Thursday, October 30, 2008

Caramel Popcorn with Almonds and Pecans

A couple of cool weather nights got me thinking about how caramel popcorn spends a long time drying in a warm oven and how good the lingering aroma is. Many, many years ago, when I went trick-or-treating, there was one house that always handed out little bags of homemade caramel popcorn. I’d love to offer homemade treats to the kids, but I don’t think their parents would let them eat it unless they’re friends of ours. So, I made some caramel popcorn and brought it into the office instead.

Sadly, but typically, I couldn’t remember what recipe I used the last time I made some. This blog will come in handy for future recipe recall. I searched around, took inspiration from a few sources, tinkered with ingredients a bit, and came up with what you see here. Of course, I can’t resist sea salt with caramel, and cayenne is ending up in everything I cook lately, so if you’d prefer strictly sweet caramel popcorn, skip the cayenne and final salt sprinkling.

3/4 c popcorn kernels
1 1/2 c whole almonds
1 1/2 c pecan halves
2 c light brown sugar
6 T unsalted butter
1/4 c pure cane syrup
1/4 c honey
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 - 1/2 t cayenne (I used 1/2 t, and it wasn’t spicy but was just enough to know it’s there.)
1/2 t sea salt for finishing

-pop the popcorn kernels as you prefer (I use the Whirley-Pop popcorn popper because I seriously love popcorn and make it more often than I’ll admit, and this contraption works really well.)
-preheat oven to 250 degrees; mix warm popcorn, almonds, and pecans in a large roasting pan and place in oven
-in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, cane syrup, and honey; stir until sugar dissolves into melted butter; attach a candy thermometer and increase heat to high; allow mixture to reach 255 degrees without stirring, about four minutes
-remove pan from heat; stir in vanilla and almond extracts, the first teaspoon of salt, baking soda, and cayenne; the mixture will bubble at this point
-remove the roasting pan from the oven and carefully pour the caramel over the popcorn and nut mixture; stir gently and coat the entire mixture thoroughly
-return the roasting pan to the oven and bake while stirring occasionally, until the mixture feels dry, about one hour
-serve in a large bowl and sprinkle sea salt over top

I left a big bowl of this in the kitchen at work, and it was scooped up throughout the day. Some folks were delighted by the tiny kick of heat, some didn’t seem to notice, but everyone came back for more. The cane syrup brought about a deeper-flavored caramel than corn syrup would, and the nuts added their own appeal. This recipe is in the permanent file now, and next time I’ll know where to find it.


  1. I was thinking that I might like to make some sort of popcorn snack like this for this weekend. Thanks for the delicious idea!

  2. I am not a snack person (no chips, pretzels or popcorn).
    However, my one weakness is CRACKER JACKS w/ peanuts. I love them and always buy them.
    Your caramel corn looks so good!
    Can I come over and watch a movie?

  3. Thanks! Sure, come on over, Stacey, I'll whip up the caramel corn and some espresso martinis for movie night.

  4. yum! this looks great :) i love the almonds and pecans, it sounds so tasty!!!

  5. This looks wonderful! I am thinking about doing some kind of caramel popcorn for my Halloween gathering.

  6. Looks and sounds great with the salt and cayenne! I've seen at my local grocery store grey sea salt by McCormick. Is it better than the Kosher sea salt? Would I just use it the same way I would regular sea salt. I can see that the grains are larger. Is this what everyone is putting on their desserts lately?

  7. the variety of textures alone in this is enough to my heart flutter--what a great concoction! of course, it doesn't hurt that caramel is involved. :)

  8. Thanks everyone!

    I haven't seen the McCormick brand you mentioned, but you'll want to used a flaked sea salt with no additives for the best flavor and texture. I've bought a few different varieties in the bulk spice section of my grocery store.

  9. That looks so yummy! I am a sucker for a sweet and salty treat!

  10. This sounds delicious! I love my Whirley Pop too - I've been using it a lot lately to make kettle corn and Italian flavored popcorn.

  11. Juliet--
    What do you put in your Italian popcorn? Sounds great.

  12. I only know how to make basic butter popcorn... but caramel ones are the much better tasting ones hehe

  13. This sounds delicious. Spicy almonds and salted caramel are two of my favorite flavor combinations. We have a huge bucket of popcorn from some neighbor boy scouts, and this actually gets me excited about opening it!

  14. i wanta work in your office
    watch movies at your house

  15. Ur caramel popcorn looks awesome! Can u advise whether we have to toast the nuts first or use raw ones?

    Susanna, Perth

    1. Susanna: I believe I left the nuts raw in this case, but toasted nuts would work well too.


Blogging tips