Popcorn is one of my all-time favorite snacks. In college, my roommate and I would always make sure to buy a bag of that buttery, delicious Target concession stand popcorn to enjoy while doing our shopping. I miss those days!! I’ve also always been a rabid fan of Smartfood’s white cheddar popcorn. And don’t even get me started buying kettle corn from a fair. 😍
So yeah, I love popcorn. But making it at home can be a bit lackluster. I’ll throw a bag of “movie theater butter” popcorn into the microwave with high hopes, but it never quite tastes the same. It’s still good, but it’s just not exciting! Sooo, I decided to elevate my popcorn game with an array of unique topping options. Several had cult-like followings on the internet; others I learned through word of mouth, and a few just looked really tasty on my last Trader Joe’s run. Some may feel familiar to you, but others you’ve probably never considered before!
Now, I present to you a ranking of the savory and sweet popcorn toppings I’ve been testing at home, ranging from “meh” to “this is objectively the best way I have ever eaten popcorn.” Let’s go!
Ingredients: oregano, basil, garlic, rosemary, onion, pepper, and marjoram. Mine’s from Fairway, but you can get a similar blend just about anywhere! You might have one on your spice rack now! Great for Italian cooking, and maybe great for popcorn??
Alright, I have some thoughts. It’s good, but it’s not great. It needs salt!! I’m using freshly popped, lightly-buttered popcorn (Pop Secret brand, baby!) for each of my taste tests, so the popcorn has a slight saltiness, but is still fairly naked. This worked better once I added a little salt, but I bet it would taste the best with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top! I wish I had thought of the parm sooner so I could’ve had a shaker on hand, but alas, lesson learned. At least I know what to do next time in order to make the most of this topping!
I first learned of Everything but the Bagel seasoning from TikTok, and I noticed that a lot of people were obsessed with it. The seasoning is made up of sea salt, garlic, onion, and sesame seeds — the toppings of an everything bagel! Well, I do love an everything bagel.
OK, incoming a (potentially) hot take: This seasoning is overrated. It’s pretty bland! Sure, these things are good on a hot bagel covered in butter, cream cheese, or bacon, egg, and cheese, but it falls flat elsewhere, in my opinion. It’s tasty, but it didn’t really adhere to the popcorn at all. The seasoning mostly collected at the bottom of the bowl, minus the bits that lodged themselves in the nooks and crannies of the popcorn. I had to keep licking my index finger and wiping up the seasoning from the bottom of the bowl to get the flavor. It does taste good, but as far as popcorn toppings go, it’s flawed. I think this seasoning likely works a lot better if you pour melted butter on the popcorn first. I bet that helps it adhere! So yeah, it’s good but not great.
I love chili oil over eggs or cheese (because they tone down the spiciness of the oil), but it’s a totally different ball game with popcorn! There’s nowhere for that chili crunch to hide! I have the Momofuku brand, but truly, any chili oil you love will do.
This one has the potential to be a tad messy, so have a napkin handy! If you want a topping that brings the heat, look no further, honey — you’ve found it!! You can go as light or as heavy on the oil as you please, but rest assured, the chili flavor will not be lost. I like this one, but besides the smokiness and pepperiness of the oil, there’s no real pizzazz. I prefer my chili oil drizzled over white pizza or brie.
Tajín is a seasoning blend made from chili peppers, sea salt, and lime. It’s mild and versatile and is often put on veggies, meat, and fruit.
My popcorn was cool by the time I sprinkled the Tajín on, so maybe that was my bad, but it had a hard time adhering. Keep that in mind if you give it a try! Might be helpful if your popcorn is fresh and moist with butter. Technicalities aside, the flavor was a slam-dunk! That dehydrated lime juice was sooo zesty. This seasoning has a great peppery, smoky flavor, but it’s not spicy! It’s nice and mild, but so full of flavor.
Look at this little, bougie bottle. I didn’t even know you could buy cinnamon sugar together; I’ve always just blended the two the “old-fashioned” way. For the sake of this piece, I’m fine with the added convenience!
YUM!! Though I normally prefer my popcorn to be salty and savory, this was just divine. It reminded me of a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which is obviously a huge compliment! This is like autumn in a bowl. Now, I want to curl up and watch Halloweentown.
They’re more than mere ice cream toppings! That’s right — no need to rely on the boy scouts to bring you delicious chocolate caramel popcorn this year. You can make it at home anytime you darn well please!
I opted for the quickest (and perhaps messiest?) way to do this for the sake of time. I just drizzled the goods all over my popcorn and dove in! Of course, there are more formal recipes for making chocolate/caramel popcorn that you can do if you’re making a batch to share with friends and family. For my own quick, little bowl, I went full drizzle-mode. The popcorn is less coated this way (and nice and sticky!), but boyyy, is it good. The flavors are the same, and that’s reallyyy what matters here, so yeah. Delish! But be mindful of what kind of popcorn you’re popping. You may not want a super salty, buttery popcorn as your base. Something with light butter/salt, or even a kettle corn, will probably work best!
If you love chicken wings and enjoy food with a kick, why not try some buffalo popcorn? You could totally opt for a dry rub, but I had the sauce on hand, so let’s get messy!
Your fingers will get a little saucy, but I think it’s worth it! Drizzle some sauce on, then grab a fork or spoon, and mix it around a little to more evenly coat the pieces. Buffalo provides just the right amount of kick, so if you’re up for a little heat, this is perfect for you. Obviously, the sauce can lead to soggy popcorn, so be mindful of that. If that really bothers you, I’m sure a buffalo rub would have the same effect with less mess. Personally, I prefer going all in with the sauce. At the very least, it makes your popcorn harder to share with others. More for you!
Sweet Sriracha is a sweet and spicy red jalapeño sauce infused with garlic and contains notes of ginger. It’s savory, it’s sweet, and it’s spicy. Yum!
This is another ~messy~ one, so get a few napkins ready to go! Grab a fork or spoon, too, after you drizzle the Sriracha so that you can better distribute it. Things might get sticky, and they might get clumpy, but the flavor makes up for it. Salty popcorn + sweet and spicy sauce makes for a very craveable snack. Much like with the buffalo sauce, beware of impending popcorn sogginess!
In case you’re unfamiliar with Old Bay seasoning, it contains celery salt, red pepper, black pepper, and paprika. It’s commonly used on crab and shrimp, but it can be used for chicken as well. Boy, do I loveee Old Bay on some shrimp. But why shouldn’t I get to use it elsewhere?? It’s a spice cabinet staple for so many people, so it’s really such an easy way to jazz up a bowl of popcorn!
It gave the popcorn such a burst of flavor, not to mention a slight kick. I couldn’t stop going back for more! Though I think nothing can compete with Old Bay-seasoned crab or shrimp, I really enjoyed this pairing. Plus, it’s so easy! If you want to give your popcorn a little heat and a lot of flavor, you should give this a try.
You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Come on, Nutella goes on everything! Who doesn’t love chocolatey hazelnutty goodness?? If you’re craving a sweet bowl of popcorn, just grab the Nutella from your pantry!
I scooped up a rather liberal spoonful of Nutella, dropped it into a ramekin, and melted it in the microwave just enough so that the spread was runnier and easier to drizzle. I then generously drizzled it over my bowl of popcorn, then mixed the popcorn with a spoon to better distribute the topping. Folks, we’ve got another sticky, messy one!! Have your paper towels on standby! But you’ll probably be licking your fingers clean so much that you won’t even need them. THIS, right here, is STUPENDOUS. Do be mindful of what kind of popcorn you use. This might not be the best over movie theater butter-style popcorn. My popcorn was lightly salted, and I liked how that saltiness helped cut the intense sweetness of the Nutella. It just worked beautifully and was so freakin’ delicious.
Finally — a seasoning that was intended for popcorn, and popcorn alone! So, perhaps this isn’t a “shocking” or “unique” choice, but it’s still gonna revolutionize my at-home popcorn game.
Like I mentioned in my intro, I’ve always been a fan of Smartfood white cheddar popcorn. It’s delish! But I think I just became a bigger fan of the “homemade” version. A little bit of cheddar powder goes a longgg way. You get more bang for your buck this way, and you’re in control of how much seasoning you actually want. Maybe you just want a hint of cheddar, or maybe the more cheddar, the better! You decide. Plus, it’s really hard to beat fresh popcorn. You can’t capture that goodness in a bag. This seasoning is a home run!!
When I saw this seasoning one fateful afternoon at Trader Joe’s, I knew I had to have it. I didn’t initially think I’d be trying it on popcorn, but here we are!
Ohhh yeah, you’re gonna want to try this ASAP. The cumin, chipotle, and chili pepper created such a warm, rich bite. I was feasting on this bowl. It was the perfect salty snack (with a little *pepperiness* to keep things interesting). Such a game-changer for a boring bag of popcorn!
Hello, gorgeous! As an AVID ranch lover, I would be doing myself (and my loyal readers) a disservice by not making my own ranch popcorn! I’ve made ranch potatoes before, so why not popcorn??
Holy COW, was this tasty! Delicious, actually! I adore the seasoning in general, but this was wayyy better than when I put it on potatoes (and that’s really saying something). I couldn’t stop licking my fingers to get every last bit of seasoning. I understand that ranch-flavored popcorn may not be revolutionary to people anymore, but I certainly felt like I made a tremendous personal discovery. I mean, the seasoning is so cheap, and a little goes a longgg way! I could eat this every day. Seriously.
Folks, I go KOOKY for some cookie butter! Trader Joe’s has a popular variety as well. The stuff is just divine. It tastes like a warm hug on a chilly autumn day.
Cookie butter is a fairly stiff spread and tends to be firmer and denser than peanut butter, or even Nutella. So, I plopped a spoonful (maybe two) into a ramekin and melted it in the microwave. I kept checking and stirring it to see how liquified it would get. Well, it didn’t take long before the cookie butter was perfectly ooey gooey! I went in for the drizzle, gave it a little mix, and dove right in. OH MY GOD. This is the pinnacle of deliciousness. It tasted like fall. I want to eat this and watch the new Hocus Pocus movie! Wow. Yes, it is another sticky one, but it is WORTH IT! My popcorn was lightly salted, and I liked how the little bit of salt worked with the intensely sweet cookie butter. Such a freakin’ win.
I am a gal who looooves truffles and truffle oil. In pasta, on fries, with veggies…you name it. I’ve heard of truffle popcorn before (apparently, some bougie grocery stores sell bags of it? Sign me up!), and I even sampled it during an NYC food tour at an olive oil shop. It’s an unforgettable flavor. There’s no reason I can’t make it a household staple.
I drizzled a few spoonfuls over the bowl, then gave it a good mix. I know you can’t really see the oil like you’ve been able to see the seasonings, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one! I was definitely worried about making the popcorn soggy, but I think I got just the right amount of oil. The flavor was sooo rich and savory. Truffle oil has a very buttery taste, but it feels ~fancier~. A little bit goes a longgg way — it’s not a subtle taste! But wow, it’s truly top-tier, best of the best. I can’t believe I’ve wasted so many years of my life eating plain popcorn!!!
We’ve reached the #1 spot, and you’re probably like, “Soy sauce? Really?” Well, I’m here to tell you YES! You’ve been sleeping on this one. I love my Momofuku soy sauce, but any brand will do. Now, don’t just douse a bowl of popcorn in soy sauce. You’re going to pop some plain or lightly salted popcorn, melt a bowl of butter (however much you’d like to cover your popcorn with), and then, you’re gonna add a few drops of soy sauce to that melted butter — just enough to tint your butter and make it a beige color. You can certainly play around with the ratios, though, to see what you like the best!
I poured my butter-soy sauce concoction over my bowl, then I mixed the popcorn around. Of course, it’s hard to go wrong with melted butter (literally, THE main popcorn topping we all know and love), but something about adding soy sauce completely changes and elevates the popcorn. It adds a new rich layer of flavor — like getting fresh, movie theater popcorn hot with butter, but BETTER. The soy sauce almost adds a caramelized quality to the flavor. It’s hard to put into words, but I can guarantee that it’s delicious. I don’t think I can settle for plain buttered popcorn ever again. Such a seemingly easy trick, yet so incredibly tasty and effective. You’re welcome!!
Well, there ya have it. You never have to eat boring popcorn ever again! Do you have any popcorn topping suggestions that people simply need to try? Tell us in the comments!