easy anytime snack: peanut butter and honey popcorn
Those of you who have known me for awhile know about the snacking tradition that is peanut butter popcorn. It is something my aunt always used to make, and when she gave me her recipe in high school it became a requisite part of late night hang-outs and movie times within my circle. We still make it whenever an occasion presents itself, and lately Stephen and I have taken to making it and sneaking it into movie theaters in a ziploc in my purse! It is an amazing afternoon/midnight/2am take on the idea of sweet popcorn– all the addictive, sticky yummyiness of caramel corn with the unexpected salty-sweet deliciousness of peanut butter. Plus the recipe is easy to remember and easy to execute!
For years, The Peanut Butter Popcorn Recipe was constant, never adapted or experimented with, and I have to say it is pretty darn perfect the way it is– sweet, sticky clumps of popcorn studded with crunchy peanuts, and that’s all the flavor and texture you need. But lately we’ve taken to playing around with it a little bit when the mood strikes. One midnight movie prompted us to throw in some chocolate chips which was pretty amazing, and sometimes we leave out the peanuts or switch between using crunchy or smooth peanut butter, and on one extra special occasion we happened to have some peanut M&Ms that we tossed in the mix (why did we not think of this before??) and whoamygod. In any case, we’ve discovered that playing around does not disturb the perfection and on the contrary should be encouraged.
One thing that has always bothered me just a little bit about peanut butter popcorn (although not enough to deter me from making it) is the fact that the peanut butter sauce in the original recipe is made with some corn syrup. I’ve never been seriously concerned by it, but in general I feel like we all probably get enough corn derivatives in our diets without adding them into things we are cooking at home, so I’d rather not use it when I have the choice. Usually I just feel a tiny bit bad about it as I pour it into the pan (and then nom on the popcorn without another thought), but recently it occurred to me that one could substitute another runny, sweet substance and probably achieve the same effect without the corn syrup. And maybe another runny sweet substance could actually bring something complementary to the table!
So last time we were in the mood for a movie snack, we made peanut butter popcorn but added delicious local honey in place of the corn syrup, and it turned out fabulously! All the nostalgic goodness of a peanut butter butter and honey sandwich, but much more snackable and with the great crunch of popcorn. I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a tasty snack! On the other hand, if you are interested in using any of the more chocolaty add-ins I mentioned above I’d recommend going the corn syrup route because the honey flavor is pronounced enough that it might be a bit of flavor overload to have the peanut butter, popcorn, honey, and chocolate competing for your taste buds’ attention.
Peanut Butter and Honey Popcorn
Adapted from my Auntie Carol
Makes one large bowl
1/2 cup popcorn (I prefer to use an air popper, but you can make it on the stove or in a pinch you can use a bag of microwave popcorn provided it is not adulterated with butter/salt/godknowswhatelse)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey (or light corn syrup)
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy will both work)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup roasted peanuts (or more if you like)
optional add-ins: chocolate chips, peanut M&Ms…any other ideas, let us know!
Start by getting your popcorn popping. No need for butter or salt, just pop it up nice and plain and put it in a large bowl. Take out any old maids you find (aka unpopped kernels) because there is nothing worse than biting into a gooey chunk of peanut butter popcorn and breaking your tooth on a hard kernel.
In a small sauce pan over medium low heat, combine your sugar and honey (or corn syrup). Stir together and allow to heat up (using honey, it will seem really really thick at first and you’ll worry you put too much in, but all will resolve itself as it warms) until little bubbles start to form around the edges. Let it lightly bubble for about two minutes, then add your peanut butter and vanilla and stir to form a smooth, peanut buttery syrup. Remove from heat.
Add your peanuts to the bowl of popcorn (if using), then pour the peanut butter mixture over the bowl of popcorn and use a wooden spoon to toss it around so all the popcorn gets a nice coating. Don’t try to use your hands on this part or you’ll get a sugary burn! If you’re planning on using one of the chocolatey optional add-ins, don’t forget to let the coated popcorn cool a bit before you put in the chocolate or you will get a sticky brown melty (but still delicious) mess. The popcorn will be at its warm, sticky best right away, but if you like a little crunchier texture (more like traditional caramel corn) you will probably enjoy it more and more over the first 24 hours (if it lasts that long). Store in an airtight container if you expect it to last. Happy snacking!