This spiced popcorn is easy and fun and requires only pantry essentials—oil, popcorn kernels, butter, salt, along with whatever spices strike your fancy—to glam up the ordinary. Movie night, anyone?
Popcorn has its moods. A movie-watching must. A nostalgic nosh. A little low-calorie something to satisfy. And, at times, a sexy little something to knock back with cocktails as a pre-dinner party teaser. This spiced popcorn recipe suits them all. Whether low-key or a little glam. And it’s done, start to finish, in less than 5 minutes. And if all you want from your popcorn is the perfect popping technique, no adornment necessary, this recipe offers that as well.–Renee Schettler
☞ Like popcorn? Try these:
- Chocolate-Covered Popcorn
- Popcorn with Nori, Citrus, and Rosemary
- Popcorn with Bacon Fat, Bacon, and Maple Syrup
For the popcorn
- 3 tablespoons coconut peanut, or mild vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup high-quality popcorn kernels
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or as needed (optional)
- Salt to taste
For the sweet and spicy chili peanut popcorn
- 1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon chile powder
- 1/2 cup toasted salted peanuts
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
For the chaat masala popcorn
- 1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon chaat masala spice
- 1 tablespoon coconut peanut or mild vegetable oil
- Handful toasted salted peanuts
- 1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
For the garlic mint pepper popcorn
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic crushed or pounded
- 10 whole mint leaves torn or chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Make the popcorn
- In a 3-quart (2.7-l) heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-high heat, warm the oil.
- Toss 3 or 4 popcorn kernels in the oil and cover. When you hear those kernels pop, add the remaining kernels in an even layer. Cover the pan, remove from the heat, and wait 1 minute. Return the pan to the heat. The popcorn will pop. Once you hear the popping, shake the pan carefully, cracking the lid 1 inch (2.5 cm) to release the steam. Continue to gently shake until you hear the popping stop, 60 to 90 seconds or so. Immediately remove from the heat and dump the popcorn into a large bowl. Drizzle with butter and sprinkle with salt or add one of the desired flavorings.
Make the spiced popcorn
- To make the sweet and spicy chili peanut popcorn, set a small saucepan over medium heat and combine the oil, chili powder, peanuts, and sugar. Cook for a minute and then drizzle the mixture evenly over the popcorn and toss to combine.To make the chaat masala popcorn, set a small saucepan over medium heat and combine the chaat masala, oil, peanuts, and turmeric. Cook for a minute and then drizzle the mixture evenly over the popcorn and toss to combine.To make the garlic mint pepper popcorn, use a mortar and pestle to gently mash the garlic, mint, and pepper together. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic mixture and cook until slightly softened and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour over the popcorn and toss to combine.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This technique is a game changer for me! I usually wait for the first test kernels to pop and then just dump the rest of the corn in and go from there. I followed the instructions, though, and let the popcorn rest in the hot oil for a full minute before returning it to the heat. The result—perfect popcorn! No burnt bits, no unpopped kernels, just 100% perfect popcorn. And 10 puffy cups of it.
I made the brown sugar, chili, peanut version and it had just the right mix of sweet and savory for us. I can see this becoming my go-to instant snack food. Under 5 minutes start to finish, ingredients that I always have on hand, and absolutely delicious.
Start to finish was under 5 minutes.
I would admit to being a pop-a-holic. I usually use my air popper for its convenience, but this method makes THE perfectly popped popcorn. The 1 minute rest time for the kernels in the hot oil before putting back on flame must be the magic trick for perfection because I had no old maids (unpopped kernels).
I went for the sweet and spicy peanut chili variation and it’s addictively sweet salty and warm with that lingering hint of chili. The spice amounts are spot on. Warming the spice sugar mixture in oil boosted the flavors and melted the sugar so you get lightly caramelized sweet crunchies throughout. Naturally it’s best fresh, but I saved some in a resealable plastic bag and it’s an excellent snack the next day.
I was so excited to see my favorite snack, popcorn, flavored with my favorite spice, Chaat Masala. What a genius combination. Chaat Masala, made of dried mango powder, pepper, black salt, and spices is a versatile spice blend that’s used to flavor many snacks and vegetables and even fruit salad.
I used the lesser amount of spice and would have liked a bolder taste for the popcorn so I’m tempted to increase the chaat masala next time to 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon. For those who like just a hint of spice, the smaller amount works fine.
I had a scant 8 cups of popped corn. As far as servings go, it all depends whether you want to share or not. Definitely a great recipe.
I tried the sweet and spicy chili peanut popcorn version and thought it was really tasty. (I wanted to try the chaat masala version, too, but I couldn’t easily find some of the ingredients.) I loved the combo of a little spicy, a little sweet, and a little salty. The bites with peanuts are GREAT and the best! Almost wish there were more peanuts, but I wouldn’t chop them up because then you don’t appreciate the full peanutness!!!
I might add more chili powder next time so I can get more of a kick, because as of now the brown sugar overpowers the chili a little bit. I used peanut oil to give the popcorn a little more peanut flavor and found that with the oil and the salt from the peanuts, I didn’t need to really add extra of either butter or salt to the popcorn.
Spiced popcorn is a fun way to shake up your usual buttered popcorn routine! My young son and I really enjoyed the sweet and salty flavor combination in the sweet and spicy peanut chili recipe.
It only took about 5 minutes from start to finish to whip this recipe up, which is fine by me!
The only thing that could make this recipe better might be for the flavoring to be drizzled onto the popcorn as it was described in the recipe. I found the flavoring to be more paste-like than ready to drizzle.
Recipes for spiced popcorn tend to be better in concept than in execution. All too often one ends up with popcorn dry in some places, soggy in others, with poorly distributed seasonings. This recipe, however, is not one of those. You start by cooking the popcorn in oil, which I feel is essential to get the salt and seasonings to cling to the popped kernels. The seasonings are also bloomed in oil, which both brings out their flavor and helps them coat the popcorn. I recommend you add your seasoning mixture in stages, tossing the popcorn in between for even distribution.
I made the chaat masala version of this recipe, and we loved it. Why had I not thought of putting chaat masala on my popcorn before? If you make this variation, be sure to add salt to taste after adding the other seasonings, as the chaat masala already has some salt in it—the sulfurous kala namak.
You may imagine that the peanuts will tend to sift to the bottom of the popcorn bowl, and you would be right. Not a problem, really. As you finish your popcorn you are left with a delicious snack of chaat masala peanuts, which were so good my husband has requested I make a batch of just the seasoned peanuts.
I didn’t exactly time the popcorn, but it popped for about 3 minutes. I shook the popcorn occasionally while cooking, and that let the unpopped kernels fall to the bottom of the pan where they will then pop. I had NO unpopped kernels.
This is an easy recipe that you can quickly prepare and serve warm in under 15 minutes or even make ahead because it is a snack that is great at room temperature as well. I tried the chaat masala version, and it left me curious as to how it would work with puffed rice too! The spice was easy to track down in an Indian grocer and there were several versions, which had slightly different ingredient lists, but both that I came home with featured the mango powder which I think is a key part of the flavor. I kept the batch vegan, using coconut oil and no butter or ghee.
The timing is pretty close, and of course will vary with your stove and pans, but once popping you have about 4 minutes of continued popping. I used a taller stockpot so there was plenty of room inside. Selfishly, this makes 2 servings for a movie night, and maybe 4 for a group if there are other snacks, just because the slight tang makes this such a more-ish kind of snack. The peanuts are a nice addition and I kept salt light since the chaat masala seemed to have plenty of flavor and some salt. Be aware the turmeric will stain hands and napkins a bit.
Originally published February 18, 2019
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This recipe provided some good ideas for spiced popcorn! My husband and I really love popcorn and make popcorn with different flavorings very regularly. We have an air popper that we usually use but I followed the recipe for this batch.
I used coconut oil for the popcorn. Taking the pan off the heat for one minute worked really well! I had very few unpopped kernels of corn. Popping the corn took about 1 1 /2 minutes after I placed the pan back on the heat.
I used the garlic and mint spice combination. I cooked the garlic mint paste for about a minute but would have preferred a little longer.