Caramel Peanut Popcorn

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Cracker Jacks® watch out! This popcorn is so delicious I guarantee if you make it once, you’ll make it again. For a more sophisticated take, try this with toasted sliced almonds instead of peanuts. Coarsely chopped pecans are delicious, too. I like to serve it up in paper cones or paper bags. It’s also great bagged in cellophane and gifted away.

Make sure to pick out any unpopped kernels before mixing it all together. Those unpopped numbers are mighty hard!

Cooking Methodbaking



Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Cocktail Party, Family Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursesnack

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Taste and Texturecrisp, nutty, sweet


  • 1 (3½-ounce) package plain (unbuttered natural flavor) microwave popcorn
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup lightly salted peanuts (extra large, if available), roughly chopped


Heat the oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Pop the popcorn according to the package instructions. Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray and transfer the popcorn from the bag to the bowl, then set the bowl aside.

Whisk the sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water in a pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer, stirring often, until the mixture reads 250°F on a digital thermometer, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the vanilla and the baking soda. Immediately pour the hot mixture over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn until all of the popcorn is coated. Gently stir in the peanuts and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn and serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days (less if it’s hot and humid).



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