Peanut Caramel Popcorn

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I simply cannot stop eating this treat. It is seriously tasty. And easy to make, which could become a problem. It is also highly adaptable. I used peanuts because I had a mostly full container of unsalted peanuts hanging around, just waiting to be used. Feel free to substitute cashews, almonds, or macadamia nuts as desired. 

Because I usually end up burning stove top popcorn, I used Newman’s Own “Natural” microwave popcorn for this recipe. It contains some salt and palm oil, although it’s is not overpowering. If you pop your own, double the salt in the caramel recipe.The peanuts should be roughly chopped. I placed them in a ziplock bag and pounded them sporadically with a wooden spoon, so that some were in small pieces, but others were in halves and whole pieces.

Peanut Caramel Popcorn
Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients

About 10.5 cups popped popcorn
About 1.5 cups peanuts, roughly chopped
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Place parchment paper over a large baking/jelly-roll pan and coat lightly with oil
  3. Pop popcorn and mix with peanuts in a large bowl (preferable with a wide bottom, which will make it easier to stir the caramel). Set aside.
  4. Combine sugar, corn syrup, butter, and molasses in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until melted and smooth, then bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, stirring once about halfway through.
  5. Remove pan from heat and add extracts, baking soda, and salt. Stir with a spatula, until the whole mixture lightens and becomes consistent in color and texture.
  6. Pour caramel over popcorn in a steady stream, stopping occasionally to stir the popcorn, peanuts, and caramel, coating everything evenly. Use all caramel, scraping any excess from the pan.
  7. Spread the popcorn mixture onto the prepared pan. Smooth it out as evenly as possible. Bake for about 30 minutes*, stirring once halfway through.
  8. Remove from oven and stir to break up large clumps and separate from pan. Allow to cool completely, then transfer to a serving dish.

*A note on baking: Most caramel popcorn recipes will tell you to bake for one hour at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes. This may work for you, and that’s fine. The first couple of times I made this, I burned the entire batch by baking it for that long, so I have cut the cooking time substantially. I found 30 minutes to be perfect, but you may prefer longer.

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