Not Your Average Caramel Corn

So when I want a special movie snack, I don't just put together a bowl of popcorn. Often, I pop it on the stove, using bacon grease as my chosen fat for the process. I like to use interesting flavoring combinations. And when I'm feeling like it really needs to be special, I make this:

Behold, Chipotle Bacon Caramel Popcorn. This stuff is not for the faint-hearted, but it delivers on flavor. What's more, it's both gluten and dairy free. You simply fry some bacon and then pop your popcorn in some of the reserved bacon grease, make some salty caramel with some of the remaining bacon grease, and toss the combination with some smoky-spicy seasoning and the popcorn and you've got a snack mix that will leave you realizing a movie theater really has nothing to offer at that point!

Now, I suggest thick-cut bacon because it will give you some meaty bits in the middle of the sweet, salty, spicy popcorn and won't end up lost in this intense mix. You can use regular bacon, but you are already taking the step of making very special caramel corn, so why not splurge and enjoy the thick-cut bacon, too? If you don't want the end result to have as much of a smoky kick, you can reduce the amount of ground chipotle pepper to a half a teaspoon, but I wouldn't omit it. It lends a lovely flavor and bridges any gap between the bacon and the popcorn.

When you can snuggle into your couch with a fluffy blanket, a bowl of this special caramel corn, and your favorite movie, you may quickly discover that your favorite place to catch a movie is home. After all, when you can add a little kitchen magic to the experience, what's not to love?

Chipotle Bacon Caramel Popcorn

  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon -- cooked, crumbled, and bacon grease reserved
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 3 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Prepare the bacon and set aside, reserving the bacon grease rendered during the cooking process. In a large saucepan or pot with a lid, heat 2-3 tablespoons of the reserved bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover, and keep the saucepan moving until all of the kernels have popped, about 4 minutes. Transfer the popped popcorn to the large prepared bowl, removing any unpopped kernels.

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and cayenne pepper. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, 3 tablespoons of the reserved bacon grease, salt, and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a light, thickened caramel, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the baking soda mixture (the mixture will bubble up). Quickly fold in the bacon bits. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss, like a salad, until all of the popcorn is evenly coated with the caramel.

Pour the popcorn onto a large baking pan and quickly flatten and separate it into small pieces while it is still warm. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once it is cool, store it in a well-sealed airtight container.

  • Yields: About 10 cups
  • Preparation Time: About 15 minutes, plus cooling time