Amongst the rugged cardboard skyline of my pantry, one smiling cartoon face loomed above the rest. Dwarfing the Froot Loops and Cheerios like a corn-filled Tower of Babel, Cap’n Crunch’s new Caramel Popcorn Crunch is tall. So tall, in fact, that I have to lay the box horizontally just to complete my game of cupboard Tetris.
So if Caramel Popcorn Crunch insists on being so high maintenance, its flavor better be good enough to make up for all the real estate it’s sucking up. With box art evoking a movie theater experience (I like to imagine Cap’n Crunch grinning through the entirety of The Hunt for Red October), this cereal seeks to fill a breakfast flavor void that none of us were really asking for but have suddenly realized that we’ve wanted all along: caramel popcorn.
Since Cap’n Crunch has a naturally corn-heavy base, I had high hopes upon popping the top of Popcorn Crunch. And even though I tend to prefer the cheese popcorn when presented an option, I can understand Quaker’s reluctance in exploring the unknown realm of cheese cereal. Even caramel is a rarely seen cereal flavor, perhaps because the chewy, molar-filling nature of the treat doesn’t translate as well into crispy puffs and flakes.
I huffed the cereal with anticipation, and…wow. I was gonna provide some complicated analogy, but that’s not necessary. This stuff smells like caramel corn, plain and simple.
The first bite of the light puffs hits me with a blast of buttery sweetness. It has the same sort of syrupy, sticky, and sweet glaze of flavor as Peanut Butter Crunch, except instead of a resonating nuttiness, with Caramel Popcorn Crunch there is a darker underlying caramel taste: a puckering, burnt brown sugar goodness that will leave you googling the Maillard Reaction.
But this fun is fleeting, as the flavor is washed away quickly (especially when in milk). What I was left with afterwards was a lingering corn mush—the very same golden sweet corn taste of good ol’ original Cap’n Crunch.
However, the end milk might be the best part of all, as the formerly drowned out caramel coating transforms the vanilla dregs into a rich, malted milk beverage. In fact, it’s so good, I can’t be entirely certain that it isn’t actually some secret elixir of youth. Better sip some more, just in case.
At the end of the day (or the movie, if you are dedicated to thematic appropriateness and ate your bowl alongside a screening of the laughably terrible Battleship movie), Caramel Popcorn Crunch was a pleasantly corn syrup-encrusted take on a classic treat. Yet, the smell came much closer to replicating caramel corn than the taste and mouthfeel. I couldn’t sense any savory saltiness, and unlike the continual chewiness of popped corn, the airy puffs dissolve too quickly in your mouth.
But if you just want a fun, youthful cereal experience that brings something new to the table, all while tasting a bit like someone melted a Werther Original and drizzled it over spheres of buttered corn meal (I had to get my complex analogy in here somewhere), then you’ll enjoy Cap’n Crunch’s Caramel Popcorn Crunch.
You’ll enjoy it, or my name isn’t Orville Redenbacher.
(Wait, my name isn’t Orville Redenbacher? Okay, maybe disregard that last part, then).
The Bowl: Cap’n Crunch Caramel Popcorn Crunch
The Breakdown: A buttery, oily, and well-browned glaze makes for tempting, corny pieces. But they’re gone in a flash, leaving nothing behind but delicious end milk and a slight hunger (both physically and spiritually) for something more.
The Bottom Line: 8 impromptu chemistry lessons out of 10