Smoky Caramel Popcorn

I didn’t have as much time to bake this year with our new little roommate to tend to, but it wouldn’t have felt like a holiday season without making SOME sort of treats.  I had to make the usual batch of Furikake Chex Mix and tried out a David Chang/Momofuku cookie recipe (coming soon).  My mother-in-law volunteered to watch Mia on Black Friday so that Kev and I could go out on a date, and we took her up on it.  When we mentioned we were thinking of going to brunch and a movie, she asked us to pick up a tub of her favorite Arclight caramel corn.  With that in mind, I made a mental note to find a good candied popcorn recipe when Christmas came around.  I wanted to make something a little different and came across this recipe for a Smoky Candied Popcorn on Kitchn.
The amount of chili powder in the recipe is perfect – it’s not spicy at all and just adds a subtle hint of smoky flavor.  I followed the recipe to a tee the first time, and it was delicious.  However, I wanted to take the smokiness level up a notch without the possibility of creating spiciness by having too much chili powder.   With my newfound love of smoked paprika, I added a quarter teaspoon in to the dry mix.  And who doesn’t like a good salted caramel?  I added another 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt to the recipe too.  This popcorn is like crack.  I’ve made it three times in the last few weeks and can’t get enough of it!
Hope you can enjoy it too!  Here’s the recipe, as adapted from Kitchn:
  • 10 cups popped popcorn (8 cups if you like your popcorn more candied)
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter


  1. Line a large (18×13-inch) baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pan liner. Place the popcorn in a large bowl. Mix together the chili powder, smoked paprika, baking soda, and salt in a separate tiny bowl and set aside.
  2. In a heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, light corn syrup, and butter. Cook 10 minutes, occasionally swirling or stirring with a rubber spatula, until it all melts into an amber-hued caramel and pulls away a bit from the side of the pan. This mixture will be super hot, so be careful not get any on your skin.

    Caramel Caramelizing
  3. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the chili powder, smoked paprika, baking soda, and salt — the mixture will bubble up, so be careful.

    Whisk in Spices, Baking Soda, and Salt
  4. Quickly pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss with a rubber spatula to evenly coat all the popcorn kernels. Once coated, carefully spread the popcorn onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, separating any large clumps that came together.
  5. Let cool 15 minutes if serving immediately or 2 to 3 hours to cool completely before wrapping and gifting. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

    Smoky Caramel Popcorn

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