How to Make Candied Popcorn

  • Date: September 27, 2023
  • Time to read: 4 min.
Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we earn commissions for purchases made through links at no extra cost to you! Thanks for reading!

If you’ve ever wondered how to transform ordinary popcorn into a sugary, crunchy delight, you’re in for a treat. Making candied popcorn is like performing a magical popcorn makeover – it’s super easy, and the results are seriously addictive.

Imagine those fluffy popcorn kernels glistening with a candy coating, ready to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Plus, the fun part? You can customize the colors to match any occasion, from movie nights to birthday parties. So, grab your apron and let’s embark on a sugary adventure together!

Choosing the Right Popcorn

The two common types of popcorn: mushroom and butterfly. Long story short, you will want to use mushroom popcorn for candied popcorn.

Mushroom popcorn

Mushroom = ball-shaped

Mushroom popcorn pops into a round, ball-like shape with a larger, more robust kernel. Hence the name, mushroom.

This shape makes it perfect for coating with caramel, chocolate, or other sweet or savory toppings, as it provides a more substantial surface area to hold the delectable coatings.

Mushroom popcorn’s sturdy structure ensures that it maintains its round form even when covered with heavy candy or flavorings, resulting in a satisfying, crunchy bite that’s a favorite for making gourmet popcorn treats.

Butterfly popcorn

Butterfly = irregular, winged

Butterfly popcorn is the quintessential popcorn variety that most people are familiar with. When popped, the kernels burst open to create irregular, winged shapes with delicate, thin extensions.

This unique form provides a large surface area, making butterfly popcorn perfect for absorbing seasonings, butter, or other flavorings. It’s the preferred choice for classic movie theater popcorn, as its light, airy texture and slightly crispy nature are ideal for holding melted butter and salt, creating that beloved movie snack experience.

For candy coating however, they are less than ideal. Butterfly popcorn do not hold their shape as well as the sturdier mushroom variant. The coating can become too thin or too thick at different parts of the popcorn.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • Food coloring (oil or gel)
  • Popcorn (preferably mushroom variant)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda (optional but highly recommended)


Remove all un-popped kernels of popcorn and small bits. Don’t want to end up accidently biting down on these.

1. In a pot, melt 1 stick of butter over medium/low heat.

2. Stir in sugar and light corn syrup. Continue stirring around the side to ensure even heating. If you have a candy thermometer, go for 280°F-300°F.

3. Turn off heat. Add food coloring/flavoring at this stage (>250°F).

4. In a bowl of cooled popcorn, pour mixture over and stir to coat evenly. Work quickly as the coating will start to harden.

5. Spread the coated popcorn onto a baking sheet or silicone mat to prepare baking.

6. Bake at 220°F for 30 min. This step removes excess moisture so that the coating hardens and doesn’t become sticky. Stir and separate the popcorn every 15 minutes to prevent clumping.

Related Questions

Why is my candied popcorn not crunchy?

Generally, you want to boil the sugar solution to a range of 260°F to 300°F. While you don’t necessarily need to use a candy thermometer, it sure helps.

Also make sure that the popcorn is fully cooled before coating it. Using hot popcorn will push the steam towards the coating, making it soft.

How long does candied popcorn stay fresh?

Candied popcorn stays fresh for about 2 weeks when stored in an airtight container. Try to keep them cool and dry.

Can I use microwave popcorn for this recipe?

Yes, microwave popcorn can be used for this recipe. Though you may want to go with less butter and/or unsalted butter. Make sure the popcorn is completely cooled before applying the coating.

Is it possible to make candied popcorn without corn syrup?

You could try using alternatives like honey or maple syrup.

However, corn syrup really helps with consistency, keeping the coating even and smooth. Without corn syrup, the coating has a higher chance of becoming grainy and “gritty”.

How can I prevent the candy coating from becoming too sticky?

Bake at a higher temperature or for a longer period of time.

Also, if the sugar isn’t cooked to a high enough temperature, the coating will set stickier. Use a candy thermometer if you want to be completely sure that the coating will set.

How do I achieve a perfectly even coating of candy on each popcorn kernel?

It’s just going to take a bit of time going through the popcorn with a rubber spatula.

It is also easier to have an even coat using mushroom popcorns as the shape is more uniform.

How to achieve a more vibrant color coating?

Use white food coloring as a base before using whichever color you desire. This makes the finished coating less “transparent”. The white gives a blank canvas base that makes other colors really pop.

You could either make two batches of coating or use both coloring together.

Why add baking soda to caramel or candied popcorn?

Baking soda introduces aeration, making the coating less dense. When bitten, this results in a crispy texture rather than crunchy.

Previous Post

Candy Mold Material Guide (Difference Between Types?)

Next Post

How to Make Candy Flavored Ice Cubes (With Kool-Aid)