Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Caramel Nut Popcorn

So this is just like that caramel corn you get in the box- you know what I'm talking about.  It is so easy and cheap to make you'll never buy store bought again.  This is also a great last minute throw-together for a party or guests.  You also get the feel for how to make caramel! Sounds fancy huh?  It is so easy and with the pictures I took it will be easy to just do it by eye- no thermometer needed!  This soft caramel sauce is great on popcorn, ice cream, or even in iced coffee.

All ingredients I guessed by eye and if you are allergic or prefer anything else in your popcorn mix- go right ahead and just dump some into the mix.

Ok, here's the deal with the corn syrup- I could go into the science of it- but the fact is that you need it as another sugar to counter-act the hardening crystallizing power of the plain sugar by itself.  Basically, if you didn't add the corn syrup the caramel would become hard and brittle- which is another recipe.  The corn syrup disrupts this crystallizing effect because it is another form of sugar.  So don't skip this ingredient.  Invest in one bottle of corn syrup and it never goes bad.

I will write the recipe then show you the process in time lapsed pictures.  Another thing to keep in mind is that candy making is dangerous- the hot caramel is extremely hot and can cause serious burns- so be careful and don't have the kiddies too close.  Another note is that when working with this caramel you need to work fast so make sure you have all your ingredients ready and read the recipe before hand at least twice- oh come on it'll only take like 2 minutes!


  • 3 cups of popcorn (mine was air popped)
  • 1/4 cup of peanuts
  • 1/4 cup of almonds
  • 1 cup of plain white sugar
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup (2 quick squeezes)
  • 1/3 cup of cream (I used light cream, you can also use heavy cream, and even in a pinch half and half)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • Salt
  • non-stick cooking spray


  1. In a sauce pot- WITH HIGH SIDES- add the sugar, water, corn syrup and vanilla.  Don't try and make this in a skillet or something that will not capacitate at least 3 times the size of the original ingredients.  I'll tell you why a little later.
  2. Mix the ingredients until combined and put over high heat.
  3. Spray a LARGE bowl with the cooking spray.  Take a baking sheet and line with wax or parchment paper and then spray that too (you don't need the paper lining but helps for clean up and easy moving later- this stuff is sticky!)
  4. In the bowl add the nuts and popcorn and whatever else your heart desires.
  5. The sugar will start to boil and start to become thicker and thicker.  Gently swirl the pot from time to time- you don't need to necessarily stir it.
  6. The sugar will start to brown- this is what we want- but as soon as you see a hint of brown DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE PAN- because in an instant it can go from delicious caramel to burnt gross syrup.  This is why you need all your ingredients close and on hand. You can't run to the fridge and get the cream because by that time it will burn.
  7. When it is a good amber light brown add the cream SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY.  It is going to bubble up fiercely!  Don't get scared; just be careful and confident in what you are doing.  After all the cream is incorporated add the butter and tilt the pan a little and swish the caramel gently back and forth with a spoon until it looks like a smooth shiny sauce.
  8. Pour over the popcorn mix in the bowl and work quickly- spray a spatula with the non stick spray and mix until the caramel coats everything- BECAREFUL THE CARAMEL WILL BE VERY HOT.
  9. When all incorporated lay out onto the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt if desired, and let set a couple minutes until cool enough to eat.  Then eat and enjoy!

You might have a little caramel left over- no worries- I just usually put in a ziplock bag and throw in the fridge.  Popcorn storage is just in a big ziplock bag too.  Oh and regarding clean up- I would try and clean off everything that touched caramel as soon as possible so nothing sets and hardens or sticks to anything else.

Isn't it amazing this is just sugar and water!?

Just started to bubble

Coming to a rolling boil

Getting thicker- see the difference in the bubbles?

Right after I added the cream

Swish with the butter

Pour all over this and....


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