Crispy Chocolate Popcorn Recipe

With a handful of simple ingredients you can turn plain popcorn into a crisp and crunchy chocolate candy.

Closeup of a blue bowl overflowing with crispy chocolate popcorn.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why This Recipe Works

  • Adding baking soda to the caramel syrup causes it to foam, creating a honeycomb structure that lightens the candied shell of the popcorn and makes it extra crunchy.
  • During the cooking process, the butter browns along the way, adding a nutty vibe; for a vegan variation, try aromatic cocoa butter instead.
  • The candy syrup dilutes dark chocolate, producing a mellow cocoa flavor.

If there's one thing my friends know about my eating habits, it's that I'm a popcorn fiend. Buttered or plain, salted or sweet, popcorn is the snack I most often whip up for myself.

Lately I've been grooving on this chocolate variation, with a mellow flavor and crunch reminiscent of Cocoa Puffs. It's not much fuss to prepare, and chances are all the ingredients are in your pantry already. It's a simple combination of water, golden syrup, butter, and sugar boiled up to 340°F (171°C) to get some light caramelization.

Mix in a handful of dark chocolate with a heat resistant spatula, then add a little baking soda and salt. The sodium bicarbonate will cause the candy syrup to foam—aerating it and making the dense candy more delicate by creating a honeycomb structure—at which point it's poured over a bowl of popcorn.

Gently fold until the popcorn is well coated, then spread it out on a lightly greased baking sheet, and pull into clusters with a pair of metal forks. Be careful at this stage, the popcorn will be much hotter than it looks!

Since the candy will rapidly begin to harden (particularly in winter months), work as quickly as you can to pull the clusters apart. It's not that you have to race, only that if you should focus on the job at hand rather than pause to put the dirty pot in the sink. Resist the urge to taste the popcorn, as it won't crisp until fully cool, leaving your teeth coated in mercilessly sticky chocolate candy. Soon enough, your patience will be rewarded with some wonderfully crunchy, chocolately popcorn.

Since the ingredients are so simple, it's important that everything is top-notch—especially the popcorn itself. Normally, it takes about 2 ounces of kernels to get 7 cups of popcorn, but when the corn is old the yield can be as low as 5 cups. That's because the stale kernels won't expand as fully as they should when popped, creating small, dense pieces that don't taste as light and crisp as they should. So it's worth replacing that bag of popcorn kernels that's been collecting dust on the shelf with a fresh package.

Overhead closeup of a bowl of crispy chocolate popcorn.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Another way to upgrade this recipe is to pop the kernels in raw (undeodorized) cocoa butter to build in a deeper chocolate aroma. Raw cocoa butter can also be used to replace the butter in the candy for a vegan variation.

As for the chocolate, reach for something flavorful and dark, at least 72% so it will pack a real punch. I designed the recipe to use 3 ounces of chocolate since that's how most "fancy" bars are sold in supermarkets—look for brands like Endangered Species, Green & Blacks, or Divine.

In my restaurant days, I'd use this popcorn as a garnish for creamy vanilla desserts like whipped Greek yogurt and panna cotta, but these days I find its crunch and mellow chocolate flavor perfect for simply snacking out of hand.

September 2017

Recipe Details

Crispy Chocolate Popcorn Recipe

Active 20 mins
Total 60 mins
Serves 6 to 8 servings

With a handful of simple ingredients you can turn plain popcorn into a crisp and crunchy chocolate candy.


  • 2 ounces unsalted butter (about 4 tablespoons; 55g) or 1 1/2 ounces raw cocoa butter (shy 1/4 cup; 40g), plus more for greasing

  • 1 3/4 ounces freshly popped popcorn (about 7 cups once popped; 50g)

  • 3 ounces water (about 1/3 cup; 85g)

  • 4 ounces golden syrup or light corn syrup (about 1/3 cup; 110g)

  • 9 ounces sugar (about 1 1/4 cups; 255g)

  • 3 ounces 72% dark chocolate, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup; 85g)

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon (1g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight


  1. Lightly grease a large bowl, and add freshly popped popcorn. You should have about 7 cups; if significantly less, this may be a sign the popcorn is dense and stale and that a newer batch of kernels is in order.

  2. In a 3-quart stainless steel saucier, combine water, golden or corn syrup, butter or cocoa butter, and sugar over medium heat. Stir with a fork until bubbling hot, about 4 minutes. Increase to medium-high, clip on a digital thermometer and cook without stirring until the syrup is 340°F (171°C), about 10 minutes. If the process is taking too long, simply increase the heat.

    A collage of making caramel in a saucepan.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  3. Meanwhile, lightly grease a rimmed half sheet pan, and prepare the remaining ingredients so they’re ready to add at a moment’s notice. When the syrup comes to temperature, remove from heat, stir in chocolate with a heat-resistant spatula, followed by the baking soda and salt. When the mixture is foamy, pour over the popcorn and fold until the pieces are thoroughly coated.

    Two images: the chocolate is stirred into the caramel; the chocolate-caramel mixture is poured into the greased bowl of freshly popped popcorn.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  4. Scrape onto the prepared baking sheet, pulling the chunks of popcorn into bite-sized clusters with a pair of metal forks. Cool until the soft candy shell is hard and crisp, about 45 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container. It’s best to store the popcorn as soon as it's cooled, as excessive exposure to air may cause it to soften from humidity. Store up to 2 weeks at room temperature, or 1 month in the fridge.

    A collage of the popcorn being tossed and coated with the chocolate-caramel mixture, transferred to a greased baking sheet, and teased apart into clusters with a pair of forks.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Special Equipment

3-quart stainless steel saucier, digital thermometer with clip, heat resistant spatula, half sheet pan


To make 7 cups of popcorn, start with 2 ounces of kernels, popped according to whatever method you prefer. Try Daniel's microwave method, or make like Kenji and grab a Whirley Pop.

Read More

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
311 Calories
11g Fat
53g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 311
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 15%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Cholesterol 16mg 5%
Sodium 232mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 53g 19%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 48g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 12mg 1%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 79mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)