This homemade Cracker Jacks recipe is just as buttery, sweet, and delicious as the Cracker Jack original. It’s a simple snack made with fresh popcorn and crunchy peanuts coated in a thin layer of brown sugar caramel.
Homemade Cracker Jacks Popcorn
Our homemade version of the over 120 years old Crack Jack Popcorn treat will bring you right back to your childhood. This Cracker Jacks recipe uses just a few ingredients to make caramel coated popcorn and peanuts that taste just like the original. All that’s missing in the little Cracker Jacks box and prize!
Below, you’ll find instructions on how to cook a simple caramel, coat the freshly popped popcorn and peanuts, and finish it all up in the oven. Homemade Crackers Jacks make great gifts, halloween party treats, or even just a tasty snack to have for weekend movie nights. Once it’s all finished, feel free to toss in other candies and snacks like M&Ms, pretzels, and more.
Cracker Jack Ingredients
- Popcorn - our favorite popcorn to use is plain freshly popped popcorn. Microwave popcorn and bagged popcorn can be used, but won’t be as crisp and fresh as freshly popped popcorn. Plus, they usually have added salt and other ingredients.
- Brown Sugar - I’ll usually use light brown sugar for this recipe, but dark brown sugar will also work. Dark brown sugar will give a deeper molasses flavor.
- Butter - you can use salted or unsalted butter depending on your flavor preference.
- Corn Syrup - corn syrup or Karo syrup helps to keep the caramel soft and prevents the sugar from crystallizing while it cooks.
- Baking Soda - this also keeps the caramel nice and soft.
- Vanilla Extract - pure vanilla extract tastes best and gives these Cracker Jacks a little added flavor boost.
- Peanuts - you can use dry roasted or raw peanuts. They will bake slightly in the oven, but since they’ll be covered in caramel they won’t roast fully. It’s up to what you like the best.
How to Make Cracker Jacks Popcorn
- Cook the caramel. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Bring to a rapid boil while stirring frequently, then continue to boil for 5 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 250 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
- Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Remove from heat, stir in the baking soda, vanilla extract, and peanuts (if using), and pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Stir gently to coat.
- Bake. Transfer the caramel coated popcorn in a thin, even layer onto a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake in an oven preheated to 325 degrees F for about 20 minutes, stirring every 7-8 minutes.
- Cool. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely at room temperature. Once cooled, break the Cracker Jacks apart into smaller pieces.
- Serve. Serve in a large serving bowl, or individual serving cups. Store leftovers in an airtight container in a cool place for 3-5 days. Enjoy!
Recipe Variations for This Cracker Jacks Recipe
Whether you prefer sweet, spicy, nutty, or unique flavor combinations, there's a delicious twist for every snacking occasion.
- Chocolate-Covered Cracker Jacks: Drizzle or coat your Cracker Jacks with melted chocolate, such as milk, dark, or white chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set before enjoying.
- Spicy Sriracha Cracker Jacks: Mix sriracha sauce with the caramel for a spicy-sweet version. The heat from the sriracha complements the sweetness of the caramel.
- Peanut Butter Lover's Cracker Jacks: Incorporate peanut butter into the caramel mixture or drizzle melted peanut butter over your Cracker Jacks for a nutty, creamy twist.
- Almond and Sea Salt Cracker Jacks: Replace the peanuts with roasted almonds and sprinkle a touch of sea salt over the caramel-coated popcorn.
- Maple Pecan Cracker Jacks: Add maple syrup to the caramel and toss in chopped pecans for a taste reminiscent of fall. It's perfect for a cozy, seasonal snack.
- Cinnamon Sugar Cracker Jacks: Dust your Cracker Jacks with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar for a warm and comforting flavor reminiscent of cinnamon toast.
- Coconut Cracker Jacks: Mix shredded coconut with your Cracker Jacks for a tropical flavor. Toast the coconut for extra crunch and aroma.
Frequently Asked Questions
If your Cracker Jack’s turn out a little on the sticky side, most likely you didn’t cook the caramel mixture long enough. Make sure you let it boil for about 5 minutes, or until it reaches 250 degrees on a candy thermometer. This allows enough water to evaporate and for the sugar to reach the soft ball stage.
Sure! It won’t be quite the same as Cracker Jacks, but it will still be absolutely delicious.
As long as you store them in an airtight container at room temperature in a cool spot, your Cracker Jacks should stay fresh for up to 5 days. Avoid storing them in the fridge which will introduce too much moisture and make them stale.
Storing Cracker Jacks
- Room Temperature: store Cracker Jacks in an airtight container in a cool place at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Cracker Jacks Recipe
- 15 cups Popcorn popped
- 2 cups Brown Sugar
- 2 cups Butter
- ½ cup Corn Syrup
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 2 cups Peanuts
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Place the popped popcorn in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Bring to a rapid boil while stirring frequently, then continue to boil for 5 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 250 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove from heat, stir in the baking soda, vanilla extract, and peanuts (if using), and pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Stir gently to coat, then transfer the caramel coated popcorn in a thin, even layer onto a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
- Bake in your oven for about 20 minutes, stirring every 7-8 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely at room temperature. Once cooled, break the Cracker Jacks apart into smaller pieces.
- Serve in a large serving bowl, or individual serving cups. Store leftovers in an airtight container in a cool place for 3-5 days. Enjoy!
More Of Our Favorite Snack Recipes
- Fall Party Snack Mix
- Apple Nachos
- Pumpkin Fluff Dip
- Zucchini Chips
- Corn Salsa
- Pretzel Toffee
- Candied Pecans
- Pizza Pinwheels
- Mini Veggie Cups
- More Fall Recipes
- More Easy Desserts
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This Cracker Jacks Popcorn recipe is a simple snack made with caramel coated popcorn and peanuts. It tastes just as delicious as the original Cracker Jack brand and is easy to make at home.