Peanut Butter-Caramel Popcorn

I love popcorn. I realized that I also said I loved chocolate, but I love a lot of foods so just go with me on this. Growing up, I used to eat a bag of butter Orville Redenbacher popcorn while doing my homework before heading to 3-5 hour of dance rehearsal. Later, when the brand came out with pour-over movie butter popcorn bags.... well I was all over that!

Years later, when I was deep into my eating disorder I took away popcorn because of all of the extra ingredients and therefore, in my mind, all the extra calories. It stayed out of my diet for years first because of the aforementioned, then due to the unnatural ingredients, then due to removing diary from my diet.

Three years ago, I learned how to pop popcorn in a pot! This way I could put whatever toppings I wanted on it like salt, maybe coconut sugar, maybe nutritional yeast, the list goes on... and I could pop it in coconut oil so it was dairy-free. Yes, I know this isn't a revelation for some, but growing up on microwavable popcorn, it didn't cross my mind. (PS: Food52 has a great tutorial on how to pop the perfect popcorn. It's been my guide ever since.)

This recipe is extremely versatile based on the sweetners and nut butters you have in your pantry.  It's adapted from a recipe in Amy Chaplin's wonderful book, At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, where you ultimately pop popcorn, pour over a syrup and crisp it up in the oven for a minute. Originally using brown rice syrup, I've also used honey and maple syrup with great success. Molasses also works if you want it spiced, but I'd use no more than 1 tablespoon or it will overpower. Cashew butter was Chaplin's nut butter of choice and give it a mild caramel flavor, but when I was catering this past weekend, peanut butter was my go-to.


Addictively delicious and crunchy, this will be a hit for a party, a cozy movie night or as you watch the drama unfolding on The Bachelor. How does that show just draw you in with it's stupidity??

serves 4

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 maple syrup
1/4 cup organic peanut butter
heaping 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
splash of vanilla extract

Because I can't describe popping popcorn better than Food52, use their directions (or whatever method you prefer) to pop 1/4 cup of kernels with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. You will get about 6 cups of popped corn when you're done. Place the popcorn into a large coconut oil greased bowl. The oil on the sides will help the syrup not to stick later.

Preheat your oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Add the maple syrup to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Bring to a boil, before lowering it to a simmer for 5 minutes. Take the syrup off the heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients until smooth. 

Pour the mixture over the popcorn, and using a heat-proof spatula, toss the popcorn around to coat. When it's mostly coated, pour the popcorn onto the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the syrup lightly caramelizes and bubbles on the corn. Allow it to cool slightly before breaking it into pieces and serving.

Jacquie Chamberlain