Homemade Salted Caramel Popcorn

Here, I spill the secrets on how to make perfect stovetop popcorn at home. The olive oil adds a clean flavor while the irresistible salted caramel topping takes it over the top into a dessert that is a must-have for those crisp, cool fall days ahead. Or, frankly, any time of year.

I struggled to make homemade stovetop popcorn for years. At one point, it became a full-blown obsession. I studied youtube videos and tried recipes from culinary experts such as America’s Test Kitchen, Serious Eats, and Bon Appetit. They all made it seem so easy, and yet I ended up with a burnt pan of popcorn trial after trial. After another failure, I shook my hands in a frantic vertical motion alongside another burnt pot and asked myself, “why the heck can’t I make homemade popcorn?”

ingredients in different size white and glass bowls

I gave up. I surrendered by putting popcorn kernels in a paper bag and air popping them in the microwave. That is until I decided nonchalantly to make homemade popcorn on a blistering, cold Minnesota night. I used an inexpensive IKEA pot and olive oil since that’s what I had on hand. It was a perfect storm to be a disaster, and yet, it wasn’t. Not even close. It was hands-down the best popcorn I’ve ever had. Every kernel popped gloriously. The olive oil didn’t burn but provided a clean flavor that I couldn’t resist. I argued the popcorn didn’t even need butter and indulged in it anyways. I finally understood why Olivia Pope from Scandal had popcorn with a glass of wine every night for dinner. It is pure indulgence.

3 popcorn kernels popped in a pot with olive oil
popcorn kernels poured into the pot with oil

I stared at the IKEA pot in perplexion. I didn’t understand why this pot made perfect fluffy and crisp popcorn, with no kernel left behind. I was stumped. Until I wasn’t. After many tests, it all came down to the size and shape of the pot; a tall, narrow pot is ideal for making popcorn. The tall pot allows ample room for popping while having a narrower bottom ensures the oil fully encapsulates each kernel. There is no scientific evidence this is true. My theory has yet to be proven wrong, and that is good enough for me. At least for now.

homemade salted caramel popcorn in a glass bowl with a pot full of caramel on the side

The salted caramel topping is soft, thick and adds ribbons of caramel throughout the popcorn that doesn’t overwhelm the taste buds or make it too sweet. The olive oil, salty caramel, and demystified popcorn combination make this recipe downright addictive. Move forward with caution.

close-up of salted caramel popcorn

Possible Substitutions

OLIVE OIL. Coconut oil is a great substitute for olive oil.

How to Make Salted Caramel

Time needed: 7 minutes.

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a pot over high heat.

  2. Cook the sugar mixture until it is golden brown and smells nutty.

    golden brown sugar and water mixture

  3. Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk the butter into the sugar mixture.

    pot filled with butter and golden brown sugar and water mixture

  4. Slowly drizzle in the cream while whisking, mixing until the caramel is smooth. Remove the pot from heat and whisk in the salt.

Before you begin: Tips for making popcorn with olive oil

Since every pot is different, I don’t provide amounts of olive oil or popcorn in the recipe. Rather, I provide guidance and visual cues on how much to add to your pot. You want to add enough olive oil so the entire bottom of the pan is completely coated (no dry spots here), and you also want a single layer of popcorn kernels. You can, of course, add fewer popcorn kernels if it’s only for you, though you still need to coat the entire bottom of the pan with olive oil. Happy popping!

More Sweet Recipes to Try


Homemade Salted Caramel Popcorn

Here, I spill the secrets on how to make perfect stovetop popcorn at home. The olive oil adds a clean flavor while the irresistible salted caramel topping takes it over the top into a dessert that is a must-have for those crisp, cool fall days ahead. Or, frankly, any time of year.

  • Author: Kim
  • Prep Time: 0 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: snack
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free



For the popcorn:

  • olive oil
  • popcorn kernels, high-quality preferred*
  • salt

For the salted caramel:

  • 1/4 cup (50g) white granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) butter
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Preheat the pot. Heat a 3-5 quart pot, preferably with a narrow bottom, over medium heat until fully heated, about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Make the popcorn. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot. If the olive oil smokes a little bit, this is OK, even expected. Add 3 kernels to the pot and cover with a lid. Wait for all three popcorn kernels to pop. After the 3 kernels pop, add enough popcorn kernels to fit in a single layer on the bottom of the pot, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cover the pot and give it a couple of shakes, still keeping the pot over medium heat.  Set the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape and do not shake the pot any further. Remove the pot from the heat when there are 2 seconds between pops. Set the pot aside while you make the salted caramel. 
  3. Make the salted caramel. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar with 1 tablespoon of water over high heat. Cover the pot with a lid for 1 minute. Remove the lid and stir the sugar using a rubber spatula. Cook the sugar, uncovered and frequently stirring, until the sugar turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 4 – 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and slowly add the butter (the mixture will bubble and spatter), whisking constantly. Slowly drizzle in 1 tablespoon of cream while whisking, mixing until the caramel is smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the salt. 
  4. Make the Caramel Popcorn. Set the caramel aside to cool for 4-5 minutes. Drizzle the caramel over the popcorn in the pot. Cover the pot and shake the pot to evenly distribute the caramel. Eat immediately.


POPCORN. The quality of kernels you use matters; no Orville Redenbacher here. In this case, quality doesn’t need to equal expensive. Look for Farmer’s best or Amish kernels at your local grocery store, or for an extra special treat, seek out kernels at your local farmer’s market. 

Keywords: stovetop popcorn, best stovetop popcorn, caramel popcorn

Did you make this recipe?

Be sure to tag @frommarkettotable on Instagram or leave a comment below so I can see!

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