Nothing screams fall to me like a big bowl of caramel popcorn! This recipe is straightforward and quick to make. I make this with stovetop popcorn, freeze-dried apple, nuts, and homemade maple caramel. This recipe’s ingredients are healthier, making this an almost guilt-free vegan caramel apple popcorn!
It may be on the healthier side, but man is this stuff addicting!
This vegan caramel apple popcorn contains healthier ingredient choices than regular caramel popcorn. But the flavor and texture are not compromised whatsoever! The popcorn is very crunchy and perfectly sweet, with a touch of saltiness. I say it is addicting because it’s not overly sweet, so I never get burnt out of eating it. I love the flavors between the maple caramel, freeze-dried apple pieces, and nuts. It makes me feel like I’m at an apple orchard, switching on and off between a bite of caramel popcorn and a nut-crusted caramel apple. It’s such a fun, festive recipe that I think you’ll adore!
So what makes this vegan caramel apple popcorn almost guilt-free?
As I said, I chose to create this recipe with healthier alternatives. However, that does not mean this recipe is healthy and should be eaten three times a day, haha. It is a healthier option than traditional caramel popcorn, which is usually loaded with sugar and dairy.
First, I cook popcorn kernels in a little bit of coconut oil on the stovetop. I then toss it with freeze-dried apple pieces and nuts, like pecans or peanuts. I bring coconut cream, pure maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt to a boil to make the maple caramel. After a few minutes, I stir in baking soda, which I find super fun! The baking soda reacts with the mixture and creates a foaming effect. Next, I quickly dump the foaming caramel over the popcorn and give it a perfect stir to evenly coat everything. Then I lay the popcorn onto a parchment paper-lined sheet pan, top it with flakey sea salt, and bake it low and slow.
Once the popcorn has completely cooled down, it has a perfectly crunchy, clumpy texture. My maple caramel yields a softer crunchy texture on the popcorn, rather than rock-like, yet it still makes the popcorn clump together. You know caramel popcorn will be delicious when it holds together in chunks. This recipe does just that, and I love it.
If you make my vegan caramel apple popcorn, don’t forget to post a picture to Instagram, tag me @chefsummerstorm, and #gardengrub so I can see your recreation!
How to Make Vegan Caramel Apple Popcorn
- 1/4 cup jumbo popcorn kernels (Alternatively, you can use 7 cups of store-bought lightly salted popcorn)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup freeze-dried apple slices, broken into large bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted, peanuts or pecans
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut cream (Use only the thick cream and none of the water. I place my can upside down in the refrigerator for an hour to help separate the cream from the water!)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup, 100% pure
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 100% pure
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp flakey sea salt
- If making homemade popcorn, add the coconut oil into a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Place four popcorn kernels inside and cover with a lid.
- Once the kernels have popped, pour the rest of the kernels inside and cover.
- Shake the pot vigorously every few seconds to ensure the popcorn cooks evenly. Shake quickly, though, as you don't want the pot off of the heat for too long.
- When the kernel popping slows down to about 3 seconds apart from each other, remove the pot from the heat. Give it one last good shake, and then dump the popcorn into a large bowl.
- Toss the dried apple pieces and nuts into the popcorn.
- Now, preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper.
- Next, combine the coconut milk cream, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and kosher salt into a medium-sized saucepot. Place over medium/medium-high heat and bring the mixture up to a boil.
- Once it is at a steady boil, set a timer for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Turn the heat off, add in the baking soda, and stir the caramel quickly until well combined and even in color. The baking soda will react with the caramel and make it pretty foamy at first, so stir quickly.
- Quickly use a rubber spatula and scrape all of the caramel evenly over the popcorn. Stir the popcorn immediately to coat it in the caramel.
- Dump the caramel popcorn on the prepared sheet pan and spread it across evenly. Sprinkle the flakey sea salt over the popcorn.
- Rest the pan on the middle oven rack and bake it for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Do NOT stir the popcorn.
- Allow the popcorn to cool completely at room temperature before eating. Then, it is best eaten immediately upon cooling down. After a couple of hours, the popcorn may slightly soften. I like to store mine in an airtight container in the refrigerator the keep it super crunchy!
Welcome to the tip section of the vegan caramel apple popcorn! Here I provide my top tips to help you perfect the recipe. Sometimes, I also give substitute suggestions that I think you may find helpful.
- Keep the caramel popcorn chilled for optimum shelf life. If it is not all eaten within the first hour, I recommend storing it in an airtight container and holding it in the refrigerator. Otherwise, it will more than likely go soft sooner than later. Plus, homemade popcorn often gets a “stale” feel fairly quickly. Holding it in the refrigerator will prevent so from happening.
SAVE THIS RECIPE ON PINTEREST!