All the flavors of classic gingerbread magically transported to the BEST caramel corn. Make it in the microwave in way less than an hour. Dress it up for gifts with the free printable labels... no one needs to know it's ridiculously easy!
I LOVE making caramel corn but it wasn't always that way. I used to think it was a huge
pain in the neck labor of love... getting the caramel mixture just right, then trying to coat all the popcorn with the gooey sauce. After that there was the long stint in the oven that required frequent stirring and finally, cleaning up the big sticky mess. But a while back I discovered you can do the whole process in the microwave with minimal mess. It changed my grumpy mindset about making caramel corn and this Ridiculously Easy Gingerbread Caramel Corn is the newest rendition in our ever-growing collection!
A super-easy technique
If you haven't tried any of our caramel corn recipes, you're missing out on some amazing treats that you can throw together in less than an hour. The results are impressive and taste like expensive, gourmet caramel corn. How does it work? I knew you'd want to know:
- Make your popcorn on the stovetop or in the microwave and transfer it to a clean paper grocery bag (yes, a paper grocery bag!).
- Combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and, in this recipe, gingerbread spices in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave till hot and bubbly. Cook, stirring a few times.
- Pour the caramel mixture into the bag on top of the popcorn.
- Microwave in 1-minute intervals, shaking the bag in between.
- Pour it out onto a sheet of parchment paper and admire your beautiful Gingerbread Caramel Corn! Try not to snitch too much as you do want to share this with others... or maybe not.
See what I mean? Easy, ridiculously easy!
What kind of popcorn is best for this caramel corn?
I've experiement with different types of popcorn. It's a little embarrassing but I've rarely ever made popcorn on the stovetop, so my initial attempts at caramel corn were with bags of microwave popcorn. It was good but I wondered if it could be better with stovetop popcorn.
I snooped around on the internet for tips and tricks on making stovetop popcorn, ordered a few different types of popcorn kernels and started experimenting. I have to agree with the "popcorn snobs" that stovetop popcorn (properly cooked) is fantastic but, honestly, there's nothing wrong with microwave popcorn.
Although there are many varieties of popcorn kernels, there are two basic shapes, mushroom and butterfly. Mushroom kernels will produce large round popcorn while butterfly kernels pop in whimsical, unpredictable shapes, with lots of “wings” protruding this way and that.
I tried both mushroom and butterfly and felt like the mushroom popcorn held up better in the stirring (shaking in the case of microwave caramel corn) and coating process. Also, because the mushroom popped kernels that are round, they have a larger surface to hold caramel coating.
Two downsides to using mushroom popcorn... First of all, it's more expensive and difficult to find than classic butterfly popcorn that you'll find at most grocery stores. Secondly, you have to get the oil really hot for the corn kernels to transform into beautiful round "mushroom" puffs, otherwise, it will still but will look more like traditional popcorn. Cooking it in the microwave or on the stovetop with medium heat, will not yield the beautiful round shape so that makes it not really worth the extra expense
So, what kind of popcorn really is best? That's totally up to you. I like to use mushroom popcorn kernels but traditional "butterfly" popcorn will also work as well as bagged grocery store microwave popcorn. If I use bagged microwave popcorn for this Gingerbread Caramel Corn, I like to stick with something simple like Orville Redenbacher's Naturals Simply Salted Popcorn.
Tricks for popping stovetop popcorn
As mentioned above I had to hone my skills a bit in regard to making stovetop popcorn. Here are a few tips:
- Use fresh kernels
- Use a good heavy-bottom pot or a popper that's specially designed for making popcorn.
- Use plenty of heat.
- When you hear the first one or two kernels pop, remove the pot from the heat for 30 seconds. This ensures that the oil doesn’t get too hot before the kernels are ready to pop and promotes even cooking so that all the kernels pop right around the same time.
- Return the pot to the heat and shake the pot continuously to redistribute the kernels and prevent burning
- When the popping slows way down, remove from the heat and immediately transfer the popcorn to a large bowl to prevent sogginess.
If you're looking for a super easy, fail-proof way to prepare delicious stovetop popcorn, try one of these Whirley Pop Popcorn Poppers. I ordered one for myself and absolutely love it. It's light, super easy to use and cleans up well. If you have any popcorn (or caramel corn) lovers in the family, this would make a wonderful gift.
The difference between high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup
If you check the recipe below you'll notice that it calls for corn syrup. You may have heard some controversy about high fructose corn syrup... that it's bad for you. It seems that increasing numbers of people are reluctant to use corn syrup because of the negative health effects reported with high-fructose corn syrup.
But did you know that corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup are two different products? According to The Kitchn, "both products are made from corn starch, but regular corn syrup is 100 percent glucose, while high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has had some of its glucose converted to fructose enzymatically." The article goes on to say, "scientists are examining the potentially negative effects of consuming large amounts of fructose in the form of HFCS, but regular corn syrup is not part of that consideration, as it does not contain fructose".
I use Karo brand corn syrup for this Gingerbread Caramel Corn which does not contain fructose. Its ingredient list includes, "corn syrup, salt, vanilla". To be safe, I would recommend checking the label of the corn syrup you purchase.
This makes a delightful gift!
I generally have a decent amount of willpower when it comes to sweets, but NOT with this stuff! It's crazy delicious and almost impossible to stop eating. That's why I feel compelled to portion out this crazy good caramel corn and give it away.
Café Tips for making this Ridiculously Easy Gingerbread Caramel Corn
- Start requesting paper bags at the grocery store! They are the perfect vehicles to use for this microwave caramel corn. There's no mess except in the bag which is disposed of after use.
- You'll need a large microwave-safe bowl (at least 2-quart) to make the caramel for this recipe. A microwave-safe bowl is one that won't melt or heat up when used in the microwave. For this recipe, it's really nice to have one with a handle as you need to remove the bowl from the microwave several times to stir. I love this Pyrex microwave-safe bowl and use mine ALL the time. The handle does not get warm so it's easy to work with.
- As mentioned above, this recipe calls for corn syrup. If you live in the UK or other areas of the world where corn syrup is not available, I tested this recipe using an equal amount of Lyle's Golden Syrup in lieu of corn syrup with successful results. On the other hand, I also tried subbing maple syrup for the corn syrup with disastrous results. The syrup was thick and grainy and didn't coat the popcorn well.
- I like to use mushroom popcorn (see discussion on types of popcorn above in the post) popped on the stovetop for this Ridiculously Easy Gingerbread Caramel Corn but stovetop butterfly popcorn and microwave popcorn can also be used.
- Whether you make your popcorn on the stovetop or in the microwave, it's important to transfer it to a bowl and gently lift and lightly shake the popcorn to allow any unpopped kernels to sink to the bottom of the bowl. No one wants to bite into a delicious handful of caramel corn only to find a hard kernel adhered to it.
- If you decide to use microwave popcorn, I recommend a natural type without any additional flavoring. I like Orville Redenbacher Natural microwave popcorn. It's lightly salted but additional ingredients are minimal.
- I like to use a combination of light and dark brown sugars but 100% light brown sugar will also work. I don't recommend using all dark brown sugar as I've found that the syrup can get grainy.
- Every microwave is a little different regarding the way they heat as well as the power level. These instructions work well on my microwave which is 900 Watts. If your microwave has a lower wattage, you may want to go an additional minute or two. If it's a higher wattage, you may want to shake the bag every 45 seconds instead of every minute as directed.
- If you finish making this Gingerbread Caramel Corn and it's completely cooled and you find it's not as crisp as you'd like, simply return it to a clean paper grocery bag and microwave it for another minute or two, shaking well after each additional minute.
- I LOVE my Whirly Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper. It makes popping real popcorn failproof, super easy and super fast!
Thought for the day:
The angel answered,
“The Holy Spirit will come on you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations, and ideas for variations.
- 16 cups popped popcorn see post for types of popcorn
- ½ cup corn syrup (Not high fructose corn syrup - I use Karo. You can also use Golden Syrup)
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- ¾ cup butter (1½ sticks) I use salted
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup dark brown sugar (If you don't have dark brown sugar you can omit it and just use 1½ cups of light brown sugar.)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Prepare a work surface (kitchen counter) by laying out a 4 feet long piece of parchment paper. After popping the popcorn, transfer it to a bowl. Lift the popcorn with your hands and shake the bowl lightly so the unpopped kernels fall to the bottom. Lift the 4 quarts of popcorn out of the bowl and transfer to a large brown paper grocery bag.
Place the butter in a large (2 quart) microwave safe bowl and microwave on high power for one minute or until the butter is melted. Add the corn syrup and stir well to combine. Add the molasses, brown sugars, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and salt. Stir until everything is well incorporated. Place in the microwave and heat on high power for 2 minutes. Stir then return to the microwave for 1 minute. The mixture should be bubbling up furiously by this point. Remove bowl and stir then return to the microwave for another minute. Repeat this cooking for one minute and stirring two more times.
Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. Stir until all of the baking soda is well incorporated.
Pour the hot mixture over the popcorn in the bag. Fold the top of the bag down once and shake, shake, shake to distribute syrup through the corn. Microwave on high power for 1 minute. Remove the bag and hold it at the folded down top and one of the bottom corners. You may need to use a pot holder as the bag will be hot. Shake well the return to the microwave for another minute.
Repeat cooking and shaking two more times for a total of 5 minutes. Turn the popcorn out onto the prepared parchment paper. Allow to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container. The caramel corn will keep well for 1-2 weeks.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
If you prefer to use Metric measurements there is a button in each of our recipes, right above the word “Instructions”. Just click that button to toggle to grams, milliliters, etc. If you ever come across one of our recipes that doesn't have the Metric conversion (some of the older recipes may not), feel free to leave a comment and I will add it.