Sweet and spicy curry cracker jack


Spicy Curry Cracker Jack

We’ve resorted to elementary school tactics over here. Thanks to the brilliant idea of my friend Hillary, I now am on a rigid star sticker system. Hillary, who is also in throes of finishing her dissertation, started studying her study habits (obviously) and made the observation that a graduate student spends 8+ hours a day trying to write her dissertation, only to get 1 real hour of work done and 7 solid hours of procrastination (thanks for supporting my tenacious lollygagging, The Oatmeal). Hillary reasoned that if she instead works a really productive uninterrupted three hours each morning, she’d actually get more done.

Both on her dissertation and in her personal life. She gives herself a star sticker for each hour of work she accomplishes. Not a metaphoric “gold star,” but an actual sticker. As long as she earns her three daily star stickers, she’s free the rest of the day to go on a hike or build a mountain of homemade crepes or, in my case, make crunchy cracker jack. And then sometimes, she earns more than three stars and can track that progress. So following in her footsteps, I’m putting myself on a sticker system.

Curry Cracker Jack

First thing I did on this enlightened procrastination-free journey? Spend an hour on Amazon picking out just the right sticker pack. (I could earn medals in procrastination). This choice is key though; I’ve got to make sure they’re actually going to inspire me to work. Those standard metallic star stickers in primary colors just won’t cut it. I settled on a 1500 pack of Lisa Frank motivational and reward stickers instead of stars. Living out my childhood dreams.

Homemade Cracker Jack

I distinctly remember my third grade teacher sending me to the principal’s office to share the book I’d written – aptly titled, “The No-Named Book,” which was really just a rip-off of those “All About Me” books, except pre-filled out by me and my friends. A bestseller, for sure. The laminated front and back covers were bound over the colored pencil pages with a plastic comb that made a third grader feel like a published author. When I presented my work, the principal pasted an enormous gold foil seal star on the cover. I then spent the rest of the year churning out book after book in hopes of getting sent to the principal’s office again.

Basically, what I’m saying is: this sticker system has a proven track record of motivating me to create publishable work. It works. And really, what is a dissertation if not a massive self-experiment in inventing outlandish tricks to convince yourself to write?

Either way, I earned 15 stickers last week and had time to whip up a large batch of this crispy sweet and spicy curry cracker jack. I won’t pretend I’ve totally weaned myself off of procrastination, but I’m at least on the right path.

Homemade Cracker Jack

The inspiration for this curry cracker jack came from Juhu Beach Club’s Desi Jacks that we sampled on our Edible Excursions tour of Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood. We still haven’t eaten a full meal there, but this Indian street food snack won my heart and my tastebuds. This recipe is my interpretation of the sweet, salty, and spicy Indian curry spin on the traditional American ballpark snack.

Homemade Curry Cracker Jack

This sweet and spicy Indian curry cracker jack takes sugary caramel-coated popcorn, peanuts, and pistachios and cuts the sweetness with a layer of new spices and a tiny kick at the end. Unlike cloyingly sweet regular caramel corn, this cracker jack is the perfect blend of sweet, salty, and spicy. You won’t be able to stop digging in for another handful. If you’re having friends over for a movie night, this is a must-serve for the snackfest table. Also perfect for some game-day grub (it’s football season or something, right?).

Spicy homemade cracker jack

Just don’t forget to hide a tiny trinket in the bottom as the cracker jack prize.

PS. I swear I don’t just live off of desserts.

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Sweet and spicy curry cracker jack
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup raw peanuts
  • ½ cup raw pistachios
Cracker Jack
  • 9-10 cups popcorn (1/4 - ⅓ cup kernels will make 9-10 cups popcorn)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar (I've used dark and light and both turn out equally as great)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch cardamom
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Toss the nuts with the melted butter and spices, and spread them out even on a baking sheet.
  3. Roast the nuts for 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
Cracker Jack
  1. Reduce the oven temperature to 250°F.
  2. Combine the roasted nuts with the popcorn in a really large bowl.
  3. Combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey in a small sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda, vanilla, and spices.
  5. Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn and nuts, and stir with two large spoons until the caramel is evenly distributed throughout.
  6. Cover a large baking sheet with a silpat mat, and evenly spread the caramel-coated popcorn over the baking sheet. (If using parchment paper, be sure to use a light colored pan and reduce the oven temperature to 200°F
  7. Bake the popcorn for 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and let cool. The popcorn will crisp up as it cools.
  9. Eat it all right then OR if you have more will-power, store in an airtight container or ziploc bags for up to 2 weeks.
Warning: I made the mistake of sharing some with a friend in a cute little brown paper bag. The moisture from the paper bag turned the caramel corn soft within 2 hours! So if you're giving this as a gift, make sure to use plastic treat bags.

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  1. Sarah, this looks amazing!! I love cracker jacks and the Indian spin on it sounds so good. I have yet to try Juhu Beach Club!

  2. YUMMMMMM. I can confirm that this recipe (or an early version of it anyway) is AMAZING. We should have skipped Mexican food and just eaten cracker jacks for dinner, Sarah. Next time….

  3. Diana says:

    This snack looks amazing, but more importantly I think I need to go on the sticker system immediately. :) Such a great idea — please thank your friend for me!

  4. I think you should put a Lisa Frank sticker and the bottom of every plastic baggie of these cracker jacks. CONGRATULATIONS! YOU JUST FINISHED SOMETHING AWESOME!!

    • That’s the best idea you’ve had yet! When you finally come visit me, I’ll put 5 Lisa Frank stickers on a to-go bag of cracker jack for you. And one on your shirt because you earned it.

  5. I am obsessed with popcorn and I love the idea of adding a curry twist! I also love Lisa Frank products – I had every folder and notebook ever made when I was younger!

  6. Hehe I think all that reading really paid off, Sarah! You’re a great writer and it shows you’re a nerd, lol. Just kidding on the nerd thing. ;) And great job with these pics, girl! I love those little ‘stache props as they’re so fitting for this recipe. And the lighting? Perfect! Shows all the popcorn details.
    And about the popcorn….I’m a HUGE FAN of spiced up food and this sounds interesting!

  7. Veronica says:

    A girl after my own heart! I love snacks as I sit here devouring a whole bag of caramel popcorn! Love this recipe!

  8. Haha I’m so glad you earned that many stickers so you could share this with us – they look absolutely scrumptious girl! I am a sucker for cracker jacks but sweet and spicy too? Totally in love with this! The photos and props are just perfect! Pinning :)

  9. Sarah! Thank you so much for coming to the popsicle party yesterday! It was a treat to meet you and I so appreciate that you came by.

    • Thank YOU so much for throwing such a fun book launch (and for getting me out of my comfort zone in a major way!). You gathered so many interesting folks all in one place and it was so magical to watch! Those popsicles were drippy and sweet and everything I wanted. A pleasure meeting you as well:) xoxo.

  10. Love the sweet and spicy Cracker Jack crunch of this snack! Those are what I reach for at night when I have the munchie crunchies!

  11. Hahahahah this made me laugh so much… “First thing I did on this enlightened procrastination-free journey? Spend an hour on Amazon picking out just the right sticker pack.” That’s so awesome! And so something I would do. Maybe I need to research stickers on Amazon for an hour or two…

    • Maybe I should spend another hour planning another cross-country sticker trade. Kind of like a chain letter, but for motivational stickers. Seems like a really great use of my time;)

  12. I had no idea Lisa Frank stickers were still in production. I’m debating whether I should buy some and continue my sticker book collection from elementary school…

    I love cracker jacks! Alex would totally enjoy these to snack on while we watch baseball :)

    • Ha – it’s unclear if these are stickers that were printed when we were kids and someone’s still sitting on a large collection of them or if they’re still in production. Either way, you definitely need to bring back the sticker book.

      I’d watch baseball if it meant I got to snack on cracker jacks!

  13. I LOVE GOLD SEALS! Reward systems are the best!!

  14. cynthia says:

    WHAT. This sticker idea is genius. (Though I’m pretty sure I’m just a lost cause when it comes to procrastination…) And what’s even more genius is this sweet and spicy cracker jack — OH. MY GOD. I can just imagine how wonderfully complex this tastes. I love it, Sarah!

  15. If someone were to put a bowl of this in front of me right now I couldn’t promise that I wouldn’t inhale the whole lot in 2 minutes flat #glutton

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