You can't beat homemade gluten-free caramel popcorn. This easy, naturally gluten-free recipe for Caramel Corn, also known as Cracker Jacks, I used to make on repeat when I worked in a small restaurant in Traverse City, Michigan. It was part of the Cracker Jack Sundae but also an unofficial kitchen snack. It’s super easy to make and only requires ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry.
Enjoy this naturally gluten-free treat on its own or use it for decorations for my Gluten-Free Banana Snack Cake or my Gluten-Free Cupcakes (I recommend topping the cupcakes with the salted caramel buttercream which can be found here). You can also use them as a topping for my Gluten Free Salted Caramel Cheesecake
Recipe Ingredient Notes
Popcorn: I use freshly popped popcorn for this recipe. I pop around 3.5oz of popcorn kernel in grapeseed oil on the stove. Make sure to salt your freshly popped popcorn with kosher salt. You may also use microwave popcorn.
Sugar: I use granulated white sugar in this recipe and have not tested this with any sugar substitutes.
Butter: I use unsalted butter for this recipe but since it only calls for 30 grams you can substitute it with your favorite non-dairy version to make this recipe for gluten-free caramel corn vegan.
Peanuts: I use lightly salted Cocktail Peanuts in my recipes. Please make sure whatever peanuts you use are gluten-free and do not contain any random seasonings (This is often the case with Dry Roasted Peanuts). If you don't like peanuts, feel free to substitute them with 2 cups of popcorn or a different nut. I love using roasted cashew in this recipe as well.
Salt: I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt in all my recipes and Maldon’s Flaky Sea Salt as my finishing salt (the flaky sea salt I put on almost all my baked goods). Not all salts are created equal. If you use Morton’s Kosher Salt please be aware that their salt granules are smaller in size, denser, and crunchier. 1 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt weighs roughly 3 grams while 1 teaspoon of Morton’s Kosher Salt weighs almost 5 grams. Therefore if use another brand other than Diamonds Crystal Kosher Salt please be aware that this can throw off the entire recipe.
How to make Gluten Free Caramel Corn
Making caramel corn does not take a lot of time but I recommend not to multi-task when making this recipe. Caramel can burn so quickly and no one enjoys burned caramel corn. We use a DRY caramel in this recipe.
I recommend using a pot that seems way too big for this task. Why? Because we will add the popcorn and peanuts to the caramel in the pot and stir it all together. And you want some room to move it. Please make sure to use a heat proof spatula in this recipe.
Caramel Popcorn Variations
Here are a few fun ideas to mix up your Cracker Jacks. Please make sure you are using gluten free ingredients.
- Use a different kind of nut. A personal favorite is Roasted, Salted Cashews. Or a mix.
- Drizzle your caramel corn with dark or white chocolate. Or both. Chocolate Drizzled Caramel Corn is highly recommended.
- Sprinkle Mini M&M's on top of the finished caramel corn while it is still warm. Or any candy you may like. Mini Reeses Cups, Chopped up Snickers
- Make it Sweet & Salty. Mix in some gluten free pretzels or chips.
Frequently asked questions
Can I make this recipe vegan?
Yes! You can replace the 30 grams of butter with your favorite choice of vegan butter. I do not recommend coconut oil
Can I make this nut free?
Of course. Please leave out the peanuts. You may add more popcorn but it's not required.
How should I store my caramel corn?
If you store your caramel corn in an air-tight container at room temperature it will be good for at least 7 days. Make sure the lid is tightly closed. DO NOT store in your fridge or freezer. It will become soggy.
My caramel corn is sticky and soft!
Is it warm and humid in your kitchen? Popcorn and caramel act like a sponge and will soak up the moisture in the air and therefore turn you caramel corn sticky and soft. Personally I avoid making Caramel Corn on a hot and humid day.
Baking in grams
I share my recipes in grams and by weight since baking by weight is the most accurate way to bake. Digital Scales are very affordable and very affordable. You can purchase them on Amazon for less than a set of measuring cups. Measuring cups are very inaccurate and can cause significant errors when it comes to baking. Especially since I bake with gluten-free flours which weigh differently than “regular” flours. I do provide some ingredients like spices and leavening agents in measuring spoons.
Note about Ovens and Oven Temperatures
All my recipes are tested and developed with a conventional oven. I always bake my baked goods on the rack placed in the MIDDLE of my oven. This way the heat coming from the bottom will not burn my baked goods.
If you are baking with convection (fan-forced), please adjust the recipes accordingly. Be also prepared that the convection oven can cause your baked goods to dry out quickly and still be raw inside. Be aware that it takes at least 15-20 minutes for a standard American Oven to be fully preheated. I highly recommend investing in an Oven Thermometer.
Substitutions and Modifications
Any dietary or ingredient modifications/substitutions to this recipe may alter the end result in appearance and taste. I test my recipes several times as published in this post and The Gluten Free Austrian Blog is not responsible for the outcome of any recipe you find on our website.
- 85 grams of freshly popped popcorn (from around 100 grams popcorn kernels)
- 275 grams cocktail peanuts
- 400 grams granulated white sugar
- 30 grams of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (more for finishing)
How to make Gluten Free Caramel Corn
- Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and set aside.
- Heat a large pot over medium heat and add around ¼ of your sugar to the bottom of the pan. Allow the sugar to start melting without stiring it.
- It may take some time for the sugar to start melting but do not turn up the heat to move things along or your sugar will burn.
- The sugar will start melting at the edges first.
- As the sugar starts to melt, you can add more and more of the sugar.
- Stir your caramel with your heat proof spatula to incorporate all the sugar
- Reduce the heat, add your kosher salt and then and add the butter. This will seize up the caramel for a minute but keep stirring and it will turn into a beautiful caramel sauce.
- Turn off the heat and quickly fold in the popcorn and peanuts until fully coated. You do have to work quickly here.
- Pour on a parchment lined sheet tray and carefully with two spoons pull apart in smaller pieces. Finish with a sprinkle of kosher salt!
- Allow to cool completely and store in a container with a tight lid in a dry, cool place. Caramel Corn can get soft quickly because of the humidty. I like to store mine in tupperware boxes which I place into ziplock bags.
3oz of popcorn equals roughlt 8 cups of popped popcorn
Serving Size:1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 264