If you want EASY & PERFECT Caramel Popcorn, make it in the Ninja Foodi! It's like magical unicorns sprinkled stardust down upon us and poof!... there is the most delicious Caramel Popcorn in the Ninja Foodi!
Seriously, I'm not kidding! I've made my share of caramel popcorn before and have always hated making it. I almost always burn myself on the sugar mixture or it's too sticky or break-your-teeth hard or it clumps to some of the popcorn, but other pieces remain bare.
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I was craving some Fiddle Faddle with Cashews the other night and decided to throw caution to the wind and make my own version. I've made popcorn several times in the Ninja Foodi and it always turns out great, so I knew I would use this magical appliance.
What I didn't know is how easy it was going to be. In less than 30 minutes, I was crunching on delicious caramel popcorn.
Variations to Caramel Popcorn
I added cashews to my first batch and it was delicious, but it would be just as good with peanuts or pecans or even walnuts!
Simply add the type of nuts you love the most or even a combination of nuts to the popcorn before you dump it into the Ninja Foodi to coat with the caramel.
You can use 1/2 to 1 cup of nuts, but I wouldn't use much more than that or you might not have enough caramel to cover it all.
Spice it Up!
You can add various spices when you pop the popcorn to add another dimension to your caramel popcorn!
My husband suggested cinnamon. He loves cinnamon and you know what? I think that sounds really good! Use about ½-1 tsp mixed in with oil in the inner pot before you pop the popcorn.
Spice it up with some cayenne pepper! Spicy and sweet is one of my favorite combinations and I bet it would great added to this recipe. I would only add between ¼-½ tsp of cayenne and mix it in with the oil before popping the popcorn.
There are many other ways you can customize this recipe and make it exactly the way you want. What would you add? Let me know in the comments!
Do I have to have a candy thermometer to make Caramel Popcorn?
No, you don't, but it does help to have a thermometer even if it's an instant-read and not specifically for candy making.
There are other ways to tell if your sugar mixture is hot enough. If you don't have a thermometer, fill a small bowl half full of water and check for the stage that your sugar mixture has heated to by dropping a small amount of it into the water.
Use a wood spoon or silicone spoon and just drop or drizzle a small amount of the sugar mixture into the water. If your drop of caramel disappears in the water, you are not hot enough, so keep boiling. This is the thread stage and the sugar temp is around 223-234℉/106-112℃.
Here are some guidelines for various stages of the caramel as it heats up. The one we are aiming for is the hard crack stage.
Soft Ball Stage: When your sugar mixture is between 235-240℉/112-115℃ it will form a ball when you drop a tiny bit into water. If you remove the drop, it will flatten and is very soft.
Firm Ball Stage: When your sugar mixture is between 241-249℉/116-120℃ it will form a ball when dropped into water and this ball will hold its shape, but is pliable.
Hard Ball Stage: When your sugar mixture is between 250-269℉/121-129℃ it will form a ball when dropped into water and the ball will hold its shape.
Soft Crack Stage: When your sugar mixture is between 270-294℉/132-145℃ it will turn into strands when drizzled in water. These strands will bend before they break.
Hard Crack Stage: When your sugar mixture is between 295-310℉/146-155℃ it will turn into strands when drizzled in water. These strands are brittle and will break.
The temperature that you want to get to is right around 300℉/149℃, but please don't spend too much time checking your sugar mixture or you will end up burning it.
It takes about 4-5 minutes for it to become soft crack stage, but then it increases in temperature quickly.
If I'm not using a thermometer, I will usually check my sugar mixture 2-3 times (using the same bowl and water) after it starts boiling. I know once I reach hard ball stage, I only have a couple of minutes more to go.
I timed each batch I made and, because of the excellent temperature regulation on the Ninja Foodi, it took just about 6 minutes after it started to boil to reach the desired temperature of 300℉/149℃ each time.
You can also get an idea by the size of the bubbles and the color of the mixture. The bubbles start off pretty big and get smaller as more water content evaporates. The color also starts to darken slightly and you can really start to smell caramel just before we turn the heat off.
Tips for Making Caramel Popcorn in the Ninja Foodi
Make sure you have your baking soda and vanilla measured out. Once the sugar mixture reaches the desired temp and you turn the Ninja Foodi off, you will want to have them ready to go. Things move quickly at this point.
Have your bowl of popcorn close by so you can dump it in and start to stir right after you stir in the vanilla.
Have two cooling racks set up and ready to go. Once you stir the popcorn into the caramel, you will want be able to spread it out fairly quickly. *If you don't have cooling racks, you can use parchment-lined trays.
Break up the popcorn into the size clusters you want before it cools completely. You can even separate each piece of popcorn if you want, but I don't spend the time doing that. I actually like picking up a cluster, especially when there are cashews in it!
Let the caramel popcorn cool completely before placing in a ziplock bag and store the popcorn at room temperature or even in the freezer. The humidity in the refrigerator will cause it to go soft.
Can I make this Caramel Popcorn on the stove?
Absolutely! Just use a large pot that heats evenly and follow the same instructions.
How to make Caramel Popcorn in the Ninja Foodi
With any candy making, I really recommend gathering all your supplies and have things measured out before you start. This whole process takes less than 30 minutes and you don't want to be looking for the baking soda while your sugar is cooking because it can burn really fast.
So, measure out everything you need for the popcorn which is ½ cup of unpopped popping corn and 1 Tbsp of canola oil or any oil you want to use. I don't salt the popcorn, but if you wanted to or if you wanted to add any spices, get them ready now.
You can use a glass lid or a Silicone Cover while popping the popcorn. You can even use the pressure lid, but it is a bit more cumbersome. My preference is a Silicone Cover because I can slide my spoon or spatula underneath without popcorn jumping out.
Pop the Popcorn
Now, you don't have to use the Foodi to pop your popcorn. You can use a few bags of microwave popcorn in a pinch, but I LOVE the way the Foodi makes popcorn. Hardly any unpopped kernels! YAY!
Add the 1 Tablespoon of oil to the inner pot along with 1-2 corn kernels. Turn the Ninja Foodi on high sear/sauté and cover with a silicone cover or glass lid.
When the kernels pop, add in the remaining ½ cup of unpopped corn and stir to coat with oil. Cover and wait. Once you start to hear some popping, slip a wooden or silicone spoon under the cover and give a little stir.
When the popping becomes fast, decrease the heat to low-medium to prevent scorching and stir again if you can. You can also shake the Ninja Foodi a bit if you are using a different lid.
When the popping has stopped or slowed down to 1 pop every few seconds. Turn the Ninja Foodi off and stir. Cover and let sit for 2 minutes just to give those last kernels time to pop.
Uncover and scoop the popcorn out into a bowl. I like to use a 1 cup measuring cup for two reasons. #1. I want to make sure I have about 8 cups of popped corn. #2. I can remove any unpopped kernels from the inner pot before they get mixed into my bowl of popcorn.
Wipe the pot out, no need to wash it, though.
Make the Caramel
Add ½ cup of SALTED butter. Usually I say it doesn't matter what kind of butter you use, but in this case use salted if at all possible. For some reason the salted better makes it easier to make the caramel. If you do not have salted butter, add in about ¼ tsp of sea salt to the inner pot along with the butter.
Add in the ½ cup of corn syrup and the 1 cup of brown sugar. Turn on the Ninja Foodi on high sear/sauté and stir while the sugars and butter melt.
Continue to cook on high and stir occasionally until the mixture starts to boil. Once it starts to boil DO NOT STIR. Just let it boil. It takes about 6 minutes from this point for it to reach the target temp of 300℉/149℃ and you don't stir during this time.
It's fine to use a wooden spoon or high heat silicone spatula to take a little bit out do to the water test or to use a thermometer to take a temp, but you don't want to stir.
Once the sugar mixture has reached the desired temp, turn the Ninja Foodi off. Immediately add in the baking soda and stir. You will see it bubble up and that is exactly what we want to see.
Add in the vanilla and stir. Immediately dump in the popcorn and stir until well coated.
Pour the popcorn out onto cooling racks or parchment lined trays and break apart the pieces of popcorn into clusters or individual pieces. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Serve & Enjoy!
Caramel Popcorn in the Ninja Foodi
- Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper
- 1 Tbsp canola oil
- ½ cup popping corn about 8 cups popped
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup butter salted
- ½ cup corn syrup
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- Add 1 Tbsp of oil to the inner pot along with 1-2 corn kernels. Turn the Ninja Foodi on high sear/sauté and cover with glass lid or silicone cover. Allow oil to heat up and when the corn kernels pop, add remaining corn kernels.
- Continue to heat on high sear/sauté until the kernels are popping rapidly, then decrease the heat to medium-low. Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula and carefully stir a few times to ensure that most kernels pop and don't burn. When popping has almost stopped, turn the Ninja Foodi off. Uncover and stir. Dump the popcorn into a large bowl and wipe out the pot. You should have about 8 cups of popcorn. Try and remove any unpopped kernels.
- Add butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup to the inner pot and turn the heat on high sear/sauté. Stir frequently, with a wooden spoon (or silicone) until butter is melted and the mixture starts to boil. When it starts to boil, do not stir.
- Allow the mixture to boil for about 6-7 minutes and when the temperature reaches 300°F/149°C, turn the Ninja Foodi off.
- Add in the baking soda and stir. The mixture will bubble and rise up. Add vanilla extract and stir. Immediately dump in the popcorn. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat with the caramel mixture.
- When well coated, remove caramel popcorn and cool it on a cooling rack. Break up any large clumps of popcorn. When completely cool, serve and enjoy!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.