Want to make famous Garretts 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!

White bowl filled with a mixture of caramel and cheddar popcorn.

Why We Love This Copycat Garrett’s Popcorn Recipe

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

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

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.

Garretts Popcorn Shop - Chicago

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 Garretts Popcorn online as gifts, or for yourself.

But you know me… I wanted to try to make a copycat version at home. And let me tell you, this Chicago style popcorn did not disappoint!

Paper bag filled with caramel popcorn.

Ingredients You Need

Let’s make Garret’s popcorn two ways! Here’s what you’ll need:

For Caramel Corn

  • Popped Popcorn – from about 1/2 cup kernels
  • Brown Sugar – for that caramel flavor
  • Butter – to help everything stick
  • Corn Syrup – for a crusty crunch
  • Sea Salt – to balance the flavors
  • Vanilla – for added flavor
  • Baking Soda – to help the caramel foam up

For Cheese Corn

  • Popped Popcorn – from about 1/2 cup kernels
  • Melted Butter – to help the powders stick
  • Cheese Powder – use your favorite cheese powder
  • Mustard Powder – for a depth of savory flavor
Two bags of popcorn behind a bowl of melted butter and cheese powder.

This copycat Garretts 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.

Two paper bags, one filled with caramel popcorn and the other filled with cheese popcorn.

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.

Bowl of popcorn with two bags of popcorn in the background.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you add sugar to popcorn without burning it?

To make caramel corn without burning the sugar, you have to watch the popcorn carefully in the bag. So you will pour the caramel mixture over the popped popcorn and microwave carefully. Shake the bag and check on it periodically to make sure the caramel is even distributed and not burnt! Be careful when handling the hot caramel popcorn because it will be very hot.

How should I store copycat Garrett’s popcorn?

Once the popcorn is cooled, store in airtight containers or zip bags to keep the popcorn fresh. It can last for a while, but will get stale after too much time!

More Snack Recipes To Try

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{Copycat} Garretts Popcorn Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Want to make famous Garretts 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!
Servings: 6 quarts


For the Caramel Corn:

For the Cheese Corn:

  • 3 quarts popped popcorn from about 1/2 cup kernels
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard powder
  • 2 large paper grocery bags


  • 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.

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.)
  • 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.

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.
  • Once both popcorns are ready, mix by hand and store in an air-tight container until ready to serve.


Serving: 1serving, Calories: 753kcal, Carbohydrates: 147g, Protein: 23g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 9mg, Sodium: 266mg, Potassium: 616mg, Fiber: 26g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 455IU, Vitamin C: 0.6mg, Calcium: 28mg, Iron: 5.8mg
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: American
Author: Sommer Collier
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