Homemade browned butter caramel gets drizzled over freshly popped popcorn and then baked in the oven for 20 minutes for crispy snacking perfection! This gluten-free, vegan Browned Butter Caramel Popcorn is so easy to make and will definitely be all the rave at your next party.
Maybe not a traditional holiday classic, unless of course you want to make it a new holiday tradition… I mean, it’s that good, people. But perhaps if you’re on the fence of inviting this crunchy sweet treat to stay in your recipe box forever, this can be your next holiday party go-to snack. Say hello to 30-minute Browned Butter Caramel Popcorn.
The vegan caramel sauce is made on your stovetop in just 5 minutes, with ingredients like vegan butter, maple syrup, tapioca syrup, vanilla, sunflower seed butter, a splash of coconut milk, and a pinch of salt. It magically thickens to the lushest caramel consistency that looks and tastes just like the dairy-filled alternative. Check out this (less than professional) video I took on my iPhone for Instagram stories while making this Browned Butter Caramel Popcorn.
I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m pretty obsessed with vegan caramel. Since I’ve learned how to make it, I use it in many recipes, such as:
☆ “Twix” Tart
☆ Pumpkin Caramel Pecan Cookie Dough
☆ Caramel Apple Chia Pudding
☆ Caramel Apple Crumb Bars
☆ Salted Caramel Brownie Cake
A couple of things I did differently for this caramel recipe compared to past caramel is letting that butter simmer and brown to the most gorgeous golden color and then adding the rest of the caramel ingredients. Wow. It added the most delicious depth of flavor I might just start making all my caramel with browned butter! The other trick I learned, from Lazy Cat Kitchen actually, is to add just a touch of baking soda to the caramel sauce to make it that true caramel color. With the use of nut/seed butter it would always turn out more brown than caramel, so to have a caramel that tastes AND looks like “real” caramel is next level.
For this recipe, I popped my own popcorn kernels at home, plain and unbuttered/unseasoned, in an air popper. You can certainly look for mushroom popcorn too, which I actually discovered after I made this recipe, and it would probably be even better, more like traditional caramel popcorn with its shape and size. But regular kernels work too. The shining star here is the caramel, so let’s not pine over the popcorn too much 😉
You simply whisk up your caramel, pour over the popped popcorn and then bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Boom chicka-pop, you’re done! Let it cool completely, the caramel will harden as it cools. I also like to keep my Browned Butter Caramel Popcorn stored in the fridge for extra crunch. Be sure to check out the notes section in the recipe card below for some tips! I would love to hear what’s poppin’ at your house, so be sure to leave a comment below and tag me on Instagram or Facebook and use #healthylittlevittles #healthylittlesweets so I can see all your lovely recreations!
Browned Butter Caramel Sauce
- 6 tablespoons vegan (non-dairy) butter
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons tapioca syrup*
- 3 tablespoons coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter**
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda***
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels****
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Pop your popcorn, I used 1/2 cup popcorn kernels in my air popper, which made approximately 10-12 cups of popcorn. Set aside.
- Prepare a large parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside.
- Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat and melt the butter, whisking occasionally until it starts to turn golden and brown. Once the butter is browned, add the maple syrup, vanilla, tapioca syrup, and pinch of salt. Whisk to combine.
- Lower the heat and while continuously whisking, add the sunflower seed butter. Keep whisking until it thickens.
- Add the coconut milk, whisk. Lastly, add the baking soda (if using) and be careful as it will bubble up slightly. Continue to whisk until you have a very smooth caramel sauce. Remove from heat and allow it to cool slightly.
- Split the popcorn into two large bowls.
- Pour 1/2 cup caramel over each batch of popcorn and gently stir well to coat the popcorn with the caramel, then spread the popcorn on a baking tray.
- Use the remaining caramel to drizzle over top of the popcorn if desired and bake for 25-30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly, then take the popcorn off the tray to cool completely (this will make it crispier). Break apart the popcorn or leave it as chunks and enjoy! Keep stored in the fridge for crispier popcorn.
* you can try to swap out tapioca syrup with brown rice syrup, but I have not tried this. You may also use corn syrup, I just prefer tapioca syrup. Check below for a link to purchase on Amazon.
** you can also use another nut butter if not avoiding nuts, but I find I really like the flavor of the sunflower seed butter in my caramel anyway!
*** adding baking soda doesn't really do anything for the recipe, but it does make the caramel a more caramel color, so adding it is optional.
**** use mushroom popcorn kernels for more traditionally round caramel popcorn.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 95Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 94mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 9gProtein: 1g
* this nutritional information is just an approximation