Bacon, bourbon, rich caramel and salt – we’ve happily gathered all of your vices into one satisfying snack. If you like a little heat in the mix, add a little cayenne to get a subtle bite as well. This salted caramel popcorn recipe is highly addictive. You have been warned.
Just before going in the oven.
Images: Peter Muka
- 1 pound bacon
- ¾ cup unpopped corn
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
- 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- ¼ cup bourbon plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus extra as needed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Cayenne (optional)
- Position oven racks in upper and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 250°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper; set aside.
- Lightly coat a very large bowl with nonstick spray. Lightly coat a large spoon or rubber spatula with nonstick spray; set aside.
- Cook the bacon until crisp, in batches as needed, reserving fat. Drain bacon on paper towels and cool, then chop into tiny pieces; set aside. Strain fat, leaving any solids behind to discard. Place bacon fat in a large, deep stockpot (at least a 6-quart pot) and place over low heat. Add a couple of corn kernels, cover and wait for them to pop. Add remaining popcorn and continue cooking over low heat until all the kernels are popped, shaking the pan a few times and lifting the lid once or twice to allow steam to escape. Pour popcorn into prepared bowl.
- Place the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, ¼ cup bourbon and salt in a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan and stir to combine. Cook over medium-high heat until it boils, then boil for about 4 minutes without stirring. If you have a candy thermometer, you want the mixture to come to 275°F; the color should be a rich golden brown. Remove from the heat, add remaining 1 tablespoon bourbon, vanilla and baking soda and swirl the pot to incorporate.
- Immediately and slowly pour the caramel over the popcorn, stirring and tossing it constantly with the prepared spoon/spatula. You want to coat the popcorn as evenly as possible with the caramel. Toss in the bacon pieces as you go. Taste the popcorn at this stage. If you want more salt, or want to add cayenne to taste, sprinkle over the popcorn as you toss it.
- Divide the caramel-coated popcorn between the two baking pans, breaking up any large clumps. Bake for 1 hour, tossing two or three times during the baking time. Cool completely on racks. Popcorn is ready to serve. Store at room temperature in airtight containers for up to 1 week.