Peppermint Bark Caramel Corn is perfect for gift-giving this Christmas! It's super easy to make homemade gourmet popcorn (in the microwave no less!) and has that classic caramel corn crunch with plenty of peppermint and white and dark chocolate flavors!
If you love giving edible homemade gifts to friends and neighbors during the season of giving, you might also want to try my Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods, Old-Fashioned Homemade Peanut Brittle, and Gourmet Homemade Caramel Apples! Or for something a little different, how about gifting bags of this Easy Homemade Granola!
I had braces for seven years of my life (5 as a preteen/teen and 2 as an adult, when it also involved a jaw surgery). SEVEN WHOLE YEARS.
Needless to say, I missed out on eating caramel popcorn for a good long while. But I'm making up for it now with this peppermint bark caramel corn!
Every year right around this time I start seeing the samples in Costco of those gourmet popcorn flavors that you can buy and give to friends and neighbors as gifts or put out in decorative bowls for snacking at holiday parties.
And I just cannot resist them!
I'm lucky that my local Costco usually isn't too busy when I go and I can hover and sample all the flavors (which I do) without too many people there to judge.
One of my favorites is called "Zebra popcorn" because it is caramel corn drizzled with white and dark chocolate. If it's your favorite gourmet popcorn flavor too, you make it using this same recipe. Just omit the crushed candy canes.
But the only thing better than drizzling something with white and dark chocolate is to then sprinkle it with crushed candy canes so that it is peppermint bark flavored. Because who doesn't love peppermint bark, right?!
Ugh. This peppermint bark caramel corn is so good. And it's crazy how easy it is to make ever since a friend recently introduced me to the wonder of microwave caramel popcorn.
How to Make Caramel Popcorn
I have always made caramel corn by first popping the popcorn, making the caramel on the stovetop, and then baking the caramel corn in the oven for an hour stirring every fifteen minutes until it was crunchy. If you want to make it this way, check out my Twix Caramel Popcorn recipe.
But a friend recently shared with me how her family does the whole process in the microwave in ¼ of the time and with a lot less mess.
Microwave Caramel Corn
All you need to make caramel corn in the microwave is a clean brown grocery bag (seriously, just the kind you brought groceries home in), popcorn kernels, and a microwave.
First you pop your popcorn. Use an air popper if you have one, use bags of plain microwave popcorn, or make stovetop popcorn (my all-time favorite approach).
Then make the caramel sauce in the microwave. It takes all of about 5 minutes to do this and it's so easy. Just combine brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter and microwave for five minutes, stopping to stir once every minute.
Then fill the brown paper bag with the popped popcorn (make sure to get rid of any unpopped kernels first!) and drizzle with the caramel. Use a long wooden spoon to kind of nudge the popcorn around, but don't worry too much about stirring or evenly coating the popcorn at this point.
Then roll up the top of the bag and microwave it for 1 minute.
Without unrolling the bag, give it a big old shake-shake-shake to tumble all the popcorn and caramel around, then repeat for another minute in the microwave.
Shake it again, then cook for one final minute, stopping the microwave and shaking the bag at the 30 second mark.
It's 3 minutes of total cook time in the microwave and shaking 4 times.
Then open up the bag and dump the caramel corn out on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to cool.
It's like magic! And so much easier than baking in the oven and trying to carefully stir the caramel corn every 15 minutes.
And the results are just as good, maybe even better, than the oven method, which I doubt I ever go back to.
How to Make Peppermint Bark Caramel Corn
One you have your plain caramel corn spread out on the baking sheet to cool, it's time to melt some chocolate and crush candy canes for peppermint bark caramel corn.
Two Methods for Melting Chocolate
Microwave: I personally always melt my chocolate in the microwave just because I find it easier and more convenient. As long as you just heat the chocolate in short 20 seconds bursts, it works great!
Be sure to stir after each burst of heat, even if it looks like the chocolate hasn't melted at all. Stop heating it when it really starts to melt well but there are still bits of unmelted chocolate. Usually, the chocolate will melt itself the rest of the way and you don't run the risk of overcooking the chocolate.
If it still hasn't melted all the way after stirring it for a minute or so, go ahead and microwave it for another 15 seconds.
Double Boiler: Some people prefer to melt their chocolate in a double boiler though because it does give a little more control over the process. I used to do this too before I got confident melting chocolate in the microwave.
Just bring water to a simmer in a saucepan that is smaller than a heat-safe glass bowl. There should be enough water in the bottom that it won't evaporate quickly, but not so much that it is touching the bottom of the bowl. Then nestle the clean bowl over the water and add the chocolate.
The low, steady heat will start to melt the chocolate as you stir. Once the chocolate is melted, remove it from over the water.
What Type of Chocolate Is Best For Peppermint Bark
I always recommend using high quality chocolate rather than the cheat method of using chocolate chips mixed with a tablespoon of shortening or coconut oil, but that would work as well. I feel like it just doesn't set up as well.
You could also use almond bark for both the white and dark chocolate flavors, if you like. They tend to melt well, but they aren't really the same as good chocolate so they aren't my choice.
My favorite brands of quality chocolate that are also affordably priced are Trader Joe's dark chocolate and Ghiradelli white baking chocolate. But any good quality chocolate will do and Guittard is also wonderful.
You can either use dark chocolate or semisweet chocolate to pair with the white chocolate drizzle. Both are delicious although I think I prefer semisweet when it comes to peppermint bark because it's a little less sweet, which balances better with the white chocolate in my opinion.
Once the chocolate is melted, just transfer it to ziplock bags, snip off a small corner, and drizzle both types of melted chocolate over the caramel corn. Go and coat it really well since you are only hitting the top layer.
Immediately sprinkle with the crushed candy canes before the chocolate has a chance to set up, then let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so until the chocolate has had a chance to firm up.
Break apart into chunks and store in an airtight container or transfer to gift bags or tins to deliver to friends and neighbors!
More Sweets & Treats For the Holiday Season
- Flood Mud Microwave Hot Fudge Sauce (your friends will love you if you give them this for Christmas!)
- Old-Fashioned Homemade Peanut Brittle
- Southern Pecan Pralines
- Grandma Nash's Best Butter Almond English Toffee
- Puppy Chow (aka Chex Mix Muddy Buddies) (also made in the microwave!)
- Grandpa Johnson's Easy Homemade Rocky Road Fudge
- Old-Fashioned Divinity Candy Recipe
- Homemade Marshmallow Sauce
- Easy Marshmallow Popcorn Balls
- Christmas Pretzel Hugs
- Twix Caramel Popcorn
- Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods
- Christmas Crockpot Candy
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Peppermint Bark Caramel Corn
- 15-16 cups plain [popped popcorn]
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- ½ cup salted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Peppermint Bark Topping
- 16 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate chopped
- 16 ounces white chocolate chopped
- 6 candy canes crushed with a rolling pin
- Pour the popped popcorn into a large brown grocery bag and set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt.
- Microwave on high for 1 minute, then stir. Repeat four more times for a total time of 5 minutes, until the caramel mixture is hot, bubbly and thick.
- Add the baking soda and vanilla and stir well. Be careful as the mixture will bubble and foam up a bit and it's very hot.
- Pour the hot caramel over the popped popcorn and stir gently with a long wooden spoon. No need to worry about completely coating the popcorn at this point.
- Fold the bag down a few times, then microwave the caramel corn on high for 1 minute.
- Shake the bag well, then microwave again for 1 minute.
- Shake again, then microwave for 30 seconds. Repeat one final time, for a total cook time of 3 minutes.
- Open the bag and pour the caramel corn out onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Melt the white and dark or semisweet chocolate in individual microwave-safe bowls by heating for 20 seconds at a time and stirring well between bursts until melted. It usually takes around 90 seconds to 2 minutes of total heating time.
- Transfer the melted chocolate to ziplock bags and snip off a corner to drizzle the chocolate over the caramel corn.
- Sprinkle the drizzled popcorn with crushed candy canes, then let sit for 30 minutes until the chocolate has hardened.
- Break into chunks and clusters and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
- I like to use Trader Joe's dark chocolate and Ghiradelli white chocolate, but you can also use white chocolate candy melts or even almond bark, if you prefer.
- I have used both light and dark brown sugar with this recipe and both work well.