Ask Dr Rachel

We asked food scientist, Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart what makes this daring recipe work so well:

“In salted caramel, the saltiness helps to offset the sweetness, and the combination of the two creates an exciting experience for the taste buds. This recipe adds a tropical twist by reducing the pineapple’s natural sugars to a caramel and adding a touch of chilli – red chilli is often mixed with pineapple as a salsa to accompany fresh fish.”


Caramel is great fun to make and it tastes delicious but there’s no denying that it can make a bit of a mess. To make cleaning up a breeze, use plastic utensils rather than wooden ones. Make sure you also leave your pan under running water as soon as you’re done with it so that any caramel that’s stuck to the bottom and edges doesn’t have time to set – it’ll make it a lot easier to wash up.

Chilli adds a fiery kick to this Caribbean-inspired take on a classic salted caramel topping.

This tropical topping evokes the heat of a Caribbean summer by combining fragrant sweet pineapple with fiery red chilli to take your taste buds on a sub-equatorial adventure.


Serves 2-3 people

500ml of pineapple juice
25g of butter
2 level tablespoons of sugar
½ level teaspoon of dried chilli
½ level teaspoon of salt
40g of popcorn, popped

Originally, this recipe called for fresh chillies. Unfortunately, they can have very variable heat levels and we found that while some batches were a bit of a damp squib, others had us leaping off our seats with steam coming out of our ears. Using dried chilli makes it much easier to regulate the heat. You can also add as much or as little as you like according to taste.



To make the pineapple syrup, pour the pineapple juice into a frying pan or wok (the wider the base, the better). Heat on a medium temperature, swirling the pan regularly to ensure that it doesn’t burn at the bottom.


Do this until most of the liquid has evaporated and you’re left with about a tablespoon of intense pineapple syrup that has the consistency of honey. This might take up to an hour, so it’s worth starting early and perhaps pouring yourself a glass of wine.


Pop the butter in a saucepan along with the sugar, salt and chilli. Heat on a low-medium temperature, stirring regularly to help the sugar to dissolve.


Once the mixture has thickened to a consistency similar to lemon curd, reduce your stirring and bring it slowly to the boil until bubbles start to appear all over the surface.


Once it starts bubbling, leave it to caramelise for 3 minutes without stirring. The colour will start to darken.


While waiting for the caramel to cook, fill a tablespoon with the pineapple syrup, so that it is ready to add to the mixture. Make sure that your popcorn is also ready and waiting in a big bowl that has plenty of room for some vigorous stirring.


After 3 minutes, take the caramel mixture off the heat and add the tablespoon of pineapple syrup to the frying pan, stirring it in.


Immediately pour the mixture over the popcorn, stirring quickly to ensure that the popcorn is evenly coated before the caramel cools and hardens.


Put the popcorn on a baking tray and place it in the oven at 100°C for 30 minutes to evaporate off any remaining liquid and allow it to become deliciously crisp.


Take the popcorn out of the oven and leave it to cool.


Sit back and enjoy – perhaps paired with an elegant Sauternes while dreaming of azure seas, golden beaches and palm trees swaying gently in the breeze.

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