Sweet and Salty in the Windy City: Chicago Mix Popcorn – Illinois

If you’ve ever visited Chicago and caught a whiff of a delicious aroma that lured you, trance-like and salivating, to stand in line for 20 minutes, you might have been ensnared by Garrett’s Popcorn.

Chicago Mix Popcorn

Enticing customers with that heavenly smell since 1949, Garrett’s Popcorn is truly a Chicago institution. Their famous Chicago Mix is an addictive combination of cheese and caramel popcorn that will convert even the most popcorn ambivalent among us. When we first moved to Chicago, we wondered what all the fuss what about, until we tasted it. The caramel, so rich and buttery, marries well with the salty, tangy cheese. You can order Garrett’s Popcorn online or you can save some nickels and make it yourself with this recipe.

If you want to immerse yourself in history and architecture, check out the many offerings for a Chicago boat tour. Most start at Navy Pier and combine the lake and the Chicago River, a “can’t-miss” when you visit Chicago.

Chicago Mix Popcorn

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  •  1 cup popcorn kernels
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 paper bag

For Cheese Popcorn:

  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (omit if cheese  powder has added salt)
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

For Caramel Popcorn:

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda


Pop popcorn in vegetable oil. Let cool, then remove all unpopped kernels. Divide into two equal parts.

For Cheese Popcorn: Combine spices in a small bowl. Melt butter and pour over half the batch of popcorn. Place popcorn and spices into the paper bag and shake vigorously until popcorn is completely coated.  Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 250 degrees for 15 minutes or until popcorn is crisp.

For Caramel Popcorn: Place half of the popcorn on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Combine salt, brown sugar, butter and corn syrup into a medium saucepan. Cook on medium heat until boiling. Continue cooking without stirring until temperature reaches 235 degrees with a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and carefully add baking powder. Be careful as the mixture may foam or spit. Working quickly, pour the caramel over the popcorn. Using a rubber spatula, stir the popcorn until it is completely coated. Place baking sheet into oven heated to 250 degrees. Stir every 10-15 minutes to evenly coat the popcorn. Bake for one hour or until popcorn is crisp.

After both popcorns cool, combine both for Chicago Mix.


6 thoughts on “Sweet and Salty in the Windy City: Chicago Mix Popcorn – Illinois”

  1. Oh God that is totally addictive. I have a movie night tonight and I would love to have just that for the movie. Thanks for wetting my appetite!

    1. Hi Blissful Britt – yup, I think they pipe those smells in just to entice weary travelers. I have been known to buy some at the airport ….. on the way back home. 😉 – Kat

  2. Hey Kat– Love popcorn but I’ve never been brave enough to make caramel corn! This looks great! (Coincidentally, my daughter has lived in Chicago and she makes a mean pot of kettle corn on the stove top!!). thanks for all your fun posts!!

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