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Copycat Garrett’s Popcorn Recipe

Want to make famous Garrett’s Popcorn at home? This simple guide to blending the perfect caramel popcorn recipe and cheese popcorn will make you feel like you’re strolling down Michigan Avenue in the windy city!

Easy #Copycat Garretts Popcorn AKA "Chicago Mix Popcorn" #caramel #popcorn #cheese #fall #holidays #party #ediblegifts

When you think of Chicago, what food comes to mind?

Chicago Dogs? Chicago Deep Dish Pizza? What about Chicago Popcorn?

Garretts Popcorn Shop - ChicagoInstagram shot in Chicago

I spent a few days in Chicago this summer and the one food that seemed to be on everyone’s mind (and lips) was Garrett’s Popcorn.

Chicago’s famous gourmet popcorn shop makes several varieties of decadent popcorn, from cheese popcorn to macadamia nut corn. Yet the biggest seller, by far, is the acclaimed Chicago-style popcorn, mixing salty cheesy popcorn with a classic caramel popcorn recipe.

I was sold.

Making #Copycat Garretts Popcorn AKA "Chicago Mix Popcorn" #caramel #popcorn #cheese #fall #holidays #party #ediblegifts

In fact, I bought a bag to bring back to Lt. Dan, and only a small portion of it made it home.

You can order Garrett’s Popcorn online as gifts, or for yourself.

But you know me…  I wanted to try to make a copycat version at home.

How to Make #Copycat Garretts Popcorn AKA "Chicago Mix Popcorn" #caramel #popcorn #cheese #fall #holidays #party #ediblegifts

This copycat Garrett’s popcorn recipe is the perfect snack to make for this season’s holiday parties.

Just think how your friends will respond on Halloween if you hand them a bag of salty-sweet Chicago Popcorn, instead of stale mini chocolate bars.

Copycat Garretts Popcorn AKA "Chicago Mix Popcorn" #caramel #popcorn #cheese #fall #holidays #party #ediblegifts

Or what about edible gifts for Christmas?

I’d be thrilled to receive a tin of homemade garretts popcorn around the holidays.

Today’s recipe is actually two easy popcorn recipes that you will mix at the end. My classic caramel popcorn recipe, made in the microwave for convenience, and a simple cheddar cheese popcorn recipe.

Awesome #Copycat Garretts Popcorn AKA "Chicago Mix Popcorn" #caramel #popcorn #cheese #fall #holidays #party #ediblegifts

I posted this microwave caramel popcorn recipe last year. Here we’re mixing it with homemade cheese corn.

The only special ingredient you’ll need for the Chicago popcorn is cheddar cheese powder. There’s really no other way to make cheese-coated popcorn that’s still crisp. You can find cheese powder in specialty grocery stores, online, or you could open up a bunch of mac and cheese packets. *wink*

Honestly, you will not believe how quick and easy making caramel corn can be. Especially if you’ve made the old fashioned labor-intensive variety in the past.

Once the two popcorn recipes are mixed together you have that salty-sweet flavor everyone loves.

{Copycat} Garrett's Popcorn

Yield: 6 quarts

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes or less


For the Caramel Corn

  • 3 quarts popped popcorn (from about 1/2 cup kernels)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tb. butter
  • 3 Tb. corn syrup
  • 1 - 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking soda

For the Cheese Corn

  • 3 quarts popped popcorn (from about 1/2 cup kernels)
  •  4 Tb. melted butter
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese powder
  • 2 tsp. ground mustard powder
  • 2 large paper grocery bag


  1. Pop 6 quarts of popcorn according to package instructions and separate into 2 large clean paper grocery bags. (Based on the size of my largest pot, I do this in two batches.) Be sure to pick out any un-popped kernels.
  2. For the Caramel Popcorn: Place the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt and vanilla in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir, then microwave another 2 minutes, until boiling. Immediately stir in the baking soda and pour over the popcorn in one bag. (The baking soda will cause the caramel to foam up.)
  3. Fold the top of the paper bag over a couple times and shake well. Place the bag in the microwave and cook for 1 minute. Shake the bag vigorously again and microwave for 45-60 more seconds. Check at 45 seconds to make sure it's not burning. Open the bag and pour the caramel corn out on waxed paper. Break up clumps if needed. Cool completely to harden. *Every microwave is a little different. After the caramel corn cools completely, if it does not crisp up, put it back in the bag and microwave for another 30-45 seconds.
  4. For the Cheese Corn: Open the top of the second bag and shake vigorously as you slowly pour the butter over the popcorn. Then mix the cheese powder and mustard.  Shake vigorously again, as you sprinkle the cheese mixture over the popcorn. Close the bag and fold the top down. Give the popcorn one last hard shake to thoroughly coat. Place the bag in the microwave and microwave for 30-45 seconds to dry out the popcorn. Then allow it to cool before mixing.
  5. Once both popcorns are ready, mix by hand and store in an air-tight container until ready to serve.

Making this recipe? Why not take a quick shot and share it on Instagram! Make sure to tag it #ASpicyPerspective so we can see what you're cooking!

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53 Responses to “Copycat Garrett’s Popcorn Recipe”

  1. Tieghanposted October 14, 2013 at 6:29 am

    This popcorn, both the cheese and caramel look so good. Over here we are popcorn freaks. We popcorn at least a few times a week on the stove in our whirly pop. Most the time we just eat it with slat, but these flavors? Oh we have to try these! I know everyone in my family would go crazy for both flavors!


  2. Andreaposted October 14, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Good idea! I go to try too


  3. Marian (Sweetopia)posted October 14, 2013 at 7:56 am

    I have got to try this – Love both of those flavours!!


  4. Kevin @ Closet Cookingposted October 14, 2013 at 8:02 am

    I could go for some of this popcorn right now!


  5. Mariaposted October 14, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I want to go back to Chicago now:) Love this popcorn!


  6. Melanie @ carmelmoments.composted October 14, 2013 at 8:47 am

    That looks delicious! Stunning photos too! My hubby loves the trio of popcorn in one. I go to a special store every Christmas just to get it for him. Maybe I should try it at home this year!


  7. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.alposted October 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

    yes please! My kids will be all over this!


  8. Brookeposted October 14, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Garretts Popcorn is our favorite Chicago snack! I was so excited to see they had a store in Las Vegas last fall and now you posted a recipe I can make at home…even better! One tip or suggestion…we have our own popcorn machine and my hubby tries different flavors and powders…instead of a paper grocery bag my hubby uses those large plastic containers (usually found at Sam’s Club/Costco with pretzels, animal crackers, cheese balls, etc. in them). You can clean them out, mix up a new flavor and store inside the container! Can’t wait to try your recipe later this week! Thanks!


    • Sommer — October 14th, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

      Thanks Brooke, I’ll give that a try!


  9. Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountainposted October 14, 2013 at 10:34 am

    When I lived in Chicago this was the only popcorn I would eat! So excited to see a copycat version. Love this, Sommer!

    P.S. It was so nice meeting you in Iowa! You are a gem!


    • Sommer — October 14th, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

      It was so nice to meet you too!

      If you try the popcorn, let me know what you think!


      • Mary — December 1st, 2013 @ 7:55 am

        Is it best to use air popped or oil popped corn? Im giving this a try today. Thanks!

  10. Heather Christoposted October 14, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Popcorn is my favorite snack, and these flavors are divine!!


  11. Julie @ Table for Twoposted October 14, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Omgosh – I LOVE Garrett’s!! Jason and I got some in the Chicago airport when we were there for a layover and I fell in love!


  12. Rachel Cooksposted October 14, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I love you for this! :) Pinning to my popcorn board!


  13. Shelbyposted October 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    We are a popcorn family! Thanks for this recipe. Thanks also for posting about eating places in Asheville. We ate our way through this past weekend, trying a couple of new places. The Gourmet Chips were fantastic! We loved the Italian flavored ones and the
    B-B-Q ones were good also. Thanks. So many places… So many trips to Asheville……great!


    • Sommer — October 14th, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

      Hi Shelby, so glad you had fun in Asheville. Hope you try the popcorn… it’s pretty great!


  14. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchenposted October 14, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    I don’t remember the first time I had it but I fell for that killer combination right away!


  15. TexasMamaposted October 14, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Unfortunately, this is nothing like Garrett’s. That’s because Garrett’s does not use a powdered cheese, they use real cheese and create a sauce. Powdered cheese just doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to be Garrett’s! Sorry. :-( I love cheese popcorn, but I REALLLLLLLY love Garrett’s cheese popcorn! lol


    • Sommer — October 14th, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

      Ah yes, if only we all had Garrett’s Equipment in our homes. Cheese powder is real cheese that has been dehydrated and is a pretty good substitute if you don’t have the ability to spray cheese sauce at home. Why don’t you try it? You might be impressed! :)


  16. Gabyposted October 14, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Now I have a massive popcorn craving! This looks so good!


  17. Deborahposted October 15, 2013 at 12:15 am

    I’ve never had the original, but I want this!!


  18. Jeanetteposted October 15, 2013 at 8:14 am

    What a fun popcorn mix – I’ve never heard of it before – sweet and salty!


  19. Angie | Big Bear's Wifeposted October 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    My two favorites! I always went for the cheese popcorn first and the caramel second! YUM!


  20. Ash-foodfashionpartyposted October 15, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    I have a serious craving and my boy whose sitting next to be is bugging to get down to make it, looks so so good.


  21. JJ @ My Chicken Fried LIfeposted October 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Such a delicious treat! Can’t wait to make it at home. When I moved to Chicago I thought everyone that loved this was nuts. When I finally Garretts Chicago Mix a try I was kicking myself that I hadn’t done it sooner. Thanks for sharing!


  22. Gingerposted October 15, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    I only the love the cheese popcorn at Garrett’s because I am not a sweet eater. Can’t wait to make it!!


  23. Nikki @Seeded at the Tableposted October 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    I love that you can use cheese powder! Woot, woot! Super easy! :) When we lived in Chicago, it was such a treat to share this favorite with guests. Love that I can make it at home here in Mississippi now!


  24. Britni @ Play. Party. Pin.posted October 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    I’ve been wanting to make cheddar and caramel popcorn for the past few weeks and you just gave me the push to do it. Trying out this recipe tomorrow!


  25. Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabblesposted October 17, 2013 at 8:21 am

    I never would have believed that the combo of cheese popcorn and caramel popcorn would be so wonderful, but it is! I love Garretts and Chicago, must try this!


  26. Luv What You Doposted October 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Garrett’s popcorn is so dangerous! I love that stuff!


  27. Brian @ A Thought For Foodposted October 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    I’m usually very particular about my popcorn. While I’m more of a savory guy, I tend to enjoy caramel popcorn when done right. This looks like it’d totally hit the spot.


  28. Erinposted October 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Hi there thank you got these recipes love Garrett’s! Could we use a nacho cheese sauce on this without it being a soggy mess do you think?


  29. Nutmeg Nannyposted October 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Drooling for this!! Oh gosh it looks delicious :)


  30. Shainaposted October 23, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Love that you made your own! The Garrett’s stuff is so good, and I’ve been able to find giant bags of it at Costco. I wish they had their other flavors there as well. I suppose I should just get off my rear and make my own like you did, though. :)


  31. Averie @ Averie Cooksposted November 26, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Girl I used to live around the corner from a Garretts in Chicago and was forced to smell it all the time…it was pure torture :) I love this stuff, so much! Pinned!


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  33. Mercycirceposted December 5, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Looks wonderful. I live in Singapore, and believe it or not we have Garrett’s here! I have been wanting to make it at home ever since I first had it. One quick question – light corn syrup or dark?


  34. Laura Dembowskiposted December 31, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I just discovered Chicago mix popcorn and am now addicted! It’s the best. I bet homemade is even better than store bought!


  35. RoeFoodieposted January 10, 2014 at 12:37 am


    Just made the Caramel Recipe and It taste really good!!!! But in my opinion it’s not has Rich and a little to Crisp. I feel that there is a little too much popcorn because not each Kernal was covered with Caramel. Next time I think I’m going to try Dark Brown Sugar and only 30 min in the oven so it’s not too crispy and use 3/4 Cup of popcorn so that each Kernal is covered in Caramel. I will let you know how this turns out. Thanks for the Recipe!


  36. Carolinaposted January 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Ah – a home recipe for Garrett’s amazing cheese popcorn – the impossible dream! I, too, tried making it with powdered cheese in the past – and, alas, it came out very salty and very -uh- powdery, not at all like Garrett’s.
    Have others tried this version? Have you had success making it creamy, yet still crunchy – like Garrett’s?
    I just had an inspiration and put a slice of Velveeta on top of freshly made popcorn, covered it with a lid, waited a few minutes and then mixed it up and I got a much much better version -crunchy and creamy – though still not Garrett’s!


  37. Mark Dulcetposted February 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Garrets is unbelievable and i am going trying the recipe at home


  38. Laureenposted March 18, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    I absolutely love Garrett’s popcorn. The 1st time we went to Chicago after a great shopping trip down Michigan Ave, I stopped in at Garrett’s popcorn, my son’s name is Garrett so I had to get one of those decorative tins. Thanks for the recipe.


  39. Julie Simpsonposted May 15, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Garrett’s uses coconut oil in their popcorn. No corn syrup.


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  41. Barbposted November 8, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Just made this for watching the Hawks/Gophers football game. I had all the ingredients on hand except for cheese powder so I used a package of Kraft dinner cheese powder from the blue box and this turned out totally awesome. I told my hubby that we can go at this for about 10 minutes then I’m hiding it away for the grandkids. Seriously good stuff. Thank you for the simple and delicious recipe. Yes, I’ve eaten Garrett’s before but if this isn’t the same as theirs, well I can only say that I will proudly serve this copycat version to my family and friends.


  42. Ingridposted November 10, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Your caramel corn recipe is so simple and so GOOD!! Loved it.


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  44. renataposted December 4, 2014 at 1:56 am

    if i use oven instead of microwave, will this work as well?


    • Sommer — December 4th, 2014 @ 7:28 am

      No, sorry. It works best in the microwave.


    • Rebecca in Portland — December 16th, 2014 @ 10:33 am

      I’ve seen other recipes that have you spread the popcorn out on a greased or foil-covered rimmed baking sheet and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for varying amounts of time to crisp the coating. It would be worth a try with this recipe I think.


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