It's not just a snack! The best cheddar cheese popcorn could be a salad crouton stand-in. It could be a distinctly funky, strong-choice blondie topper. It could even be a last minute "cheese" sauce: when I worked in the restaurant industry, I had a boss who puréed popcorn with cream into a sauce for seafood salad that people went crazy for.
And okay, I'm a big proponent of making popcorn at home and tossing on whatever topping you're in the mood for, but there is a time and place for cheese-dusted, pre-popped, ready-bagged popcorn (namely picnics and lazy movie nights). The best option on the shelf, determined from a taste test of 13 brands of the stuff: Angie's BoomChickaPop White Cheddar. For our methodology, go ahead and scroll to the bottom. But first: what makes Angie's so good.
Our Favorite Cheese-Flavored Popcorn: Angie's BoomChickaPop White Cheddar
Angie's BoomChickaPop White Cheddar has the crispest and lightest kernels of all the popcorns we tried. It has a distinctly cheesy flavor, which Senior Editor Maggie Hoffman called reminiscent of Cheetos "with a blue cheese accent." The flavor is also bright, even slightly acidic, which keeps you coming back for more. It's a bonus that this popcorn also boasts a simple list of ingredients that isn't a mile-and-a-half long.
The Best Organic Option: Late July
Late July's White Cheddar popcorn isn't quite as crisp as BoomChickaPop, but it has an umami-laced, aged-cheese quality that we found pleasingly pungent and salty. It also boasts a simple list of ingredients; to be honest, we'd be nearly as happy "accidentally" eating an entire bag of this one as we would our winner.
What We Were Looking For
While it's true that we, the Epicurious staff, like many types of popcorn: microwave, stove-top, and solar-powered, nutritional-yeast coated. But for this taste test we were on a mission to find the lightest, crispest, most can't-stop-grabbing-handfuls-est cheese-flavored popcorn available at the supermarket.
That meant it had to have a good hit of salt and real cheese flavor. It also needed to be light and crisp instead of chewy, tough, or styrofoam-esque.
How We Tested
I set up metal bowls around a conference table and filled each to the brim with a freshly opened bag of cheese- or cheddar-flavored popcorn. Then I gathered a team of Epicurious editors and staff to sample the lot in a blind tasting.
It wasn't so easy to pick a winner here. There are a lot of great cheesy popcorns—and a lot of bad ones. To get a handle on our favorites, we realized that you couldn't just eat one kernel and call it day. The best way to determine the worthiness of any given flavored popcorn is to grab a whole mouthful at a time. This is because not every kernel is seasoned equally (and that's true for every brand we tasted). But that's okay—a little variation adds dimension and interest to the snacking experience. Finally, we considered how many whole kernels versus tiny popcorn nubbins fell into each bowl to determine if the kernel-to-nubbin ratio would throw off your cheesy party vibe.
The Other Cheese Popcorns We Tasted
- Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn
- Smartfood Smart50 White Cheddar Popcorn
- Utz Cheddar Cheese Popcorn
- Angie's BoomChickaPop Cheddar Cheese Popcorn
- Skinny Pop Aged White Cheddar Popcorn
- Lesser Evil Organic Popcorn Classic Cheddah' Popcorn
- American Farmer White House Cheddar Popcorn
- Lesser Evil No Cheese Cheesiness Popcorn
- Popcorn Indiana Aged White Cheddar Popcorn
- SkinnyPop White Cheddar Popcorn
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Originally Appeared on Epicurious