FLAVORS THAT POP
Popcorn is a favorite among those who love to snack and save money. For just a few cents per serving, home-popped kernels are also the ultimate in versatility. From salty to sweet to fiery hot, these inexpensive toppings keep popcorn fresh and exciting.
This smoky and subtly sweet topping hits the spot when a craving for saucy barbecue hits. Especially appealing for vegetarians who may be missing the satisfaction of smoky roasted meats, smoked paprika adds the depth of flavor that is key to this recipe.
Recipe: Overtime Cook
Ranch-flavored chips, dips, and sauces are among the most popular in the United States. Unfortunately, they are also among the unhealthiest. A lightened version packs the flavor onto very low-fat popcorn.
Recipe: Tastes of Lizzy T
SWEET & SPICY
This sophisticated recipe uses spicy cayenne powder for a serious kick that permeates each bite. The addition of the Indian spice blend garam masala adds depth of flavor, so the spice takes on layers of complexity rather than just one-note heat.
Recipe: Martha Stewart
GARLIC HERB PARMESAN
This classic combination tastes good on everything from chicken to french fries, and popcorn is no exception. Add fresh herbs right to the pot in which the corn is being popped; it cooks the herbs gently for an intense flavor.
Recipe: Rachael Ray
This recipe combines classic pizza toppings such as oregano, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and chili flakes, along with tomato paste that gets baked into the kernels. The result is a surprisingly accurate pizza flavor profile in each crunchy handful.
Recipe: Naive Cook Cooks
HERBS DE PROVENCE
This French herb blend pairs well with a high-quality French butter for richly flavored popcorn. The herbs render this snack sophisticated enough to pair with delicately roasted meats or French cheeses.
This boldly flavored snack is a lighter alternative to other chili-cheese options and super-easy to whip up. The only special ingredient required is cheddar-cheese powder, which can be found at most specialty cooking shops or online.
Recipe: Chocolate Moosey
This recipe is for serious cheese lovers. Combining popcorn with corn chips takes this treat to a new level of fusion snacks, and baking them together with loads of cheese creates a one-of-a-kind experience.
Recipe: Jolly Time
Za'atar is a spice blend made from sesame seeds and sumac, among other spices, and is popular all over the Middle East. Za'atar is available at most grocery stores and provides an instant way to make popcorn feel like a brand new snack.
Recipe: Serious Eats
This recipe uses avocado oil to moisten the kernels before applying chili salt. The avocado oil gives a perfumed aroma and taste to the popcorn that balances out even spicy chili powders, creating an almost addictive snack.
Recipe: Mexican Food Journal
This sweet and spicy popcorn is a nod to the complex ingredients that ancient cultures in Central America used to add to their chocolate. Cinnamon, pumpkin seeds, coffee, and chili powder all contribute to make a wall of flavor in every bite.
RAS EL HANOUT
This Moroccan spice blend uses a laundry list of ingredients such as cinnamon, coriander, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Create your own flavor with ingredients you have on hand, or buy a premade mix for an authentic Moroccan-flavored snack that could stand on its own or complement a chicken tagine dinner.
Recipe: Lizzy in the Kitchen
VANILLA & LAVENDER
This floral take on popcorn isn't for everyone, but those who love a touch of lavender will enjoy this. As with other lavender recipes, a tiny amount of high-quality dried flowers is all that's required for the right balance.
Recipe: North South Food
Nutritional yeast has a tangy flavor similar to cheese, and is often used in place of cheese for those who avoid it because of dietary restrictions. To make this recipe vegan, simply substitute the butter with another vegan oil of choice.
Recipe: Food & Wine
SALT & PEPPER
Classics get their status for a reason, and a good coating of coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper is nothing to sneeze at. Since minimalism is the key here, using high-quality salt and fresh pepper goes a long way to ensure bright and deep flavors.
Kettle corn is an old fashioned favorite that combines salt and sugar with crunchy popcorn for a snack that satisfies all of the cravings at once. You'll never pay store-bought prices once you realize how ridiculously easy it is to make at home.
PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE
Combining peanut butter and chocolate with popcorn can seem like a daunting and messy task, but it's actually quite simple. This recipe lays out the basics for coating popcorn with any thick sauce mixture by melting it to pourable consistency and tossing to combine.
Recipe: Cook for Your Life
This recipe requires a few steps, from popping the corn to making the caramel and finally baking it so it all sets together. The end result is worth the effort and makes a lovely and inexpensive homemade gift anytime of year.
Making food visually interesting is a fun way to create excitement around an inexpensive snack that may seem boring after a while. This recipe uses a few drops of red food coloring to achieve a pretty pink hue.
Recipe: Genius Kitchen
This salted caramel popcorn recipe is straightforward and easy. Once the caramel is made, it's a pour-over-and-combine routine with no baking required, yielding a soft and crunchy texture. High-quality sea salt is recommended for the best flavor.
Recipe: Cookies & Cups
PEANUT BUTTER CARAMEL
Can't decide between peanut butter popcorn and caramel popcorn? Have both with a recipe that uses Reese's Pieces to take popcorn to new heights. (Other peanut butter candies could work too.)
Recipe: Real Simple
Popcorn gets a tropical twist with this sweetened coconut-flake version. The substitution of coconut oil for the traditional butter adds to the overall flavor profile, while a pinch of salt helps bring out the sweetness.
Recipe: The Kitchen Paper
This no-brainer recipe provides the buttery, spicy wing sauce you love without all the fat. It also costs just pennies per serving. Put this out alongside traditional wings for vegetarian friends who don't want to miss out.
Recipe: Wonky Wonderful
This honey-mustard popcorn recipe doesn't just coat kernels with honey and mustard (which would be delicious). It goes a step further by adding crushed-up pretzel bits. The extra-crunchy pretzels add texture and salty flavor that round out the entire dish.
Recipe: The Lovely Crazy
Unlike truffle oil, truffle salt is made with actual pieces of truffles that permeate the salt for intense and authentic flavor. A small amount goes a long way and turns popcorn into a wine pairing made in heaven.
SESAME & SEAWEED
This Asian-inspired topping uses sesame seeds and nori, the sheets of seaweed used to wrap sushi. The flavor combination is earthy and nutty, bringing a burst of umami. Premade mixes of seaweed and sesame seeds can also be found at most Asian grocery stores.
Recipe: Dawn Jackson Blatner
SALT & VINEGAR
This homemade version of a popular flavor combo is made by whisking vinegar and butter together until well-combined and then drizzling over the kernels. This recipe calls for white balsamic to keep the appearance clean, although other types of vinegar would work too.
Recipe: Cookies & Cups
BLACK SESAME & MUSTARD
This piquant recipe uses black sesame seeds and powdered mustard for an earthy and spicy kick. The addition of toasted sesame oil brings out nutty roasted flavors that make the light and airy snack feel substantial.
SPICY CITRUS ZEST
Citrus zest can perk up just about any dish, including popcorn. This recipe uses lemon zest along with a pinch of cayenne to highlight the bright flavors. But be careful to avoid adding any juice, which would make the kernels soggy.
Recipe: Food Network
Adding curry powder is a simple and quick way to bring dimension and variety to a popcorn lineup. This recipe includes extra garlic and cumin, although additional flavorings of choice can customize the recipe.
Recipe: Around My Family Table
Wasabi, the spicy green horseradish that often comes as a paste alongside sushi, can also be found in powdered form, which makes it easy to sprinkle over popcorn. Combined with a bit of soy, the salty and nose-tingling spice of wasabi makes for an exhilarating snack.
Recipe: Brooklyn Farm Girl
People seem to put bacon on everything these days. Why wouldn't you put bacon on popcorn? And you might as well add caramel while you're at it. The salty fat of the bacon cuts through the buttery sweetness of the caramel, creating a treat that covers the flavor spectrum and satisfies cravings.
Recipe: Just a Taste
This recipe doesn't actually have any apples in it, though you could serve it alongside sliced apples. The flavor comes from apple pie spices, either a premade mix or a blend of favorite baking staples such as cinnamon and nutmeg.
Adding almonds brings a healthy dose of protein and fat, which lowers the glycemic load, especially for sweet popcorn. Using dates to sweeten the mixture adds a nutritional boost while keeping a low sugar profile.
Recipe: Real Food Real Deals
Tangy and tart, cilantro lime popcorn is a popular snack with Mexican flavor. For maximum freshness and crunchiness, be sure to mix the ingredients just before serving.
Melting high-quality butter and drizzling it over popcorn became classic for a reason. There are two philosophies to this approach: One is to use salted butter and kill two birds with one stone. The other is to use unsalted butter for maximum richness, and add sea salt for extra crunch and flavor.
While sriracha popcorn is now sold in prepackaged bags, making it at home is still cheaper and fresher. This recipe combines sriracha with butter and garlic for a thick topping that is full of spicy chilies and piquant garlic. Reach for a toothbrush after this one.
This Chesapeake Bay seasoning mix, famous for seasoning crabs and boardwalk fries, has a special place in the hearts (and taste buds) of many East Coast natives and seafood enthusiasts. Capture the flavor of crab boils or beach vacations in light and fat-free popcorn by adding a small amount of this classic spice blend to the kernels.
Recipe: Sweet C's
BROWN BUTTER LEMON
This tangy combination of flavors tastes like a fancy French meal in every bite. The addition of fresh herbs and black pepper add even more dimension to the snack, making it feel substantial while remaining light and airy.
Recipe: Tasting Table
Drizzling maple syrup over popcorn would be one tasty way to enjoy a sweet popcorn if served immediately. This recipe cooks down the maple syrup to make it thicker, so it can coat the kernels for a more intense flavor and texture that stays crisp for a few days.
Crispy kale chips have become a staple snack for many people. It seems only natural to combine light and crisp kale chips with popcorn to make a healthy snack that satisfies a craving for something crunchy and salty.
Recipe: Food Network
These mini popcorn balls are loaded with flavor and actually taste like a jalapeño popper. Popping the corn in bacon grease is the first step to intense flavor. Rolling the kernels around small balls of cream cheese creates a contrast of textures.
Recipe: The Stay at Home Chef
Typically enjoyed in muffins and other baked goods, this combination of flavors can easily be transferred to low-fat popcorn. This recipe uses lemon Jell-O mix to help spread the lemon flavor throughout the kernels before adding the poppy seeds.
Recipe: Kernel Season's
This loaded popcorn concoction is a lightened-up and gluten-free way to enjoy the sweet and cinnamon-y flavors of a traditional bakery item. The corn syrup helps bind the ingredients together and creates one homogenous batch that can be broken into smaller pieces.
Recipe: The Girl Who Ate Everything
SOUR CREAM & ONION
Making your own sour cream and onion treats is easy with a few pantry and fridge staples and some specialty items. The only special item in this recipe is buttermilk powder, which can be found at specialty cooking stores or online. The buttermilk powder is what gives this spice blend its characteristic tang