Homemade Caramel apple popcorn is a delicious version of beloved homemade caramel popcorn. Made with apple pie spice, apple cider caramel sauce, apple chips and salty cashews this is sure to be your new favorite caramel popcorn recipe. A perfect movie snack.
There are two types of popcorn I love - salty, buttery movie style popcorn and caramel popcorn. Sometimes I mix them together for the ultimate salty-sweet popcorn snack. Caramel popcorn is always such a treat and so are caramel apples, another favorite caramel treat.
My favorite caramel apples are from Disneyland and Downtown Disney. I love watching them make them in the front windows of the sweets shops. They make so many amazing varieties with different caramel and chocolate sauces and toppings they are rolled into, such as nuts like peanuts and cashews.
I love that the bakers and candy makers get such a big crowd watching them create all the confections for Disney. It is really neat to watch people excel at their craft.
The caramel apples decorated like Minnie and Mickey are almost too cute to eat. Almost. My other favorite treat to get at Disney is their popcorn, its salty and buttery and oh so good.
I got the idea to combine these two favorite Disney snacks into a caramel apple popcorn recipe from our last trip to the amusement park a few years ago.
Popcorn mixed with an apple cider caramel sauce, baked until crispy and mixed with dried apples and cashews. Caramel apple popcorn snacking goodness.
What ingredients are in caramel apple popcorn?
- Popcorn - this recipe needs 5 quarts or 20 cups of popcorn. I make my popcorn in my air popper and it takes two batches to make since the measuring cup it comes with is just under ⅔ a cup of un-popped kernels. You can use yellow, white or a combination of both.
- Apple pie spice - the popped popcorn gets sprinkled with the seasoning before the caramel sauce is added. I use a blend from Spiceology.
- Apple Cider - this gets reduced into a syrup that is added to the caramel sauce. Make sure you use apple cider NOT apple cider vinegar.
- Butter - unsalted, this gets melted first before the rest of the caramel sauce ingredients are added. This helps keep the sauce from being grainy when baked.
- Brown Sugar - you can use either light, golden or dark brown sugar or a combination.
- Maple syrup - I prefer to make homemade caramel popcorn without corn syrup so I substitute pure maple syrup. This is similar to my honey vanilla caramel popcorn recipe which is also a caramel popcorn with no corn syrup recipe.
- Kosher Salt - just a little, every sweet recipe needs salt to balance out the flavors
- Vanilla extract - rounds out the flavor of the caramel sauce
- Baking soda - the key ingredient to crunchy caramel popcorn. This is what makes the caramel have that nice crispy crunch. Without it you get soggy caramel popcorn. The baking soda also has a fun chemical reaction when added to the caramel sauce and it will expand and get lighter in color and very foamy and this helps coat all the popped corn much better.
- Apple chips - I use freeze dried apple chips - Fuji and Honeycrisp - crumbled into smaller pieces. Freeze dried apples have a nice crunch to them.
- Cashews - salted and chopped
How do you make caramel popcorn?
- First you pop the popcorn - this might take one or two batches depending on your popcorn maker. I have an air popper, you can make it any way you like in whatever popcorn maker you have. If you want to make it stove top I love this stove top popcorn recipe from Simply Recipes. Sprinkle the popcorn with apple pie spice and mix to distribute the spices.
- Make the caramel sauce - first the apple cider gets reduced. This is the longest part of the caramel recipe. It takes about 20 minutes to reduce.
- While the apple cider is reducing you can take this time to heat your oven to 250 Deg F and line two large baking sheets with parchment. Make sure your oven racks are in the middle and upper third of the oven.
- Once the apple cider is reduced from 2 cups ( 500ml) to ⅔ cup ( 157 ml) then you can make the rest of the caramel sauce. You can either make this caramel sauce with time or with a candy thermometer. Its a pretty fool-proof caramel sauce.
- Once the caramel sauce is done quickly pour all over the seasoned popcorn and stir well with a spatula to cover the popcorn as best as you can.
- Still moving quickly, divide the popcorn between the two prepared baking sheets and place in the oven.
- This is a crucial step to getting that crispy crunch of the caramel popcorn. This gets baked for 45 minutes, stirred at varying intervals to evenly coat the popcorn with the caramel sauce.
- During the baking process the caramel sauce will melt, then you stir to coat more of the popcorn then it melts again but as the baking time gets closer to 45 min there is less and less caramel sauce melted and more and more coating the popcorn and turning crunchy.
As soon as the caramel popcorn is done baking and the caramel sauce is still melty, quickly add in the apple chips and cashews so they will stick. Stir and pour the caramel apple popcorn into a large serving bowl.
I don't suggest adding the apple chips and cashews during the baking process as the cashews might burn and the apple chips will soften. You want to keep everything crispy. I made a batch this way and the apple chips turned soft then burnt before the caramel popcorn was done.
This caramel apple popcorn makes for a great snack for watching movies, playing games or anytime you want a salty sweet and very crunchy snack.
A few questions and answers about caramel apple popcorn:
Can you make caramel popcorn vegan? I suppose you could with using a vegan butter substitute. I have not tried this so I cannot say if it will have the same results.
Why is my caramel corn soggy? Either you left out the baking soda or didn't bake the caramel popcorn at all or for not enough time.
How long does homemade caramel popcorn last? Depends on how fast you eat it! It will keep well for weeks stored in an airtight container kept at room temperature.
Other movie snacks you might enjoy:
- ⅔ cups popcorn kernels ( makes about 20 cups/5 quarts) (see notes)
For the Caramel sauce:
- 2 cups apple cider (500ml)
- 1 cup unsalted butter ( 226 grams)
- 2 cups brown sugar (416 grams) light, golden or dark brown
- ⅓ cup maple syrup (113 ml)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 3 cups freeze dried apple chips (70 grams)
- 1 cup salted cashew pieces (140 grams)
- Heat oven to 250 Deg F (121 C). Set oven racks to the upper and middle third of the oven. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Preferably lighter colored aluminum sheets.
- Pop the popcorn, discard all un-popped kernels and place in a large bowl. Don’t add any butter or salt. Time for this will depend on your popcorn maker and or method. Takes me about 10 minutes to make two batches of popcorn
- Pour the apple cider into a medium saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to ⅔ cup (157 ml). You can check periodically by pouring into a measuring cup (use one that has at least one and a half cup measure in case it hasn’t reduced enough yet). This takes around 20 minutes. Once reduced transfer to a measuring cup or glass. Rinse the pan then add the butter. Lower heat to medium and melt the butter completely.
- Next, add in the reduced syrup, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and everything is mixed together well.
- Stop stirring and raise the heat to bring to a boil. Boil for 4-5 minutes or until you reach 240 Deg F on a candy thermometer ( no more than 5 minutes if not using a thermometer.
- Remove pan from heat and quickly whisk in the vanilla and baking soda. Be careful with this step since the caramel sauce will quickly grow in volume and bubble up.
- Immediately pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn and stir with a spatula coating the popcorn as best you can.
- Distribute the popcorn between the two prepared baking pans, scraping out any excess caramel from the pan and bowl
- Place the pans in the oven and bake for a total of 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
- After the first 15 minutes have passed, stir the popcorn to coat with the melted caramel sauce, swap the trays ( move one on lower to upper rack and vice versa). Bake another 15 minutes and stir and swap trays again. Then repeat for another 15 minutes.
- Take the pans out of the oven and immediately sprinkle the caramel popcorn with the cashews and apple chips and stir so they will stick with whatever remaining melted caramel sauce there is.
- Let cool then transfer to a large serving bowl or small bowls for individual portions.
- This homemade caramel apple popcorn will keep well for weeks at room temperature kept in an airtight container.
Pop popcorn according to your popcorn maker or stovetop. I use an air popper that pops ⅓ cup kernels at a time so I have to make two batches of popcorn for this recipe.
I don't suggest microwaved popcorn for this recipe since it has added seasonings and salt. You want plain popped popcorn.
If it’s your first time making this recipe then make sure you read all of the information in the main post as it includes lots of additional tips, as well as the answers to some common questions.
If you have any further questions then do let me know in the comments and or email me [email protected] and I’ll do my best to help.
If you choose to make substitutions to the recipe that I have not tested yet please do so at your own risk. I cannot guarantee the same results if you change a lot of the ingredients or method. However, if any of your changes are successful I would love to hear about it and will add to my recipe notes for other readers to try as well.