Balsamic Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Balsamic Caramel Popcorn Recipe  Recipe

Friday night is movie night at our home. The little ones are in charge of popping the popcorn in the microwave. Occasionally, we make caramel popcorn. I felt like having a bit more grownup treat, so I decided to put a twist on our movie snack by flavoring it with balsamic vinegar.

After deciding to use balsamic vinegar, it seemed like an obvious choice to pair it with olive oil. I usually make caramel with butter, so it was an easy substitution. I reduced the amount of oil compared to the amount of butter I would normally use, though. The California Ranch extra virgin oil has a nice aroma and fruity flavor which combined nicely with the balsamic reduction and sugar. I threw in some toffee peanuts at the end to give it a little crunch. The final product had a very distinct taste that reminded me of flan.

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Yields: 6 servings

1 bag readily-popped popcorn (about 5 cups), microwaved, still in the paper bag
4 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-¼ cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup toffee peanuts (optional)


Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper and brush with a little olive oil.

Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan, bring to a boil and let simmer until it reduces by half. Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.

In a non-stick sauce pan, melt the sugar without any water over high heat. It's important to watch the sugar carefully; as soon as the edges of the pan start caramelizing, immediately lower the heat to medium-low.

 Gently jiggle the saucepan in circles. Do not use a spoon! Lower the heat to the lowest setting when there are only a few remaining non-caramelized pieces. Don't let the sugar get dark brown or you'll get an unpleasant burnt taste. When all the sugar is an amber color, remove from the heat, pause for about a minute (be careful of splattering when the oil is added), then slowly add the olive oil and salt. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon. Return to the stove using the lowest setting and add the corn syrup and the balsamic reduction. Turn off the heat, then add the baking soda (it will become foamy) and vanilla extract. Stir well.

Immediately pour the caramel while it's still hot into the popcorn bag. Sprinkle the toffee peanuts (if used) and mix the ingredients until the caramel sauce is spread uniformly (I used long chopsticks).

Spread the popcorn onto the baking pan. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt (if you like) so it enhances the taste of the popcorn.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Check the popcorn frequently, stirring it using long chopsticks.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Bon appétit!


 The addition of light corn syrup makes a smoother, glossy caramel.

The toffee peanuts are optional but they add crunch and balance the texture of the popcorn.

Depending on how strong you want the balsamic reduction to be in the caramel, you can use up to ½ cup of balsamic vinegar. 

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on September 2, 2011.


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