Caramel Popcorn Ice Cream with Cashews

When I was a smallish child we lived in California, just a few towns over from The Jelly Belly factory. We did the tour a few times  with out-of-town family–that place smells insane like sugar. I always loved mixing the flavors to make other flavors–root beer float and the like. My mom would pretty much only eat those strange buttered popcorn dudes. This ice cream is a nod to that candy bean, though the flavor is less weirdo-artificial-movie-theater-bucket and more delicious popcorn nuttiness.

Even though I’m not a fan of the popcorn jelly bean, I am a fan of popcorn…and caramel and nuts. I mean, it’s just so perfect–salty, sweet, nutty crunchy. It’s like a salty-sweet-crunchy dream. This ice cream starts with a smooth and creamy popcorn base–there are 8 whole cups of popcorn in it! It wilts down to nothing, but leaves behind a cream that’s reminiscent of buttered popcorn, sans the butter plus the popcorn. I added a caramel ripple for good measure and sweet cashews for crunch.

This ice cream is crazy-weird-good. Even though it’s only January, it has me dreaming of late sunsets, ball parks and hot dogs, and summertime goodness.

Caramel Popcorn Ice Cream with Cashews

Salted Caramel Sauce // adapted from The Perfect Scoop

Prepare the caramel sauce ahead of time so it can cool to room temperature. Can be made a few days in advance and refrigerated in a lidded container. You will have leftover sauce, but I’m sure you’ll find a way to use it up :)

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon golden (or corn) syrup

1/4 cup water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt

In a measuring cup measure out cream and add vanilla, set aside.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat sugar, syrup, and water over medium-high until sugar is melted and turns dark golden brown in color (the darkest you can get it before burning is best–think whiskey/bourbon color). Remove from heat and quickly whisk in butter and half of cream until combined and smooth. The mixture will steam and bubble furiously, use a oven mitt or towel to wrap your stirring hand. If there are still lumps, heat gently until smooth. Add remaining cream and salt and stir until smooth.


1/2 cup popping corn

paper lunch bag

place the popcorn kernels in the bag, fold the bag top 2-3 times, microwave on high until the corn is popping like crazy, followed by 1-2 second pauses between pops–about 3 1/2 minutes. This may take some trial and error, just be watchful–you may have to pop it in 2 batches. This made me about 9 cups of popcorn–I used 8 and snacked on the remaining cup.

Popcorn Ice Cream // adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

2 cups heavy whipping cream

8 cups plain popped corn

2 cup milk

4 teaspoons cornstarch

2/3 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons golden syrup (or corn)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped cashews

caramel sauce

In a medium saucepan heat the heavy cream with the popcorn (the popcorn will basically wilt away, so if it seems like a lot, it won’t be), bring to a low boil, cover, remove from heat and steep for 1 hour. Sieve the popcorn cream through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on solids to extract as much cream as possible. Discard solids, you should have about 1 cup of cream remaining, if less add cream to make 1 cup.

Mix 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch to create a slurry. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan mix together the popcorn cream with the remaining 1 3/4 cups milk, add the sugar, golden syrup, and salt. Heat the mixture and bring to a low boil, quickly whisk in the slurry mixture and return to a boil, whisking until thickened–about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl or clean sink basin. Pour the ice cream base into a gallon zip-bag and seal. Chill the base in the ice bath until cooled completely. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions. Spoon 1/3 of the churned ice cream into a freezer container, drizzle with caramel and sprinkle with nuts–repeat 2 more times. Cover and freeze until firm–3 hours or more.





    • says

      I bought them for a vegan recipe–then had leftovers and immediately used them in a non-vegan recipe. I always forget how good they are too! Thanks Annie!

  1. says

    All of these flavors sound fabulous together! It’s so creative to take a classic treat and turn it into something creative and unique. I hope to live in California soon. I’ll have to seek out the Jelly Belly plant. So cool!

  2. jenny says

    brilliant! I love the idea of popcorn flavor without all the little husks and sharp bits to wreak havoc on my teeth. and the caramel and cashews definitely take the whole thing to the next level. can’t wait to make this. :)

  3. says

    Oh wow, this intrigues me. I even have Jeni’s book, but I’ve tucked it away for a few months. You remind me just how many amazing things there are to be done with ice cream. I’m with your mom, I must say – I can’t get enough of those oddly intense buttered popcorn jelly bellys!

  4. says

    YES!! This sounds amazing. I have been to Jelly Belly factory and know of the sugar smelll you talk about. You don’t have to eat any candy there, but you come out with a sugar high. I do have to admit I love their buttered popcorn jelly belly, but this ice cream looks 1,000 times better.


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