Carmel Popcorn Substitute – Corn-free, Gluten-free

Caramelized Brown Rice Puffs

Having a corn allergy means you miss out on a lot of popular snacks. Just about all chips are out due to the use of corn oil, maltodextrin, xanthan gum and citric acid. Popcorn is sooooo out. Most of the time even smelling popcorn is out. Which means movie theaters are often out. Sigh.

So as not to feel deprived, I converted an old family favorite into a healthier gluten-free and corn-free “popcorn” treat. My mom used to make  “puffed wheat” as a snack for us as kids. This meant melting some butter in a sauce pan and stirring in the puffs and sprinkling it with salt. Stir until the butter evenly coats the puffs and the puffs are warmed through. Voila! Instant salty snack.

When we discovered that kamut puffs are twice the size of wheat puffs, it was a happy day in my family! LOL

Caramelized Millet Puffs

Well today, I can’t have corn or wheat (or kamut) due to my allergies. So I’ve been experimenting with different puffed grains that are safe for me. I’ve discovered that millet puffs and some rice puffs are safe for me. Yeah! The old family favorite is back in rotation with modifications and added caramel. Because caramel makes everything better!

As far as movie theaters go, thank goodness for streaming. 🙂


5.0 from 2 reviews
Carmel Popcorn Substitute - Corn-free, Gluten-free
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Buttery, salty, caramelized puffs
Recipe type: Snack
Serves: 4
  • 1 tbsp butter/coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 4 cups puffs (millet, rice, etc…)
  • salt to taste
  1. Add butter and coconut sugar to a large sauce pan over medium low heat. Stir until the coconut sugar melts into the butter.
  2. Add the puffs to the pan, making sure to only fill the pan half way.
  3. Stir to coat the puffs until all are covered and the puffs have heated through.
  4. Serve immediately while warm.
The recipe scales nicely. The amount of caramelized coverage you get is totally dependent on the amount of puffs you add. Feel free to modify it to your taste.

You can omit the sugar and serve as a savory snack.

You only want to fill the pan half way. Trust me on this one. With all the stirring, you'll wind up with more puffs all over your kitchen than in the pan.

Remove the puffs from the pan immediately. Once the sugar hardens it's nearly impossible to get the puffs out and you run the risk of burnt puff crust on your pan. Ugh!


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My post was reader favorite on Allergy Free Wednesdays. Thanks readers!

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33 Responses to Carmel Popcorn Substitute – Corn-free, Gluten-free

  1. Stopping by from Wake Me Up Wed Link and this is TERRIFIC! Thank you for sharing this great tip. Carrie, A Mother’s Shadow

  2. This looks yummy! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Jennifer says:

    This looks like a great idea! Are you using puffed cereal from the store or are you making your own puffed millet and rice? Thank you for this recipe.

    • jkhudson says:

      I’m using store bought puffed grains from the health food store. I’ve heard of buying “popping” grains other than popcorn that you can make yourself but I’ve never tried them.

  4. Miz Helen says:

    What an interesting substitute, it looks really good and I would love to try it. Thanks so much for sharing your post with Full Plate Thursday and hope you have a great week.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

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  6. Peggy says:

    How interesting! I’ve developed a corn allergy last summer and have been missing all things crunchy (also GF). Where do you find millet puffs?

    • jkhudson says:

      I hope you’re feeling better now that you’ve removed corn from your diet. I get millet puffs from my local health food store in the cereal aisle.

      • Peggy says:

        There is one of those stores right next to my gym. I’ll have to check it out today. I actually go there a lot, but never really looked for millet puffs because I didn’t know there was such a thing. I keep learning new things! And yes, corn gone=feeling better!

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  10. Katrina says:

    This looks fun! Caramel corn is definitely one of the things I miss having a corn allergy. We’ll try this as we stream movies too. 🙂

  11. lisa lynn says:

    Yum! Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop! Hope you’ll stop by and share again today!

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  13. Sharon Shafer says:

    How do you know you get a corn allergy. Can you tell me more about food rotation.

    • jkhudson says:

      That’s BIG question. It’s my personal belief that corn allergies are the most under-diagnosed allergy in the USA. It’s impossible to eliminate all the corn not only in food, but also in medications, cosmetics, toiletries, paper products, cleaning supplies, drywall, fragrances, ethanol in gasoline, etc… My corn allergy diagnosis was not typical. If you suspect that you have a corn allergy, try eliminating it for 4 days and see how you feel. I’m not a doctor, if you’re having severe problems definitely go see one, but you may have to connect the dots for your doctor and tell them you suspect a corn allergy. Good luck!

      How I was diagnosed with a corn allergy:

      Corn Allergen List:

      Food rotation is something that I haven’t tackled yet. It just doesn’t work with my lifestyle. As a user interface designer, I have thought up an app that would make rotation diets easier but I need an app developer to go further. If anyone knows of an allergy-friendly app developer, please send him/her my way! 🙂

  14. This would be a great snack for my kiddos! Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! 🙂

    Thank you for linking up! Its because of awesome bloggers like you that our link up is a success!

    Cindy from

  15. Kathi Riemer says:

    I don’t have allergies, but I want to try this recipe. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Julia says:

    This looks great!

  17. Mel says:

    Well done for finding a substitute for popcorn! It can sometimes be so difficult to cater for allergies (as I found when my baby was diagnosed with a wide range of the above). Mel #RecipeoftheWeek

  18. Wow, this is different and looks yum! #recipeoftheweek

  19. My kids would LOVE this. I will have to try it!

  20. LydiaF says:

    I’m going to have to give these a try. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen puffed grains in the local Indian/Asian market.

  21. Michelle says:

    Corn allergies are difficult. Corn (or some form of it) seems to be everywhere. Great substitute you’ve created for movie night!
    Thank you for sharing.

  22. Good improvisation. Avoiding some of the traditional sweet foods is tough…always good to have a stand-in! Thanks for sharing at Happiness is Homemade 🙂

  23. I have so many friends who would love this recipe!

    Thank you so much for sharing your creativity with us at Show-Licious Craft & Recipe Party! I hope you will join us again this Saturday at 8:00 am EST!

    ~ Ashley

  24. Susan W says:

    Stopping by from the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop! Thanks for sharing with us!

  25. Jill says:

    What a great alternative to popcorn. I have a loved one with a corn allergy and it is very hard to work around! This recipe will be greatly appreciated on the next movie night.

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

  26. Laura Mitchell says:

    Looking forward to movie night! I wonder if you add more of the sugar and coconut oil/butter, if the grains will group up into larger, tasty crunchy groups, kind of like Cracker Jacks?

    • You’ll get large clumps unless you actively break them down!

      Large clumps would be easier to eat but I solve that problem by serving my caramelized millet in coffee cups. Beware! It makes it all too easy to pour massive quantities into your mouth!

  27. Adrianne says:

    I have three kids with corn and gluten allergies. The youngest has never had popcorn but the older two Miss it SO much I’ve been trying to find ANYTHING that would fill that void. I’m thinking of breaking up some rice cakes so that there’s a little more to grab (less mess maybe) do you think that would work? Definitely going to try but tips would be super helpful! I wish more people were aware of how prevalent allergies are these days.

    • I’ve thought about the rice cake trick but haven’t tried it. I should work. Whether it will make kids less messy or not, no one can promise that! LOL. I usually serve the smaller grains like millet and rice puffs in a cup so that one can tip the treats into one’s mouth instead of trying to eat by hand.

      If you do try it, please report back and let me know how it goes. Good luck!

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