This vegan BBQ popcorn recipe started out wanting to be a BBQ seasoning mix for popcorn. Then, it evolved into a savory vegan caramel corn recipe, because maple syrup felt essential to the flavor. The flavors are smoky, sweet, spicy, and savory. It’s texture is crunchy and light. As you snack, it doesn’t leave seasoning all over your fingers, as some BBQ flavored popcorn recipes do.
And this recipe marries two of my favorite things, popcorn and BBQ flavors. In the end, it’s a homemade caramel corn that dares you not to finish the entire bowl.
While it’s awesome for everyday snacking, it seems like it would also be a great gift at the holidays, like Christmas. I would be totally thrilled to get this in a tin and maybe you can think of some other folks that would love it too? 😊
A few things…
- You’ll need freshly popped popcorn. Pop your popcorn however you want, whether it’s in an air popper, in the microwave, or on the stove. Just make sure it’s plain.
- Using a candy thermometer is essential. It really helps make sure you nail the temperature on the vegan caramel corn sauce.
- You’ll need to move quickly. Once you remove the sauce from the stove, it will start to set up. Right away, stir in the liquid smoke, and then, stir in the bbq seasoning mix. Then, immediately start pouring it over the popcorn, and then, mix the popcorn with the sauce.
This vegan BBQ popcorn recipe makes ~11-13 cups. Once it’s completely cool, you can store it in an airtight container for ~3-5 days.
Smoky Maple BBQ Popcorn
11-13 cups freshly popped popcorn (from ⅓ cup popcorn kernels)
1¼ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chipotle powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
5 Tbsp vegan butter (I used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks)
⅓ cup maple syrup
¼ tsp liquid smoke (I used Wright’s Hickory Liquid Smoke)
1. Preheat the oven to 300º F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Sift through the popcorn and remove any unpopped kernels. Then, place the freshly popped popcorn in a very large mixing bowl.
3. In a small bowl, add the smoked paprika, chipotle powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and baking soda. Stir around to mix it. Set aside.
4. In a small saucepan, add the vegan butter and maple syrup. Whisk until the butter melts, and then, lower in a candy thermometer. Continue whisking until the caramel corn sauce reaches a temperature of 230º F. Then, remove the saucepan from heat.
5. Stir the liquid smoke into the caramel corn sauce. Then, stir in the seasoning mixture from the small bowl.
6. Immediately pour ½ the sauce over the popcorn. Stir it around with a spatula until it’s more evenly distributed. Then, add the rest of the sauce, and mix it around until it seems like every piece of popcorn has a bit of BBQ caramel corn sauce on it.
7. Spread the BBQ popcorn evenly across the parchment paper. Bake at 300º F for 10 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven, and stir it around. Return to the oven and bake at 300ºF for another 5 minutes.
9. Remove from the oven, and stir around. When cool enough to handle, break up the pieces of that are stuck together. When completely cool, serve. This BBQ popcorn stores in an airtight container for ~3-5 days.