Gourmet Caramel Corn: Basically a Cracker Jack Recipe for Grown Ups


Ever find yourself reminiscing about the days of stuffing your face with Cracker Jacks, only to be left with a sticky mess and a toy that was, let’s be honest, pretty lame? Fear not, I bring you the adult upgrade you didn’t know you needed: Chile & Bacon Laced Caramel Corn. This is not your childhood snack. This is caramel corn with a diploma, a briefcase, and a 401(k).

Jump to Recipe

Recipe card, description and images updated 2/7/24.

Spicy Pancetta Peanut Caramel Corn

Adult Gatherings Require Adult Beverages and Adult Snacks

Sometimes we ladies must gather with friends to discuss literature. Or Jon Hamm. Or how our children (or husbands) are driving us crazy. Or all three. Those events, which I find the excuse to attend with some regularity, require certain things…comfy clothes, a big soft couch, adult beverages, and snacks to accompany said adult beverages. Like this caramel corn that’s laced with chile and tossed with hunks of pancetta and salty peanuts.

I first heard of such a thing last weekend when I read Jonathan Gold’s review of Tar and Roses, yet another new gastropub in Los Angeles. There they serve chile and lardon caramel corn, which he describes as being like Cracker Jacks with bacon. It’s an elevated bar snack, he says,  presented first so that the diner may understand the purpose of the restaurant–drinking. And that generally is the purpose of book club, isn’t it? Ok, maybe not exactly, but I thought that a snack such as this would be a good fit anyway.

Gold mourned the lack of peanuts in Tar and Roses’ version. I would too…did you know bacon and peanuts are incredible together? Matt (my hubby) makes a killer bacon and peanut butter sandwich. But I digress. My version of the caramel corn has salty blistered peanuts, and brown sugar caramel infused with the subtle heat from the addition of dried chile flakes. I fried little cubes of pancetta and used the rendered fat to pop the popcorn for added depth of flavor.  I’m fairly certain that this concoction is the most addictive thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. I think the ladies at book club tonight will agree….that is, if there’s any left to bring them.

Spicy Pancetta Peanut Caramel Corn
Spicy Pancetta Peanut Caramel Corn

How to Make the Most Addictive Caramel Corn on the Planet

This caramel corn recipe isn’t just an upgrade; it’s a revolution in the snack department, combining the salty goodness of pancetta, the rich depth of dark brown sugar, and a kick of chile flakes to keep things interesting.

The process? Simple enough for even the most culinary-challenged among us. Brown your fancy bacon, pop your corn in the leftover fat (because waste not, want not), and then drizzle that golden, spicy caramel all over. Mix in some salted peanuts for that classic touch and bake it to crispy perfection.

FAQ: The Grown-Up’s Guide to Gourmet Caramel Corn

  • Q: Can I use microwave popcorn? A: Sure, if you like your gourmet snacks with a side of laziness. Just kidding. But really, popping your own corn in pancetta fat is where the magic happens.
  • Q: Is this snack healthy? A: It’s a caramel-covered, bacon-infused, peanut-packed delight. What do you think? Enjoy in moderation, folks.
  • Q: Can I use turkey bacon to make it healthier? A: You could, but then you’d be missing the point entirely. This snack is about indulgence. Turkey bacon is about making sad life choices.
  • Q: How long does it last? A: Technically, a few days in an airtight container. Realistically, until you taste how good it is.

There you have it. A caramel corn recipe that’s not for the faint of heart, but perfect for those looking to relive their childhood with a bit more sophistication (and a lot more bacon). Pour yourself a cocktail, cue up your favorite grown-up movie (no, not that kind), and enjoy this crunchy, salty, sweet, and utterly addictive bar snack. Just don’t expect any prizes at the bottom of the bowl, unless you count the inevitable rush of nostalgia and the satisfaction of your refined adult taste buds.

Spicy Pancetta Peanut Caramel Corn

Try this Caramel Corn Recipe with an Adult Beverage:

Did you make this homemade Cracker Jack recipe? Be sure to leave a comment and star rating below (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐) and post a picture and tag us on Instagram using the hashtags #agirldefloured #deflouredrecipes! Thank you!

Chile & Bacon Laced Caramel Corn

Alison Needham
Ever find yourself reminiscing about the days of stuffing your face with Cracker Jacks, only to be left with a sticky mess and a toy that was, let's be honest, pretty lame? Fear not, I bring you the adult upgrade you didn't know you needed: Chile & Bacon Laced Caramel Corn. Serve this crunchy, salty, sweet and utterly addictive bar snack at your next cocktail party, or give it away as a hostess gift.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Cuisine American
Servings 8 cups
Calories 450 kcal


  • large stock pot



  • Brown pancetta in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Remove pancetta from the pot using a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
  • Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot and return to the heat. Add popcorn and cover with the lid, venting it slightly. Cook popcorn, shaking the pot occasionally, until there are several seconds between popping kernels. Pour popcorn onto a cookie sheet that’s been lined with parchment paper or a silpat.
  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add corn syrup and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, then add salt, baking soda, and chile flakes. Remove from heat.
  • Sprinkle the reserved pancetta over the popcorn. Do the same with the peanuts. Carefully drizzle the hot caramel over the mixture and stir with a spatula to evenly coat the popcorn.
  • Bake for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool on the pan, then break into chunks and store in an airtight container.


Serving: 1cupCalories: 450kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 8gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 465mgPotassium: 243mgFiber: 3gSugar: 38gVitamin A: 434IUVitamin C: 0.001mgCalcium: 48mgIron: 1mg
Keyword bar snacks, caramel corn, caramelized onions, homemade cracker jacks, popcorn
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Thank you for helping support my small business! A Girl Defloured earns revenue in a few different ways; I have occasional sponsored post and I also earn an affiliate commission on the sales of products I link to— there are a few of those links in this post. The only items that I feature are those that I use on a regular basis and that I truly love. I earn a small commission on your purchase, but you don’t pay any more than retail price. This allows me to share my recipes with you!

Similar Appetizer and Bites Posts


  1. Mother’s Day gift 🙂 Yummy!!

  2. I didn’t think homemade caramel corn could get any better, but I was so wrong! Allison, your blog is beautiful and your recipes look beyond tasty! So glad I found your blog!

    I’m new to the gluten free blog community and would love for you to check out my recipes at Sarah Bakes Gluten Free Treats! Looking forward to trying this (sinful) caramel corn recipe and many others! Thanks!

  3. The way you explained about this yummylicious Crack Corn recipe dish is Awesome!! Looking for new Recipe….Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating