This low carb & refined sugar free (!!) caramel popcorn is everything you would expect… and more! Lightly coated with a variation of my keto caramel, it results in a crisp, sweet and salty delight.
Low Carb Caramel Popcorn 🍿
Totally refined sugar free (!!)
I’ve a feeling many of you will be surprised (I know I was!) that one cup of popcorn only has 5g net carbs. So while technically ‘not keto’ given that it’s a grain, I know many of us are moving away from the notion of keto as a list of foods, into ketosis as a metabolic state.
Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it much more fruitful for my health to focus on more natural foods… than in all the packaged (junk?) that is being labeled as keto nowadays, packed with all these soluble fibers (which, ahem, also spike the GI in a large percentage of us!).
Plus, if you’re into curving your glucose spikes via smart food combos (the best way to ‘do keto’ imho as you’re much less restricted), you’ll already know that dressing your carbs (i.e. the popcorn here) with a good amount of fat (you guessed it, the caramel!) will flatten your GI spike substantially. How much *exactly* will vary from peep to peep, but when I say substantial I mean even by half.
Oh! And my top tip is to also ensure to never eat higher sugar foods on an empty stomach, and going for a walk right after will also ensure your muscles soak up all that extra glucose (yup, flattening that dreaded GI spike).
So if I want to pass on any knowledge after ‘doing keto’ in many shapes and forms over the years, it’s that once you’re fat adapted, you can eat way more carbs than you think… if you’re smart about it ;).
I mean, its fairly unbelievable that you can make a keto version if you consider that caramel is essentially a burnt sugar sauce (!!). And guess what? It’s also infinitely easier to whip up than the traditional stuff as you don’t need to watch out for crystallization, temperature, etc when using allulose.
But because neither sugar alcohols nor allulose burn the same way as sugar, I took the dulce the leche route to bring you this sugar free caramel. This simply means simmering the ingredients together (and cheating a bit here and there).
Now, while dulce de leche requires roughly a 2 hours simmer to reduce and brown the sugar, neither sugar alcohols nor allulose are reducing sugars so that wouldn’t quite do it either. Rather, I opted for a browned-butter base and adding a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses for that burnt sugar kick (and needless to say, a tonne of umami).
Keep in mind that blackstrap molasses is considered a low glycemic sugar. One teaspoon (7g) adds 5g net carbs, so just 0.4g net carbs a serving (i.e. half the sugar of a strawberry!). But carbs aside, it’s also known to be a nutritional powerhouse rich in vital vitamins and minerals; such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium.
Fun fact: Molasses contain high amounts of chromium, which has been studied to increase glucose tolerance levels.
The Top Secret Ingredient
Baking soda! Yup, you read that right, as it’ll make the coating of the popcorn *much* easier and will result in the correct texture once cool.
So you’ll be adding a small amount into the caramel at the *very* end of cooking: it will bubble up rapidly (this is why pretty please use a larger dutch oven here), and immediately pour it over your prepared popcorn. Rapidly mix it for even coating with a spatula… and voila!
You’ve got a couple options here, and know that the recipe was thoroughly tested with allulose (my favorite sweetener by a mile really), xylitol (try and use non-corn to avoid tummy problems), and erythritol. And these are the findings!
1. Allulose and xylitol work equally well. The resulting keto caramel is luscious and sticky, with no thickener required. Plus, both sweeteners keep your caramel ultra smooth, and I didn’t experience any crystallization whatsoever with either.
If using xylitol, make sure to be careful if you have a pup (or kitty!) around the house, as it’s highly toxic to the little guys!
2. Now, erythritol is a bit tricker guys as it tends to crystalize once cool (you can always reheat it?). I did notice that doing about 1/2 erythritol and 1/2 of allulose or xylitol seemed to keep it smooth all the way through.
So if you’re not into the blackstrap molasses, try using of the brown erythritol sweeteners (say Lakanto Golden or Swerve Brown). Just keep in mind that you may need to add a touch of xanthan gum to obtain the thick ‘n sticky results (say 1/8-1/4 tsp, depending on desired thickness).
How much sweetener? Now this is the question. Traditional caramel uses about 1 cup of sugar, but in my opinion 1/3 cup of sweetener for keto palates is more than enough. As allulose is 30% less sweet than sugar (and xylitol), I did 1/2 cup (but you can probably do with just 1/3 cup for a lightly sweetened caramel). With xylitol I tried with 1/4 and 1/3 cup and they both worked great (just depends how sweet you like it, and what you’re using it for). Keto sweet buds are all over the place guys, but the neat thing here is that you can adjust to taste!
And… the video story!
Low Carb (& Sugar Free!) Caramel Popcorn
For the low carb caramel popcorn
- 4-5 cups popped popcorn
For the low carb caramel popcorn
- Get your popcorn ready! You can either buy a bag of (salted!) buttered popcorn or pop your own. One batch of caramel is enough for 4 to 5 cups, depending on how coated you like it. Transfer to a lined baking tray and set aside.
For the keto caramel
- See video for how to whip up my keto caramel. The one difference will be that you'll be adding a touch of baking soda at the very end (for easier coating and a candy-like texture).
- Add butter to a large dutch oven over medium/low heat and simmer, stirring every so often, until fully browned (about 5 minutes). (My top tip: I like to use salted butter for a salted caramel version!) Add in the sweetener, heavy cream and salt (leave out if using salted butter), stirring until fully combined. Add in the molasses (optional), and stir briefly until just combined.
- Simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes (don't stir at all!), taste for seasoning.
- Note: if your caramel splits (too high temperature is usually the culprit!), you might still be able to save it. Remove it from the heat, allow the mixture to cool down for about 5 minutes, bring it back on the stovetop over low heat, and gently whisk in a tablespoon of water until it comes back together (should happen almost instantly).
- Mix in the baking soda into the caramel at the *very* end: it will bubble up rapidly (this is why we're using a larger dutch oven here), and immediately pour it over your prepared popcorn. Rapidly mix it for even coating with a spatula, sprinkle some flaky sea salt (optional, but highly suggested) and set aside to cool completely.