Homemade Cracker Jack

October  5, 2015
3 Ratings
Photo by Teresa Floyd
  • Makes 8 to 9 ounces (about 5 cups)
Author Notes

Whether or not you are a fan of the original Cracker Jack, you’ll love this updated version: Airy fresh popcorn, crisp buttery caramel, and crunchy salty peanuts make this caramel corn hard to stop eating. It's seriously good.

A couple of helpful tips: First, be sure to have all the ingredients measured out and all of the kitchen tools nearby before you get started. It’s a simple recipe, but once the caramel is ready, the process will need to move quickly before the mixture begins to firm up. Second, a candy thermometer is essential for cooking the caramel to the required temperature. In regards to the ingredients, it’s okay to use unflavored microwave popcorn if you don’t have any popping kernels available. If you prefer a light molasses flavor, feel free to only use one teaspoon of molasses or omit it all together. It’ll be delicious with any of these options. —Teresa Floyd

What You'll Need
  • 1 3/4 ounces (about 5 cups) freshly popped popcorn, lightly salted
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 ounces salted Spanish peanuts
  • 3 ounces brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 ounces light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons molasses
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 250° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
  2. In a large bowl, place the freshly popped popcorn. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Measure out the baking soda, vanilla extract, and Spanish peanuts separately and set each aside until ready to use.
  4. In a small pot, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, molasses, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, over medium-high heat, and cook to 250° F (around 1 to 2 minutes after it begins to boil).
  5. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the baking soda and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Pour over the popcorn and gently but quickly stir the mixture to evenly coat all the popcorn kernels. Add in the peanuts and gently stir to distribute evenly.
  6. Pour the mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet. With the back of a spatula, quickly spread it out into a single layer. Bake for 1 hour, stirring mixture halfway through.
  7. When done, remove from oven and stir the caramel corn once more. If using, sprinkle with the fine sea salt. Set on a cooling rack and allow it to cool. Once cool, enjoy right away or store in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Wayne Lail
    Wayne Lail
  • Eleana
  • Claire Hoyt
    Claire Hoyt
  • Teresa Floyd
    Teresa Floyd
Teresa Floyd is a freelance photographer, food writer, and pastry chef living in Kansas City, MO. She is the creator of Now, Forager, a pastry blog focused on seasonal pastries and desserts.

16 Reviews

Kella January 25, 2020
Can I use maple syrup instead of cornsyrup?
cindysue August 25, 2019
Putting the popcorn on a sheet pan makes it very hard to stir, it goes everywhere. I use a deep disposable aluminum baking pan and this works great.
Jeannette January 15, 2017
Not everyone has a scale - but most everyone has measuring cups. Are you cook enough to provide usable measurements?
Wayne L. December 16, 2016
Teresa, I think your reasoning for not using ingredient amounts is this recipe by volume rather than weight falls flat... You state: "When developing this small of a recipe I chose to use ounces to provide the most accurate & consistent results," yet you provide measurements in teaspoons for baking soda, vanilla extract, and molasses... If you can provide accurate amounts for these items by volume, why not the other ingredients as well?
Susan S. December 16, 2016
Homemade Cracker Jack is delicious! Thank you for making the little bags of Cracker Jack and sharing with us! Susan
Eleana December 24, 2015
This is absolutely amazing! It was nice to find a fun recipe that I could give to my nieces and nephews as presents this season.
Teresa F. December 24, 2015
That's wonderful, Eleana! So happy to know that you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing and Happy Holidays!
Wayne L. October 28, 2015
Is it possible to have the ingredient amounts in volume (cups or fractions thereof) rather than by weight (ounces)... I don't have the necessary equipment for measuring weight... Thanks so much... This sounds like such a recipe, I'd hate to miss out.
Teresa F. October 28, 2015
Hi Wayne, unfortunately there isn't a cups version of this recipe. When developing this small of a recipe I chose to use ounces to provide the most accurate & consistent results. There are some really affordable kitchen scales out there today and are handy to have as a kitchen tool. Another option is to convert the amounts using an online conversion website, but the outcome of the recipe with vary a bit since it's not exact. Good luck!
ruth October 11, 2015
I love the taste molasses adds to cookies , granola and now caramel corn! Just a tablespoon in your chocolate chip cookie dough adds an amazing caramel flavor. Yum!
Teresa F. October 12, 2015
Ruth, that sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing that interesting tid-bit!
Claire H. October 10, 2015
Any idea how long this will keep for? Thinking about Holiday hostess gifts, etc.
Teresa F. October 11, 2015
That's a great idea, Claire! Stored in an airtight container (or bag) it should last for 3-5 days.
beejay45 October 7, 2015
Molasses! That's what that taste is. ;) I'll have to try this one. Thanks for the recipe and the revelation.
Teresa F. October 8, 2015
You're very welcome! Enjoy!
beejay45 October 7, 2015
Molasses! That's what that taste is. ;) I'll have to try this one. Thanks for the recipe and the revelation.