In Cheap tips we’ll help you get the most out of supermarket staples. Next up: Three easy ways to make microwave popcorn even better.
This story is part Junk food, redefined, our new collection of snack recommendations, recipes and insights that celebrate an undervalued food group. Read all the stories here.
Microwave popcorn is a great food. I’ve spent many nights too exhausted (or too full) to even imagine concocting a full multi-step meal and have instead relied on old devotees: this trusty box of The secret of pop. That being said, there is always room for improvement, right? When you want something After— spicier, sweeter, cheesier, saltier — packaged popcorn seasoning (you know, those little plastic shakers sold next to popcorn in the supermarket) can often fall flat. If you really want to elicit oohs and aahs at your next movie night, whether you’re trying to zhuzh leftover popcorn, or plain butter isn’t enough anymore, follow these three tips for making popcorn au. microwave even better.
1. Take out the spice grinder
Rather than just going to the ham and emptying half your spice cabinet straight into a bowl of popcorn, take the extra step to mix them (yes, even the already powdered and ground spices) with salt in your spice grinder first. Associate Editor Rachel Gurjar recommends this step as a way to better blend the spices and adjust the flavor to your liking. The finer powder you have left after the blitz will also stick to your popcorn better than the coarser unground powder.
Then all you have to do is drizzle a few tablespoons of your favorite fat over just popped popcorn – I use melted ghee, butter, coconut oil refined or olive oil when I’m looking for something neutral and sesame oil when I want an extra layer of flavor – sprinkle your custom spice blend on top and toss it. The ground spices should stick directly to the popcorn, which means you won’t end up with a pile of grounds and salt at the bottom of your bowl.
Stuck in a salt and pepper rut? Try these flavor combos:
2. Lean into funk
For a truly spectacular popcorn, think beyond sweet and salty and include deep umami flavors. (To be honest, apply this trick to anything you cook and you won’t go wrong). any bowl of microwave popcorn sings.
Chef Melissa Miranda recommends mixing whole dilis (dried and salted anchovies) into the mix for that complex richness, which she says pairs well with sweet flavors, like in her Champorado inspiration caramel and chocolate popcorn. (I also plan to try it in the Agave Sumac Rice Cake “Popcorn” Recipe from Associate Editor Kendra Vaculin.) However you incorporate a touch of umami, it’s worth turning delicious, albeit one-note, microwave popcorn into an irresistible snack you can’t stop reaching for. Everyone has their own taste, but that’s the whole point of popcorn for movie night.
3. Turn it into a dessert
Who says you have to eat popcorn straight from the bowl? In a nod to another nostalgic favorite – homemade Rice Krispies bars – turn popcorn into a sweet treat to share, snack on and carry. Melt the butter with the marshmallows, toss in a bag of prepared popcorn, mix well, then press everything into a baking sheet where it will be ready to cut into squares after cooling. Culinary director Chris Morocco suggests adding some grown-up complexity to the OG butter and marshmallow combo by including flowery spices, like mustard seeds, chili flakes and cumin.
If toasty, warm marshmallow spice isn’t your thing, lean heavily on the sweet, a la these Popcorn Toffee Crunch bars from Dawn Perry. Popcorn, chocolate, peanuts, crushed graham crackers, and puffed rice cereal make for a crowd-pleasing candy bar-inspired treat that showcases microwaveable popcorn to its highest, fan-worthy potential. ‘a snack.