Easy Homemade Caramel Corn with Cashews

Learn how to make easy, homemade caramel corn with cashews from an old family recipe. Create a customized mix with loads of caramel that is either soft or crunchy. Get the tips for storing homemade caramel corn with cashews as well as an easy way to make your chewy caramel corn crispy again. Ready for the best easy, homemade caramel corn recipe with cashews? Read on!

My Caramel Corn Backstory

One of the best things about living in Oregon is having the opportunity to visit the beach. One of the best things about visiting the beach with my parents when our boys were younger was the tradition of bringing homemade cashew caramel corn to munch on.  This delicious recipe was handed down from my maternal grandmother, but it’s my dad who has made the recipe his specialty. He still makes it and brings it to family gatherings, even though our boys are grown. The cashew caramel corn isn’t just for beach trips. It’s a fabulous thing to bring on camping trips and for picnics. It also makes a fantastic gift to give for the holidays. How do you make this delicious, easy homemade caramel corn with cashews from scratch? Read on, friends!

easy homemade caramel corn with cashews pinterest image

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Equipment for Caramel Corn with Cashews

As previously noted, you could use two rimmed baking sheets for the caramel corn recipe. You could also mix the popcorn, cashews, and caramel coating all in one large roasting pan, then put the pan straight into the oven. Very easy! You will also need a saucepan for melting the butter and brown sugar on the stovetop, plus a wooden spoon for stirring.

caramel corn in roasting pan
Using a big roasting pan is a great shortcut to save time, since you can mix and bake the caramel cashew corn all in one pan.

Ingredients for Caramel Corn with Cashews

Recently, I discovered another fabulous source or buttery, popped popcorn. Our local movie theater has a deal where you can get a large refillable bucket of buttery popcorn. We can never eat more than the one bucket during the movie, but on our way out of the theater, the staff is happy to give us our free refill. This may not work at all theaters, but it was a great discovery. I used this shortcut the last time I made this caramel corn cashew recipe and only had to pop one bag of microwave popcorn. Plus, the addition of the buttery movie theater popcorn meant that this caramel corn recipe tasted even more amazing. Here are the basic ingredients, and feel free to add in any leftover movie theater popcorn you may have on hand.

6 quarts popped corn (2 bags of microwave popcorn) with the kernels picked out

3 cups cashews (optional)

1 ½  cup butter

3 cups brown sugar

1 ½  teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1 ½  teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2  teaspoon vanilla

Directions for Caramel Corn with Cashews

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Pop the corn, pick out the unpopped kernels and set aside in a large bowl or roasting pan. Add the cashews to the roasting pan or bowl, if using. On the stovetop in a medium-sized saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, salt, cream of tartar, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 4-5 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will foam up. Add the mixture to the popcorn and cashews. Stir to coat the popcorn and cashews thoroughly. Spread onto rimmed baking sheets or keep in the large roasting pan and place in the oven for 1 hour.


Stir the cashew caramel corn every 15 minutes. When the hour has passed, spread the caramel corn on wax paper or foil to cool. When the cashew caramel corn is cool, break it apart. You can serve it or store it in plastic zipped storage bags.

Tip for Mixing in the Cashews

On the day I was making this, we had a snow day. It was a perfect day for making cashew caramel corn. It was also the day my principal called and let me know I would be teaching kindergarten for a few days while the regular kindergarten teacher was recovering from an illness. I kept having to replenish the cashew supply, as I was stress-eating the cashews. I wasn’t actually very stressed, but it was a good excuse. The cashews were in a separate bowl, not yet mixed in with the popcorn. I’ve found that if I mix the cashews and the popcorn together before adding the caramel mixture, the cashews end up at the bottom of the bowl. They don’t get spread out very well throughout the batch. I like to sprinkle the cashews in a few at a time (see video) when I mix in the caramel so the cashews don’t get all lumped together.


Tip for Spreading the Cashew Caramel Corn onto the Foil to Cool

After I took the caramel corn out of the oven, I got distracted. When I returned to the pans of cooling caramel corn, they had solidified into one gigantic mass on each baking sheet. Oh no! What did I do? I turned the oven back on to 200 degrees and stuck the baking sheets back in the oven for 5 minutes. When I pulled the baking sheets out, the caramel corn was once again soft and pliable. I easily transferred the cooling mixture onto the foil to cool. I did not make the mistake of getting distracted a second time!

easy homemade caramel corn with cashews on foil

Common Caramel Corn Questions

Why is My Homemade Caramel Corn Chewy?

There are a few reasons why your homemade caramel corn might be chewy:

Undercooked Caramel: If the caramel sauce is not cooked to the right temperature or consistency, it may not set properly and result in chewy caramel corn. Make sure to cook the caramel until it reaches the soft-ball stage (around 235-240°F or 113-116°C) to achieve the desired texture.

Overcooking the Popcorn: If you bake the popcorn for too long after adding the caramel sauce, it can become overly dry and hard. Over-baking can cause the caramel corn to become chewy rather than crispy. It’s essential to monitor the baking time and remove the caramel corn from the oven when it is golden brown but not overly dark.

Moisture: If there is excessive moisture in the popcorn before adding the caramel sauce, it can make the final product chewy. Make sure the popcorn kernels are properly popped and dried before coating them with caramel.

Storage: Improper storage can also contribute to chewy caramel corn. If it is not stored in an airtight container or if there is high humidity, the caramel corn can absorb moisture from the air, resulting in a chewier texture.

How do You Fix Sticky Homemade Caramel Corn?

The secret to making homemade caramel corn that’s not sticky is to bake it at a low temperature, as in this recipe. Stirring the homemade caramel corn every fifteen minutes helps to cover each piece of popcorn and the cashews with the caramel mixture. When baking, the heat makes the caramel coating more crispy and helps it to stay fresh for a longer period of time.

How Do You Make Homemade Caramel Popcorn Crispy Again?

If you have a problem with caramel corn losing its crispness, try the same method I used above. Try placing the caramel corn on a baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the oven for a few minutes. Remove the warmed caramel corn from the oven, let it cool, then enjoy your crispy homemade caramel corn.

caramel corn cooling on parchment paper
You can also cool caramel corn with cashews on parchment paper.

How Do You Make Soft Caramel Corn?

To make soft caramel corn with cashews, simply reduce or omit the oven baking time. Baking in the oven then cooling the caramel cashew corn mixture is what makes it crispy. If you want your caramel corn super soft, just eat it after you pour the caramel over it and mix it together. Let it cool first, of course, but your caramel corn should be nice and soft. You could also just bake it for 15 minutes instead of a whole hour. Customize the softness and crispiness balance to fit your taste.

How Long Does Homemade Caramel Corn Last?

When we make caramel corn, it doesn’t usually last very long. But according to my dad, this homemade caramel corn is best when eaten within 5 days. I seriously doubt we will ever be able to test this out, but it’s good to know.

Can you Freeze Caramel Corn?

If you use an airtight container, like a zipped freezer bag, you should be able to freeze your homemade caramel corn. It might lose some of its crispiness, but you could always follow the re-crisping steps above. I’m going to test this out to confirm whether the homemade caramel corn retains its quality after freezing. Update after 6 months in the freezer: Good news! The caramel corn with cashews is as crispy as ever. So, yes, you can freeze caramel corn and it still retains its quality.

What Pairs Well with Caramel Corn?

Caramel corn with cashews is a delicious treat that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with other complementary flavors. Here are a few ideas for what you can pair with caramel nut popcorn:

Pretzels: The salty and crunchy texture of pretzels goes well with the sweetness of caramel corn. You can mix pretzel sticks or mini pretzels with the caramel corn for a satisfying sweet and salty snack mix.

Chocolate: For chocolate lovers, pairing caramel corn with chocolate-covered treats like chocolate chips, chocolate candies, or chocolate-covered pretzels can be a heavenly combination. The combination of caramel, popcorn, and chocolate creates a delightful blend of flavors and textures.

Dried Fruits: Consider adding some dried fruits like cranberries, raisins, or chopped dried apricots to your caramel corn. The natural sweetness and chewy texture of the dried fruits complement the caramel corn beautifully.

Ice Cream: Transform your caramel corn into a delightful dessert by serving it alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The contrasting temperatures and textures of the cold, creamy ice cream and the crunchy, sweet caramel corn create a wonderful dessert experience. Enjoy experimenting and finding your favorite combinations with caramel corn!

What’s the Difference Between Caramel Corn and Kettle Corn?

Caramel corn and kettle corn are two popular types of flavored popcorn, each with its own distinct characteristics. Here’s the difference between caramel corn and kettle corn:

Caramel Corn: Caramel corn is made by coating popped popcorn with a sticky, sweet caramel sauce. The caramel sauce is typically made by cooking sugar, butter, and sometimes corn syrup or honey until it reaches a golden brown color. The sauce is then drizzled or mixed with the popcorn, and the mixture is baked or dried to set the caramel coating. This results in a crunchy, sweet, and slightly sticky popcorn treat.

Kettle Corn: Kettle corn, on the other hand, is known for its unique sweet and salty flavor. It is made by popping corn kernels in a large kettle or pot with a mixture of sugar, salt, and oil. As the popcorn pops, the sugar and salt caramelize, coating the popcorn with a thin, crispy glaze. The process of cooking kettle corn typically involves shaking the pot or kettle to prevent burning and to evenly distribute the caramelization. The end result is a combination of sweet and salty flavors with a light, delicate crunch.

The main difference lies in the coating and flavor profile. Caramel corn has a rich, sweet caramel coating, while kettle corn has a balance of sweetness and saltiness with a lighter glaze. Both are delicious in their own right and offer distinct taste experiences for popcorn lovers.

Why Do You Put Baking Soda in Caramel Corn?

Baking soda is often added to caramel corn recipes for a specific purpose: to create a lighter and more tender texture in the caramel coating. When baking soda is combined with the caramel sauce, it undergoes a chemical reaction called alkaline hydrolysis.

During the cooking process, the baking soda reacts with the acids present in the caramel, such as brown sugar or corn syrup. This reaction produces carbon dioxide gas, which creates tiny air bubbles in the caramel. These air bubbles help to aerate and expand the caramel coating, resulting in a lighter and more delicate texture rather than a dense and sticky consistency.

Additionally, the alkaline nature of the baking soda can help to neutralize any acidic flavors in the caramel, creating a smoother taste profile.

It’s important to note that the addition of baking soda is optional and depends on the desired texture and flavor of the caramel corn. This caramel popcorn with cashew nuts recipe calls for the addition of baking soda, but some recipes may not require baking soda if a denser or chewier caramel coating is preferred.

completed easy homemade caramel corn with cashews

Easy Homemade Caramel Corn with Cashews

Easy homemade caramel corn with cashews is the perfect treat for caramel popcorn lovers. Make this simple delicious homemade treat today!
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 276 kcal


  • 2 baking sheets or a large roasting pan
  • 1 medium-sized saucepan
  • 1 Wooden spoon


  • 6 quarts popped corn 2 bags microwave popcorn, kernels removed
  • 3 cups cashews optional
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • cups butter 2½ sticks
  • teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • teaspoon vanilla


  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  • Pop the corn, pick out the unpopped kernels and set aside in a large bowl.
  • Add the cashews to the bowl, if using.
  • On the stovetop in a medium-sized saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, salt, cream of tartar, and corn syrup.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 4-5 minutes.
  • Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will foam up.
  • Add the mixture to the popcorn and cashews.
  • Stir to coat the popcorn and cashews thoroughly.
  • Spread onto rimmed baking sheets or large broiler pans and place in the oven for 1 hour.
  • Stir the cashew caramel corn every 15 minutes.
  • When the hour has passed, spread the caramel corn on wax paper or foil to cool.
  • When the cashew caramel corn is cool, break it apart.
  • You can serve it or store it in plastic zipped storage bags.
Keyword candy, desserts, snack

Are You Excited to Make Easy Homemade Caramel Corn?

This delicious snack is calling my name. If you decide to try this easy homemade caramel corn cashew crunch recipe, I’d love to see pictures. Take a picture and tag me on Instagram! I’ll feature the photo in my Instagram story.

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More Food Inspiration

Thinking of working this easy homemade caramel corn recipe into your movie night recipe collection? It’s always nice to have a plan when it comes to meals or parties. If you’re looking for a way to get more organized with your meal-planning efforts, I’ve got something for you. Free, editable meal planners! The templates can be used over and over, as often as you need them. You can make as many duplicates as you like, and you’ll be able to save old meal plans for future reference. I hope it simplifies things for you.

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If you would like even more recipe ideas, consider following my Easy Recipes board on PinterestHave a fabulous day, and have fun making homemade caramel corn!

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Lisa Mitchell is a wife, mom, and school librarian who likes to create and share recipes, often using fresh ingredients from her family’s small Pacific Northwest farm. For more delicious, easy recipes, click on over to the Food page.

16 thoughts on “Easy Homemade Caramel Corn with Cashews”

  1. 5 stars
    YUMMMMM! Lisa, your answers to common caramel corn questions is incredibly helpful, making this not just a recipe but a comprehensive guide to creating the perfect batch of caramel corn with cashews. I particularly appreciate the explanation of why baking soda is used in the caramel corn recipe, as it adds a scientific touch to the culinary process. Thanks for the delicious recipe!

    • You are most welcome! I hope you get to try this homemade caramel popcorn recipe soon, with or without cashews.

  2. 5 stars
    Love this easy homemade caramel corn with cashews! Such a delicious snack and looks so easy to make following your instructions!

    • Thank you! I tried to make this oven baked caramel corn recipe simple for everyone to make.

  3. 5 stars
    I’m so excited to find this post to discover the best oven baked caramel corn recipe. My friend/co-worker used to make a version of this every Christmas as a gift. I’ve always wanted to try making my own batch – I’m inspired to try with this great and easy-to-follow recipe!

    • Oh, excellent! This oven baked caramel corn would make a great gift.

  4. This reminds me somewhat of the popcorn balls my mom used to do. I look forward to trying this snack.

  5. I have never heard of this before but it seems like such a great idea. I want to try.

    • Oooooh, you really should. If you do, I’d love to know how it turns out!

  6. Caramel corn is one of my guilty pleasures. I love it but rarely eat it and have never considered making it myself. I love the fact that cashews are included with this version, cashews are another favorite snack of mine and I can only imagine how good the salty-sweet combination is. I absolutely need to try this homemade caramel corn!

    • I hope you do try it, but watch out! It’s very difficult to resist once you start eating it.=)

  7. I must admit I never considered making this myself but it sounds like a great idea especially with the kids around. Thanks for the recipe.

    • It is great anytime, but I try not to make it when just my husband and I are home by ourselves. Too tempting! Thanks for the positive words.

  8. 5 stars
    What a fun-looking treat! I can’t wait to try making this homemade caramel corn with cashews. Looks so delicious!


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