Sweet and Spicy Popcorn


  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted walnut halves or pieces, finely chopped
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • 1 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt


  1. Put the cayenne and the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and chop fine. Set aside.
  2. Heat a high-sided pasta pot over medium heat and add the oil.
  3. Add one popcorn kernel; when it pops, remove it and add remaining popcorn. (Alternately, 1 package of natural flavor microwave popcorn can be used.)
  4. Cover and cook over medium heat, shaking the pan from now and then, until the popping stops for 5-second intervals.
  5. Transfer popcorn to a large bowl and sprinkle with fine sea salt.
  6. Heat a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over high heat for 3 minutes.
  7. Line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper, and set aside.
  8. Add the sugar to the heated saucepan and stir with a heatproof spatula or metal spoon until it melts and turns a golden caramel color. Add the ground walnuts with cayenne and stir once to combine. Working quickly but carefully, pull the pan off the heat and add the popcorn all at once. Stir to coat completely and evenly with the caramel, pulling popcorn and caramel up from the bottom of the pan. Try not to break up the popcorn.
  9. Pour and scrape the coated popcorn onto the lined sheet pan.
  10. When cool enough to handle, sprinkle with the kosher salt and break the popcorn into bite-size clusters.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Popcorn can be made and reserved in a tightly-sealed container for 24 hours.

Source: Rocco DiSpirito