Nutty Caramel Corn

$1.23 recipe / $0.21 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
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Ahhh, I love Fall! Pumpkins, gourds, costumes and lots and lots of goodies! I found this recipe the other day and knew that it would be perfect for getting me in the mood for Fall.

I added some honey roasted peanuts for a little extra “oomph” but you could use any nuts you’d like or no nuts at all. I even saw a recipe that used chocolate chips! I chose honey roasted peanuts because they are tasty, were a good price ($2.49 for the container) and seemed like they would go great. If you use a larger nut like cashews, chop them roughly so that every bite will get some cashew without having to add a ton to the recipe.

The recipe calls for chili powder and cayenne which I thought would be a fun twist. Mid-recipe I realized that I was out of chili powder so I just used cayenne. I added about 1/4 tsp but next time will increase it a bit. If you don’t want the spice, just skip it and you’ll have a great, basic caramel corn!

nutty caramel corn in bowl with pumpkin decorative bowl next to it

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Nutty Caramel Corn

This nutty caramel corn is an easy fun snack to make with kids!
Servings 6
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
Total 45 minutes


  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil ($0.08)
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels ($0.18)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar ($0.24)
  • 1 Tbsp butter ($0.04)
  • 2 tsp salt ($0.05)
  • 1/4 cup water ($0.00)
  • 1 tsp baking soda ($0.04)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne ($0.05)
  • 1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts ($0.51)


  • Place 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil and one popcorn kernel in a large pot over high heat with a lid. Wait for the kernel to pop then add the rest of the 1/2 cup of kernels. Swirl the kernels in the pot to coat them with oil and then wait for them to pop. When the popping slows (just like with microwave popcorn) remove it from the heat. I like to keep the lid slightly ajar as they pop to let steam out but keep the jumping kernels in.
  • In a small pot, combine the water, sugar, butter and salt. Place the pot over medium heat and let the mixture come to a boil. Continue to boil the mixture until it is a light gold color (see photos below).
  • While the sugar mixture is boiling, remove any unpopped kernels from the popcorn and add the nuts. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
  • Once the sugar mixture becomes golden, remove it from the heat and stir in the baking soda and spices (cayenne, chili powder or none). Immediately pour the mixture over the popcorn and nuts and stir to combine. Work quickly as you stir because the mixture will harden as it cools. Pour the popcorn/nut/sugar mix out onto the baking sheet, place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Let the mix cool for 5-10 minutes before eating to let the caramel sauce harden.

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Serving: 1ServingCalories: 394.48kcalCarbohydrates: 59.47gProtein: 3.95gFat: 17.12gSodium: 1177.22mgFiber: 2.52g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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nutty caramel corn close up in pumpkin bowl

Step By Step Photos

lone kernel in pot of oil to test heat
Place a lone kernel in a pot with vegetable oil and heat over high flame with a lid in place.

kernels in pot
When the one kernel pops, add the rest and swirl them around in the pot to coat with hot oil. Keeping the lid slightly ajar, let the rest of the kernels pop.

popped kernels in pot with lid propped open slightly
Once the popping slows, remove the pot from the heat. KEEP THE LID IN PLACE FOR AT LEAST 30 SECONDS so that late poppers don’t explode out the top.

sweet and salty honey roasted peanuts in can to pour into popped corn
Set the popcorn aside and allow to cool. Add 1/2 cup of nuts to the popcorn.

begin caramel sauce (sugar, water, butter and salt in a pot)
Combine the sugar, water, butter and salt in a pot. Place over medium heat with no lid and allow it to come to a boil.

top view of boiling sugar mix in pot on stove
It will look like this as it boils… thick and bubbly.

top view golden sugar water in pot on stove
Allow the mix to boil until it turns a light golden color then remove it from the heat.

baking soda and spices added to sugar mixture in pot
Add the baking soda and spices. When you add the baking soda it will turn orange-ish and get very foamy… this is normal :)”

melted topping on popped corn in pot
Immediately pour the mix over the popcorn and nuts. Stir to combine. You will need to do this quickly because the sugar mix begins to harden as it cools.

mixture spread out on baking sheet ready to bake
Pour the mixture out onto a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray and bake at 250 degrees for about 15 minutes. Let the mixture cool before eating (molten sugar BURNS)!

nutty caramel corn falling out of bowl
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  1. Do you think vegan butter would work here? I need to bring a dessert that is gluten free and dairy free!

    1. I’m doubtful that it would since the composition of vegan butter is probably pretty different than dairy butter, but it’s hard to say without testing it, unfortunately.

  2. Beth, I love your site, you have so many tasty, unique recipes. The first time I made this, I didn’t let the sugar mixture boil long enough to really get golden, and the result was a very strong sugary, grainy covering to the popcorn. I decided to give it another try and made sure that I let it boil long enough. The color is a rich, golden carmel, and the flavor is amazing. I couldn’t even taste the cayenne the first time, but I love the little kick it gives. I just put the caramel corn into the oven, and am anxious to munch on it while I watch a movie tonight.

  3. I used to make caramel corn over 30 years ago that was so good, but I haven’t been able to locate the recipe again. I think this is it (or close enough!) Thank you so much! Looks perfect.

  4. I made this tonight and it was delicious! The cayenne really adds a nice unexpected kick to this. I accidentally got hot caramel corn on my finger as I was putting it on the baking sheet…god did that hurt! Thanks again for the awesome recipe!

  5. This worked like a charm! I didn’t quite stir fast enough so I had some stuck at the bottom, and molten sugar does, in fact, BURN, but this was awesome. Halloween presents, here I come!