This is it guys. This is quite possibly the most delicious popcorn I’ve ever encountered. There was a time when I figured kettle corn was the end-all be-all of popcorn deliciousness, or at the very least, I didn’t think it could get much better than Chicago mix. Then I devised this popcorn - crispy, crunchy, and coated in a sweet and salty soy sauce caramel and my popcorn game changed forever.
Okay, soy sauce caramel may sound a little out there, but look at it this way. We all know how ridiculously good regular old salted caramel is. Personally, if I have a choice when it comes to caramel, I’m choosing salted every time. And really, what’s soy sauce caramel but salted caramel taken to the next level? At least, that was my intention when I embarked on this culinary experiment and I’m happy to report that my hypothesis was correct. Soy sauce caramel IS in fact the ultimate sweet and salty combo. Punched up slightly with a little ginger and sesame to give it that teriyaki feel, this is some pretty delicious stuff.
If the thought of making your own caramel makes you want to run and hide, I can completely understand. Used to be, working with molten sugar scared the crap out of me as well. Often I’d end up with drippy, unset caramel or way-too-hard-rip-your-teeth-out caramel. Let me assure you though, I have made this recipe multiple times - without a candy thermometer no less - and it has come out great every time. I’ve included some additional notes and things I learned to help you at the bottom of the recipe as well.
As an additional nerdy sidenote; looking at this recipe, it may seem odd that we’re adding baking soda into the caramel. Among the list of other delicious ingredients going in there, baking soda certainly seems like the odd man out. The fact is, adding baking soda to caramel is the key to keeping it just the right texture. It reacts with the acidity of the other ingredients to form lots of foamy carbon dioxide bubbles (much like that vinegar and baking soda volcano you made back in science class), which in turn aerates the caramel and gives it that perfect soft and not-too-sticky texture.
Sweet and Salty Teriyaki Popcorn
Makes 8 cups
I have a sneaking suspicion that if one were to add a generous spoonful of sesame seeds to the mix along with the ginger and baking soda, it would probably be pretty awesome. But not having any sesame seeds on hand myself (boo!) I can only theorize on this point. If, unlike me, you do in fact manage to keep your cupboards stocked with sesame seeds, please give it a try and let me know how it turns out!
- 8 cups plain popped popcorn (from about ½ cup kernels)
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut up into pieces
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp ground ginger
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Coat the inside of a large bowl with cooking spray, and add popcorn to the bowl.
2. In a medium pot over medium high heat, combine the sugar and water, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves*. Continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until sugar-water mixture is amber in color, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove pot from heat and stir in the soy sauce, butter, and sesame oil** (there will be a lot of bubbling). Once all butter is melted in, return pot to heat and bring back to a boil. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
4. Remove pot from heat once again and stir in the baking soda and ground ginger. As soon as everything is evenly mixed, quickly pour mixture over the popcorn and toss to coat.
5. Spread coated popcorn out on your parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, tossing once halfway through baking***.
6. Remove popcorn from oven, and allow to cool slightly before serving. Once cooled, popcorn can be stored in an airtight container for several days.
*When cooking the sugar and water, err on the side of higher heat. If your stove isn’t hot enough, all of the liquid will evaporate off before the sugar has a chance to brown, and you’ll end up with a very solid sugary mass. If this happens to you, just dump it out (very hot water and soap will do the trick) and start again - it’s only sugar and water after all.
**When you add the soy sauce, butter, and sesame oil, keep stirring until the butter is all melted in. You may notice while stirring that the caramel begins to feel like it’s solidifying on the bottom of the pot, but don’t worry! It will all liquify again when you put it back on the heat.
***When the popcorn comes out of the oven, the caramel may still seem a little sticky - this is normal! It will become hard and shiny as soon as it has a chance to cool a bit. The finished product will be edible by the handful without leaving any sticky caramel residue behind!