Salty & Sweet Homemade Cracker Jacks

cracker jacksWintertime can put us in a rut in a lot of ways, not the least of which concerns food. With limited fresh produce and inclement weather stopping us from our normal grocery runs, we end up eating a lot of the same thing. At least I do, anyway, and if I see another granola bar or packet of oatmeal, I'm going to scream. But I recently found this homemade cracker jack recipe and I'm thinking it can save me from my wintertime snack blues.

Delicious and fun to make, homemade cracker jacks will have everyone thinking you're some sort of gourmet genius even though all you did was essentially pop some popcorn and heat up some caramel. Oh, yeah.


Homemade Cracker Jacks

Makes about 10 cups; prep time is 20 minutes; bake time is 1 hour.


  • 10 cups of freshly-popped popcorn (or 3.5-oz bag of microwave popcorn, plain)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup lightly salted peanuts


  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Pop the popcorn. Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and then transfer the popcorn to the bowl; set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and water, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 250 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat, and whisk in the vanilla and baking soda. Immediately pour the hot mixture over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn until all of the popcorn is coated. Gently stir in the peanuts, and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet, spreading it out.
  5. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.



Photo via Dano/Flickr

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