Pop popcorn in air popper or microwave bags, removing any unpopped kernels. Place popcorn in a large, paper grocery bag. Set aside.
In a large microwavable safe measuring cup or bowl, place butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt (do not add baking soda yet). Microwave for 1 minute on high. Remove and stir.
Microwave and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from microwave and stir in baking soda. Immediately pour caramel sauce over popcorn in paper bag. Roll down the top of the bag and shake well.
Place closed bag in microwave and cook for 90 seconds. Remove and shake well, using oven mitts to protect hands. Flip bag over and cook again for 90 seconds. Remove and shake well. Finally, flip bag over and cook for 45 seconds.
Shake one last time and pour on ungreased cookie sheet to cool. Store in an airtight container.
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What Kind of Popcorn to Use Caramel Corn Recipe
For our family's easy caramel corn recipe we always used air popped popcorn. The popcorn is free of butter or salt, so the recipe starts with popcorn in its natural state. If you don't own an air popper, though, you can still make homemade caramel corn! The recipe calls for 1/2 cup unpopped kernels, which yields about 13-15 cups.
Bagged popcorn - Use store bought popped corn as close to its natural state as you can get. SmartFood Lightly Salted is a great option. Reduce amount of salt to 1/4 teaspoon if using salted popcorn.
Microwave popcorn bags - Again use the plainest popcorn you can find. Orville Redenbacher makes a Naturals Simply Salted version I've used before. You will need 2-3 bags to yield at least 13 cups of popcorn. Reduce amount of salt to 1/4 teaspoon if using salted popcorn.
Air Popped popcorn - My favorite option because it's affordable and no adjustments are needed to the recipe.
NOTE: Using buttered, oiled, or salted popcorn may change the texture or flavor of the recipe.
Adding Peanuts to Microwave Caramel Corn
Simply add 1-2 cups of nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, or almonds to the popped popcorn in the paper bag. Proceed with the recipe as written.