Salted caramel corn is one of those magical snacks that manages to taste better and better the more bites you take. (That is, until you've eaten a huge bowl and suddenly realize you've got yourself a major stomach ache.) It's got salt and sweetness, it's got bitter notes from the caramel, and it's got crunchy-airy corn kernels to anchor all that goodness. In Salty Snacks, Cynthia Nims takes this seemingly perfect treat to the next level with warming garam masala and rich pistachios. And her recipe couldn't be much easier—melt sugar, add spices and butter, pour over popped corn and nuts, and pop it all in the oven to commingle for an hour or so. The oven step continues to cook the caramel while also giving it a chance to coat every morsel of popcorn.
Why I picked this recipe: Honestly, I have a slight addiction to popcorn. Any new recipes are welcome in my kitchen.
What worked: Bittersweet, salty, and redolent of warm spices, this popcorn is a covetable treat.
What didn't: I would have liked visual cues for cooking the caramel. Nims's cooking times worked fine for me, but I always feel more comfortable cooking sugar when I have a little more information.
Suggested tweaks: You could certainly change up the spice blend (or hey, make your own) as well as the nuts. I'd stick to the same ratios of sugars and butter, though, as they make for a crisp caramel coating.
Reprinted with permission from Salty Snacks by Cynthia Nims. Copyright 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.
- Yield:serves 6 to 8
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:1 hour and 20 minutes
- 8 cups popped popcorn (about 1/4 cup kernels)
- 1 cup chopped toasted pistachios
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons garam masala
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, coarse or flaky sea salt, or kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Put the popcorn in a large baking dish, roasting pan, or broiler pan and scatter the pistachios over; set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garam masala and cook, stirring, until quite aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and corn syrup and cook, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes just to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Take the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda, which will lighten and expand the mixture. Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and pistachios and stir to combine. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the popcorn. (Don’t worry about the caramel not evenly coating the popcorn at this point.)
Bake the popcorn for 1 hour, taking the pan from the oven every 15 minutes to stir the popcorn well and help distribute the caramel evenly. Set the pan aside to cool, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. When cool, transfer the caramel corn to a serving bowl. If you are not serving the popcorn within a few hours, store it in an airtight container for 1 to 2 days.