Real Popcorn


By Freya Bellin

You may be wondering why you’d need a recipe for something as simple as popcorn, but follow any of the variations below, and you’ll see that popcorn need not be simple—at least not in flavor. As with most pre-packaged foods, microwaveable popcorn doesn’t allow you much control over its seasoning. When you pop plain corn kernels, however, you have the freedom to add as much or as little salt, oil, or anything else, as you like. It tastes cleaner and fresher than anything you can get in a package.

It turns out that popcorn is the perfect “nosh” food for entertaining, especially when you can make it gourmet. I tried three variations: sautéed garlic, curry powder, and truffle salt. The truffle salt by far was the biggest hit. Note that seasonings like minced garlic won’t stick well to the popcorn unless they’re both hot. In general, though, as long as you’ve used enough oil (just enough to coat the bottom of your pan) the extra ingredients should stick fine. The popcorn tastes best hot, so only make as much as you’ll eat in a day. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Seasoned Popcorn

Makes: 4 to 8 servings

Time: About 10 minutes

Real hot popcorn is one of nature’s ultimate convenience foods. I can’t say this strongly enough: There’s no reason to use microwavable packages, no matter how “natural” they claim to be. Any popcorn can be microwaved, as you’ll see below.

Toss the popcorn with extra ingredients while it’s still warm and the seasonings will stick pretty well, even without adding any more fat. You can even cook popcorn in olive oil as long as you lower the heat as needed to keep it from burning; the flavor is delicious.

2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1⁄2 cup popping corn

2 to 4 tablespoons butter or olive oil, optional

Salt (and other seasonings from the list that follows if you like)

1. Put the vegetable oil in a large, deep pan (6 quarts or so). Turn the heat to medium, add 3 kernels of corn, and cover.

2. When the kernels pop, remove the lid and add the remaining corn. Cover and shake the pot, holding the lid on. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until the popping sound stops after about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter or gently warm the olive oil if you’re using it.

3. Turn the popcorn into a large bowl; drizzle with butter or olive oil if you like, and sprinkle with salt while tossing the popcorn. Serve immediately.

Microwave Popcorn (Makes 2 to 4 servings). In a small glass container, or a brown paper lunch bag, combine 1⁄4 cup popping corn with 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and fold the top of the bag over a couple of times. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until there are 4 or 5 seconds between pops. Open the bag or container carefully, because steam will have built up. Toss with your seasonings and a drizzle of butter or olive oil or serve as is.

Garlic Popcorn. Use the optional butter or oil and as you melt or heat it, add a tablespoon minced garlic and cook until soft and turning golden. Strain the garlic bits out as you pour the butter over the popcorn—or not.

A Dozen Ways to Spike Your Popcorn

Toss any of these with just-cooked popcorn, alone or in combination. Since some are more potent than others, start with a light sprinkle and taste as you go.

Chopped fresh herbs

Black pepper

Chili powder

Curry powder, or garam or chaat masala

Old Bay seasoning

Five-spice powder

Toasted sesame seeds

Cayenne or red chile flakes

Grated Parmesan cheese

Brown sugar

Finely ground nuts or shredded, unsweetened coconut

Chopped dried fruit


Posted in American


  1. Judith Liebman said...

    Old Bay Seasoning is my long-time favorite way to season popcorn!

  2. Judith Liebman said...

    Old Bay Seasoning is my long-time favorite for seasoning popcorn.

  3. Jane Grenier said...

    Can’t wait to try the microwave version!

  4. whipartist said...

    My favorite topping: powdered Vermont cheddar cheese. I buy it from King Arthur Flour.

  5. NMRJess said...

    I love to make popcorn at home and I have been known to toss in some soy sauce. The flavor is great, but there are the inevitable soggy bits. Any suggestions for getting the same flavor without the mush?I also used to frequent a small movie theatre in Maine that served their popped corn with nutritional yeast.

  6. brianfay said...

    We gave up on microwave popcorn because of the expense, waste, and over seasoning. It was actually a package of 93% fat free popcorn (which was also, coincidentally enough, 93% taste free) the convinced me to get out a pan, some oil, and popcorn kernels. Now, it takes a minute and a half longer than microwave popcorn but never burns and tastes much better. It’s like so many "conveniences" that don’t make the thing very convenient. Popcorn on a stove is the way to do it.

  7. gfreemaui said...

    The most popular way to season popcorn here is with nutritional yeast.

  8. siouxzen said...

    NMRJess – Have you tried using the Bragg’s amino spray, or spraying the soy sauce? I have not tried it myself, but it seems like it would work. In fact, I’ll give it a go tonight!

  9. vermicelli said...

    My favorite recently has been popcorn with smoked paprika and olive oil.

  10. NMRJess said...

    Aha! I would have to buy a kitchen spritzer, but that might do the trick.

  11. mcs3000 said...

    Love popcorn. Great suggestions – will try. My fave is Rancho Gordo’s crimson-red popcorn (pops white). And my favorite recipe is @thirschfeld’s: popcorn coated in Jack Daniels-infused syrup, peanuts + pancetta:

  12. mcs3000 said...

    Love popcorn. Great suggestions – will try. My fave is Rancho Gordo’s crimson-red popcorn (pops white). And my favorite recipe is @thirschfeld’s: popcorn coated in Jack Daniels-infused syrup, peanuts + pancetta:

  13. smartcat said...

    I still love my hot air popcorn. It seems to be fluffier and provides a clean base to any way I want to season it. And good popcorn freshly popped with no seasoning at all is a taste revelation.

  14. compostchris said...

    My favourite is caramel popcorn, any decent tips for doing this?

  15. envague said...

    Finely chopped rosemary is great on popcorn. It also adds a nice colour.

  16. Greg Levow said...

    I second the truffle oil salt variation!

  17. Tagan Engel said...

    Popcorn is BIG in our house. my recent favorite is smabar curry with a little salt and raw sugar. been bringing it to lots of community food meetings and it has been a big hit!

  18. tiegkopf said...

    I vacillate primarily between two seasoning combinations: (1) fruity olive oil, truffle salt & nutritional yeast & (2) olive oil or Earth Balance margarine (but I’m sure it would taste just as good with dairy butter) & berbere, which is the most recent culinary love of my life. Occasionally I’ll use Earth Balance & Sriracha.

  19. popcornface said...

    I eat popcorn just about every day and I like to pop it on the stove top. One of my favorite varieties of popcorn is Tiny But Mighty ~ small kernels with a BIG taste. I usually just season it with a little salt and pepper.

  20. Liz Jurkacek said...

    The absolutely best caramel corn recipe of all time is on the food blog Orangette. I have made the recipe over a dozen times now and I have a loyal fan base of friend who recycle their popcorn containers when they want more caramel corn.

  21. Luke Smith said...

    I love your garlic popcorn recipe, just adding garlic sounds almost too simple to be true! My wife has been thinking that flavored popcorn sounds really good, but I’m not at home a lot and I don’t know if she would be willing to flavor them herself. I imagine we can find a place to buy pre-flavored popcorn blends. I will definitely have to try that garlic corn on a weekend or something though.

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