In The Kitchen

After School Snack: Homemade Cracker Jack Popcorn

Although microwave popcorn is very convenient, it’s also extremely unhealthy.  It’s loaded with chemicals that are linked to causing different types of cancers such as diacetyl which is a synthetic butter flavoring and perfluoroalkyls which is found in the bag it’s microwaved in. *If an ingredient is hard to pronounce, it probably shouldn’t be ingested.

The good news is that homemade popcorn is safe, delicious and can be a healthy snack. With 13 grams of dietary fiber and 11 grams of protein per half cup it’s got a good nutritional value.  It’s almost just as easy to make as microwave popcorn and can actually be entertaining for kids to watch as the kernels go “pop”.

Here is our recipe for Homemade Cracker Jack Popcorn. It isn’t as heavily sweetened as the straight-from-the-box version, but the combination of slightly sweet, salty and crunch will satisfy any afternoon craving with or without the kids!

Chef Briana Bielucke, Dean of Pastry Arts

Homemade Cracker Jack Popcorn

Print Recipe


  • ½ c popping corn kernels
  • 3 Tb canola oil
  • 1 c skinned peanuts
  • ¼ c brown sugar
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1 Tb butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt



Preheat oven to 300 degrees.


Lay peanuts out on a sheet tray and lightly toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside.


Coat the bottom of a large pot with canola oil. Pour popcorn kernels in and cover with a lid over medium low heat.


Listen for the kernels to begin to pop, then shake the pot around periodically so kernels don't burn. When you don’t hear anymore popping, turn off the heat and pour into a bowl with the toasted peanuts.


In a separate sauce pot, mix brown sugar, honey, salt and butter. Bring to a boil. Then turn off heat and add vanilla extract.


Pour mixture over popcorn and toasted peanuts and toss with a wooden spoon being sure to coat everything very well. Spread out onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes.


Allow to cool completely before handling.


Serve in a large bowl or individual paper bags.


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