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Any Way You Pop It: Popcorn Recipes with a Festive Twist


Story by Lindsey Kaufman Palan
Photography by Carson Downing
Food Styling by Charles Worthington
Produced by Scott J. Johnson

Whether eaten that moment, strung as a whimsical garland, or packed in cheery wrapping as a gift, it’s perfect any way you pop it.

Base Popcorn Recipe

Follow this basic recipe, then customize your batch with unique flavors and add-ins from our list below!

PREP: 5 minutes 
COOK: 5 minutes 
MAKES: 8 cups

ingredients

2 Tbsp. canola, olive, or coconut oil

1/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels

3 Tbsp. butter, melted

1/4–1/2 tsp. fine sea salt or popcorn salt, or to taste

instructions

1. Heat oil in a 4- to 5-qt. Dutch oven over medium, adding a few popcorn kernels to oil. When kernels pop, add remaining popcorn and stir well. Cover and continue heating over medium, swirling a few times until popcorn begins to pop. Lift from heat and shake Dutch oven, holding with hot pads if necessary. Return to heat for about 10 seconds. Repeat heating and shaking until popping slows to about 3 seconds apart. Remove from heat and let stand until popping stops.

2. Transfer popcorn to a bowl. Drizzle some butter on popcorn and sprinkle with salt. Toss popcorn. Drizzle and sprinkle again. Repeat one more time.

Tip: Toss popcorn in bowl by holding each side of bowl rim with your hands and tossing popcorn in a circular motion to expose uncoated corn.

Vegan Popcorn: Toss 4 cups hot popped corn (no butter) with 2 to 3 tsp. nutritional yeast.


Kettle Corn

A sweet and savory take on classic popcorn, with an option to add a kick of spice.

PREP: 10 minutes 
COOK: 5 minutes 
MAKES: 8 cups

ingredients

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

instructions

1. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Heat oil in a 4- to 5-qt. Dutch oven over medium, adding a few popcorn kernels to oil. When kernels pop, add remaining popcorn, sugar, and salt; stir well. Cover and continue heating over medium, swirling a few times until popcorn begins to pop. Lift from heat and shake Dutch oven, holding with hot pads if necessary. Return to heat for about 10 seconds. Repeat heating and shaking until popping slows to about 3 seconds apart. Remove from heat and let stand until popping stops.

2. Pour popcorn onto prepared baking sheet. Let cool.

Szechuan Kettle Corn: Prepare as directed, except substitute 1 to 2 tsp. chili oil for 1 to 2 tsp. of the canola oil. Immediately sprinkle hot popped corn with 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro; toss gently to combine. Let cool.

left: Marshmallowy Popcorn Balls, right: Caramel Corn

Caramel Corn

A sweet, buttery, and crunchy coating on classic popcorn, with an array of mix-in options.

PREP: 15 minutes 
BAKE: 20 minutes 
COOL: 1 hour 
MAKES: 16 cups

ingredients

14–15 cups popped popcorn

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

3/4 cup butter, cut up

1/3 cup light-color corn syrup

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Coarse salt (optional)

instructions

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread popcorn in a large roasting pan. Keep popcorn warm in oven while preparing caramel.

2. Butter a large piece of foil. For caramel, combine brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a 2-qt. heavy saucepan. Cook and stir over medium until mixture boils. Continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, without stirring, 5 minutes more.

3. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour caramel over popcorn; stir gently to coat. Bake 15 minutes. Stir mixture; bake 5 minutes more. Spread caramel corn on prepared foil. If desired, sprinkle coarse salt over hot caramel corn; cool.

To store: Place caramel corn in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature up to 1 week.

Mix-ins:

Add 2 cups of any of these to the popcorn before adding caramel: coarsely broken pretzels, cashews, pecan halves, roasted peanuts, whole almonds, or mixed nuts.

Add 2 cups of any of these to cooled caramel corn: chopped dried fruit, cocoa dusted almonds, candy-coated milk chocolate pieces, mini cheese-flavor crackers, mini chocolate-covered peanut butter candy, gummy candies, or mini peanut butter sandwich crackers.


Marshmallowy Popcorn Balls

A sweet and sticky marshmallow popcorn ball (or better yet, make it a bar!)—with a few mix-in options.

PREP: 20 minutes 
COOK: 5 minutes 
MAKES: 18 popcorn balls

ingredients

14–15 cups popped popcorn

1/4 cup butter

1 10-oz. pkg. tiny marshmallows (51/2 cups)

1 7-oz. jar marshmallow creme

1 1/2 tsp. clear vanilla

1/4 tsp. kosher salt.

instructions

 1. Place popcorn in a buttered large roasting pan. In a heavy large saucepan melt butter over low. Add marshmallows, stirring to coat with butter. Heat and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in marshmallow creme, vanilla, and salt. Remove from heat.

2. Pour marshmallow mixture over popcorn; stir gently to coat. Cool until popcorn mixture can be handled easily. Stir in desired add-ins. With buttered hands, quickly shape mixture into 3-inch balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap.

Additional Mix-ins: Add 3 cups of your favorite cereal, crackers, or pretzel

sticks to the popcorn before coating with marshmallow mixture.

Popcorn Bars: Gently press popcorn mixture into a buttered 13×9-inch

baking pan; let cool. Using a buttered knife, cut into bars.


Put it in a tin, wrap it with a bow, watch as they cheer: bring back the classic popcorn tin with a tailored-to-them twist, like sweet toppings and mix-ins of flavors you know and love.

Churro

Add 1/4 tsp. vanilla to 3 Tbsp. melted butter; toss with 4 cups popped popcorn. Combine 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and a pinch fine salt. Toss with popcorn.

Fruity

Combine 2 Tbsp. crushed freeze-dried berries, 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar, and 1/2 tsp. orange zest. Toss with 4 cups buttered popcorn.

Pizza

Combine 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan, 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning, and 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper. Toss with 4 cups buttered popcorn.

Smoky

Add 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce to 3 Tbsp. melted butter; toss with 4 cups popped popcorn. Combine 1/2 tsp. each smoked paprika and chili powder, 1/4 tsp. each onion powder and garlic salt, 1/8 tsp. each ground cumin and dried thyme. Toss with popcorn.

Ranch

Combine 2 tsp. powdered buttermilk; 1/2 tsp. dried parsley, crushed; and 1/4 tsp. each dried dill, dry mustard, onion powder, and garlic salt. Toss with 4 cups buttered popcorn.

Curry

Use coconut oil for popping corn. Combine 1/4 tsp. each curry powder and garlic salt and 1/8 tsp. each ground turmeric and ground cumin. Toss with 4 cups buttered popcorn. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. toasted flaked coconut

This story was adapted for digital from the winter issue of Magnolia Journal.

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