Popcorn: It’s What’s For Dinner

The record has been skipping lately. Instead of segueing from meal to meal, blithely bopping from track to track, my needle has been sticking on the popcorn groove.

stovetop popcorn
I don’t usually fixate on the same craving for weeks at a time. This is a new one; whether it’s a new wrinkle in seasonal affective disorder, a sign that I’ve finally cracked and sent my tastebuds past the point of no return, or plain and simple laziness remains to be seen.

Or is this my body’s way of asking for more fiber and antioxidants? (If so, my body should consider liking smoothies more.)

Even worse, though there used to be an entire repertoire of popcorn seasonings and flavors through which I’d rotate, now there’s only one way I will accept my bowl of airy, butter-slicked kernels: liberally coated with Parmesan, a pinch of kosher salt, and… oh, it’s almost too embarrassing to admit… McCormick Italian seasoning.

Yes. Really. I don’t even know myself anymore.

Regardless of what you think of my choice of toppings, I do have a steadfast rule: the cheese, herbs, and spices must be applied to real, freshly popped popcorn—never, not ever to a bag of that microwaved styrofoam that passes for food. (Despite her many rumored offenses, I fully agree with former US Weekly editor Bonnie Fuller‘s alleged ban on microwave popcorn. That odor is unforgivable.)

And since we’re on a confessional roll here, I’ll also cop to the fact that there is in fact a unitasker in our home, and that Dan and I are hopelessly addicted to using the Whirley-Pop as our corn-popping hardware of choice. However, it can be done with nothing more than a heavy-bottomed pot, and—better still—you don’t even need to measure anything.

Pour a few glugs of canola or vegetable oil into the bottom of a 3- or 4-quart saucepan or stockpot—just enough to make a 2- to 3-inch pool in the center of the pan. Add enough popcorn kernels to barely coat the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Place the pot over medium heat and shake frequently and gently to heat the oil and kernels. Remove from the burner once the popping sounds slow to a crawl.

parmesan popcorn
Real butter is another must-have for flavoring my popped snackies. Just a tablespoon or two of melted golden goodness will offer up a whole lotta fat for making seasonings stick. And when I’m not stuck in my (seemingly unending) Italian herb rut, I’ll demolish a whole bowl of popcorn tossed with any of the following add-ons:

  • Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
  • truffle salt
  • peppery olive oil
  • basil-infused oil
  • maple sugar and cheddar powder to make a homemade version of Garrett’s Chicago Mix
  • cinnamon sugar (it’s dessert for dinner!)
  • malt vinegar sea salt

Add a glass of Vitiano and you’ve got yourself a meal.

Now it’s time for the Good. Food. Stories. faithful to weigh in. What seasonings do you sprinkle on your popcorn?

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  1. Sarah, I splurged on the Rancho Gordo red kernels during a trip to Blue Hill at Stone Barns – they were so crisp! (And they turned the oil in our pan a beautiful burgundy to boot.)

  2. We LOVE popcorn for dinner!

    My toppings of choice depend on what I “need.” I either opt for butter & salt, ghee & nutritional yeast, or a big glug of Bragg’s amino acids.

    (My favorite is butter & salt, though.)

    1. @Katie, amino acids on popcorn! You’re so daring! I am a salt FIEND, so this might be something I can’t resist.

  3. I lived on popcorn through Grad School. I probably made hundreds of dinners on my trusty Joe Namath Butter-up Popcorn Maker. Now it is Cuisinart popcorn with wonderful truffle salt on it [still miss the Namath though].

  4. I usually add 2, or 6, Tbsp of butter right into the bottom of the whirly-pop. It seems every kernel is coated with goodness that way.

    1. @David, “or 6” tbsp of butter is verging on the amount I throw onto the corn when the husband and I are BOTH having a bowl for dinner. How do you fit it into the whirley-pop? Ours is full to bursting when we’re making a big batch.

  5. Long ago I got a whirly pop as a gift and ended up using it consistently until I could no longer get the built up grease off it. I used to make one of the recipes that came with the instruction booklet quite often–3 tbsp of oil and 3 tbsp of sugar in the bottom with the kernels. It gave every kernel a nice Sugar Smacks-like crunch. I suppose if you added salt you’d have kettle corn?

  6. Oh, popcorn is one of those love/hate foods for me. I love, love eating it unfortunately it doesn’t sit well so I have to be careful to only eat a cup or so. Sad, huh?

  7. What is truffle salt? That microwave stuff is full of chemicals. I think they line the bags with BPA, so you really DO NOT WANT to consumer that. I’m another popcorn addict, but have sworn off it since organic popcorn is hard to find. Now you have made me crave some, so I guess I will have to take a trip to the health food store ….

    1. Oooh, truffle salt is basically heaven in a jar: sea salt mixed with miniscule bits of truffle, infusing the salt with a lovely earthy perfume. At around $18/jar, it’s not the cheapest garnish, but the wee container lasts for years without losing its potency, and you don’t have to worry about the salt going rancid like you do with truffle oil. A worthy splurge!

      Also, check out the earlier comments on Rancho Gordo popcorn – also a splurge but a great “now and then” option from a terrific heirloom company.

  8. Loved your fresh take on popcorn. Know what you mean, I sometimes become addicted to the stuff. Good to know I can sprinkle it up with your suggestions. YUM!

  9. Butter and fresh grated Parmesan cheese with salt is my choice. It is the ultimate comfort food for me. My kids like it with butter and cinnamon and sugar.

  10. I recently made “real” popcorn for a Cooking Light recipe involving maple syrup, red peppers, and cashews. Yum! I’ve been hooked on stovetop popcorn ever since. Cinnamon and sugar is good, as is sea salt and pepper.

    1. oooh! I’m a HUGE cashew fan but have never put them in popcorn. That sounds like the best caramel corn idea!

  11. Real butter definitely a must. We dump a lot of nutritional yeast on ours, the kids love it that way. I’ve made cracker jack a few times lately but I prefer my popcorn savory instead of sweet…

  12. Popcorn is a food group for me! I was happy to “pop” a bag of Giant Eagle microwave popcorn and head for the couch until the microwave stopped working one evening. I was desolate but realized I always feared the microwave death rays. Thanks to this post, I now own a Whirley-Pop and life is better than ever! I’m a popcorn purist meaning pour the finished product into a bowl and add sea salt. The Whirley-Pop distributes the oil nicely and the salt clings to each fluffy kernel with amazing uniformity. I enjoyed the list of flavor additions and may walk on the wild side and try the truffle salt for a Friday night adiventure!

  13. i love popcorn!!! never really had it microwaved, never had a nuker growing up and 7 years ago hubs and I ditched ours.

    Funny note: I live in a college town so grocery store full of students. Shopping one day hear a girl who looks to be about 19 or 20 ask: “you can just make popcorn?”

    you don’t need a microwave?…what is this stuff” she said referring to kernals. wow

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