Party Popcorn

By • December 7, 2010 28 Comments

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Author Notes: This post was inspired by my good friend Naomi, who always has a bowl of homemade popcorn amped up with some great mixture of herbs and spices at the ready when her guests arrive for cocktails. I thought I’d try her technique with a few spice/herb combinations of my own, the first being marjoram -- one of the unsung heroes of the herb world, in my opinion -- and paprika. This is an easy hors d’oeuvre for when you just don’t feel like whipping up a tray of canapés or an elegant cheese plate. I’ve added some other flavor ideas at the end of the recipe, and I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section!Merrill Stubbs

Serves 6 as an hors d'oeuvre

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • kosher or Maldon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
  1. In a large, heavy pot with a lid, heat the oil and butter over medium heat until the butter melts and starts to foam. Add the popcorn kernels and stir to coat. Cover the pot and, using good oven mitts, shake it once in a while until you hear the popcorn start to pop.
  2. Move the lid so it’s slightly ajar (so the steam can escape) and shake the pot gently but consistently until the popping subsides, which will take a couple of minutes. Take the pot off the heat and remove the lid, keeping your face away from the opening so you avoid any late-popping kernels.
  3. Immediately sprinkle the marjoram and paprika (or whatever combo of herbs and spices you’re using) over the popcorn, rubbing the herbs between your fingers to release more of their flavor, and then add a few generous pinches of salt. Put the lid back on the pot and shake to distribute everything. Serve while still warm.
  4. Try these other flavor combinations: 1 teaspoon dried oregano + ½ teaspoon garlic or onion powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme + ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon dried dill + ½ teaspoon lemon pepper, ½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika + ½ teaspoon cumin

More Great Recipes: Rice & Grains|Snacks

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Comments (28) Questions (0)


22 days ago Kris

does it matter what popcorn kernels you use? I have been trying to make stove top popcorn at home with the whole foods kernels. I just tried this method and like previous times I've tried, very few kernels fully pop. Most of it pops but halfway. I use a large pot. Does it matter what kind?


over 1 year ago twinjadojo

I love this technique! I get a really high ratio of popped kernels without any burnt buds. Got ahold of some organic popcorn, and we happily munch this as a quick after-school or late-night snack. We favor ours with a drizzle of olive oil, and generous sprinkles of salt and nutritional yeast.


about 2 years ago MrsK

Your flavor combinations sound wonderful. I think popcorn had been underestimated for a long time and your recipe gives it a lift, good enough for a party! I'm going to try it on my next party. Thanks for sharing your creative ideas.


about 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you! Hope it will do your party justice.


over 2 years ago Dtown Boy

Tar & Roses "Popped Corn" in Santa Monica has is very Tasty!!!


over 2 years ago jude1

i don't like to mess with a classic. i've been making plain old buttered popcorn in a pan for 50 years. cook in oil, add melted butter and salt. half way through i take the lid off for a minutes to let it fly for the grandkids. they try to catch the popped corn leaping out of the pan. the dog eats what lands on the floor.


over 2 years ago ManGuide

That looks pretty yummy.


over 2 years ago Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

While I like posted recipe. I make popcorn salt with paprika, 'true lime powder' garlic powder, ginger powder. Grind the salt in a coffee grinder to dust. Add oil/ melted butted to the finished popcorn. and the mix of the above in a paper bag shake.

If you don't have true lime powder--use lime zest dried and ground to dust with the kosher salt.


over 2 years ago JackieSSS

I like to use a little garlic salt, nutritional yeast and a light spritz liquid amino acids! Yum!


over 2 years ago Zensister

Half olive oil, half butter drizzle, and truffle salt.


about 2 years ago MrsK

Mmm... that sounds wonderful!


over 2 years ago hillaryhudson

I have been a life long lover of popcorn! As a kid it was always the big deal on Friday nights for the family to eat big bowls of it and watch the classic TV line-up of Dukes of Hazard, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island. I just discovered a fabulous flavor combo this weekend, 5 spice powder and smoked sea salt. And though many are appalled by this choice, a dash of Aji No Moto (MSG) gives it that extra yum.


about 2 years ago MrsK

I remember my family using Aji-no-moto a lot--and loving it. Somehow we all survived! ;-)


almost 3 years ago Woodinville Chef

I make a spicy curry flavor popcorn. After the popcorn has popped I add a combination of coconut oil, butter, spicy curry powder and kosher salt. It is addicting so watch out! I'm anxious to try some of your spice combinations.


over 2 years ago muse2323

My friend makes a sweet & spicy popcorn that I'm totally hooked on. I've made it with both coconut oil & butter, it's good either way, and I mix honey or sugar in with the melted oil/butter, then pour it over the popcorn & give it a few good shakes to distribute, then add curry powder to taste. Mmmmmm.


about 2 years ago MrsK

Oh, my, please, share the recipe with the rest of us mortals! I am not a cook and can only cook with specific amounts and recipes...


almost 3 years ago MikeSteinberg

yuck! who comes up with this stuff???


over 3 years ago Randi

Reading this recipe inspired me to season my popcorn with freshly ground sichuan pepper. Yum!


over 3 years ago me brumbaugh

I have been making popcorn like this, using nothing more than a large soup pot with a glass lid, and can attest to how simple it is. Cheap and easy to control the ingredients for better nutrition, our household eats it almost every day for lunch or a snack :). And I didn't know it was gluten free! What a plus!

I really like how you add butter to the oil rather than dosing it with grease after the corn is popped. I'm going to do this next time myself instead of cooking it only in oil and pouring additional oil after it's done. However I use canola oil because I noticed on the expensive Orville Redenbacher popping corn oil that the ingredients were canola oil and coloring. And canola oil is very low in saturated fats.

I've used the oregano and garlic powder, which is wonderful! I purchased some dried marjoram on a whim without knowing what I'd do with it, and now I have a plan; thank you :). And I cannot wait to try the dried dill and lemon pepper; that sounds absolutely refreshing.

Another combo I've tried is 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp cumin, and 1/2 tsp powdered garlic, using Indian flavors for inspiration.

Wonderful recipe! Thanks for adding this.


over 3 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

So glad you like the recipe, and will have to try your Indian-inspired version!


almost 4 years ago innoabrd

One of my favorites is "salsa en polvo", often called by a popular brand name, Tajin. Available at Mexican supermarkets, it's a mix of chili, salt and dehydrated lime. Also fabulous on corn on the cob!


almost 4 years ago Tokyo Yum

Curry powder is also sublime!


over 4 years ago jfinnert

Made half the recipe, but made it lighter by draining the kernels after coating with hot butter and oil, then putting it in a microwave popper for about 2.5 minutes until the time between pops is about 2 seconds. After salting and seasoning, I added a light spritz of Olivio spray to enhance the buttery flavor. The result was buttery yet light, and the taste and appearance was a definite improvement over plain butter & salt.


over 4 years ago ichibanbrianne

Just made the hippie kettle corn version with sugar and Bragg's Liquid Aminos for Oscar night.


over 4 years ago Deb E

lime juice, lime zest, cumin & a yummy version as well. i'll have to try this mix.


almost 4 years ago Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

I do that combo's great! I spice it up with some garlic powder, white pepper and paprika as well.
I used to dry the zest and grind it with the salt, but now I use a product called 'true lime' which is crystallized lime powder. (it's sold in little 'sugar packet' sachets)


over 2 years ago Miachel Breton

I'm a fan of lime juice too! I add in a fresh minced garlic, ground cumin, and sea salt.


over 4 years ago dncrgrl085

For a sweeter version, I love adding cinnamon and sugar to my popcorn