Peanut Caramel Corn

This image courtesy of Gentl & Hyers

Slightly reminiscent of Cracker Jacks, this peanut-laced popcorn can easily move from ballgame to boardroom. When we were kids, commercial Cracker Jacks were always a disappointment because of their sparse supply of peanuts. Here our prize is peanuts in abundance. Adding a little baking soda to the caramel at the end lightens the mix and gives it a slight, airy lift before it hardens on the popcorn and peanuts. This is best on the day it is prepared.

NotesVARIATION: Maple-Sunflower Caramel Corn

Substitute 2 cups (10 ounces) sunflower seeds for the peanuts and grade B maple syrup for the honey.

TIPS: Working with Caramel and Syrups

• A good candy thermometer with large, easy-to-read numbers is essential. A syrup or caramel can change dramatically when overcooked or undercooked by a few degrees.

• Choose a heavy, stable pan that will conduct heat evenly. We like to use either a copper pot or a stainless steel pot with a copper core lining because of their ability to conduct heat evenly. Because of the high heat and length of time required to cook syrups, using a thin pan or one that conducts heat unevenly can easily lead to scorched caramel.

• Exercise caution around caramels and syrups. They are extremely hot.

• The temperature of a boiling caramel or syrup may seem to creep up slowly at first, but once the water has evaporated, it can climb quickly. Keep an eye on boiling caramel or syrup at all times. Lower the heat slightly toward the end of cooking to prevent it from getting too hot too fast.

• After removing the caramel or syrup from the heat, cool it quickly by dipping the bottom of the pot in a bowl of ice-cold water for 10 seconds. This stops the residual cooking process and prevents the caramel from getting too dark.

8 cups

Preparation Time5 min

Preparation Time - Text5 minutes

Cooking Time30 min


Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCocktail Party, Family Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursedessert, snack

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


Taste and Texturenutty, sweet


  • 8 cups freshly popped popcorn
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) roasted salted peanuts
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda


  1. EQUIPMENT: 2 rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper and lightly coated with nonstick spray; a candy thermometer

  2. Place the popcorn in a large bowl and toss with the peanuts. Set aside.

  3. Stir the brown sugar, granulated sugar, honey, and butter together in a small saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. The steam generated by covering the pan will wash down any sugar crystals that form on the sides, enabling the creation of a smooth caramel. Carefully remove the lid and insert a candy thermometer into the syrup. Boil until the temperature reads 260°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the syrup to make sure it doesn’t scorch or boil up too high. Remove the pan from the heat, stand back, and stir in the vanilla and baking soda (the syrup will foam up when you add these ingredients).

  4. Immediately pour the hot caramel syrup over the popcorn and peanuts. Stir quickly but gently with a lightly greased spatula until the popcorn and nuts are coated evenly. Spread on the prepared pans and use a fork to separate the popcorn as much as possible while it is still warm. Set aside to cool. The popcorn softens as it absorbs the caramel and needs to dry thoroughly to recrisp. Use immediately; storage will cause the caramel to become tacky.


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