A Spicy Perspective

Copycat Garrett’s Popcorn Recipe

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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!

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

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

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

Garretts Popcorn Shop - Chicago

Instagram 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.

Paper bag filled with caramel popcorn.

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. And let me tell you, this Chicago style popcorn did not disappoint!

Two bags of popcorn behind a bowl of melted butter and cheese powder.

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.

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.

More Snack Recipes To Try

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4.50 from 6 votes
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{Copycat} Garrett’s Popcorn

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
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!
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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69 comments on “Copycat Garrett’s Popcorn Recipe”

  1. I look forward to tasting your popcorn soon, one of my best friends told me how good your popcorn is so I look forward toward experiencing it for myself soon. Do you have a discount coupon.

  2. Pingback: Cheddar Cheese Popcorn | Feast + West

  3. Not quite Harrett’s, but not bad!   And very easy!

  4. I can’t believe I found this recipe! So excited to try it. I just moved from Chicago to Tennesse last year, and really miss Garrett’s.

    You know you can join their mailing list, and they send you awesome specials and free shipping. I’ve ordered several times, and it’s delivered fresh to your door in 2 days, and made to order. You can even pick out your own tin design! I’m using my tin from my last order to store this recipe in.

    Can’t wait to try your other recipes.
    I hope you join their mailing list.

    Thx again! God bless. 💖💗

  5. Lots of somewhat fussy steps but the yield is fabulous! Tastes just like Garrett’s and wonderfully crispy.

  6. If you want to try to duplicate Garrett’s caramel popcorn then you need to use C&H Brown Sugar which is what they use. It is pure cane sugar.

  7. I have been looking for a good recipe for cheese and caramel popcorn, thank you so much for this, as for me, I’m really grateful.

  8. 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. 

    • 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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  10. 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

  11. 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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  13. 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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  16. if i use oven instead of microwave, will this work as well?

    • No, sorry. It works best in the microwave.

    • 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.

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

  19. 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.

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

  22. 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.

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

  24. 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!

  25. Hello,

    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!

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

  27. 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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  29. 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!

  30. 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. :)

    • 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)

      • 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.

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

  32. 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.

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

  34. 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!

  35. 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!

  36. 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!

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

  38. 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!

  39. 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.

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

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

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

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

  44. 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

    • 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! :)

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

  46. 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!

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

  48. 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!

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

  50. 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!

  51. 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!

  52. yes please! My kids will be all over this!

  53. 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!

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

  55. I could go for some of this popcorn right now!

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

  57. Good idea! I go to try too

  58. 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!