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Homemade Zebra Popcorn

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Learn how to make homemade zebra popcorn with our easy recipe! This chocolate drizzled caramel corn is always a hit! (Naturally Gluten-Free!)

white bowl filled with zebra popcorn drizzled with white chocolate and dark chocolate

I love caramel corn the best in the fall, and I’ve had a serious craving for zebra popcorn lately!

If you’re thinking, “um, what is zebra popcorn?,” you’re in for a literal treat! Zebra popcorn is a crunchy caramel corn covered with drizzled white chocolate and dark chocolate. The black and white stripes give it a zebra-like appearance. Cute, right?

Well, this delicious sweet treat tastes even better than it looks! It’s such a great snack for movie night, game nights, and campouts this time of year, but it’s also a great gift to share with friends and neighbors around the holidays. Basically, it’s a huge hit no matter where you bring it! It’s like homemade Popcornopolis zebra popcorn!

Here’s what you need to make a batch of this easy Zebra Popcorn recipe (it’s even gluten-free!)…

a sheet pan of zebra caramel corn drizzled with white and dark chocolate stripes

Simple Ingredients For Homemade Zebra Caramel corn

We’re basing this zebra caramel corn off our homemade caramel popcorn recipe, then adding a few little flourishes to give it that signature look. Even though this delicious popcorn LOOKS fancy, it starts with simple ingredients:

  • Popcorn. Plain popped popcorn (or lightly salted if you must) provides the perfect base for caramel popcorn. (Don’t know how to pop popcorn? Check out the tips below!)
  • Butter. You can use salted or unsalted butter for caramel corn. I usually use salted, but use whichever you keep on hand!
  • Brown Sugar. Plenty of light brown sugar adds the classic caramel-toffee flavor you’re looking for. (It tastes so good!)
  • Corn Syrup. Using corn syrup prevents crystals from forming in the caramel sauce, which gives a gorgeous glossy sheen and delicately crisp caramel coating to every piece of popcorn. It’s worth it! (You’ll use light corn syrup NOT dark corn syrup!
  • Kosher Salt. A coarser grain of salt, which balances out the sweetness of the caramel sauce. If you’re using a fine grain salt, you’ll want to use less.
  • Vanilla Extract. Plenty of vanilla adds delicious flavor to the caramel.
  • Baking Soda. This reacts with the acidity of the brown sugar, which produces a foamy reaction. Tiny bubbles form in the caramel, which gives the caramel corn a more delicately crispy texture, rather than being dense, chewy, or tooth-cracking hard.
  • White Chocolate Melts & Dark Chocolate Melts. Using chocolate melts (sometimes called candy melts or almond bark)
making caramel corn, step by step

How To Make Zebra Popcorn, Step By Step

Start By Making The Caramel Popcorn

  1. Preheat The Oven & Prep Your Pans. If you’re making crispy caramel popcorn (which we recommend!), preheat the oven to 250 degrees F and lightly grease a cookie sheet with spray oil or a little butter.
  2. Start By Popping Your Popcorn. If you haven’t already, pop the popcorn before you begin. Measure 12 cups (3 quarts) of popped popcorn and place in your a very large bowl, discarding any unpopped kernels. (If you have extra popcorn, keep it close by in case you want to add it in later.)
  3. Then Start The Caramel Sauce. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Melt over medium heat, stirring regularly until the caramel comes to a boil. (Try not to rush this by cranking the heat up, as dissolving the sugar completely gives you the best texture.)
  4. Boil The Caramel Sauce 5 Minutes. Watch the clock and boil the caramel sauce 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Remove From Heat & Finish. After 5 minutes, quickly remove the caramel sauce from the heat and whisk in vanilla and baking soda. (This will make the caramel sauce bubble and foam.)
  6. Quickly Pour Caramel Over The Popcorn. Pour the caramel sauce mixture over the popcorn and stir to coat. I recommend pouring about half of the caramel sauce over the popcorn, then stirring and adding the rest of the sauce to any “dry” spots as needed. This makes it a bit easier to coat it evenly. Stir until the popcorn is pretty evenly coated in the caramel mixture. Note: the popcorn will not look full-coverage/completely covered in caramel at this point. (There will still be some white spots visible at this point. This will resolve in the oven.) Note: the popcorn will not look full-coverage/completely covered in caramel at this point. (There will still be some white spots visible at this point. This will resolve in the oven.)
  7. Spread The Popcorn Out On Your Prepared Pan. Transfer the caramel corn to the prepared baking sheet and spread out fairly evenly. (Don’t worry about a few clumps here and there!) If desired, sprinkle with a few flakes of flaky sea salt for a salted caramel effect.
  8. Bake The Popcorn. Place the pan of popcorn in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, remove the popcorn from the oven and stir. (The caramel will be more melty and fluid, so the pieces will get more evenly coated with caramel). Return to the oven and bake 15 minute more. Repeat this process two more times, until you’ve baked the caramel popcorn for 60 minutes total.
  9. Spread The Caramel Corn Out Onto Parchment Paper Or Waxed Paper in a single layer to cool completely to room temperature. Wait until the caramel corn is completely cool before drizzling with chocolate.
Making zebra popcorn, step by step

When The Caramel Corn Is Cool, Top With Chocolate.

  1. Melt Chocolate. Add white chocolate melts to a microwave-safe bowl and dark chocolate melts to a separate bowl. Working one bowl at a time, melt the chocolate in 15-20 second increments, stirring between each interval until the chocolate is about 80% melted and just a few small pieces of chocolate remain. Stir until the heat from the chocolate melts the remaining smaller pieces of chocolate until the whole mixture is smooth. Repeat with the second bowl of chocolate. 
  2. Drizzle The Chocolate. Let the chocolate cool slightly, then transfer the melted white chocolate to a ziploc bag, pressing out any extra air. Add melted chocolate to a second ziploc bag. Test to make sure the chocolate is cool enough to handle. If it’s still too hot for you to comfortably hold the bag, let it cool a bit longer. When it’s cool enough to touch, snip a tiny bit off the corner of each bag to make a small opening. (You want the cut to be VERY small so you can make nice, neat drizzle lines.) Working carefully, drizzle both kinds of chocolate on top of the popcorn. (If the bags feel too warm to hold,
  3. Let The Chocolate Set. Allow the chocolate to cool until it’s set, about 45-60 minutes. (You can pop it in the fridge to speed things up if you’re in a hurry!)
  4. Serve & Store. Store zebra popcorn in an airtight container at room temperature 3-4 days.
top view of a large bowl of zebra caramel corn

FAQ + Tips And Tricks For The Best Zebra Popcorn

How Long Does Zebra Popcorn Last? I’d say 3-4 days, tops. It’s best eaten the day it’s made, since the caramel corn will start to pull moisture out of the chocolate and will soften over time. Store zebra popcorn in an airtight container for best results!

What Flavor Is Zebra Popcorn? It’s a yummy flavor of caramel corn drizzled with chocolate and white chocolate. The two colors of chocolate “stripes” are what gives this crispy crunchy sweet treat it’s name.

What’s The Best Way To Drizzle Chocolate on Caramel Corn? Honestly? Plastic bags. You’ll make a sort of make-shift piping bag by adding the melted chocolate to a ziploc bag, pressing out any extra air and sealing it securely. Then, snip the tiniest bit off one corner of the bag to use as your “piping tip.” This will give you neat, tidy lines that make this gourmet popcorn look extra impressive.

Can I Use Chocolate Chips Instead of Chocolate Melts? Yes, though almond bark/chocolate melts are much easier to work with. If you’re using white chocolate chips and dark chocolate chips instead of candy melts, you’ll want to add 1 teaspoon of oil to the chocolate to help it pour and drizzle better. Melt on LOW heat in short bursts to avoid scorching the chocolate.

Pack It Up For The Holidays! To gift this delicious recipe for sharing, pack the cooled, set chocolate drizzled caramel popcorn into cellophane bags and tie with ribbon. It looks beautiful and festive tied up with a bow!

The Best Ways To Pop Popcorn For Caramel Corn:

If you’ve never popped popcorn before, it’s really easy and there are SO many ways to do it. Here are a few to choose from:

  • Use Loose Kernels In Brown Paper Bags. It’s easy to make chemical-free/oil-free popcorn in your microwave! Add a few tablespoons of popcorn kernels to a plain brown paper bag & follow these directions. Easy!
  • Use Store-Bought Microwave Popcorn. You can use salted or plain microwave popcorn to make caramel corn! Just don’t use buttered or flavored popcorn as it won’t work well. SkinnyPop (no chemicals!) and this Simply Salted popcorn are two great options. (Or, use (chemical-free!) Quinn just sea salt or this one from Quinn Popcorn & skip the butter packet.) You’ll need a little less than 2 bags for this recipe. If you use salted popcorn, you may prefer to reduce the salt in the caramel, using 1/4 teaspoon instead of 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Use An Air Popper. If you’ve got room to store one, this air popper is a classic with more than 13,000 reviews!
  • Make It On The Stove. Go classic and make your popcorn on the stovetop.
  • Use Your Instant Pot. Try making popcorn in the Instant Pot!
white bowl filled with zebra popcorn drizzled with white chocolate and dark chocolate

Leave a star review below when you try our Homemade Zebra Popcorn recipe! We can’t wait to hear what you think!

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white bowl filled with zebra popcorn drizzled with white chocolate and dark chocolate

Homemade Zebra Popcorn (Gluten-Free)


  • Author: Emily Dixon, Sweets & Thank You
  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Yield: 12 cups 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Become the toast of the party with our zebra popcorn recipe! This chocolate drizzled caramel corn is always a hit!


Ingredients

Scale

For The Caramel Corn:

  • 3 quarts (12 cups) popped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz.) butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

To Top The Popcorn:

  • 3 oz. dark chocolate melts (a heaping 1/2 cup)
  • 3 oz. white chocolate/vanilla melts (a heaping 1/2 cup)

Instructions

First, Make The Caramel Corn:

  1. Preheat The Oven & Prep Your Pans. If you’re making crispy caramel popcorn (which we recommend!), preheat the oven to 250 degrees F and lightly grease a cookie sheet with spray oil or a little butter.
  2. Start By Popping Your Popcorn. If you haven’t already, pop the popcorn before you begin. Measure 12 cups (3 quarts) of popped popcorn and place in your a very large bowl, discarding any unpopped kernels. (If you have extra popcorn, keep it close by in case you want to add it in later.)
  3. Then Start The Caramel Sauce. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Melt over medium heat, stirring regularly until the caramel comes to a boil. (Try not to rush this by cranking the heat up, as dissolving the sugar completely gives you the best texture.)
  4. Boil The Caramel Sauce 5 Minutes. Watch the clock and boil the caramel sauce 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Remove From Heat & Finish. After 5 minutes, quickly remove the caramel sauce from the heat and whisk in vanilla and baking soda. (This will make the caramel sauce bubble and foam.)
  6. Quickly Pour Caramel Over The Popcorn. Pour the caramel sauce mixture over the popcorn and stir to coat. I recommend pouring about half of the caramel sauce over the popcorn, then stirring and adding the rest of the sauce to any “dry” spots as needed. This makes it a bit easier to coat it evenly. Stir until the popcorn is pretty evenly coated in the caramel mixture. Note: the popcorn will not look full-coverage/completely covered in caramel at this point. (There will still be some white spots visible at this point. This will resolve in the oven.) Note: the popcorn will not look full-coverage/completely covered in caramel at this point. (There will still be some white spots visible at this point. This will resolve in the oven.)
  7. Spread The Popcorn Out On Your Prepared Pan. Transfer the caramel corn to the prepared baking sheet and spread out fairly evenly. (Don’t worry about a few clumps here and there!) If desired, sprinkle with a few flakes of flaky sea salt for a salted caramel effect.
  8. Bake The Popcorn. Place the pan of popcorn in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, remove the popcorn from the oven and stir. (The caramel will be more melty and fluid, so the pieces will get more evenly coated with caramel). Return to the oven and bake 15 minute more. Repeat this process two more times, until you’ve baked the caramel popcorn for 60 minutes total.
  9. Spread The Caramel Corn Out Onto Parchment Paper Or Waxed Paper in a single layer to cool completely to room temperature. Wait until the caramel corn is completely cool before drizzling with chocolate.

Then, Work On The Chocolate Drizzle:

  1. Melt Chocolate. Add white chocolate melts to a microwave-safe bowl and dark chocolate melts to a separate bowl. Working one bowl at a time, melt the chocolate in 15-20 second intervals, stirring between each interval until the chocolate is about 80% melted and just a few small pieces of chocolate remain. Stir until the heat from the chocolate melts the remaining smaller pieces of chocolate until the whole mixture is smooth. Repeat with the second bowl of chocolate.
  2. Drizzle The Chocolate. Let the chocolate cool slightly, then transfer the melted white chocolate to a ziploc bag, pressing out any extra air. Add melted chocolate to a second ziploc bag. Test to make sure the chocolate is cool enough to handle. If it’s still too hot for you to comfortably hold the bag, let it cool a bit longer. When it’s cool enough to touch, snip a tiny bit off the corner of each bag to make a small opening. (You want the cut to be VERY small so you can make nice, neat drizzle lines.) Working carefully, drizzle both kinds of chocolate on top of the popcorn.
  3. Let The Chocolate Set. Allow the chocolate to cool until it’s set, about 45-60 minutes. (You can pop it in the fridge to speed things up if you’re in a hurry!)
  4. Serve & Store. Store zebra popcorn in an airtight container at room temperature 3-4 days.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: zebra popcorn, zebra caramel corn, zebra caramel popcorn, zebra popcorn recipe

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