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Semi-Healthy, Corn Syrup-Free Caramel Corn


I love, love, love caramel corn! And unfortunately for them, I’ve inadvertently taught my kids to love it too. I mean, it’s not like I had to put a lot of effort into that one. 😉

Problem is, all the recipes I could find use corn syrup, which is something I don’t keep in my pantry.

Image shows a bowl of popcorn next to a larger blue bowl of popcorn with copy that reads "Healthier Baked Caramel Corn"

There’s a good reason for using corn syrup in candy recipes. See, corn syrup is an inverted sugar, which means that it doesn’t crystalize when it cools down like sugar will. Cream of tartar has a similar effect, but from what I’m told, it’s a bit more finicky.

The point is, if you want a smooth candy texture, you need to use corn syrup. You can also try making your own invert sugar. I’ve found that this works with most recipes, but it is an extra step. It also doesn’t seem to work very well with raw sugar or sucanat. Bummer that.

The other problem with all of these caramel corn recipes is, well, that’s a LOT of brown sugar.

Image shows a bowl of caramel popcorn with several kernals spilled on a table nearby

So, I’ve made my own version of caramel corn using sucanat. It’s pretty much the basic recipe, just without corn syrup, and the steps are a bit different because sucanat takes a bit longer to melt.

I realize that sucanat isn’t the most inexpensive sweetner out there. Personally, when I do use it, it’s a big splurge, so feel free to use brown sugar if you want.

Healthier, Corn syrup-free Caramel Corn

Image shows a collage of how to make the caramel corn

Give this recipe a try!


Semi-Healthy, Corn Syrup-Free Caramel Corn

If you love caramel corn, but are searching for a healthier option, give this recipe a try!

  • Author: Elise




  1. Place sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a 2 quart or larger sauce pan.
  2. Heat over medium heat until sugar disolves. This might take a while.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Let boil for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Carefully add butter.
  6. Bring back to a boil making sure that the butter is fully melted.
  7. Add salt and baking soda.
  8. Take off the heat and stir well.
  9. Be careful that your pan doesn’t overflow at this point.
  10. Pour mixture over popcorn and mix well.
  11. Spread popcorn onto two jelly roll pans and bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes stirring at 10 minute intervals.
  12. Let cool and store in an airtight container.
  13. For popcorn balls: Follow above directions but pour syrup over popcorn before adding baking soda, and form into balls with buttered hands instead of baking
  14. Enjoy!

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