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

4.5 / 5 (4 Reviews)
Did you make this recipe?   Leave a review »


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.
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62 comments on “Copycat Garrett’s Popcorn Recipe

  1. Danielleposted September 12, 2017 at 4:49 pm Reply

    My family is from Chicago, and I’m planning on making this for my mom’s 60th as a party favor. Any idea how long it stays good for? I was thinking about sealing it in a mason jar. 

    • Sommerposted September 12, 2017 at 9:34 pm Reply

      Hi Danielle, What a fun idea!! For optimal flavor and crunch, I wouldn’t make it more than 4-5 days ahead. It would still be ok after that. But The fresher, the better! :)

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  3. Bizposted November 18, 2016 at 5:24 pm Reply

    I found out the secret to crisp popcorn is never to use butter – once cooled the popcorn loses the crunch. Just drizzle the popcorn with olive oil, then add the cheese/mustard powder. :D

    I am going to be making this for my neighbors Christmas gifts this year :D

  4. Sarah Andersonposted May 16, 2016 at 12:41 pm Reply

    I have never tried caramel and cheese popcorn like this before. Personally, I am a big fan of both types, and am very interested on how they would go together. Next time I go to the store I need to get ingredients for this.

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  6. Annposted December 22, 2015 at 3:32 pm Reply

    Found your wonderful recipe by googling ‘Garrett copycat’. Made 4 batches last night. (3 as gifts – 1 to keep) It all seemed too sticky at first and I was worried, thought it might be the humidity since I am in Florida. Followed your tips and today I finally put it back in the bag to microwave again. Did one minute, shook it vigorously, then put it back in for one more minute. NOW it’s absolutely perfect! The flavor even seemed to enhance and it seems richer too. Thanks so very much for a wonderful and delicious recipe! If you had a rating system, I’d give it 5 stars out of 5 stars!!!

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  9. renataposted December 4, 2014 at 1:56 am Reply

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

    • Sommerposted December 4, 2014 at 7:28 am Reply

      No, sorry. It works best in the microwave.

    • Rebecca in Portlandposted December 16, 2014 at 10:33 am Reply

      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.

      • corneliusposted December 14, 2015 at 5:03 pm

        This is recommended for other recipes as they typically have coating on them (chocolate, nutella, etc) and you have to stir every few minutes. I’ve done it and the popcorn has come out crunch.

        I couldn’t imagine using the oven to make it crunchy would work against it, but then again I didn’t create this copy cat recipe and I haven’t even tried it. I will be doing it next week and will do half/half in oven and microwave to see if there’s a difference.

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  11. Ingridposted November 10, 2014 at 10:06 am Reply

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

    Rating: 5
  12. Barbposted November 8, 2014 at 11:19 am Reply

    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.

    Rating: 5
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  14. Julie Simpsonposted May 15, 2014 at 3:33 pm Reply

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

  15. Laureenposted March 18, 2014 at 9:00 pm Reply

    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.

    Rating: 5
  16. Mark Dulcetposted February 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm Reply

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

  17. Carolinaposted January 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm Reply

    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!

  18. RoeFoodieposted January 10, 2014 at 12:37 am Reply


    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!

    Rating: 3.5
  19. Laura Dembowskiposted December 31, 2013 at 1:51 pm Reply

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

  20. Mercycirceposted December 5, 2013 at 6:01 am Reply

    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?

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

    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!

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

    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. :)

    • Lizposted February 25, 2016 at 2:16 pm Reply

      Hate to burst your bubble but you aren’t finding Garrett at Costco it is GH Cretors totally different not even close Garrett doesn’t retail to Costco or sell bags period outside of their locations or mail order ( if only it were that easy)

      • Susan Ballposted June 19, 2016 at 11:25 pm

        Where have you been?  Garrett’s sells mail order – check out their website.  It will cost you a fortune – UPS will charge you $9 just to DELIVER it to you – but if you are have a serious Garrett’s addiction . . .

        Personally, I’m hoping this recipe works out.

        PS:  I’ve been a  Garrett’s fan since the 1960s when they had only one store on Monroe Street just west of State Street.  It was so tiny you had to line up to get in and squeeze sideways to get out.  They popped the corn right in  there in the shop in this GIANT vertical popper at least 5/6 feet high and tossed the caramel corn right in the front window.  They kept the door open and the smell would entice you into the store all the way from State Street.  The butter popcorn  was so buttery the butter soaked through the paper bag before you walked halfway down the block .  

        They truly deserve their success.

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

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

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

    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.

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

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

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

    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!

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

    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!

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

    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!

  30. Gingerposted October 15, 2013 at 7:27 pm Reply

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

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

    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!

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

    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.

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

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

  34. Jeanetteposted October 15, 2013 at 8:14 am Reply

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

  35. Deborahposted October 15, 2013 at 12:15 am Reply

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

  36. Gabyposted October 14, 2013 at 8:33 pm Reply

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

  37. TexasMamaposted October 14, 2013 at 7:42 pm Reply

    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

    • Sommerposted October 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm Reply

      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! :)

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

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

  39. Shelbyposted October 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm Reply

    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!

    • Sommerposted October 14, 2013 at 9:20 pm Reply

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

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

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

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

    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!

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

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

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

    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!

    • Sommerposted October 14, 2013 at 9:18 pm Reply

      It was so nice to meet you too!

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

      • Maryposted December 1, 2013 at 7:55 am

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

  44. Brookeposted October 14, 2013 at 9:54 am Reply

    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!

    • Sommerposted October 14, 2013 at 9:19 pm Reply

      Thanks Brooke, I’ll give that a try!

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

    yes please! My kids will be all over this!

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

    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!

  47. Mariaposted October 14, 2013 at 8:16 am Reply

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

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

    I could go for some of this popcorn right now!

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

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

  50. Andreaposted October 14, 2013 at 8:20 am Reply

    Good idea! I go to try too

  51. Tieghanposted October 14, 2013 at 6:29 am Reply

    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!