Sweet Heat Salted Caramel Popcorn!
Right before moving from Minnesota, we were at a gluten-free trade show. There were all kinds of fun things to try, but one that stood out was a popcorn. Two popcorns, actually - both salted caramel, but one was "Sweet Heat", and the other was "Moroccan Twist". They were SO good - but apparently unavailable in Canada.
So, I did what anyone with a "replicate from taste" superpower would do - I bought an extra bag of each and put them aside to replicate once we had a new house and were settled in. Well, that was in May of 2018. I finally got it in my head that maybe I should do that... 2 full years later. You know, when both bags were expired by well over a year.
I shook the bags, and was happy to hear that it sounded like the popcorn was all separated and dry. That meant little chance of mold... but no idea how it would taste. I was really relying on the source material being intact, as I'd only had it once, and hadn't developed any real kind of taste memory for it, 2 years later.
Well, it smelled like ... old. Not mildew, not really dusty, just.. old. Staleness. Crap. I smelled it several times over a few minutes, trying to work past that additional smell, to be able to pick out the actual scents present. Eventually I was able to, and also got brave/stupid enough to lick one. It.. wasn't very good, but there was enough remnant of flavour to be able to trigger a little bit of taste memory.
Brains are weird.
The degradation of both source material and taste memory for it means that I likely didn't end up with a perfect replica, but I DID end up with an amazing popcorn, so I'm considering it a win anyway. This is sweet and spicy with a complexity that comes from a few seasonings that you don't normally see in a caramel popcorn.
It disappears fast... fast enough that you shouldn't have any worries about eating stale, 2 year old caramel popcorn 🙂
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Sweet Heat Salted Caramel Popcorn
- 16 Cups Popped Popcorn (⅔-3/4 Cup unpopped kernels)
- 1 ¼ tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 ¼ tsp Onion Powder
- 1 tsp Crushed Chilies
- ½ tsp Cayenne Powder
- ½ tsp Paprika
- ¼ tsp Cardamom
- ¼ tsp Cinnamon
- ¼ tsp Ground Pepper
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 2 cups Granulated Sugar
- 6 Tbsp Sunflower or Olive Oil
- ¼ cup Brown Sugar Packed
- ½ cup Corn Syrup
- 2 tsp Salt
- Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place the popped popcorn in a large stockpot. Set aside.
- Mix together the spices and baking soda, set aside.
- In a large saucepan, combine sugars, oil, corn syrup, and salt, whisking until well combined. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once boiling, allow to boil for 5 minutes - stirring frequently - and then remove from heat.
- Add baking soda, stir well to combine - You don’t want clumps of spices! – caramel will foam up a little.
- Pour caramel over popcorn mixture, CAREFULLY stir to coat evenly – Hot sugar is nasty to get burned with!
- Divide the caramel corn between the two cookie sheets, spreading it evenly
- Break up large chunks of popcorn, and allow to cool fully.
- Serve immediately, or transfer to airtight containers for storage.