No need to reach for that box of Cracker Jack when you can make maple caramel corn at home. Infinitely better than the store-bought variety and has a list of completely recognizable ingredients. No prize. Although really, the recipe is the prize.Angie Zoobkoff

A baking sheet filled with maple caramel corn.

Maple Caramel Corn

4.86 / 7 votes
Maple caramel corn is infinitely better than the store-bought caramel corn or Cracker Jack and has a list of completely recognizable ingredients. No prize. Although really, the recipe is the prize.
David Leite
Servings8 to 10 cups
Calories215 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour


  • 8 to 10 cups freshly popped plain popcorn (from about 1/3 cup popcorn kernels)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup roasted salted peanuts
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


  • Preheat the oven to 250°F (121°C) and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, combine the popcorn and peanuts.
  • In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter.
  • Stir in the maple syrup and salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture reaches 230°F (110°C) on a candy thermometer, anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes. The mixture should flow in a steady stream from the spoon.
  • Remove the caramel from the heat and very carefully stir in the vanilla and baking soda. The mixture will foam up.
  • Immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn and peanuts and quickly toss with a spatula until coated.
  • While the mixture is still hot, use the back of the spatula to spread it in the baking sheet in an even layer. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until the popcorn is light and crisp, about 45 minutes.
  • Cool briefly before serving. The maple caramel corn will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.
Half the Sugar, All the Love Cookbook

Adapted From

Half the Sugar All the Love

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Serving: 1 cupCalories: 215 kcalCarbohydrates: 27 gProtein: 4 gFat: 11 gSaturated Fat: 4 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 0.2 gCholesterol: 15 mgSodium: 185 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 15 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Jennifer Tyler Lee | Anisha Patel. Photo © 2019 Erin Scott. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This was a delicious take on caramel corn. The maple and salt really added an element that made the caramel corn feel really special. Dry roasted peanuts also gave it an elevated Cracker Jack feel in the best way.

I didn’t have a candy thermometer, so I was hoping to drip the caramel off the spoon to identify when it was ready. The bubbling mixture changed to a thicker bubbling sound at 5 minutes and appeared to drip off the spoon, but the resulting caramel was a little grainy…leading me to believe that I didn’t have the timing quite right. I would definitely recommend a thermometer for this recipe.

I used grade A maple syrup.

I kept the popcorn in a gallon resealable bag and it kept really well. It was actually better the second day.

So good! This maple caramel corn proves there’s no reason to buy that junk from the mall! My testers all loved it and kept coming back for more. It was so light and crisp and had the perfect caramel to popcorn ratio. I love that this recipe is simple and doesn’t use any corn syrup. I will definitely make this again!

I did use salted peanuts but 1/2 a cup wasn’t enough. It got a bit lost in the popcorn so I added more to total 1 cup. It was a lovely addition!

I used a candy thermometer for my maple syrup and it took exactly 5 minutes after starting to boil to reach temperature, per the instructions.

The next day it was still light and crisp after being stored in a Tupperware.

I love popcorn and prefer savory over sweet. When I’ve had the sweet kind, it’s usually prepackaged so it tasted stale and too sweet. I was interested in how much better the fresh version tasted so I tried out this recipe. It was so much better than I anticipated. I was addicted and couldn’t stop eating it. The sweet and salty balance was just right and using maple syrup gave the sweetness some dimension.

The recipe lists the peanuts as optional, but unless you have a peanut allergy, I consider this ingredient mandatory. The peanuts lend additional flavor and texture. This recipe is simple to make and better yet, easy to whip up as the ingredients are usually on hand.

It didn’t last more than a day, so I couldn’t tell if the texture changed. This can serve 4 to 6 people but realistically 2 to 3.

What a low stress, high-impact, unique home treat. Takes a bit of time, but it’s mostly hands-off. So I found it a delightful treat to make, while other things were going on in the kitchen. Plus it made the kitchen smell like a food court in the best way.

The syrup-butter sauce came to a boil nicely at med-high heat. It came to temperature and coated the back of a spoon in 4 min. I left it to cook 1 extra minute. In hindsight, that minute could have reduced the sauce a bit too much. This is my thought as the mixture coated 11 cups of popcorn but wasn’t the color of the photo and there weren’t as many popcorn “clusters” as I expected in the end product. This makes me think the popcorn should be reduced to 10 cups, or that I boiled the syrup down too much. It’s a small change, but could make a difference in the end product.

I will absolutely make this again, knowing how easy and delicious it is. Never without the peanuts.

This is reminiscent of boxed caramel corn but it’s an upgrade—fresher and much more flavorful. It’s quite pleasant, and yes, highly addicting. It was even better the second day. I can’t speak beyond that, because it was gone.

I used salted roasted peanuts but I think there is room for play here, swapping out for other nuts. I would be tempted to use a saltier nut the next time, just for personal preference and because I think it could take a little bit more saltiness to go with the sweet.

To kick this recipe up a notch, I would simply add more nuts. The ratio here is so similar to the boxed caramel corn of our youth, but in that I was always hunting for more peanuts. Here, I can add as many as I like. So next time I would double the nuts.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Absolutely fantastic recipe! I didn’t add in the peanuts, simply because I didn’t have any on hand & didn’t feel like running to the store. Flavor is amazing, no change needed, and the recipe is easy to follow. As someone else mentioned it holds up nicely the next day, beyond that is unknown as I don’t have that much ability to resist the temptation. Gonna make another batch right now…

    1. Thanks, Julie! We’re so pleased that you enjoyed this so much. Thank you for taking the time to let us know.