Easy Everyday: Smoky-Sweet Popcorn Nut Mix

March 14, 2012

sweet and smoky popcorn
Photo by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest

If you're into these "easy everyday" recipes we've been sharing, we're willing to bet that a candy thermometer is not something you're reaching for when looking to fix a simple party snack. So, it's a good thing you won't need one (or any other specialty equipment, for that matter) to make this spicy caramel-coated mix. In fact, you probably have all the ingredients for this recipe in your pantry, and it doesn't get any easier than that!

Just combine the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt with a healthy dose of ground chipotle in a saucepan, toss the smoky syrup over nuts and freshly sprung popcorn, and bake in a thin layer until the caramel tightens its hold on the popcorn and nuts and achieves that irresistible crackly crunch. Try your best to let it cool before grabbing a handful.

Note: Feel free to add the ground chipotle to taste -- two teaspoons if you'd like to achieve heat in addition to smokiness, half a teaspoon if you're particularly sensitive to spice (milder smoked paprika would work well here, too). You can also use a different ground pepper or spice, like aleppo pepper (for fruity heat) or freshly cracked black pepper (for those of you who like to dip peppery bacon in your maple syrup at breakfast). And if you're partial to other sweeteners, check out our Glossary of Natural Sweeteners for substitution ideas.

Sweet and Smoky Popcorn and Nut Mix

Makes 12 cups

5 tablespoons butter, plus more for the baking sheet
8 cups popped, unseasoned popcorn (about 1/3 cup kernels)
2 cups mixed nuts (almonds, pecans, cashews and/or walnuts)
2/3 cups dark brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

What other party snacks do you make from pantry staples? Share your ideas and cooking tips in the comments section below!

Like this post? See the Easy Everyday topic from last week: Kale Waldorf Salad.

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