This Ridiculously Easy, Microwave Pecan Pie Caramel Corn has all the flavor of the beloved Southern pie with sweet buttery caramel corn and crunchy glazed pecans. The free printable labels make it PERFECT for gifts!
Once again, I was inspired by a bag of caramel corn from a local gourmet popcorn company. Scott and I were browsing at a favorite kitchen store a few weeks ago when I noticed a new variety of caramel corn. I put a bag of the Southern Pecan Pie Popcorn in my basket and closed my eyes when the clerk rang it up ($11 for a small bag!). I was quite certain that it would be as delicious as all their other varieties. We didn't even get out of the parking lot before I discovered my assumption to be correct! When we returned home I began playing around with ingredients to create this Pecan Pie Caramel Corn.
I already had a great (and super easy) recipe for caramel corn that's quite failproof. I've used it for our Ridiculously Easy Sea-Salted Popcorn and several other other delicious renditions. So it was just a matter of playing around with ingredients to create a flavor reminiscent of the beloved classic dessert, pecan pie.
What's the best popcorn to use for this Pecan Pie Caramel Corn?
Although you can find many brands and varieties of popcorn kernels, there are only two basic shapes, mushroom and butterfly. Mushroom kernels produce large round popcorn while butterfly kernels pop in whimsical, unpredictable shapes, with lots of “wings” protruding this way and that. Butterfly popcorn is more common, the type you find pre-popped at grocery and convenience stores. It's also the kind that's used in microwave popcorn packets.
I tried both mushroom and butterfly and felt like the mushroom popcorn held up better in the process of making caramel corn. Also, because the mushroom pops round kernels, they have a larger surface to hold the caramel coating. A win-win!
That being said, you could use microwave or stovetop popcorn and mushroom or butterfly kernels for this Pecan Pie Caramel Corn recipe. The caramel corn you see in the pictures in this post is mushroom popcorn kernels popped on the stovetop. I've experimented with several brands and have had the most success with this one. It may seem a bit pricey but it's a large quantity and will make TONS of caramel corn, still infinitely cheaper than the fancy (little) bags from the gourmet shops!
An important secret
One simple trick that I've learned to ensure big beautiful mushroom popcorn: the oil needs to be very hot before you add the popcorn. I love using a Whirley Pop Stovetop Popper (this would make a fabulous gift for any popcorn lovers in the family!) to make my popcorn. The simple steps; heat the oil until it sizzles a bit, then add ¾ cup of the mushroom popcorn. Quickly cover the pot with the lid and start turning the stirring crank. Within minutes you'll have a full pot of beautiful round popcorn, enough for one batch of this Pecan Pie Spice Caramel Corn (15 cups) plus an extra bowlful for nibbling.
Corn syrup confusion
If you check the ingredient list for this recipe, you'll notice corn syrup. Corn syrup is important when making candies and some other treats with sugar. Why? Corn syrup prevents sugar from crystalizing which causes graininess. It's a scientific reaction that you can read more about here. Other syrups like maple syrup and honey sadly do not work the same way.
This is NOT high fructose corn syrup that you hear lots of controversy about. Corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup are two different products. The Kitchn, a popular recipe site, explains it this way; "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 Microwave Caramel Corn which does not contain fructose. Its ingredient list includes, "corn syrup, salt, vanilla". To be safe, I recommend checking the label of the corn syrup you purchase.
This Pecan Pie Caramel Corn makes a super fun and delicious gourmet gift and you can make it for significantly less than any caramel corn from the fancy shops! We're offering a set of free printable labels to dress up your gifts.
To receive the PDFs for the labels, simply let us know in the comment section below this post that you'd like to receive them. We'll send the labels with instructions on how to use them as well as links for the gift jars and bags pictured above and below.
If you're wondering what to give that new neighbor, beloved teacher, favorite hairdresser, helpful co-worker, faithful mail or delivery person - anyone on your list... this Pecan Pie Caramel Corn is sure to please!
Cafe Tips for making this Ridiculously Easy Pecan Pie Caramel Corn
- As mentioned above, you can use any kind of popcorn for this recipe however, I think mushroom popcorn popped on the stovetop yields the best results. Here are a few tips for great stovetop popcorn:
- Use fresh kernels
- Use a good heavy bottom pot or a popper that's specially designed for making popcorn, like a Whirley Pop Popper.
- Use enough heat. The oil should be starting to bubble just a tiny bit before you add the popcorn.
- Once the first kernels start popping shake the pan vigorously on the burner or, if using a Whirley Popper, stir continuously until the popping stops. This will redistribute the kernels and prevent burning.
- Immediately transfer the popcorn to a large bowl to allow the steam to escape.
- Start requesting paper bags (instead of plastic) 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 can be disposed of after use.
- You'll need a large microwave-safe bowl (at least 2-quart) for making the caramel this recipe as the mixture will bubble up. A microwave-safe bowl won't melt or heat up when used in the microwave. For this recipe, it's 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 the slightest bit warm.
- To ensure that a bowl is microwave-safe, check the bottom. It should have this symbol:
- This recipe calls for a small amount of corn syrup. Corn syrup keeps sugar from crystalizing when making candy. However, If you live in the UK or other areas of the world where corn syrup is unavailable, I tested this recipe using an equal amount of Lyle's Golden Syrup instead of corn syrup with successful results. On the other hand, I also tried subbing maple syrup and honey for the corn syrup with disastrous results. The sugar crystalized, made the syrup grainy and didn't coat the popcorn well.
- Either light or dark corn syrup will work for this recipe!
- 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.
- 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 old maids (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, unpopped kernel adhered to it.
- 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 Pecan Pie 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 bag and microwave it for another minute or two, shaking well in between and after each additional minute.
Thought for the day:
Rejoice always, pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
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.
- 15 cups popped popcorn see post for types of popcorn
- ¾ cup butter I use salted
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- ⅓ cup corn syrup not high fructose corn syrup - I use Karo
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups pecan halves
- sea salt I love Maldon
Prepare a work surface by laying out two 3-feet long pieces of parchment paper, overlapping slightly.
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. (I like to place the grocery bag on a clean towel in my sink. This is a better height than on the countertop to pour in the caramel sauce.)
Combine the butter, brown sugars, corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses and salt in a large microwave-safe bowl. Place in the microwave and heat on high power for 2 minutes. Stir to combine. If the butter is not completely melted, return to the microwave for another 30-60 seconds.
After stirring, return to the microwave for 1 minute. The mixture should be bubbling up furiously by this point. Remove bowl and stir well then return to the microwave for another minute. Repeat this cooking and stirring for a total of 3 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. Stir well until all of the baking soda is well incorporated. Add the pecans and stir for 30 seconds to ensure that the pecans are well coated with the caramel.
Pour the hot mixture right into the center of 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 top and one of the bottom corners. Shake well the return to the microwave for another minute. Repeat cooking and shaking two more times for a total of 4 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.