The combination of hot and sweet, mixed with the natural crunch of popcorn, makes this popcorn a satisfying weekend indulgence. My son begs for this just about every time we sit down for a movie.
I came up with this recipe years ago when on a whip I added some chili to a store-bought bag of caramel corn. The combination of flavors was just what I was looking for, but I wanted the chili to be more integrated with the caramel.
After trying many different variations, I came up with a recipe that is easy to put together whenever the craving strikes, and hits all of the right buttons.
Chili Caramel Popcorn
- ¾ cup pop corn kernels unpopped
- 2 ½ tbsp oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 ½ tsp salt separated (I used kosher)
- ½ tsp chili powder separated (The amount totally depends on how potent your chili powder is.So use less if you have a super spicy chili)
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- Heat oil and corn kernels in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
- Stir a few times so that the oil coats all the kernels and cover. Leave the lid slightly ajar so the steam can escape.
- The corn should start popping in about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat as soon as the popping slows. Leave the lid on for a few more minutes because the corn will continue to pop.
- Transfer the popped corn into a large mixing bowl. Be sure to remove the unpopped kernels.
- In a medium saucepan, heat 2 cups sugar with 1/2 cup water on medium heat. Do NOT stir.
- While the sugar is boiling, mix the baking soda, 2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of chili powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
- When the sugar turns a light brown color, add the butter and stir. It will foam up. Just stir through that.
- Add the balsamic vinegar. Stir.
- Add the baking soda, salt and chili mixture. The sugar will foam up again. Stir quickly and pour over the popped corn. Quickly coat the popped corn with the caramel as evenly as possible.
- Mix the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of chili powder and sprinkle evenly over the caramel corn.
- Transfer the mixture to a parchment lined baking sheet and stick in the oven for about 20 minutes.
- Let the mixture cool and serve.
(Originally published February 16, 2013. Updated October 18, 2022)