Caramel Peanut Popcorn
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Snack, Dessert
Cuisine: Vegan, Gluten-Free
Serves: 9 cups
  • 8 cups air-popped popcorn kernels
  • 2½ cups salted peanuts *See Note
  • 1¼ cups packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup vegan butter (half of an Earth Balance stick)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Gently mix the popcorn and peanuts in a large bowl and spread in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Place in the oven to keep warm.
  3. Measure out the vanilla and vinegar into a small bowl and set aside. Do the same for the salt and baking soda, note keep these separate from the vinegar/vanilla to avoid creating a kitchen volcano.
  4. In a medium size pot, combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, and vegan butter. Make sure to use a large enough pot as the mixture will bubble up when the vanilla is added. 6-8 cup capacity should be plenty. Stir over medium-high heat until the butter has melted.
  5. Once melted stop stirring and attach the candy thermometer to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, washing down the sides of the pot occasionally with a little cold water and a pastry brush.
  6. As the mixture approaches 255°F, remove the tray of popcorn from the oven and place on a heat resistant surface. Once the caramel reaches 255°F (just past the soft-ball stage), remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla/vinegar mixture. Stand back as the mixture will bubble. As the bubbling begins to subside quickly whisk in the baking soda and salt. The mixture will lighten and begin to foam up.
  7. Working quickly as the caramel will begin to set, pour ribbons of caramel up and down the sheet of prepared popcorn, distributing it evenly. Using a heat resistant spatula, toss the popcorn and peanut mixture with the caramel coating it as much as possible. (Be careful the caramel is hot).
  8. Transfer the baking sheet back to the oven and bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the caramel feels dry. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  9. Transfer to a serving bowl, breaking up any large clusters if desired. Popcorn will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Some brands of peanuts are saltier than others. I often use unsalted peanuts and sprinkle the tray of caramel coated popcorn with pink Himalayan salt prior to baking.
Recipe by David James Di Pardo at