A sweet and spicy snack mix to get you poppin’

I think I can blame my mom for my insatiable appetite for popcorn. She told me once that when she was pregnant with me, she craved popcorn. She ate the white, crunchy snack morning, noon and night when she could.

I don’t want to eat popcorn morning, noon and night. But, contrary to the fact that the peak period for popcorn sales for home consumption is in the fall, I eat popcorn all year long — fall, winter, spring and summer.

Traditionally,  the popcorn I eat has been doused with melted butter and sprinkled with salt. But, last spring when my doctor frowned at my cholesterol number that had skyrocketed, I knew it was time to ditch the butter. I came up with a very satisfying alternative. I drizzle hot, freshly popped corn with lime-infused olive oil that I buy at Vinaigrette in Minneapolis. I skip the salt and, instead, sprinkle cayenne over the popcorn. Bright and spicy. Crunchy and satisfying. It does the trick for me. I must warn that it is only for those who can take some heat.

And, speaking of heat — a few years ago I spent a few days with my friend, Joyce at her home on Blue Lake along with several other friends. As we sat out on her deck one afternoon enjoying the sunshine over the lake, Joyce brought out a big bowl of a snack mix that included popcorn. It was a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy. She made the mistake of placing the bowl right in front of me. I nibbled and nibbled and nibbled and nibbled. It was one of those things that I really wished I didn’t have to share. But, everyone wanted to eat it and no one cared to share. It was addictive.

Joyce gave me the recipe that she uses to make this sweet and spicy snack mix. It’s not just for eating on a sunshiny summer day. It’s great for game time, passing around the campfire, stashing into the bike bag, packing for an afternoon of snowshoeing, offering at parties and gift-giving. That’s why I call it all-purpose, all year long, Sweet and Spicy Snack Mix.

Mix up the snack tidbits and cook up a buttery, sweet and spicy syrup to toss it all together. Baking the snack mix in a warm oven dries it and makes it crispy.

Sweet and Spicy Snack Mix is another great way to enjoy popcorn. Time to get poppin! Make lots, because your family and friends will want you to share.

If you’re like me and just can’t seem to get enough popcorn, you may enjoy my Honey and Peanut Butter Popcorn. The recipe is in my column this week.

Sweet and Spicy Snack Mix ready to go into the oven.

Sweet and Spicy Snack Mix

(an adapted version of Joyce’s recipe)
  • 5 cups corn chips, such as Fritos
  • 4 cups Crispix cereal
  • 8 cups popped corn
  • 1 (11.5-ounce) can mixed nuts

Mix ingredients in a large roasting pan.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Make syrup.


  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (I like to use a little more, up to 2 or 3 teaspoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • (I add 1/4 teaspoon salt)

Put syrup ingredients in 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour hot syrup over popcorn mixture in roasting pan. Stir until all ingredients are coated with the syrup. Bake in preheated 250-degree oven for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread hot mixture on wax paper to cool. Feeds several very lucky popcorn-hungry munchers.

7 thoughts on “A sweet and spicy snack mix to get you poppin’

  1. The recipes for popcorn sound absolutely delicious, but they’re not for someone who has high cholesterol. I just found out that mine is elevated.

    • Oh, high cholesterol is such a drag, isn’t it, Sharron? That’s why I’ve ditched the buttered popcorn and use a drizzle of olive oil instead. I share the Peanut Butter and Honey Popcorn and the Sweet and Spicy Snack Mix with others. It makes them smile!

  2. I was looking at your pecan pie, and scrolled down a ways and saw the popcorn recipe. i found one like it in a Ladie’s Home Journal years ago-it uses tortilla chips instead of Fritos. i have been making it every year at Christmas, to eat and to give as simple gifts to friends and co-workers. My family loves the sweet and spicy! thanks for sharing it! i am planning to try the pecan pie recipe for Thanksgiving.

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