It doesn’t feel like fall until I’ve eaten ______. How would you fill in the blank? For me, it’s caramel apples, pumpkin everything, a steaming mug of chai tea, and sweet-spicy-crunchy caramel corn. I think it reminds me of the fall carnivals we used to have at school growing up, where everyone dressed up and there was a pumpkin carving competition. They always handed out little paper bags filled with caramel corn, and I would eat so much that I’d get a stomach ache. It’s one of those foods that I think grown-ups love as much as kids, and I only recently discovered that it’s actually really easy to make at home!
I like being able to control how much butter and sugar goes into this — I added a little less than most recipes call for, and the result was just as crunchy and delicious while being at least a little healthier. By the way, did you know that popcorn is full of whole grains, fiber, and antioxidants? Of course we’re pouring on a little more decadence with this recipe, but it still beats a bag of chips or other processed sweets. Customize these with your spice or nut of choice: cinnamon or chili powder, and feel free to toss in walnuts, pistachios, or almonds — whatever you have on hand.
I’ll be packing up mason jars of this caramel corn as a gift to bring with me to upcoming fall and holiday parties. Just tie on a tag and you’ve got yourself the ultimate autumn hostess gift that everyone will love.
*photos by Molly Winters
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 10 - 12 cups plain unsalted popcorn
- 1 cup pecans, broken into large pieces
- 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
- pinch of kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Spray a foil-line baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Pour popcorn and pecans into a very large bowl.
- In a small saucepan, melt butter with sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons water. Stir until it comes to a boil, then working quickly, drizzle popcorn with the butter and sugar mixture. Use a large spoon to toss everything together.
- Spread popcorn out onto the baking sheet, and bake, tossing once or twice middway through, for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Popcorn will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.