9 popcorn recipes for your next movie night

Daniel Neman
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Any tortoise will tell you: Slow and steady wins the race.

When a new food fad comes racing down the pike, its floppy ears folded back and its cute little nose twitching, I usually step aside to let it zoom past me. I know that if I keep a steady pace, I’ll catch up to it in time.

Only then, as I chew thoughtfully on a piece of lettuce, will I determine whether the fad is worth my participation – even if the fad is over and the hares have gone on to the next hot chocolate bomb or baked feta pasta.

And that is how I have come to start making flavored popcorn.

Flavored popcorn was a thing maybe five years ago. People served it at parties. Bars offered it for free for a little while, and then they started selling it in little paper bags.

Tortoiselike, I bided my time. I knew I would eventually want to try making it myself one day.

That day is finally here. I made some flavored popcorn and I have only one question: What took me so long? This stuff is amazing. Does everybody know that? I’ve been eating it by the fistful.

Why did people stop making flavored popcorn and go on to other forgotten fads, such as unicorn ice cream, acai berries and rainbow bagels?

Eager to rectify the problem, I have recently been making more than my share of flavored popcorn. It’s time to get the fad going again.

I did my part by making nine different types. Sometimes I have more ambition than sense, but they all looked so good. And it turns out I was right: They all were indeed so good.

I began with the only one of the nine that I had made before. I’m calling it Spiced Popcorn, because the real name (Curry Popcorn) is also the name of another type that I made, and it fits that batch better.

Spiced Popcorn is amazing. The last time I made it, a videographer and I ate the entire batch before my wife could have a single kernel. I made it again now so she could finally try it.

It’s an unexpectedly complex dish, sharply assertive and piquant and curiously addictive. With a spice mix composed of cayenne and black peppers, cumin and turmeric, it packs a fair amount of heat, which I crave. If you don’t want it that hot, simply dial down the amount of cayenne and maybe black pepper.

But try it. It will soon become your go-to snack.

Or maybe your go-to snack will be Parmesan and Chipotle Popcorn, which hits your palate first with a salty shock of Parmesan cheese before yielding to the smoky warmth of the chipotle powder. All you need beyond that is a little salt and a lot of butter.

If a visitor from another country, or planet, asks for the meaning of the word “savory,” simply whip up a batch of Parmesan and Chipotle Popcorn. It is like a definition you can eat.

Perhaps it is natural, then, that my next few batches would be sweet.

The one that I kept going back to again and again (and again and again and again) was Peanut Butter Popcorn.

This variety reminds me of a Payday candy bar with a popcorn core. More than just peanut butter goes into it, of course, it is also flavored with honey, vanilla, peanuts and – because it is popcorn – butter.

This peanut-butter version was stickier than the others and tended to clump together, like a popcorn ball, but with flavor. I did not let that bother me; it simply led to more opportunities to lick my fingers.

If you like Payday bars, you will love Peanut Butter Popcorn. Also, if you don’t like Payday bars.

The favorite choice of a teenaged neighbor taste tester was Maple-Bourbon Popcorn (hers didn’t have much bourbon in it). It is easy to see why, and hard to dispute her.

Not only does it feature the absolutely classic combination of maple syrup, brown sugar, butter and a varying amount of bourbon, but it also has the most intriguing texture. I dried the mixture in the oven at a relatively low temperature to give it a satisfyingly crisp crunch.

Fans of cinnamon and sugar, which I assume is pretty much everyone, will want to try my Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn. I simply mixed together a batch of cinnamon-sugar, such as you would use for cinnamon toast, and sprinkled it over hot buttered popcorn.

And yes, it is just as amazing as you think it would be.

I got a little fancy with my last sweet variety. I melted semi-sweet chocolate and poured it over one batch of popcorn, and melted white chocolate and poured it over another. Then I cleverly mixed together the two batches to form Dark/White Chocolate Popcorn.

The two flavors play especially well off each other, which I guess is not a surprise. But somehow the popcorn makes it better. And while I am generally no particular fan of white chocolate, I could eat it on popcorn all day. In fact, I did.

Back in a savory mood, I made Curry Popcorn, which is more than mere curry powder mixed into butter and poured over popcorn. It is that, but also mixed with golden raisins and pistachios for a multiflavored snack that is absolutely delicious.

Next up was Old Bay Popcorn, which features the famous spice used to flavor crabs and shrimp all along the East Coast. It is the authentic flavor of the Mid-Atlantic region, imbuing popcorn (in this case) with the taste of the eternal sea.

Finally, I turned to the all-purpose spice mix from the Middle East, Za’atar. It goes well on everything else, I thought, so why not popcorn?

Why not, indeed.

Za’atar is a mixture of a dried green herb (the brand I used features thyme) with seeds (ground coriander, sesame seeds), salt and lesser amounts of other herbs such as parsley and oregano. You’ll find it sprinkled into olive oil or yogurt, scattered on top of hummus or used as a seasoning for meats or vegetables.

Popcorn is a vegetable. Za’atar mixed with butter awakens the flavor of popcorn and lifts it to herbaceous new heights.

No one needs to make a rainbow bagel ever again. But flavored popcorn is here to stay. I hope.

Maple bourbon popcorn. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


Yield: 5 servings

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 12 cups popped popcorn
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and set aside.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves. Add bourbon; it should boil immediately. Simmer, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in maple syrup and cook until somewhat thickened.

3. Pour mixture over popcorn and toss with salt. Taste and add more salt if needed.

4. Spread mixture in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and place in oven until the popcorn is dry and crispy, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Per serving: 203 calories; 8 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 18 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 27 g carbohydrate; 11 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 237 mg sodium; 22 mg calcium

Recipe by Daniel Neman

Curry with raisins and pistachios popcorn. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


Yield: 6 servings

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 11 / 2tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
  • 8 cups hot popcorn
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add raisins, pistachios, sugar and curry powder, and cook 2 minutes. Toss with popcorn and salt.

Per serving: 320 calories; 18 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 20 mg cholesterol; 7 g protein; 39 g carbohydrate; 21 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 212 mg sodium; 42 mg calcium

Recipe by the Food Network

Peanut butter popcorn. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


Yield: 6 servings

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups hot popcorn
  • 1 cup peanuts

Line a baking sheet with a piece of waxed paper and set aside. Heat honey and sugar over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in peanut butter, vanilla extract and salt until smooth. Pour over hot popcorn and peanuts, and toss. Spread on prepared baking sheet; taste and add more salt if necessary. Let cool.

Per serving: 248 calories; 11 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 5 g protein; 37 g carbohydrate; 34 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 93 mg sodium; 12 mg calcium

Recipe by the Food Network

Black and white chocolate popcorn. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


Yield: 8 servings

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 12 cups popcorn, divided
  • Salt, to taste

1. Set up a double boiler or place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Add semisweet chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Toss with 6 cups of popcorn, and salt to taste.

2. Repeat process with the white chocolate. Combine all popcorn in a large bowl to serve.

Per serving: 346 calories; 18 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 9 mg cholesterol; 5 g protein; 44 g carbohydrate; 33 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 329 mg sodium; 86 mg calcium

Recipe by Daniel Neman

Spiced Popcorn. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


Yield: 6 servings

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn

1. Measure cayenne, cumin, turmeric, cracked peppercorns and salt onto a plate and place near stove.

2. Place oil and one kernel popcorn in a large pot on a burner. Turn heat to high, cover pot and cook until kernel pops. Then add popcorn and cover again (be careful not to breathe the fumes before covering). When corn starts popping, quickly add spices. Cover and cook, shaking constantly, until the popping stops.

Per serving: 124 calories; 9 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 1 g carbohydrate; no sugar; 1 g fiber; 388 mg sodium; 4 mg calcium

Recipe from “City Cuisine” by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken

Cinnamon and sugar popcorn. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


Yield: 6 servings

  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons plus
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 12 cups hot popcorn

Mix together the cinnamon, sugar and salt, and set aside. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and pour over popcorn. Toss thoroughly with cinnamon-sugar-salt mixture.

Per serving: 404 calories; 25 g fat; 15 g saturated fat; 61 mg cholesterol; 6 g protein; 42 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 7 g fiber; 586 mg sodium; 15 mg calcium

Recipe by Daniel Neman

Chipotle Parmesan Popcorn. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


Yield: 3 servings

  • 1 bag microwave popcorn
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fleur de sel or other salt

Microwave the popcorn according to directions on the package, until the popcorn stops popping. Carefully pour the hot popcorn into a large bowl and immediately pour on the butter, then the Parmesan cheese, ground chipotle pepper and salt. Toss well and serve hot.

Per serving: 361 calories; 29 g fat; 14 g saturated fat; 50 mg cholesterol; 8 g protein; 18 g carbohydrate; no sugar; 3 g fiber; 489 mg sodium; 186 mg calcium

Recipe from “Cooking for Jeffrey” by Ina Garten

Old Bay popcorn. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


Yield: 6 servings

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
  • 12 cups hot popcorn

Melt butter with Old Bay in a small skillet over medium heat. Drizzle over popcorn and toss to mix.

Per serving: 130 calories; 8 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 20 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 20 g carbohydrate; no sugar; 2 g fiber; 5 mg sodium; 4 mg calcium

Recipe by Food Network

Zatar popcorn. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


Yield: 3 servings

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar spice blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups hot popcorn

Melt butter in a saucepan and stir in za’atar and salt until thoroughly blended. Pour over popcorn and toss.

Per serving: 163 calories; 12 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 31 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 13 g carbohydrate; no sugar; 2 g fiber; 390 mg sodium; 5 mg calcium

Adapted from a recipe by the Food Network