I could go on about how delicious this stuff is, but really words aren’t enough. If you’re a fan of salty sweet caramel, you just have to whip up a batch of this Caramel Popcorn and see for yourself. At our place it is a decided favourite with Nick claiming he is addicted to it! He’d actually never had homemade ‘Cracker Jack’ until I began making it for him but that was his treat of choice as a kid.
The recipe makes enough for a crowd but it also stores well so make some up and see how long it lasts.
The recipe included peanuts which can be replaced with nuts of your preference or eliminated all together and replaced with more popcorn.
We pop our corn with a hot air popper, but popping it in a pot with a little bit of oil is fine too.
One thing to note is that while it might be tempting to try mixing the caramel with the corn using your hands, don’t do it … it is quite surprising how hot that caramel gets!
1/2 cup unsalted butter + 1/2 teaspoon salt (or use salted butter with no additional salt)
1 cup brown (or golden) sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
15 cups of popped corn = about 2/3 cup unpopped popcorn (I use a hot air popper, and 2 batches of 1/3 cup unpopped corn yields about 15 cups popped)
2 cups of peanuts (or mixed nuts) – optional, just add an extra cup of popcorn if you eliminate the nuts
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Have two large bowls set out on the counter and a large baking pan (or two if you don't have a really big one). It isn't absolutely necessary but makes clean up worlds easier, to line them with parchment paper. Hint: did you know parchment paper can be reused many times? Just wipe it down after use.
Pop your popcorn and put it in one of the big bowls, noting that there will probably be some un-popped kernels at the bottom, which you want to be careful not to add to your caramel mixture. They sink to the bottom, so transfer the popcorn by cupfuls to the second bowl leaving the unpopped kernels behind. Get rid of those because you really don't want anyone biting down on one later.
Add your nuts. Note, they'll also sink to the bottom but that's ok.
To make the caramel topping:
In a saucepan melt butter and add sugar, corn syrup (and salt if your butter was unsalted). Stir and bring to a boil. Boil rapidly for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda. Note: it will foam up when you do but settle down quickly.
Working quickly while the caramel is hot you'll be mixing the sauce and the corn together in thirds, in order to best coat the popcorn evenly. So transfer a third of the popcorn and nuts to the second bowl and pour 1/3 of the caramel sauce over it. Toss with two large spoons. Careful not to use your hands as the sauce is really hot and sticky. Transfer another third of corn and nuts to the bowl and repeat with 1/3 of the sauce. Transfer the last of your corn, nuts and the rest of the sauce, and toss it all together. The goal is to evenly coat the corn and nuts.
Pour into your pan. Bake for 45 minutes, removing from oven and stirring every 15 minutes. Let it cool until manageable and break any large chunks apart.
Leftovers keep well after being cooled completely and stored in a tightly covered container.