It's popcorn ball making season! It's been years since I've had one of these (over a decade?) and I remember it being too cloyingly sweet with marshmallows, corn syrup, chocolates and more sugar and possibly topped with sugar and dipped in sugar. Too much! So I thought I'd try my hand at a "healthier" vegan version. The treats were gobbled up my AJ and Marianne (my roomies) in no-time, hopefully your friends and family will love them, too!
Vegan "Superfood" Popcorn Ball Ingredients
1 Cup Honey or Molasses
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
1 Cup Cocoa Nibs (or unsweetened vegan chocolate chips)
1/2 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1/2 Tablespoon Orange Peel Powder
1 Cup of Dried Fruit (I uses raisons but cranberries would add nice tartness)
1/2 to 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt to Taste
7-8 Cups Popped Popcorn (1/3 to 1/2 cup un-popped kernels)
Gloves (unused or very clean thick yellow kitchen gloves) are good to keep your hands from burning!
1/4 to 1/2 Cup of raw or mixed cooked nuts would go well with this too, great for added protein!
Optional: I added a 1/2 Tablespoon eleuthero root powder since I happened to have it on hand. It's an adaptogen in the ginseng family and provides natural caffeine-free energy. Yep, I'm taking pictures of herbs and powders behind-the-scenes for books to come!
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees
2. Pop your popcorn on the stove or in your air popper and set aside
3. Cook Your Honey and Coconut oil until they're combined.
4. Pour your spice mixture over the popcorn.
5. Spread your popcorn evenly on a baking sheet and pour the honey-coconut mixture on top.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally as needed.
7. Remove the popcorn and let it stand for 3 to 5 minutes before forming your popcorn into balls wearing your protective gloves.
Since these were such a hit I'm going to experiment with different spice blends. I think cayenne pepper, chipotle, and furikake (a savory Japanese seaweed) would make the most incredible popcorn balls!
Quick Tips for Making Perfect Stove-Popped Popcorn Every Time
Here's what you do for perfect popcorn every time:
1. Use a thicker pan. It doesn't have to be dutch oven thick, but avoid any light thin pans or your popcorn will likely burn. Poor heat distribution.
2. Don't use too little oil or your kernels won't pop and/or will burn. A good ratio is 2-3 TBSP per 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of popcorn. If you're counting calories, just be sure not to go over 3 TBSP or so on the oil, it'll be delicious, but 3 TBSP alone is 450 calories and that's before you calculate the popcorn!
Just mentioning, because, guess who's accidentally gained weight at two different times from popcorn overdose? (Me.)
3. Add 1/3 cup of popcorn to the pan, pour 2-3 TBSP (I go for 1.5 for best results) of oil on top. Coconut is delicious but you can use infused olive oil too. I've found sesame oil to be too thin for easy popping, although the nutty flavor goes with the popcorn perfectly.
4. Have the heat on HIGH until you hear the first POP. Then quickly turn the heat down to half. Shake the pan without removing it from the heat every minute or so to ensure even popping.
***Now go make your Halloween popcorn balls! Or just cinnamon honey popcorn, it's delicious just like that!