Popcorn that Pops with Flavor

By Emma Christensen, Tribune Media Services
October 20, 2010


Whether you're looking for a quick afternoon snack or packing for a weekend camping trip, popcorn has you covered. Fresh homemade popcorn is as light as air and satisfyingly crunchy. Tossed with some melted butter and sprinkled with salt, it becomes an irresistible treat.

But to make popcorn with flavors that really pop, turn to your spice drawer. A few pinches of chili powder and cumin mixed into the melted butter gives popcorn a Southwestern spin. Cinnamon and sugar make a sweeter version of this favorite snack, while curry powders and other spice blends are popcorn seasonings just waiting to happen.

Once you start experimenting with your favorite spices and seasonings, it's hard to go back to plain butter and salt. There are two easy methods for preparing popcorn:

1 Stove top: Pour a teaspoon of canola oil in the bottom of a heavy pot with a lid (at least 4 quarts). Warm over medium-high heat until you can see the oil shimmer and it flows smoothly. Add 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels, and swirl the pan to coat them with oil. Put the lid on and set the pan back on the heat.

You'll hear the popcorn as soon as it starts to pop. Shake the pot every few seconds to redistribute the kernels and occasionally crack the lid to allow steam to escape. Remove the pan from the heat once popping slows. Your popcorn is ready to eat.

2 Microwave: For this method, you'll need a paper lunch bag and a bit of faith. Pour all the popcorn kernels into the paper bag and fold the top over a few times to secure it closed. Set the bag on its side in the microwave and cook on high until the popping slows, about 3 minutes. This method is especially great because it requires no oil for popping and doesn't create more dishes to clean. You also can shake the popcorn with the seasonings right in the bag.

Spicy chili popcorn

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 5 minutes

Makes: 3 servings

1/3 cup popcorn kernels, popped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon each: cumin, salt

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 Place popcorn in a large bowl. Combine the olive oil, chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt and red pepper in a small microwave-safe cup. Heat on high for 15 seconds just to warm the olive oil. Drizzle half of the chili-oil mixture over the popcorn. Stir the popcorn and drizzle with the remaining half.

2 Cover the bowl with a dinner plate. Holding the plate and the bowl together with both hands, shake the popcorn vigorously for several seconds to distribute the ingredients. Serve or store the popcorn in an airtight container or re-sealable plastic bag. It will stay fresh for up to three days.