Super Simple Cayenne Caramel Corn

One of my grandmas was not amazing in the kitchen. I didn’t realize that until I was an adult. I LOVED her food, mostly because when I was there it was prepared with me in mind, specifically. When I was with her, I felt very secure and very loved. I could be silly and could ask for what I wanted. I was the center of her universe. When somebody is gushing that much love onto you, it’s really hard to tell if her beans are lacking flavor or her homemade bread was just a little weird. In retrospect, I didn’t notice the odd flavors until I heard other family members cracking jokes. Maybe there’s something to the idea that things taste better when love is the main ingredient.

She did alright in the basic sweets department, though. We made a lot of decorated sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies with whatever nuts we had, usually walnuts that my grandpa brought home from the trucking company he was retired from, or a friend who he’d “horse traded” with. He was always coming home with some odd thing, it was great! She found a recipe in a magazine for a “No Corn Syrup Caramel Corn” one day. She said it was going to be good because it had “soda” in it. I remember the feeling of disappointment when I found out that “soda” was baking soda and not a bubbly beverage! We made the caramel corn and she and I sat under a quilt while it drizzled outside and ate the whole bowl. This is a good memory.

Other than the cayenne, I think the recipe I will be sharing with you today is the same, or at least incredibly similar, to the one we made that rainy day. If heat isn’t your thing simply omit that ingredient.

You will need the following:

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels (about 10 cups popped)
  • 1 1/2 sticks salted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda


  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees, place popped popcorn into a large bowl and set aside. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In a large sauce pan melt butter. Once melted add brown sugar and cayenne and stir over medium heat until dissolved and smooth. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Continue to boil until smooth and thick, this should take about five minutes from boiling.
  3. Remove from heat and add remaining three ingredients. The baking soda will make it foam up which is why we are using a large sauce pan. Once fully incorporated, carefully pour over popcorn. Gently toss together until nicely coated.
  4. Spread caramel corn over the two parchment lined baking sheets in an even layer and pop into the oven for 60 minutes, stirring every 15.

This was pretty easy and the result is a crunchy buttery caramel corn that is as good as any you’ve tasted.



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