Flavored Popcorn: Everything You Need to Know

  • Author: Sue Dorrens
  • Published: September 22, 2022
  • Time to read: 12 min.
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Even though popcorn is the healthiest when you eat it without any salt, butter, or sugary sweeteners, many people prefer to add ingredients such as this anyway because the popcorn simply tastes much better. Popcorn can be flavored by the manufacturer or flavor can be added to it by the consumer, and you’re likely going to be very surprised by how many different flavors are available these days.

If you love flavored popcorn, the good news is that you can now find it in just about every flavor imaginable, and the companies that make this product come up with new and better flavors on a regular basis.

Whether you like flavors that are sweet, salty, or even spicy, you can now find popcorn in that particular flavor, and they are extremely tasty. If you love popcorn with a kick, it is easier to find than you think.

Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of flavored popcorn so that you can learn more about it and know where to look to find the flavor of your dreams.

What Can I Add to Popcorn for Flavor?

The good news is that you can get creative when you’re trying to flavor your own popcorn. Although there are tons of recipes out there to liven up your popcorn, you don’t need an official recipe to get your popcorn to taste good.

Once you choose whether you want salty, spicy, or sweet popcorn, all you have to do is add an ingredient that will make it taste that way so that your taste buds will be pleased. Here are some of the many ingredients you can add to your popcorn to make it even tastier:

  • Sprinkle a little garlic powder or garlic salt over the popcorn for an extra kick
  • Sprinkle the popcorn with some Parmesan cheese and a little fresh parsley
  • Add nutritional yeast as an alternative and much healthier option to cheese
  • Open up a pack of ranch dressing mix and sprinkle a small amount of it over your popcorn – a little goes a long way!
  • For a healthy alternative, sprinkle a touch of olive oil and some sea salt on your popcorn
  • For a great-tasting combination, sprinkle Parmesan cheese and a little rosemary on your popcorn
  • If you love a lot of kick and spice, try sprinkling some chili powder on the popcorn
  • Put some melted chocolate over your popcorn
  • Put some melted cheese over your popcorn
  • Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese and some ranch dressing mix over the popcorn
  • Try buying a packet of Cajun seasoning and sprinkle that over your popcorn

If you’re tired of the “same old, same old” when it comes to popcorn, all you have to do is look through your cupboard for your favorite spices or flavorings and try adding that to this crispy, crunchy treat. Nothing says those flavorings have to make sense or sound good to others; as long as you’re happy with the results, that’s all that matters!

popcorn flavored

What Are the Different Flavors of Popcorn?

There are so many different flavors of popcorn that it’s impossible to list all of them here. You can choose from sweet, salty, spicy, and popcorn that has the same flavors as many of the dishes you cook up in your kitchen. Some of these flavors include:

  • Sweet and salty
  • Dark chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • Zebra (dark chocolate and white chocolate combined)
  • Birthday cake
  • Flaming hot
  • S’mores
  • Peanut butter
  • Banana split
  • Cheesecake
  • Butter pecan
  • Rainbow Popcorn, which usually consists of many different colors of popcorn in the same container
  • Barbecue
  • Habanero
  • Chili
  • Chili and lime
  • Maple
  • Snickerdoodle
  • Butterfinger
  • Strawberry yogurt
  • Caramel apple
  • Dill pickle
  • Jalapeno

If you go into a popcorn store or order popcorn online, you’ll find a lot more options, but these flavors are unique and a lot of fun to eat. So regardless of your tastes when it comes to popcorn, you’ll find something you love every time.

What Is the Most Popular Flavor of Popcorn?

According to most surveys, the three most popular popcorn flavors are butter, cheese – especially white cheese – and caramel popcorn. Other flavors in the top 10 include kettle corn, regular cheddar, garlic, and turtle popcorn, which usually consists of a combination of chocolate and caramel.

Ironically, plain popcorn is also on the list of top 10 popcorn flavors. It seems that many people are going the healthy route and choosing not to have a lot of salty, sugary ingredients on their popcorn.

chocolate flavored popcorn

Can You Flavor Popcorn Before Popping?

When it comes to flavoring your popcorn, you have two options: seasoning it before or after it’s done popping. Either will work, and you can also do both if you like. With the exception of air popcorn popping machines, most people use a little oil so that the kernels don’t stick to the bottom of the popcorn maker.

The important thing to remember is that some of the ingredients you can add after the popcorn is popped aren’t always the same as the ingredients you can add beforehand.

For instance, you can use light olive oil before the popcorn pops, but you cannot use extra-virgin olive oil since it can get too hot in the pan. You can, however, use extra-virgin olive oil after the corn has popped to add a little flavor to the popcorn.

For a full guide on using olive oil with popcorn, check out our article – Can You Cook Popcorn in Olive Oil?

You can also get a little creative when you’re adding things before you start popping the corn, including canola oil, lard, and even bacon grease! Some people also add sea salt and other flavorings before popping the corn because it will mix in with the oils you’re using to produce a great flavor.

If you’re using an air popcorn popper and you’re not adding any oil, it isn’t recommended that you put any spices or seasonings into the popcorn maker.

Those ingredients simply won’t mix well enough with the kernels to make a difference. You need the oil to mix with the seasonings to spread throughout the kernels to season the final product. If you’re going to use salt, spices, or other flavorings, it’s best to add them to the popcorn after it’s finished popping.

How Do You Get Flavor to Stick to Popcorn?

Other than salt (we’ll get to that in a minute), using flavorings such as oils and spices has to be done a certain way. It also depends on how you’re popping the corn. With an air popper, for instance, it is sometimes difficult to get flavorings to stick to the popcorn, mainly because the popcorn always comes out so dry.

If you insist on not using any type of oils to help flavor your popcorn, you can use a spritzer and spray a light coating of water, vinegar, lime juice, or even soy sauce on the popcorn first, then sprinkle the spices on.

Using an air popper and no oils at all makes it almost impossible to season the popcorn because there is no dampness that helps the seasoning stick to the popcorn. That being said, if your air popper produces enough steam when the popcorn is finished popping, you’ll be able to add some seasonings to it as long as you add them quickly before the moisture has a chance to dry out.

flavored popcorn

While adding some type of oil generally works better than water or steam, this is still a good option for those who want their popcorn to be as healthy as possible.

Also, keep in mind that the smaller the grains of the seasoning, the more successful you’ll be at sprinkling it over the popcorn and having it soak into each piece thoroughly. Try using popcorn salt or brining salt (they are the same thing), or some other product made just for seasoning popcorn for the best results, and there are certainly a lot of them to choose from!

Another method is to coat a bowl with some oil, then sprinkle the seasoning on top. Next, add the cooked popcorn and mix it up real well so that the seasoning has a chance to hit every piece. If you’re cooking popcorn on a stove or in a microwave oven, you can take your food spritzer, coat the uncooked kernels with some oil and seasoning, and then cook the kernels.

Try not to use more than half a teaspoon for every quarter cup of popcorn. Otherwise, it can be too spicy. Starting out with a small amount of spices and increasing it from there is always your smartest option.

The main tip to remember when getting the seasonings to stick to the popcorn is this: add the seasonings as soon as the popcorn is finished cooking. The longer you wait, the drier the popcorn will get, which means it becomes more difficult to thoroughly coat each piece of popcorn to give it the flavor you were hoping to get.

How Can I Make Plain Popcorn Better?

plain popcorn

We have a full guide on How to make popcorn at home that you might want to check out.

You can liven up plain popcorn in dozens of ways, but as mentioned earlier, you’ll very likely have to use some oil or at least some water to get the flavor you want. Turning plain popcorn into flavored popcorn isn’t tricky. You can find hundreds of recipes online, and there are a few at the end of this article, but for now, we’re going to show you how easy it is to add some pizzazz to your plain popcorn.

All you have to do is spritz it with some oil or water first, then add one of the following combinations of ingredients. Do this immediately after the popcorn has popped and while it’s still hot.

  • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese + 1 teaspoon garlic powder + 1 teaspoon oregano + 1 teaspoon paprika (perfect if you love the taste of pizza!)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast + 2 teaspoons melted butter or olive oil (for cheese lovers who are looking for a healthier alternative to fat-filled cheese)
  • 2 tablespoons Romano cheese + 1 teaspoon garlic powder + 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder + 1 teaspoon sugar + 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil + 1/4 teaspoon salt (for a yummy truffle flavor)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder + 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder + 1/4 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon paprika + the juice of half a lime (for a tasty Tex-Mex flavor)

You can stick with the basics to help plain popcorn taste better or go all out and add numerous ingredients. A lot will depend on how healthy you want the final product to be. If you don’t mind using a bit of oil, the seasonings will stick much better to the popcorn and it will taste better in the end.

TIP – If you want your popcorn healthy, you can sprinkle some water or vinegar, or something similar, over the popcorn before applying the seasonings. It will still taste delicious if you use the right seasonings.

What Is the Best Salt for Popcorn?

All popcorn lovers have their own preferences when it comes to the salt they use on their popcorn. But, regardless of which kind of salt you choose, one tip is important: always use fine ground salt and not chunky salts. The chunky salts (think Kosher or Himalayan pink salt) just don’t absorb into enough pieces of popcorn to make it taste yummy. If the salt is too chunky, it may just fall off of the popcorn and not season it at all.

If you do use chunky salts, you should grind them in a pepper mill before using them. It isn’t that these salts don’t taste good on popcorn; it’s just that their texture and size leave a lot to be desired.

Two very popular salts used for popcorn include Celtic Sea Salt, which is fine ground and made by Selina Naturally; and Real Salt made by Redmond. What is “real salt”? It is salt that has not had the trace minerals removed. Most salt on the market – including regular table salt – have had these trace minerals removed, but “real” salt has not and therefore has around 60 trace minerals included in the salt, which is why it is much healthier for you.

You can also try popcorn or brining salt because it is made explicitly to season popcorn. These salts come in tons of flavors and are extra fine in order to coat each piece of popcorn thoroughly and make sure that its flavor really shines.

TIP – Make sure the salt is finely ground so that it does a better job of sticking to the pieces of popcorn and giving it a taste you’ll love. The finer the salt is, the better your popcorn will taste.

How Do You Get Salt to Stick to Popcorn?

Salt is finer than most of the seasonings you’ll use, so even though you’ll use it much like seasonings, you’ll have to make double sure you use it immediately after the corn is popped so that it can soak in thoroughly.

The cooler the popcorn gets, the less likely your salt will coat the pieces and flavor them like they need to be flavored. Just like with seasonings, you may have to use oil or water or a similar ingredient to get the salt to stick, but the smartest and most important thing you can do is sprinkle the salt on the popcorn while it’s piping hot every time.

Can You Use Himalayan Salt on Popcorn?

Himalayan salt is excellent on popcorn and also good for you, but as with Kosher salt, you’ll want to grind it in a pepper mill before sprinkling it on your popcorn.

Some Himalayan salt bottles come with the mill as part of the bottle itself. But be careful with these because not all of them will get your salt as fine as you want it to be. Some of them are pretty low-quality pepper mills.

If the Himalayan salt you purchase is still in chunks, you must grind them up as much as possible using a pepper mill. Both Himalayan and Kosher salt can be pretty chunky and large, so always use a grinder to make the salt extra-fine before using it on your popcorn.

Some Recipes for Making Your Own Flavored Popcorn

If you’d like some easy recipes to make your popcorn super yummy, there is certainly no shortage of recipes out there to choose from. Regardless of what you want your popcorn to taste like, here are some fantastic recipes to try out (once again, make sure you coat the popcorn with oil or water before you use these recipes on it):

  • Cajun seasoning: mix 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 2 tablespoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. You can also add just a pinch of cayenne pepper if you like. Use 2 tablespoons of melted butter for 10 cups of popcorn, then add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the seasoning mix.
  • Curry seasoning: 1 tablespoon curry powder, 2 tablespoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon turmeric, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Use 2 tablespoons of melted butter for 10 cups of popcorn, then add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the curry seasoning.
  • Cool ranch seasoning: 2 tablespoons powdered buttermilk, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons dried dill, and 2 teaspoons Kosher salt. Pour 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over 10 cups of popcorn, then toss it to combine the popcorn and oil. Add the entire batch of the seasoning and toss again.
  • Baked popcorn with cheddar and Parmesan: Mix 16 cups of popcorn with 2 cups of shredded cheddar, 1 cup of grated Parmesan, and 1/2 cup of grated pecorino. Spread the popcorn out on a baking sheet in a very thin layer, then bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 minutes. Add a touch of salt before serving it.
  • Bacon and chive seasoning: chop and cook six slices of bacon. Drain them and save the grease. Mix 16 cups of popcorn with 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Then, mix the popcorn with the bacon, 1/2 cup of chopped chives, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and a dash of salt.
sweet flavored popcorn

For some sweeter recipes, try one of the following:

  • Honey butter popcorn: melt 1/4 cup unsalted butter and stir in 1/4 cup of honey and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour this over 10 cups of popcorn and stir it up real good so that all of the pieces are evenly coated.
  • Chocolate mint popcorn: Mix 3 1/2 quarts of popcorn with 1/3 cup of crushed peppermints. Melt 1/2 pound of white chocolate candy and pour that over the popcorn. Toss the popcorn again so that all pieces are thoroughly coated. Spread it out on a piece of waxed paper until it cools, and break it up with your hands if it’s stuck together.
  • Tropical popcorn: First, bake 2 cups of shredded coconut at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Then, mix 16 cups of popcorn and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Add the coconut, 1 1/2 cups dried pineapple, and 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, then stir the mixture until every piece is coated well.
  • Rocky road popcorn: Mix 16 cups of popcorn and 5 tablespoons melted butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 2 teaspoons salt. Toss this mixture with 2 cups of mini marshmallows, 2 cups of chocolate chips, and 2 cups of toasted pecans. Next, bake the mixture at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 minutes. Make sure that the layers are thin, even if this means using more than one baking sheet.
  • Crunchy sweet popcorn: Mix 12 cups of popcorn with 6 tablespoons of melted butter. To this, add 4 cups of cinnamon-flavored cereal, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt. Mix everything well so that each piece is thoroughly coated.

Final Words

With these tips for making your own flavored popcorn, you’ll be able to satisfy any craving and impress family or friends. Next time you visit the grocery store, pick up a few of our favorite flavor combos from the list below! What is your go-to combo? Share in the comments below.

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