10 Ways to Upgrade Your Popcorn

·Food Editor

Photo credit: Food52

Movie awards season is here! That means there’s a lot of of popcorn eating to be done in the next few months, whether it’s catching up on Oscar-nominated films in the theater or gawking at red carpet dresses from your couch. (Why popcorn has become synonymous with movie viewing is another story). And while the classic extra-buttered stuff is so delicious we have to suppress the urge to inquire about the ingredients (how does it maintain its liquid form when it’s not hot?), it’s time to get more inventive. Here are 10 ways to upgrade that bowl of popcorn.

First, stick with this recipe for stovetop popcorn. You can use the microwave stuff, too; just make sure to buy the plain—unsalted, unbuttered—version. The seasoning comes from you, inventive wunderkind that you are.

Parmesan: Finely grate Parmesan cheese over steaming popcorn and toss to combine. (Best smell ever). No butter necessary!

Smoked paprika: Sprinkle smoked paprika on popped corn and toss to coat. You could do the same with chile powder and cayenne. A little citrus zest in the mix never hurt.

Dry mustard: Mix a tiny bit of dried mustard (Coleman’s makes one we like) with minced fresh tarragon and melted butter. Toss into popped corn. Great with white wine. Just saying.

Furikake: This Japanese rice seasoning works wonders on plain popcorn; the nori warms ever-so-slightly, and the sesame seeds add crunch. 

Curry powder: All you need is curry powder, salt, and freshly ground pepper to turn your popcorn a nice yellow and turn it into something special. Do keep napkins around lest you want Cheetos-esque fingers.

Sesame oil: A little goes a long way, here. For the best results, put a teaspoon of the oil in a large bowl, THEN add the popped corn and toss to coat evenly.

Old Bay: There’s a reason Utz makes Old Bay-flavored chips (called “Crab Chips”). This seasoning includes a whole lot of things (mustard, paprika, celery salt, bay leaf, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, mace, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger) and is freaking delicious. Made for snacking alongside a crisp beer.

Herbs: You can go fresh or dried, here. Got fresh herbs? Mince rosemary and thyme, and toss with olive oil and salt. If you only have dried, no problem: mix Herbes de Provence with melted butter, then toss.

Cinnamon and sugar: Melt some unsalted butter and mix in a teaspoon of sugar and a few dashes of cinnamon. Warm on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Pour over plain popcorn and toss to coat.

Cocoa powder: Melt some unsalted butter and, off the heat, mix in about a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. Toss to coat. You can also add a dash of cayenne pepper for a little kick.