Caramel Popcorn: is there anything it cannot do?
In need of a treat for a party? Everyone loves caramel popcorn.
Hosting a movie night? Forget buttered popcorn and serve caramel corn instead.
Midnight munchies? Caramel popcorn to the rescue!
Picnic or potluck coming up? You guessed it…caramel popcorn!
Crunchy, sweet caramel popcorn is light enough to be enjoyed as a snack, but full of enough butter, sugary, nutty goodness to be a satisfying dessert. This recipe uses salted cashews to add a buttery, nutty flavor and salty crunch to the sweet popcorn. Give it a go and see how many different ways you can use caramel popcorn!
Cashew Caramel Popcorn
yield: about 12 cups caramel popcorn
- 1 3.5-oz package microwave popcorn (yield about 10 cups. It’s best if it’s not a strong, buttery flavor)
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 6 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1.5 cups salted cashews (or you can substitute peanuts or almonds)
- A candy thermometer
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Spray the sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Start by chopping the salted cashews coarsely, so that they’re about the size of peanuts. They don’t have to be in small pieces, but whole cashews are a little overwhelming in the popcorn mix, so I like to give them a little choppity-chop.
Pop the microwave popcorn and pour it into a large greased bowl. You’re going to be doing lots of stirring, and adding other ingredients, so the bigger the bowl, the better!
Next, let’s make some caramel! Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and water in a medium saucepan.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Insert a candy thermometer.
Continue to cook the candy, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 250 degrees F on the candy thermometer. This will probably take 3-6 minutes depending on your stove and the size of your pot.Watch the caramel carefully so it doesn’t overcook.
As soon as the temperature reaches 250 degrees, pull the pan from the heat. Add the vanilla extract and the baking soda, and whisk until everything is well-combined.
After a moment or two of whisking, the baking soda will start to react and the caramel will foam up, and turn a lighter, opaque color with lots of bubbles. When you see this, it’s ready to be poured on the popcorn. This is what you’ve been waiting for! Carpe diem!
Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir with a heatproof spatula until all of the kernels are coated.
Add the chopped cashews and stir until they’re mixed into the popcorn and are also coated with a layer of caramel.
Spread the popcorn out on the prepared pan. Use the biggest sheet tray you have, so that it is in a single, even layer. If it is layered too thick, it won’t cook evenly and you’ll have patches of caramel popcorn that are burned, while other sections are underdone. If you need to, use two sheet trays to get the popcorn in a single layer.
Bake the cashew caramel popcorn in the 250 degree oven for about an hour. Stir it after every 15 minutes, so that the edges don’t brown too quickly. You will notice that as it cooks, the caramel re-melts and becomes liquid again, so when you stir it, you’re redistributing it and making sure that every kernel is covered with caramel. As it continues to cook it will become a darker golden brown, the caramel will get thicker, and it will be very, very fragrant. Yum!
After an hour, take the popcorn from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for half an hour. Gently break up any large clumps of popcorn with your hands, and once it’s completely cool, your cashew caramel popcorn is ready to be enjoyed!
If you want to be really devilish, you can drizzle the popcorn with melted chocolate, but I think it’s darn near perfect the way it is. Store Cashew Caramel Popcorn in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.