Best Caramel Popcorn and Spicy Chex Mix: Boo!

Cracker Jack style caramel corn

You’ve heard me say before that it doesn’t take much to please me.  Today I received another “gift without ribbons.”  Friends Ray and Roger Davis brought a dump truck load of horse manure for my gardens. Black gold is what I call it! We’ll spread the manure out evenly, and let it continue to age until spring. 

“Black Gold”

Seeing those mounds of black gold takes the sting out of having to bush hog what remained of the veggies and flowers. 

This is the time of year, too – Halloween – for fun, uncomplicated, fare, like caramel popcorn. Looking at the variations I’ve shared with you through the years makes me realize just how iconic caramel popcorn is with Halloween. 

And while you have the oven on for caramel popcorn, try spicy Chex mix — both use the same temperature and time.

Cracker Jack style caramel corn 

The flavor is as close as I can get to the real Cracker Jacks.

Want to small batch this? Divide recipe in half.


16-18 cups plain popped popcorn

2-3 cups peanuts (not dry roasted) or mixed nuts (I like lightly salted nuts)


2 sticks butter

2 cups light or dark brown sugar or combo

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt 

1 tablespoon real vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda


Preheat oven to 200. 

To avoid sticking, use vegetable spray to coat large bowl, cookie sheets and spoon.

Put popcorn and nuts in bowl. Set aside. 

Over medium heat in large saucepan, bring to a boil everything but vanilla and soda. Boil 5 minutes. 

Add vanilla and baking soda and stir vigorously. 

Mixture will foam up, form a mass and turn light in color. 

Immediately pour over popcorn mixture, stirring well to coat. 

Pour in single layers onto sprayed sheets. 

Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to distribute coating. 

Let cool for coating to harden. 

Store, covered, at room temperature.  


Watch for unpopped kernels in bowl

I put popped corn in big bowl before measuring. I scoop up popcorn in my hands, leaving unpopped kernels in bottom.

Dark brown vs light brown sugar

Dark brown sugar contains more molasses, is darker in color and has a stronger, more caramel-like flavor.

Buffalo ranch Chex mix

Fairly addictive!


3 cups each: rice, corn and wheat Chex type cereal

2 cups favorite cheese crackers

2 cups tiny pretzel twists

2 cups Bugles

1-1/2 to 2 cups nuts 

1-1/2 sticks butter, melted (12 tablespoons)

Buffalo hot wings sauce to taste – I used 1/3 cup

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon celery seed (optional but good)

1 oz. packet dry ranch dressing mix


Preheat oven to 200.
Mix cereals, crackers, pretzels, Bugles and nuts together.

Melt butter, wings sauce and Worcestershire over low heat. Then whisk in celery seed and ranch dressing mix.

Pour over cereal mixture and mix well.

Pour onto sprayed baking sheets or large roasting pan and bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Cool and store, covered, at room temperature.

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