just stir and be sure to set a timer. The mixture will need to boil gently for five minutes after it reaches a boil.

Be careful to allow the mixture to come to a gentle boil. Not solid frothy bubbles, but not just a simmer! This is the main tip I have for making caramel on the stovetop.

Another important thing is to know that different variations of brown sugar will affect the recipe. I love to use dark brown sugar to get that deep caramel color. It does become a thicker caramel than light brown sugar does. For true caramel, you can use granulated sugar but it must be cooked down slowly over a much longer period of time. So for this recipe, using light brown sugar is a great beginner option. You can adapt this to sugar free, but the nutritional info in the recipe will vary, as may your cooking time when boiling your mixture over the stove.

If the mixture becomes too thick, you can add heavy cream or half and half slowly, about 1 teaspoon at a time, to thin it out. Be careful, as it will bubble up quickly when cold liquids are added. Keep stirring with a whisk and your mixture will turn out beautifully.

The fun part of making caramel is adding that baking soda after you turn off the heat. It bubbles up like crazy, and again, whisk quickly but be careful of the heat! This is what makes the caramel light and fluffy and able to spread over the popcorn.

Mixing Together:

Finally, add your caramel to your freshly popped popcorn. I like to work quickly since the caramel is easier to spread out while it's hot. Have your popcorn ready to go on 1 or 2 lined baking sheets. The silicone liners work well, but if you don't have them you can use foil or parchment and spray with a good layer of non-stick cooking spray.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn evenly, and give it a gentle stir around with a spatula. Do not mix by hand! The caramel will stick to your hands and it will be extremely hot. It's ok if it clumps together, you will break it apart as it cooks.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 1 hour, or longer if you prefer it more on the crunchy side. As it cooks, check on the mixture and break apart any larger clumps with a knife or firm spatula. It should harden and be breakable within a few minutes.

That's it! I hope you can enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Be aware that the final color of your popcorn may vary with the brown sugar used. Seal in a decorative holiday container or just a big plastic bag– it won't last long, we promise!

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Yield: 8

Caramel Pecan Popcorn

Baked caramel popcorn

This caramel pecan popcorn is perfect for the holidays, and you have to see the secret ingredient that bumps up the pecan flavoring!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes


  • 2 cups packed brown sugar (can use Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoons vanilla extract (can also use Amaretto)
  • 8 cups popped popcorn (I use air popped)
  • 1 cup broken pecan pieces


Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Spread popcorn on packing sheet or in roasting pan.

Add first three ingredients to a sauce pan and boil at medium heat for 5 minutes, remove from heat.

Stir in baking soda and vanilla (or Amaretto). Mixture will bubble quickly when the baking soda is added. Mix well.

Add pecan pieces to caramel mixture.

Pour over popcorn on a lined baking sheet; toss gently with a spatula to coat.

Bake for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes.

Break apart when cool enough to touch.

Store in an air tight container and for best results serve within 1-2 days.


You can optionally add peanuts instead of pecans, or omit nuts all together!

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 576Total Fat 35gSaturated Fat 16gTrans Fat 2gUnsaturated Fat 17gCholesterol 61mgSodium 348mgCarbohydrates 68gFiber 2gSugar 61gProtein 2g

Did you make this recipe?

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