This is truly the best and most delicious nut free vegan caramel corn recipe. Crunchy, sweet, and salty, this tasty treat is always a favorite. Make it for a party or just for a special treat, and watch it disappear.
One of my favorite dessert recipes is caramel corn. The salty, sweet, crispy combination is simply irresistible.
Caramel corn is perfect for almost any occasion. It makes a great gift during the holiday season, it’s delicious for an outdoor movie night, and it’s perfect for any birthday party.
It’s truly one of my favorite treats – put a bowl in front of me, and it will be gone in the blink of an eye!
If you haven’t made this from scratch before, don’t worry. It’s easier than you think, and I’m going to walk you through the process, step by step.
- Popcorn – Please feel free to use any brand of popcorn that works for your dietary needs. We like the heirloom variety of popcorn, because they don’t have as many tough hulls. Note: If you use regular popcorn, you may not need as many kernels. Heirloom Popcorn has slightly smaller kernels, which is fine with me, because they are so delicious!
- Oil – You need oil to pop the popcorn. Organic canola oil works well, but you can also use coconut oil.
- Corn Syrup – Light corn syrup is needed to make the caramel – we use Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Light Corn Syrup, but any brand will work.
- Light Brown Sugar – Make sure to use light brown sugar. Dark brown will not work for making this caramel.
- Vegan Buttery Spread – We use Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread – it gives the caramel a wonderful, buttery flavor. I have not tested this with any other type of vegan butter.
- A heavy bottomed saucepan works best for making the caramel – it helps keep the caramel from burning.
- A candy thermometer is a must so that you know when to stop cooking the caramel. Don’t be afraid if you’ve never used a candy thermometer before. It’s easy to clip to your pan and tells you exactly when to stop cooking the caramel.
- A large bowl or large deep pan is also necessary for mixing the popcorn and the caramel.
Step by Step Instructions
- Pop the popcorn and pour it into a large bowl. Set aside.
- Put the vegan buttery spread, brown sugar, and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed pan with a candy thermometer clipped to the side. Cook the caramel, and stop once it reaches 255 degrees F. Remove from the heat, and add the vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Stir.
- Pour the caramel over the popcorn, and stir well to coat. Work quickly – the caramel starts to harden as it cools.
- Spread the caramel corn out on two baking sheets or you can use a large roasting pan. Bake at 250 degrees F for about one hour, stirring occasionally.
- Allow the caramel corn to cool on the baking sheet before eating.
- Break up any really large clusters and enjoy!
Tips for Success
- A candy thermometer is a must! You need to cook the caramel to the exact right temperature.
- Make sure the thermometer does not rest on the bottom of the pan.
- Stir the caramel constantly so that it doesn’t burn.
- Be careful when pouring the caramel over the popcorn – it is very hot.
- Be sure to butter the roasting pans, or use parchment paper on baking sheets so that the caramel corn doesn’t stick to the pans.
You can store caramel popcorn in an airtight container or ziploc bags. It should stay fresh for about 5-6 days.
It is wonderful for a holiday, birthday party, or a Super Bowl party!
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The Best Vegan Caramel Corn.
- 1 ¼ cups vegan buttery spread I used Earth Balance Soy Free Sticks
- 1 ½ cup popcorn kernels I used heirloom popcorn. If you use normal popcorn, you may be able to use less
- 5 Tablespoons organic canola oil or coconut oil
- 2 ½ cups light brown sugar
- ⅝ cups light corn syrup
- 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅞ teaspoon salt
- ⅝ teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a large roasting pan. (Depending on the size, you may need two pans). You could also use two parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
- Pop the popcorn in two batches: Heat 2 ½ Tablespoons of canola oil and four corn kernels in a large kettle with a lid over medium high heat. Once the test kernels pop, remove the pan from the heat, and add ¾ cup corn kernels. Put the lid on, and keep the pan off the heat for 30 seconds. Then place back on the heat. Once the kernels really start popping, shake the pan intermittently.
- When there are 2-3 seconds between pops, remove the pan from heat and pour the contents into the roaster. Repeat to pop the other half of the corn.
- Make the caramel: In a heavy bottomed saucepan with a candy thermometer clipped to the side, heat the buttery spread, brown sugar, and corn syrup over medium heat. Stir constantly, until the candy thermometer reads 255 degrees F.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and add the vanilla extract, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
- Quickly pour the caramel over the popcorn, and stir to coat. Be careful! The caramel is super hot.
- Place the caramel corn in the oven, and bake for about one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
- Let caramel corn cool completely – it will crisp up as it cools off.
- Store in an airtight container.
Adapted from this recipe.