Homemade Cracker Jack

How can you go wrong with caramel, popcorn, and peanuts?
This Homemade Cracker Jack is a fun and addicting snack!

Homemade Cracker Jack (aka - The MOST addicting snack ever!!)It’s that time of the year again.  The time of the year that college basketball fans unite and watch many, many hours of tournament action.  What’s not to love about 68 teams going head-to-head in hopes of cutting down the nets and hoisting that national championship trophy?  I’ve actually been known to take vacation days in order to watch the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament in their entirety.  If the games themselves aren’t your thing, then maybe the office pool will encourage you to watch.  Speaking of pools, did you hear about Warren Buffett’s $1 billion bracket challenge.  The catch: you have to pick every single game of the tournament correctly.  But it’s for $1 billion.  That’s $1,000,000,000.  That’s a lot of zeros.  Well, fortunately for Warren, his billion is safe.  No one made it past the first weekend of games with a perfect bracket.  I myself was out after the first game.  Yes, the first game.  Oh well.  It was worth a shot.  Of course, when I’m settled on the couch watching all of this basketball, I need snacks.  Lots of delicious snacks.  This Homemade Cracker Jack is a new favorite, and it’s tons of fun to make!

Homemade Cracker Jack (aka - The MOST addicting snack ever!!)Warning: this Homemade Cracker Jack is a seriously addicting snack.  How can you go wrong with caramel, popcorn, and peanuts?  I’ve had a recipe for caramel popcorn stashed away in my files for a while now, but then I came across one which included molasses.  I was intrigued.  With all of the college basketball games going on, I knew this was a perfect time to try out the molasses addition.  Ummm…woah.  This is definitely my favorite new snack of the year.  It’s sweet & salty, crunchy & chewy, and all sorts of delicious!

I do have a couple of recipe tips for when you make your first batch of this Homemade Cracker Jack.  (Catch that?  First batch.  That’s because there will be many batches to follow.)  Make sure to use unflavored popcorn.  Buttered popcorn is delicious, but it kinda throws off this recipe. You can pick up unflavored popcorn in bags, but I actually prefer to make popcorn in a covered pan on the stovetop.  If you’ve never made popcorn on the stovetop, then check out this post on Parmesan + Rosemary Stove-popped Popcorn.  (That’s another delicious snack recipe if you prefer savory popcorn.)

Homemade Cracker Jack (aka - The MOST addicting snack ever!!)Another recipe note is that the caramel mixture is sticky and cools quickly.  That’s not necessarily a problem, but just be aware that the popcorn will be a bit difficult to stir initially.  That’s where the low-temperature oven comes into play.  Putting the mixture on a foil-lined sheet pan in the oven will help loosen the caramel topping so it’s easier to stir all the popcorn and peanut goodness together.

Homemade Cracker Jack (aka - The MOST addicting snack ever!!)

Homemade Cracker Jack

Homemade Cracker Jack (aka - The MOST addicting snack ever!!)
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 268kcal

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • cups brown sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • ½ tsp salt plus more for finishing
  • 8 cups popped unflavored popcorn or 2 (3-oz) bags of microwave popcorn
  • cups salted peanuts
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses and salt. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 265°F (this will take about 3-4 minutes after it starts to boil).
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°F and place the cooked popcorn and peanuts in a large bowl.
  • Once the caramel mixture reaches 265°F, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour mixture it into the bowl with the popcorn and peanuts; stir until well coated. (Note: The caramel mixture will be very sticky, so just stir as well as possible at this stage.)
  • Transfer popcorn and peanuts to a foil-lined sheet pan and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. (Tip: I used a large flat turner to help flip the popcorn and peanuts.)
  • Let mixture cool and add salt to personal taste.

Notes

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

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20 Comments

  1. Good golly yum! I am not a huge basket ball fan but with snacks like this I might have to reconsider! My co-workers were taking about Warren Buffett’s $1 billion bracket challenge -not 1 million but 1 billion! WOA -could you imagine?!

    1. Heh…I understand the bball thing, Greg. I just happened to grow up in an area where basketball was a way of life! But Cracker Jack? It’s totally acceptable to down a bowl of it while watching a movie instead. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

    1. Haha! Funny thing is I seriously debated hiding a toy in one of the pictures…just for fun. But I didn’t have anything that would work. (Somehow I think a dog toy wouldn’t have been the right thing to use.)

    1. You’re telling me, Bianca! I’m pretty sure this batch didn’t make it more than a day in our house…so addicting! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

    1. Haha! But I like to think I’ve got really good bracket-picking skills. Guess not. And I’m fairly certain my wife did in fact down this whole batch in one sitting. Impressive!

    1. Thanks, Pamela! This snack is totally addicting. And the tournament this year made me want to cry. Not only was I out of the billion dollar challenge after 1 game (1 game!), but my team also got upset in the first round. Talk about a quick end to the season…is it time for college football yet??

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