There is something about hosting houseguests that makes me want to go junk-food crazy. I guess I like to use other people kicking around my kitchen as an excuse to whip out all the foods I wouldn’t normally eat. I like to live by the 80/20 rule of nutrition—80% of the time, you’re eating healthy, fresh foods and 20% of the time, you can eat non-nutritive junk food like this. And it seems like that 20% always happens to fall when I have friends and family in my home. I swear I eat healthy most of the time, friends. It just doesn’t look like I do when you come visit my house.
We hosted my husband’s parents this past week, and there was a lot of delicious food (junky and not-so-junky). So much so that I actually totally forgot to bring out this party mix that I made for snacking on. I had put it all in a big zip-top bag and stashed it behind a bunch of other food, and by the time I remembered it was there, my in-laws were already on their way back to Canada. C’est la vie. Honestly, I kinda think Craig isn’t too sad that we have a whole bag of this stuff to ourselves. He called it “incredibly dangerous” as he shoveled handfuls in his mouth.
The inspiration for this mix comes from my favorite movie theatre treat. I like to mix together buttered movie theatre popcorn with Reese’s Pieces while taking in a flick. It is the absolute best combination of sweet and salty! So to make this Halloween snack mix, I took that flavor profile to the next level—mixing together popcorn, Reese’s Pieces, salted peanuts, pretzels, and everyone’s favorite fall candy—candy corn. And then I slathered it all in a peanut butter caramel coating, and topped it with an orange candy drizzle and sprinkles—just in case you didn’t quite get the idea that this wasn’t health food (well, it’s healthy for your soul—but probably not your body).
When it comes to the texture of the final mix, you have a bit of a flexibility with this recipe. If you want it to be crunchy and crispy like standard caramel corn, you can cook the peanut butter caramel coating a bit longer to the hard crack stage (about 300°, but I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I just use the ole water glass trick). If you want it a bit fudgier, just cook it until the soft crack stage (about 280°). I like it this way because a lot of the elements are still crunchy—the peanuts, pretzels, Reese’s pieces—but the whole mix is a bit creamier. It’s a bit like a candy bark that way. Both ways work (although I would say the hard crack would be best for putting in cute little baggies and distributing as gifts). Whatever bakes your cookie. Or caramels your corn.
I went with the standard Halloween candy add-ins, but as I was browsing the candy displays, I saw so many fun additions that would work. You could throw in candy eyes for a really spooky treat. Or even those candy pumpkins (those were always a little bit too much for my tastes). You could also drizzle on some different candy melts—black and green would be fun and festive, too!
I promise I’ll post something with some vegetables later on. Now that my houseguests have left, it’s time for me to get back to my normal, kale-heavy diet.
Enjoy! Happy Halloween!
PLEASE NOTE: After feedback from readers, we have reworked this recipe and rewritten it to be more consistently successful in your kitchen. The following is the updated recipe.
- 12 cups air-popped popcorn
- 3 cups mini-twist pretzels
- 1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
- 1 cup candy corn
- 1 cup Reese’s Pieces
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Orange candy melts and sprinkles (optional), for garnish
- Mix the popcorn, pretzels, peanuts, candy corn, and Reese’s Pieces in a very large bowl and spread out onto two large rimmed baking pans.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the honey and sugar and stir until smooth. Stop stirring, allow the mixture to come to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes, tilting the pan occasionally to make sure there are no signs of burning. The mixture should smell caramelized and be a bit darkened in color. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the peanut butter, salt, and heavy cream.
- Quickly drizzle the peanut butter caramel over the party mix on the sheet pans, then toss to coat with two large spoons. Drizzle with melted orange candy melts and sprinkle with sprinkles, if using. Let the party mix cool on the sheet pans, then transfer to bowls for serving, breaking up any large pieces if needed.
- Category: Snacks
Keywords: snacks, dessert, Halloween, popcorn