I hesitate to oversell and call that bowl of awesomeness “amazing” because it’s “just” caramel popcorn. But if caramel popcorn can be called amazing, then that stuff most certainly is amazing.
It’s “just” popcorn coated in caramel sauce and baked. But that super easy caramel sauce is made in barely 10 minutes, without even requiring a candy thermometer.
And then that super easy caramel sauce is spiked with a generous bit of salt, a vanilla bean, and an ounce of bourbon. That bag of sweet and borderline-stale stuff you get in the foil bag at the baseball game? It has nothing on the molasses and vanilla notes in this grownup version.
“Just” amazing? Yeah. It totally is.
I imagine that just about any whiskey would work. The first batch disappeared so quickly and used the last of the bourbon that I had to make a second batch with Crown Royal Black.
But I like run and stuff and therefore have no problems justifying caramel popcorn for dinner. Or breakfast.
Bourbon & Salted Caramel Popcorn
A grown-up homemade caramel popcorn spiked with bourbon and vanilla bean.
- 6 cups popped popcorn (the yield from 1/3 rounded cup of kernels)
- Cooking spray or parchment paper
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar**
- 3 Tbsp light corn syrup
- Heaping 1/4 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling**
- Scrapings from 1 vanilla bean (can substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste)
- 4 Tbsp bourbon (or other whiskey)
- * I don't buy brown sugar so I substitute with 1 tsp molasses + 1/3 cup granulated sugar.
- ** Don't dig your caramel salty? Use a level 1/4 tsp of salt.
- Preheat oven to 300.
- Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with parchment. Have a rubber spatula handy.
- Pop the popcorn and transfer it to a large bowl.
- Heat the butter, sugar, molasses, corn syrup, and salt in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
- Once the mixture comes to a boil, cook another 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add the whiskey (watch up for splatters) and vanilla.
- Stir and immediately pour over the popcorn.
- Use a rubber spatula to stir until the popcorn is nicely coated and then transfer to the baking sheet, spreading out to an even layer.
- Taste a couple of kernels - not "salted caramel" enough? Sprinkle with more salt.
- Bake for 35 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
- Let cool ~15 minutes before eating.
- Store leftovers in a ziptop bag on the counter... if you have leftovers.
Yields: 6 1-cup servings
Estimated time: 50 minutes