Popcorn Ice Cream with Caramel Sauce

This really is popcorn ice cream with caramel sauce!  It really looks like popcorn!  It was so much fun to make.  Thanks to the brilliant Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot of Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work.  They came up with the popcorn ice cream using liquid nitrogen, I just added a little caramel sauce.  If popcorn is good, isn’t caramel popcorn better?  The answer is YES!

What a delicious adventure this turned out to be! I’ve been wanting to play with liquid nitrogen for a few years now. My first challenge was to find a source.  I started with a medical source which turned out to be out of my price range.  Then I took Michael Voltaggio’s advice and went to a welding supply shop just down the street from Vans, where I work.  I was like a kid in a candy store, I wanted it all, the over-the-top welding mask, and other stuff I had no idea what to do with.  I did buy some serious cryogenic gloves and a not-so-fancy welding mask.  The guys at Cameron Welding Supply are awesome.  They set me up with a rented ten-liter deur to transport the liquid nitrogen.  It was more than I needed, but the smallest size they had.  The liquid nitrogen evaporates quickly even in the deur, so plan to use it the day you bring it home.

If you follow the recipe to the letter, you’ll also need a microwave, blender, large stock pot, mason jar, pressure cooker, scale, fine mesh strainer, whipping siphon and a small styrofoam cooler.  Our house has been a revolving door for microwave ovens – Sunshine collects them and I give them away.  Now we just go across the street to borrow our neighbors’.  Thank you, Toy and Sondi!  I’m a gadget gal, so I’ve got everything else.

Mad Scientist

The welding mask may have been overkill, but it makes me look more legit.

 Popcorn Ice Cream with Caramel Sauce


  • 1530 grams whole milk
  • 225 grams butter-flavored Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn (3 bags), popped
  • 200 grams white chocolate (Valrhona is my favorite.  I found it a Surfas Culinary District.)
  • 5 grams Kosher salt
  • 4 liters liquid nitrogen

Caramel Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

To make the caramel sauce:  In a medium sauce pan with high sides, combine sugar, corn syrup and water.  Stir gently over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil without stirring.  Once it begins to turn to a rich caramel color, and reaches 300° on a candy thermometer, remove from the heat.  Slowly add the cream to combine.  Whisk in butter.  Set aside to cool.  The caramel sauce can be stored in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To make the ice cream base:  Add the milk and the popcorn to a large stock pot and set over medium-high heat.  Bring the mixture to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, pressing the solids with the back of a ladle.  The popcorn starch becomes the thickener for the ice cream base.  Discard the residue left in the strainer.

Put the white chocolate in a mason jar and lightly screw on the lid.  Place the jar in a pressure cooker and add water to fill the chamber by one-quarter.  The water creates steam, forming a double boiler.  Seal the pressure cooker and bring up to high pressure.  Cook the chocolate on high pressure for 30 minutes.  Let the pressure dissipate naturally.  Remove the jar and let cool enough to handle.  Open the lid and remove the caramelized chocolate from the jar.  It should be a golden brown and taste insanely delicious.  Chop into pieces and add to the blender.

Pour the popcorn milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Pour the hot milk into the blender, sprinkle with salt and puree until smooth.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and chill.

To make the ice cream:  Fill a styrofoam container halfway with liquid nitrogen. Pour the ice cream base into a whipping siphon, adding 2 nitrous oxide charges, then extrude the base into short bursts into the liquid nitrogen.  Use a slotted spoon to scoop the ice cream “popcorn” into a pre-frozen glass bowl.  Place the ice cream in the freezer for 15 minutes to “warm up”.  It will be too cold to eat straight out of the liquid nitrogen.

To serve: scoop out a nice big bowl of popcorn and swirl in a ribbon of caramel sauce.  It’s pretty fun stuff.  It even has a light and airy crunch like real popcorn!


Check out the video for a good laugh.