Take your snacking experience up several levels with this Zebra Popcorn! Irresistibly sweet, salty, and crunchy, this treat features caramel-coated popcorn drizzled with dark and white chocolate. Perfect for movie night, road trips, game day get-togethers, or holiday gifts!
Zebra Popcorn Recipe
Anyone who knows my family or follows my recipes regularly, knows I’m a huge sucker for any type of popcorn, especially sweet gourmet popcorn recipes.
There are many brands that sell this popular flavor caramel popcorn (Popcornopolis Zebra Popcorn at Costco immediately comes to mind), but there’s nothing like homemade – it’s cheaper, fresher, and more delicious!
Zebra popcorn is a buttery oven baked caramel corn that’s elevated even more with a top layer of drizzled dark chocolate and white chocolate. The contrasting colored melted chocolates resemble the stripes of a Zebra and thus what it’s named after.
Homemade candied popcorn is perfect for family movie nights, game day, potlucks, and makes a fantastic edible gift packaged up in cellophane bags for parties and the holidays.
Why You’ll Love This Homemade Popcorn
- Taste and texture. An irresistible combination of sweet caramel, rich chocolate, and that satisfying crunch of popcorn.
- Simple ingredients. This recipe is made with easy to find pantry staples so you can whip it up anytime.
- Travels well. Packed in a snack bag, it transports beautifully for lunches or roast trips.
- Perfect for sharing. Great snack for family movie nights or get-togethers with friends. This also makes a lovely edible holiday gift!
Here’s what you’ll need to make this Zebra caramel popcorn recipe.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Popped popcorn – We make our own foolproof stovetop popcorn, but you can certainly use microwave popcorn or buy pre-popped bagged popcorn (such as SkinnyPop). Just make sure it’s plain popcorn.
- Light brown sugar – Dark brown sugar can also be used for a more intense caramel flavor.
- Butter – Adds richness and necessary moisture to the caramel.
- Light corn syrup – This invert sugar acts as a binder and provides a smooth feel to the caramel. Don’t skip it.
- Baking soda – This reacts with the sugar and corn syrup to create air bubbles, which in turn ensures the caramel coating isn’t rock hard, but instead provides the perfect crunch.
- Vanilla – Just a bit of vanilla for additional flavor.
- Chocolate chips – For the dark zebra stripes. You can use semisweet, dark, or milk chocolate chips.
- White chocolate chips – For the white zebra stripes. Use a good quality brand like Ghirardelli.
- Coconut oil – Mixed with the melted chocolates for a smoother consistency and also helps the chocolate harden and set up properly.
- Add some mix-ins. Dried fruit or nuts can be mixed in before drizzling on the melted chocolate.
- Change up the chocolate. The semisweet chocolate and white chocolate create that classic Zebra look, but butterscotch or peanut butter chips could be used instead for a different flavor.
- Use candy melts. Instead of the chocolate and coconut oil, candy melts or melting wafers can be used instead.
How to Make Zebra Popcorn
Caramel corn is easier to make than you might think, right on the stove without needing a candy thermometer.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Pop the kernels. You’ll start by making popcorn. My preferred method is stovetop popcorn, but you can use air popped or bagged popcorn, if you prefer. You’ll need 14 cups popped popcorn.
- Make the caramel sauce. Melt the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup in a pot. Bring to a low boil, stirring continuously for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add in the baking soda and vanilla.
- Coat the popcorn. Working very fast before the caramel sauce hardens, pour over the bowl of popcorn and toss to coat. Transfer mixture to two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
- Bake and stir. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 225 degrees F, rotating and stirring pans with a spatula every 15 minutes.
- Cool. Cool completely at room temperature.
- Melt the chocolates. Pour the dark chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl with 1 teaspoon coconut oil, heat for 40 seconds, and stir well. If necessary, continue heating the chocolate in 10-second intervals until completely melted. Gently drizzle the dark chocolate all over the caramel popcorn. Repeat this process with the white chocolate chips and remaining teaspoon coconut oil and drizzle over the caramel popcorn.
- Let chocolate set. Allow to set in a cool room for about 60 minutes.
- Break up into pieces and enjoy. Break up the popcorn and serve it in a large bowl, individual bowls, or wrap in cellophane bag with a ribbon and give as party favors or gifts!
Tips for Success
- Remove unpopped kernels. Before adding the popped popcorn to the mixing bowl, remove any unpopped kernels – we don’t want to break a tooth!
- Have your popped popcorn and utensils ready to go. Once the caramel sauce comes off the heat it hardens fairly fast.
- Use a silicon spatula to stir the caramel instead of a spoon, so it doesn’t stick.
- Stir the caramel mixture carefully. When preparing the caramel, stir the mixture gently and consistently to avoid burning or sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Maintaining medium heat and letting it come to a low boil before timing the 5 minutes is crucial.
- Allow ample cooling time. Patience is key when cooling the popcorn. Allow the popcorn to cool completely before drizzling with chocolate, so the caramel can set and the chocolate won’t simply melt on warm popcorn.
- Monitor cooking time and color. While baking the caramel-coated popcorn, keep a close eye on it and stir well every 15 minutes. This helps ensure even baking and prevents spots from becoming overly dark or burnt. Aim for a deep caramel color, which adds to the flavor and texture of the popcorn.
- Drizzle chocolate evenly. When drizzling the dark and white chocolate over the popcorn, use a spoon or fork to create a zigzag motion, ensuring even distribution of chocolate. This creates the signature zebra pattern and enhances the visual appeal of the popcorn.
Proper Storage or Gift Giving
To keep the caramel corn fresh, store it in an airtight container or plastic bag at room temperature on your counter, away from light, heat, or moisture. It will keep for about 5 days. Note that over time, the chocolate will start to soften the popcorn and it will lose its crispness, so ideally enjoy it within the first couple days. Avoid storing the popcorn in the fridge or freezer, which will negatively affect its texture.
If you can resist eating it all yourself, it also makes a great edible gift. A couple cups in a cellophane bag with a pretty bow is perfect for neighbors, teachers, delivery drivers, friends and family.
This would also be a fun treat next to slices of our zebra cake for an animal themed party!
More Favorite Popcorn Recipes:
- 14 cups popped popcorn
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 & 1/2 cups light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil , divided
- We make the best stovetop popcorn for this recipe, but you can use microwave or pre-popped bagged popcorn, if preferred. Just make sure it's plain. Remove any unpopped kernels and place in a large mixing bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium pot, melt together the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Bring to a low boil, stirring continuously with a silicon spatula. Continue to gently bubble and stir for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla (the mixture will foam.)
- Working fast before the caramel hardens, pour over the bowl of popcorn. Toss to evenly coat.
- Spread caramel corn onto the prepared baking sheets; place in the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating pans and stirring each pan with a spatula (coated with cooking spray) every 15 minutes.
- Allow caramel popcorn to cool completely.
- Pour the dark chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl with 1 teaspoon coconut oil, heat for 45 seconds, and stir well. If necessary, continue heating the chocolate in 10-second intervals until completely melted. Gently drizzle the dark chocolate all over the caramel popcorn. Repeat this process with the white chocolate chips and remaining teaspoon coconut oil and drizzle over the caramel popcorn.
- Allow to set in a cool room for about 60 minutes.
- Break up the popcorn and serve it in a large bowl, individual bowls, or wrap in cellophane bag with a ribbon and give as party favors or gifts!