Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Popcorn is a great salty or sweet snack for when you’re hanging out at home or looking for something to bring to a get-together. It pairs with a wide range of flavors, yet one of the most popular toppings is common, everyday salt. Just a dash and you’re ready to go. But step it up with some sea salt (which is harvested from seawater through evaporation) and sweet caramel corn gets an update. Here, a sprinkling of coarse sea salt gives this caramel corn a flavor boost for that popular sweet and salty combination. Popcorn is a whole grain, so with the inclusion of pecans and almonds, this recipe provides whole grain and also protein in a tasty snack.

Since a popcorn kernel pops up to 40 times its original size, you will just need 2 ounces or 1/4 cup of unpopped kernels to make 2 quarts for this recipe, courtesy of the Popcorn Board. To calculate different amounts, figure 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons of kernels makes 1 quart and go from there. And have you ever wondered what makes popcorn pop? It’s a little bit of water inside each kernel that expands when heated. The Popcorn Board site even has a slow-motion video if you would like to see it in action. Little fun facts to munch on while you enjoy!

Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn

2 quarts popped popcorn
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup almonds
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Line a large, rimmed baking pan (17×12-inch) with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray; set aside.

Spray a large bowl (not plastic) with cooking spray and place popcorn and nuts inside.

In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar, butter and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Clip on a candy thermometer and boil, stirring occasionally, until temperature reaches 290°F, about 15 minutes. Remove candy thermometer and stir in vanilla.

Pour mixture over popcorn and stir to coat well. Spread popcorn mixture in an even layer into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with sea salt and allow to cool completely before breaking into pieces to serve. Store in an airtight container.

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.