homemade cracker jacks

This recipe was a sort of happy accident.  I was figuring out how to make this caramel corn and one of the early attempts yielded way too much caramel coating for the amount of popcorn.  So I added some peanuts, baked it, and then let it cool.  And when I tasted it, I realized: this tastes like cracker jacks!

Unlike my effort to figure out caramel chips (a dismal failure; I’m still working on that one!), this accidental cracker jack recipe is one I’m sure will be a big hit.  My kids love taking a bag to school in their lunch.  I love that the sugar is wholesome.  And I have even made a double batch and brought it to a party with great success!

I grew up eating the occasional box of cracker jacks.  It’s soft yet crunchy, sweet and salty, and even a little smoky all at the same time.  It actually didn’t occur to me that I could make my own.  I had just shelved the idea that I would eat anything like it anymore, favoring real food desserts over anything from a box.  I’m glad I stumbled across this idea!

Equipment Needed:

  • large saucepan and wooden spoon
  • good knife or food chopper
  • jelly roll pan and parchment paper
  • glass bowl and rubber scraper

Homemade Cracker Jack (Peanut & Caramel Popcorn)

4 cups popped plain popcorn
1 1/2 cups roasted and salted peanuts, preferably soaked and dehydrated (see how here)
1 cup butter (buy grass-fed butter here, how to make butter here)
2 1/2 cups coconut sugar (buy coconut or palm sugar here)
1/2 teaspoon good vanilla (buy extracts here)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (buy aluminum-free baking soda here)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (buy unrefined salt here)

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Melt butter gently in a saucepan.  Add sugar after the butter melts, and heat over medium high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly until nicely combined.  This will take a few minutes: at first the mixture will be grainy, then the butter will separate from the sugar, and then it will come together.
  3. Once the mixture comes together, raise the heat to get the mixture to simmer.   Lower the heat slightly and let boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.
  4. Add vanilla, baking soda, and salt, stirring quickly to combine and taking care not to get splattered.  Immediately pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and peanuts, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until well-coated.  Then spread the popcorn mixture in an even layer onto a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  6. Break into pieces and chomp!