Bacon and Cashew Bourbon Caramel Corn

Bourbon Bacon Cashew Caramel Corn | #recipe

When I was a little kid, my dad would bring home all kinds of corporate gifts from his office around the holidays. Tons of chocolate and candy, and of course… the iconic popcorn tin filled with three different varieties of popcorn. If memory serves, they had buttered popcorn, cheesy popcorn and caramel corn. I actually have a very vivid memory of one year, days after Christmas, my sister and I in the living room watching The New Kids on the Block Hangin’ Tough VHS tape (seriously), singing into a toy stand microphone with flashing lights on the bottom, and eating popcorn from one of those big tins. This moment might actually be captured on a home video somewhere, which is just downright mortifying.

Anyway, back to the popcorn… It was no contest in our house – the caramel corn section was always the first to go in the tin, no questions asked. Being a huge peanut butter person means that I was also totally enamored with Cracker Jack growing up. Imagine how ecstatic I was to find out that a homemade version was totally doable. It’s also hopelessly addicting, but that’s neither here nor there 🙂

Bourbon Bacon Cashew Caramel Corn | #recipe

It’s been awhile since I made a batch of caramel corn and I wanted to jazz things up a bit. I started with bacon, because, well, bacon significantly improves just about everything, doesn’t it? I also switched up the nuts, opting for cashews instead of the traditional peanuts. Lastly, I added bourbon to the caramel mixture.

Bourbon and caramel? Good.

Bourbon and bacon? Good.

Bourbon and cashews? Good.

Bourbon Bacon Cashew Caramel Corn | #recipe

I feel like Joey from Friends rattling off that list. Basically, bourbon seemed like a good partner for everything else going into the popcorn. Plus, the Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, so I busted out the Jim Beam bourbon.

Whether you want to reminisce about the popcorn tins of the old days (are those still a thing? I haven’t seen one in at least a decade!) or need a snack to munch on while watching the Kentucky Derby, this is a killer recipe. It also makes a ton, so you’ll be a hero if you decide to bring it to a party.

Bourbon Bacon Cashew Caramel Corn | #recipe

One year ago: Fried Ice Cream
Two years ago: Chile Con Queso
Three years ago: Chocolate Biscuit Cake
Four years ago: Tres Leches Cake
Five years ago: Fluted Polenta Ricotta Cake

Bacon and Cashew Bourbon Caramel Corn

Yield: About 24 cups of caramel corn

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Bourbon caramel corn with chopped bacon and roasted cashews.


8 ounces bacon, cooked until crisp and chopped, bacon drippings reserved
1 cup roasted and salted cashews
3 tablespoons bacon drippings (if not enough, use vegetable oil to augment)
¾ cup popcorn kernels
3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup bourbon
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons baking soda


1. Make the Popcorn: Pour 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings a large pot and drop four kernels of corn into the pan. Cover and set over high heat. After all of the kernels pop, turn off the heat. Pour in all of the kernels, cover, and wait 30 seconds. Turn the heat back on to high and pop until the kernels are no longer popping. Empty the popcorn into a large, 6-quart bowl and discard any kernels that haven't popped. Stir the bacon and cashews into the popcorn.

2. Make the Caramel: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Place the sugar, butter, bourbon and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar melts, and then stir occasionally once the caramel begins to simmer until it reaches a golden caramel color. Remove the saucepan from the heat and quickly stir in the vanilla extract and baking soda (it will bubble up, just keep stirring until it calms down).

3. Finish the Caramel Corn: Immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn. Working quickly, use a silicone spatula (or a rubber spatula coated with non-stick cooking spray) to mix it all together, ensuring that the caramel evenly coats all of the popcorn. Turn the popcorn out onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Allow to cool completely (it takes 30 minutes to 1 hour), then break up into pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Note: The bourbon is boiled in the caramel mixture, so the alcohol burns off, leaving just the flavor, thus this popcorn is safe to serve to kids if you so choose.

(Recipe adapted from use real butter)


34 Responses to “Bacon and Cashew Bourbon Caramel Corn”

  1. Ami@naivecookcooks on April 29, 2014 at 12:10 am

    I love caramel memories are eating Chicagos famous mix of cheese and caramel and I always finish caramel first too! Thanks for sharing!


  2. Debra on April 29, 2014 at 12:56 am

    Popcorn tins can still be found in these parts. I also think you can still get the old Charles Chip cans (with the chips), but you’d have to order them.


    • Debra on April 29th, 2014 at 12:57 am

      but the tins are holiday driven.


  3. Marla on April 29, 2014 at 1:29 am

    Do you roast the cashews or use the dry roasted type? Sorry, I’m just confused about the nuts but this looks delicious.


    • Michelle on April 29th, 2014 at 11:34 am

      Hi Marla, I used store-bought roasted and salted cashews.


  4. Averie @ Averie Cooks on April 29, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Wow, I would love a huge bowl of this. I’d skip the bacon, and do extra of the bourbon 🙂 Looks awesome and pinned!


  5. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and on April 29, 2014 at 6:13 am

    OH MY GAWD!!!! Now this is some popcorn! I am speechless, this is just so creative and with bourbon? I can only imagine how wonderful it must taste!


  6. Jane Davidson on April 29, 2014 at 6:27 am

    Yum! Just Yummy! lol


  7. Belinda@themoonblushbaker on April 29, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Oh boy do I need a bowl of this now!


  8. Lisa @ SimplePairings on April 29, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Bacon + bourbon = a recipe for success. I can’t imagine two more fantastic ingredients to bring together for popcorn! How creative.


  9. Cate @ Chez CateyLou on April 29, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Ohh those popcorn tins! They still show up at my office every Christmas season! I like your version much better though – this looks amazing! what a great sweet and salty combo!


  10. Vera on April 29, 2014 at 9:41 am

    I love bacon carmel corn! Adding the bourbon is a nice touch. I’m curious about your popping method. Why do you turn the heat off, wait and then turn it back on. What’s happening there?


    • Michelle on April 29th, 2014 at 5:34 pm

      Hi Vera, I saw this method on the use real butter site (I think she got it from Real Simple) and I’ve used it ever since – makes perfect popcorn! It might just keep you from getting hot popcorn in your face, I’m not 100% sure 🙂


  11. Diana on April 29, 2014 at 9:56 am

    You must not have a boy scout in your life. They are the source for popcorn tins!


  12. miss messy on April 29, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Wow! What a combination! This sounds awesome!


  13. Karly on April 29, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Oh my. I need this for snacking immediately!


  14. Denise Pirkkala on April 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Check out Pittsburgh Popcorn Company. I live in SC but go to the one in The Strip when I visit.


    • Michelle on April 29th, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      Yes, they are awesome! Love that they have a spot at the food court in Ross Park Mall now 🙂


  15. Erin @ Brownie Bites on April 29, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    This looks AMAZING! I’m curious about storing this at room temperature – it seems like the bacon would need refrigeration? Or does the bacon become “candied” enough by the caramel to keep it fresh? Thanks for any input! 🙂


    • Michelle on April 29th, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      Hi Erin, It’s candied enough that I felt room temperature storage is fine. I had no issues with it.


  16. Gina on April 29, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Michelle, What is the reason for adding bacon to this? I have never heard of bacon being mixed into caramel corn.


    • Michelle on April 29th, 2014 at 5:36 pm

      The reason? I love bacon and it sounded like a good idea, so I did it, and it was delicious 😉


  17. Sarahkate on April 29, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    I love the blog and have visited and read every day often trying the recipes offered which always turn out yummy, by the way. BUT lately your website has had popup ads from the bottom of the screen rolling upwards – the advertisement du jour today was for Pampers, of all things. It’s been a variety of things and it’s getting really annoying! I know people need to make money with their blogs, I get that, if for no other reason than to buy the ingredients to test the recipes. But these popup (or more correctly “roll-up” ads do nothing but cause annoyance and irritation – and they won’t go away, there appears to be no way to x-out the roll-up ad. Do you really need to have these???


  18. Becky on April 30, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Love your recipes and your friends reference! The Thanksgiving episodes were always my favorite 🙂


  19. Caroline {TheBarbeeHousewife} on April 30, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I have made a version of this before, we called it bacorn! Your recipe looks delicious and I know it would be a hit around here! Thanks for sharing!


  20. Crystal on May 2, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    You may have just become my favorite person in the entire world. Bacon. Bourbon. Popcorn. Caramel. NKOTB (have that movie on DVD now, btw), and Friends. All in one post!


  21. Marty on May 5, 2014 at 6:33 am

    Hi, made this for my hubby and his buddies and they loved it. Mine, however, did not look like yours. When melting the butter, sugar and bourbon, it did not turn into a pourable mixture. Maybe, I should have added more bourbon? Please help, because I would like to make this again. Thanks!


    • Michelle on May 12th, 2014 at 10:36 am

      Hi Marty, It takes quite awhile for the butter, sugar and bourbon to melt. You’ll feel like it’s never going to happen, but, it does, I promise! Just takes some time and patience.


  22. Heather on May 6, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Yum! I just had bacon popcorn at the Revolution brewery in Chicago that waas to die for, but CARAMEL bacon popcorn sounds even more amazing!


  23. Christine C on May 6, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    The caramel with white sugar is taking a long time to melt. I usually use brown sugar for my caramel corn recipe. I am finding that you should not stir very much once the sugar gets puffy white.


  24. Keisha on May 6, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    This popcorn could easily be my new obsession! you had me at caramel popcorn then you threw in bacon and cashews and i swear i started drooling on the spot. I must try this immediately!


  25. kgmlucas on May 14, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    I’m a huge fan of BEB and try quite a few of Michelle’s recipes. It does take a long time for the sugar/butter/bourbon to come together in a caramel sauce, but it’s worth the wait! I used more bacon than the recipe calls for (hell-o!!) and made sure that I added it in layers with the popcorn and nuts before I poured on the caramel sauce, it ended up being distributed nicely throughout when stirred. We pounced on it when everything was cooled – I even brought some to work (my deputies LOVE anything home made) and they ate every bit.


  26. Liz on October 14, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    do you happen to have an ideal temp on a candy thermometer for the caramel?


    • Michelle on October 20th, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Hi Liz, Unfortunately I just went by look and did not use a thermometer for this recipe, so Idon’t have a temperature to pass along.


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