Soy Sauce

A Smart, Umami-Laced Trick for Making Buttered Popcorn Even Better

Popcorn is, in my esteem, the ideal snack. It has all the characteristics of the best snack foods: texture, flavor, and butteriness. You can eat a big bowl of it without feeling too full. As a blank canvas, it can take on most flavors from sweet to savory.

Photo by Posie Harwood

I usually like my popcorn straight-up and unadulterated. That's not to say that it isn't delicious dressed up with cheese, fancy salts, or dried herbs, but rather than it doesn't require more than a touch of butter or coconut oil and a shower of salt to achieve snack perfection.

But while perusing the Kikkoman recipe archives (what, that isn't your idea of relaxation?), I came upon a recipe for Sriracha-laced popcorn. The template for the recipe is a smart one: Instead of plain butter, make a compound butter and toss your popcorn with it. Since the ingredients are blended into the butter, they're easier to distribute evenly.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Not being hugely into very spicy foods, I considered what other flavors I could audition. I swapped the Sriracha for soy sauce, whisking it into a blend of coconut oil and melted butter. And I found that soy sauce butter is fantastically good. It sounds too simple to be revelatory, but please go make it and try it on everything from corn on the cob to your avocado toast to a plate of spaghetti.

Soy sauce is so salty and umami-forward; it begs for the balancing, creamy richness of butter. You don't need to add salt to the mixture before tossing it with your popcorn, but if you want to add more layers of flavor, garlic salt is a great addition.

Photo by Posie Harwood

The soy sauce popcorn on its own is exceptional. It's not over-the-top in flavor, but it's more complex and interesting that a regular bowl of popcorn. It's also nearly impossible to stop eating. I've added a few flavor suggestions to the recipe, but I suggest starting with the basic soy sauce-butter-popcorn trifecta and then playing around with there. Sriracha (per the original recipe), grated Parmesan, crushed seaweed, or toasted sesame seeds are good ingredients to make into compound butter, too.

Now go forth, and elevate your snacking.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sandolino
  • Julie
  • Brett
  • cook4fun
  • Mar Pom
    Mar Pom
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Sandolino August 16, 2016
Your photography is beautiful! I love the light.
Julie August 9, 2016
I mix green Tabasco with sounds horrible, but is amazing. I also add nutrition yeast to give it a slightly salty flavor. Will try the soy!!
Brett August 7, 2016
This just gave me a great inspiration for my extended family. We're big fans of Chex Party Mix. It's a staple at virtually every holiday event. We always have the various spices required but naturally we don't always have all the other various components.

Next visit down to mom's I'm gonna whip up some Chex Recipe butter for her popcorn. #mindblown So shocked this never dawned on me.
cook4fun August 7, 2016
Thank you, I'll give this soy sauce-butter/coconut oil a try. Though, it will be difficult to surpass my favorite Ras El Hanout laced butter/coconut oil mix with popcorn.
Ginger August 9, 2016
What is Ras El Hanout? Thanks
cook4fun August 9, 2016
Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix, translated as "top of the shop." It is a blend that can contain 10- 20, 30 or more different ingredients. It has been described as being subtly curry-like with a spicy yet floral fragrance and subtly robust flavor.
Mar P. August 3, 2016
If you can find the pulp, much better. If not, tamarind sauce. You can find it on Thai cooking stores.
Trust me on this one.
HalfPint August 3, 2016
I've seen tamarind pulp at Indian grocery stores too.
HalfPint August 1, 2016
Butter-Soy Sauce combo has been overlooked for too long. Glad someone brought it to the forefront.
Sauce G. July 31, 2016
Great homemade popcorn
Dauntlesst July 31, 2016
I, too, love to snack on popcorn...the way we made it by putting oil in bottom of a Revere Wear pan, sprinkling just enough kernels to spread out in the oil, and shake on the stove top. My favorite topping now is a mix of butter, olive oil, salt, and nutritional yeast. The nutritional yeast yields a contrast to the soy sauce.
HonGDB July 31, 2016
Eureka! You've named it: "soy-sauce butter!" About twenty years ago, toward the bitter end of Lent, I pulled out of my rear-end a new method for preparing fish and vegetables that I've used a LOT ever since (like, last night's asparagus)--butter, soy sauce and lemon juice. Really very good, and very easy. So, I can enthusiastically vouch for your combo. Now, off to pop some popcorn and dress it with your recipe; thanks!