Spicy Caramel Popcorn

Spicy Caramel Popcorn

The Oscars were on last night, and I realized I have not yet seen any of the nominees for Best Picture. I hate to say it, but I guess I’m just not a movie person. I find that when it comes down to it, if I have the choice between going to a movie, and doing almost anything else, I generally choose the latter. It’s not that I don’t like movies because I do. But going to the movies can be a gamble, and a complete time suck. I’m picky, and if it winds up being a movie I don’t enjoy…the plot is boring…the characters are disengaging…Anne Hathaway is a leading role, or for whatever the reason – I totally regret going. I walk out of the theater knowing I wasted at least 2 hours of my day – time that could have been put to such better use…like binge watching Downton Abbey on my DVR.  It’s a commitment that I just can’t justify making.

Spicy Caramel Popcorn

So while I don’t enjoy watching movies in theaters, I absolutely love watching them from the comfort of my own home.  On Demand, Netflix, Amazon Prime – I thank you. Sure I might have to wait a few more months until I can watch American Hustle in my pj’s on a rainy Sunday afternoon, but that sacrifice is totally worth it. My couch is so much more comfortable than those stadium seats in the movie theater.  Plus, the snacks are way better.

Caramel Making

Caramel Popcorn

Don’t get me wrong, movie theater popcorn is pretty tasty, and could almost make it worth going to the theater. But it’s not this popcorn.  No, this popcorn makes your home theater seem better than IMAX.  It’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s spicy – it’s totally addicting. It’s like grown up Cracker Jacks on crack. Seriously, spicy caramel popcorn plus your DVR, bring on that next snow storm, I’m not leaving my couch.

Spicy Caramel Popcorn

Be warned, this stuff is totally addicting. Make sure you invite lots of friends over for the next movie, you’re gonna want to share. Or if you, like most people, enjoy going to the movies, sneak some of this in (I won’t tell).

Spicy Caramel Popcorn

Spicy Caramel Popcorn

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Note: Make sure to adapt the cayenne to your taste. I thought 1/2 teaspoon was perfect, but if you’re not a spice person, lessen the amount or feel free to leave the heat out entirely. If you like a strong kick, up the amount of cayenne to 3/4 teaspoons. It’s important to prep everything before you start the caramel. Spray everything down with nonstick spray, and make sure you have the mixing bowl and baking sheets ready because things move fast and the caramel dries very quickly. Be extra careful when pouring the caramel, the liquid is incredibly hot.  

Spicy Caramel Popcorn

Closely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes ~4 quarts


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 cups salted peanuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (see Note)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt


Coat two large wooden spoons or rubber spatulas, an extra-large mixing bowl, and 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray.

In a large saucepan with a lid, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels and cover. Keep the kernels moving to make sure they don’t stick, and heat over the flame for about 5 minutes until all the kernels have popped. Transfer the popcorn to the prepared bowl and mix in the peanuts.

In a small bowl, whisk the cayenne and baking soda together.

Make sure to have the two large baking sheets ready. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook over medium-high heat, without stirring, until mixture turns light-golden brown. Remove saucepan from heat, and whisk in the baking soda mixture (be careful – the mixture will bubble up).

Immediately pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn, and stir with the previously coated wooden spoons. Move quickly, but carefully, the mixture is very hot, use the prepared wooden spoons to toss the popcorn (like you would a salad) to evenly coat the popcorn.

Evenly spread the popcorn onto the two baking sheets, flattening it out to a single layer, and breaking up any large clumps. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes and then sit back, press play and enjoy the show.

Popcorn will keep for two weeks in an airtight container, mine barely lasted through one Downtown Abbey episode.

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