Buffalo Wing Popcorn / by Chelsea Zwieg

Looking back through my past posts, I am absolutely floored that this is the first buffalo-type recipe that I have posted. Because really, hot sauce is my life. In the interest of not being completely broke, I eat a lot of mediocre canned soup and I've found that nothing makes it better than about 1/2 bottle of hot sauce. If there is a buffalo chicken wrap on the menu at any restaurant, I will be ordering it, no questions asked. In fact, I might just order it regardless of if it's on the menu (looking at you, Flying Saucer). And for basically all of my childhood, me and my refined palate declared Applebee's as the king of all restaurants because of my devotion to boneless buffalo wings. This was of course pre-Buffalo Wild Wings, which was another life changing experience for me. So, my buffalo/hot sauce addiction runs deep. 

I have tried putting hot sauce on popcorn so many times and for some reason, every single time, I am surprised at how much it does not work. I think I just want to believe that it will be good so badly that I mentally block out the reality of soggy, unevenly coated popcorn and by the time the thought to try it pops back into my head I'm convinced that I'm a genius and it will be amazing. Not the case. 

That is, until now. I read about this buffalo caramel corn in Bon Appetit last year and, of course, tried it right away. And now, with the Super Bowl only days away, there is no better time to bring it back out again. (Just to clear up any confusion: No, I will not be watching the Super Bowl. It just seemed like a culturally relevant thing to bring up right about now). 

This popcorn has all the flavor of buffalo sauce but that is combined with a buttery caramel that does two things. First, it makes a smooth, caramel corn level coating that is able to reach every kernel, unlike my previous hot sauce on popcorn attempts. Second, it adds an addictive crunchiness and a sweetness that makes this popcorn palatable to everyone, not just people like me who would strap on a hot sauce IV. It's definitely still spicy, but in a more manageable not crying-your-eyes out kind of way. 

Buffalo Wing Popcorn

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 8 

Notes: Two things. I would recommend spraying the bowl that you place the popcorn in (and pour the caramel into) with non-stick spray so that the caramel coats the popcorn and doesn't just stick to the side of the bowl. Second, please don't make my mistake and take your sweet time washing out the pot and the bowl when you're done. The harder the caramel gets the more impossible it is to get off and my time spent over the sink scraping away at hard buffalo caramel with my fingernails probably could have been avoided if I wasn't too busy dancing around my kitchen to this song for 20 minutes beforehand. 

| Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot Original)
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda 

| Instructions |

Preheat oven to 300. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Pop the popcorn using your preferred method. I am partial to my beloved air popper but the stovetop method will work just fine. 

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the sugar and 1/4 cup water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil 10-12 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally until the caramel takes on a dark amber color. 

Remove from the heat and stir in butter and hot sauce. Don't be alarmed when it starts to bubble and foam like it's rabid. That's a good thing! Return to the heat and boil 3 more minutes. Remove caramel from heat and stir in salt, chili powder and baking soda. 

Working quickly, pour hot caramel over popcorn and toss to coat. Spread popcorn into an even layer on prepared baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes until dry (the caramel will not be hardened). Let cool at room temperature, breaking up an large clusters.