To make popcorn on the stove:
In a large pot, heat the sunflower oil until shimmering. Add the popcorn kernels and cook until the kernels begin to pop. Continue to cook, shaking the pot frequently, until the pops are more than 3 seconds apart. Remove from the heat.
Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and add the pecan pieces. Toss to evenly distribute and set aside.
To make popcorn using an air popcorn maker:
You will need to make the popcorn in batches, using only one quarter cup uncooked popcorn kernels at a time. Follow popcorn maker user instructions.v
In a small saucepan, combine the coconut oil or butter, salt, almond milk, date syrup, sugar and vanilla. Place over medium heat and cook until the oil or butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
Stir in the baking soda and reduce the heat. The mixture will bubble aggressively. Stirring
constantly, continue to cook the caramel for a minute more, then remove from the heat.
Working quickly, pour the caramel over the popcorn mixture and toss to coat.
Transfer the popcorn to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat and bake for 15 minutes. Take the popcorn out of the oven and allow to cool completely.
Serve immediately or store in a large resealable bag.