Food: Bourbon Caramel Popcorn


This is a lot of fun to make.  I can remember caramel popcorn being such a treat when I was kid.  In our house, a bag was gone in the blink of an eye. I always preferred caramel popcorn with peanuts and now we have designer popcorn of every flavor imaginable and I think that’s awesome.  Something for everyone. Now here is something for the bourbon lover in your life and if that so happens to be you, well you just scored a batch of bourbon caramel popcorn all to yourself 😉.  

The alcohol in the bourbon is cooked off, so it’s ok for the kids to eat it, if that is a concern.  I prefer to hide mine, so they can’t get their hands on it. Or tell them it tastes like spinach. Ok, ok, share it with the kids.  While you share your popcorn, you can share the fun fact and tell the kids that we’ve been eating caramel popcorn since the early 1890’s and in 1893 a version of Crack Jack debuted at the World’s Fair in Chicago and the rest, as they say, is history.   Way back, someone was thinking and experimenting and decided to add molasses to popcorn and a beautiful thing was born. Next the kids will likely ask where popcorn came from, whose origins go back thousands of years…but get your kids to look that up in their Funk and Wagnalls.


Bourbon Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients:  Makes 6 cups  

1 cup of white sugar

2 tbsp bourbon + 2 oz


2 tbsp butter

6 cups of popped popcorn

½ cup of dry roasted peanuts

*Bourbon Salt (optional – recipe can be found in a previous blog post)


  1. Prep the popcorn pan first. I use a large roaster, so I can toss the popcorn around to distribute the caramel and actually keep the popcorn in the pan and not all over the counter or floor.  Line the roaster with parchment paper and place the popped popcorn in it. Set it aside.

  2. Add the sugar to a medium saucepan.  Add the bourbon.

  3. Adding a small amount at a time, add enough water to make a paste.  (likely about 4 tbsp of liquid in total)

  4. Add the butter.

  5. Place the pan over medium heat and let the heat do its thing.  Do not stir!! Swirl the pan occasionally to redistribute the heat, but resist the urge to stir.  If, when you swirl, sugar ends up on the sides of the pan, leave it be. Swirling the pan in the early stages puts sugar up the sides of the pan where it will stick.  Do not scrape those sugars back into the mixture as it will cause the sugar to crystalize again and your caramel will be ruined. Trust me on this.

  6. Watch the color change as the mixture simmers.  If you go back to my IG post of July 12, you can see the stages of the caramel.  This can take 20-25 minutes.

  7. While you are waiting patiently, pour that 2oz of bourbon.  It will keep you busy and prevent you from stirring the pot.  Go ahead and take some pictures. It would also be a good idea to decide where you want the roaster to be when you pour the caramel as things will happen quickly when the caramel is ready.  Prepare the utensils that will toss the popcorn and caramel. This is NOT something you will do with your hands. Do not touch the caramel or you will be burned.

  8. When the caramel reaches a beautiful deep color – you will know!  Remove from heat and slowly drizzle over the pan of popcorn.

  9. Quickly toss the peanuts over the popcorn and sprinkle with a half tsp of bourbon salt if desired.  Using the utensils (AND NOT YOUR HANDS), toss the popcorn around. The caramel hardens quickly, so wait until you are finished for your photo opp.  It’s totally ok if each piece is not coated. It’ll be delicious.


popcorn closeup.jpg

It may seem like a lot of steps but make it one time and you will find it is one of the easiest things to make!  Plus, it’s homemade Bourbon Caramel Popcorn for a fraction of the cost!! The hardest things about making this is having the patience to let the heat work its magic and resisting the urge to taste test it.  Serious burns are not fun. If the kids want to help, let them pour the popcorn in the roaster to start and sprinkle the peanuts or bourbon salt. You handle the caramel part. The popcorn lasts sealed in a container for up to 4 days.  At least that’s how long it lasted in my house once. Once.




Maureen LInehan