Caramel Popcorn

Caution: This is not health food. It’s a treat. Snack food. Not into sweets? Come back again in a couple days and I’ll have a real-food recipe to share. I promise.

Caramel Popcorn | The Gluten Free Vegan

Gather round everybody and let me tell you an adorable story about my husband, Levi. He’s probably going to roll his eyes at me for sharing this but I think it’s so cute.

I met Levi for the first time when we were 17. It wasn’t love at first sight. It was more like Megan chases all of the boys and Levi happens to be one of them. Despite my being boy-crazy, Levi and I actually became good friends before we ever started dating. You know the sappy ‘I married my best friend’ stuff some people say? Well with Levi, it’s actually true. I am very lucky.

It would be fitting right about now that I share a photo from this time period of our lives. Believe me, I desperately searched for a good (and by ‘good’ I clearly mean ‘awful and embarrassing’) photo of Levi and I to share here and my dear friends, I did not disappoint.

Flashback to the 90s | The Gluten Free Vegan
check out that neon shirt in the corner – classic!
Flashback to the 90s | The Gluten Free Vegan
I thought I rocked the ‘indifference to fashion’ look pretty well

Let’s pause for a moment to have a good laugh. Oh the late 90’s. We thought we were so cool. I had the poofy hair bun look down. Levi looks so young. I could spend the next hour dissecting my lack of fashion sense and why did I always wear a ponytail, but I won’t. Instead, I subscribe to this ideal.


Okay wait, one last cute one before we continue.

Flashback to the 90s | The Gluten Free Vegan
we were so romantic in the 90s

Now back to the story and reminiscing. It was around the time we first started hanging out that a couple of really close friends of mine were graduating from high school. They were a year younger than me and decided to throw a graduation house party. I brought Levi with me. I think I brought a bag of chips and a bottle of Coke too.

Levi brought homemade caramel popcorn in a giant – and I mean GIANT – yellow bowl.

At first the other guests sort of snickered at him bringing a homemade treat. After all, nobody bothered to put any effort or thought into what to bring for food – myself included. Some of the people commented that maybe his mommy made it for him.

It made me kind of sad but for the majority of the party the caramel popcorn went untouched. Then as the party was winding down, a few remaining friends were getting snacky and they started to pick at the giant bowl of sticky popcorn. Within minutes it was devoured. They were raving over how amazing it was.

Levi smiled with satisfaction. Where I had been feeling sad and sorry for him, he couldn’t have cared less what people thought. He answered with confidence ‘I know it’s amazing. Why do you think I made it?’ He’s always been that way. Effortless confidence without cockiness. I envy that quality about him, actually.

That was many, many years ago. Cough, 15 years to be exact. Levi has made this popcorn quite often in the last 15 years. He’s shared the recipe with a lot of people but somehow it’s never quite the same when someone else makes it. I have asked his permission to share the recipe with you guys and he had no problem with me sharing it. He did feel I should issue a warning though. First, this stuff is addictive. And second, you can try to make it as good as him but he still does it best. Consider yourself warned.

This is Levi’s traditional caramel popcorn recipe. He calls it Sticky Popcorn. He also makes a bunch of different flavor varieties. You’ll find those flavor variations suggested below the recipe box.

Caramel Popcorn
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Levi's classic Sticky Popcorn recipe - that's vegan and gluten-free! But be warned, nobody said it was health food and it's highly addictive.
Recipe type: Sweet Snacks
Serves: 2 large bowls
  • 1 cup vegan margarine
  • 1⅓ cup organic cane sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 30 cups popped popcorn
  1. Place popped popcorn into two large bowls.
  2. Heat margarine in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken slightly and reaches 120°C on a candy thermometer (hard ball stage).
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and add baking soda. The mixture will foam up furiously so make sure you're ready to stir it non-stop. Once it starts to die down slightly, add in vanilla extract. Be careful as it may splatter.
  5. Pour over popped popcorn immediately, dividing evenly between both bowls, and stir to mix it well.
  6. Enjoy while it's warm for soft gooey caramel popcorn or let it cool for more crisp caramel corn.



Cinnamon Bun Sticky Popcorn

Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the caramel mixture at the same time as the vanilla extract.

Sweet & Salty Sticky Popcorn

Sprinkle sea salt (to taste) over the popcorn as soon as you pour and mix the caramel with the popcorn.

Sweet With Heat Sticky Popcorn

Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (per bowl) over the popcorn as soon as you pour and mix the caramel with the popcorn. Taste and add more if you like it a bit hotter. Don’t overdo it and spoil the balance between sweet and heat.

This post sure taught me something about myself. There were not nearly enough photos of Levi and I together from ages ago.  Was I shy for the camera? Was I unhappy with how I looked? Maybe we were just too worried about wasting film in the days before digital cameras and cameras on our phones? I take a lot of selfies of us now and I am not apologizing for it any more. You never know when you might want the photos to mock publicly 15 years down the road.

Also, have you seen this collection of adults recreating photos from their childhood?  Along the same lines, I sort of had the thought that it might be fun to recreate some of the more cheesy photos that Levi and I do have together. I probably won’t. It’s been 12 years since Levi and I have even had professional photos taken of ourselves so I think it’s probably time to do that first before we do gag photos. It’s on our to-do list in the spring.

Thanks for joining us on this trip down memory lane. I hope you enjoy Levi’s contribution to the food blogging world. Kiss kiss!

Levi & Megs | The Gluten Free Vegan


    • says

      To be perfectly honest Ruthie I never make this recipe – it’s Levi’s trademark and he’s never attempted it with coconut oil. I have no idea if it would turn out or not. If you give it a try with coconut oil please let us know how it turned out for you.

  1. Karen says

    love the photos….. and love the recipe! I’ve heard good things about the sticky popcorn – weren’t we going to do a girls’ night with it?

    • says

      Aww thanks everyone.

      And yes, Karen we will definitely have to do a girls’ night and put in an order with Levi to make us sticky popcorn for us!

  2. kylha says

    Hey Megs! I’m so glad you posted this!!
    You know your/mine/our mother-in-law still has the same GINOURMOUS yellow bowl, right? I love seeing that bowl- it reminds me of numerous sticky popcorn Sundays (though I notice you don’t call it ‘poppycock’, is that a copyright things? lol).
    And I am THRILLED you added Levi’s cinnamon bun variation ‘cuz I’ve been waiting to see you guys to get him to make it for us again.
    For ya’ll who’ve never had this- SHE’S NOT KIDDING, IT’S ADDICTIVE!
    Now back to my sticky popcorn (it is Sunday after all).
    Keep it up Megs!

    • says

      Kylha!!! So happy to see your comment here. I actually completely forgot that they used to call it poppycock! Those yellow bowls are so classic. It’s comforting to know that she still has those bowls. Nostalgia. Enjoy the cinnamon bun version … though we really do want to see you guys soon – and we can all enjoy some sticky popcorn together!

  3. Mychal says

    This looks awesome! I don’t have a candy thermometer, what are some visual cues that it’s ready to be removed from heat and have the baking soda added?

    • says

      I think if you boiled the sauce long enough to a higher temperature you probably could use it. Using the exact instructions for cooking here though I am sure it would be too soft and would just run off the apples. I’m just not an expert in candy making or what stages to boil sugar to get the right candy consistency to give out advice on this topic. Sorry!

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