Caramel Popcorn

A treat with a trick from Chicago's Yusho
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Forget beer nuts: Even the bar snacks at Chicago's Yusho are exciting. Sous chef Anndria Jones, a Texas native who moved to the city after culinary school, shared her recipe for caramel popcorn.

This caramel corn is the kind of sweet-and-salty snack that you can't stop eating, equally good alongside a whiskey cocktail or downed by the handful on a movie night. Flavored with caramel, Szechuan peppercorns and almonds and finished with bonito salt, it walks the line between sweet and savory.

Caramel Popcorn

Recipe adapted from Anndria Jones, Yusho, Chicago, IL

Yield: 2 quarts (8 cups; with leftover bonito salt)

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes


Flaky sea salt, ⅓ cup

Bonito flakes, 2 tablespoons

Popped, unseasoned popcorn, 8 cups (from ½ cup of popcorn kernels)

Nonstick pan spray

Granulated sugar, 1½ cups

Water, ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon

Szechuan peppercorns, 1 teaspoon (finely ground)

Whole raw almonds, ½ cup


1. Make the bonito salt: To the small bowl insert of a food processor, add the:

  • Flaky sea salt
  • Bonito flakes

Grind until powder-fine.

To a large bowl, add the:

  • Popped popcorn
  • 1 tablespoon of the bonito salt

Stir to combine and set aside.

2. Make the caramel: Lightly coat a metal spoon with nonstick pan spray and set aside. To a heavy-bottomed pot, add the:

  • Granulated sugar
  • Water

Use a wooden spoon to stir the sugar-water mixture, taking care not to splash it on the sides of the pot. Once the mixture becomes the consistency of wet sand, cover the pot and set it over medium-high heat. Check the color of the sugar mixture occasionally, and once it starts to turn an amber color, 7 to 9 minutes, uncover the pot and add:

  • 2 teaspoons of the bonito salt
  • Ground Szechuan peppercorns

Cook until the peppercorns are fragrant, about 30 seconds, being careful not to let the caramel burn. Turn off the heat and add the:

  • Popped popcorn
  • Almonds

Use the coated metal spoon to thoroughly stir the popcorn so that it is evenly coated with the caramel. Pour the hot mixture onto a silicone-mat-lined baking sheet. Set aside until cool, then break up into craggy pieces and serve. 

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