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