7 Popcorn Recipes to Elevate Your Movie Night

Admit it, the only reason you go to the movie theater anymore is to enjoy a bag of buttered popcorn. With so many ways to watch flicks from the comfort of your own home, this snack is the last trick the cinema has up its sleeve because, for some reason, the microwave stuff never tastes as good. But there’s no need to shell out so much money at the theater to get your fill of popcorn when making it at home is so simple.

Once you have popped kernels, you can dress them up in thousands of different ways. We’ve found seven recipes that use everything from bacon to herbs to bourbon caramel. Though freshly cooked kernels are best, these recipes will all taste great if you want to take a shortcut with a pre-popped version. Your movie night is suddenly looking a lot more delicious.

1. Cool Ranch Popcorn

bowl filled with rosemary popcorn

Ranch popcorn | iStock.com

This savory, slightly tangy popcorn from Every Day with Rachael Ray is for everyone who used to coat all their food ranch dressing before digging in. Don’t feel intimidated by popping the kernels over the stove because it’s really easy. Make sure you use a big pot with a lid, and gently shake it back and forth over the flame to make sure it heats evenly. Once the popping slows down, you’re good to add your toppings.

As for the flavors, you can mix and match herbs to suit your taste. The real key to getting the flavor just right is the powdered buttermilk. It sounds like a strange ingredient, but it’s usually pretty easy to find in the baking aisle at your grocery store. If you don’t have luck there, you can always order online.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 teaspoons buttermilk powder
  • 1½ teaspoons dried parsley
  • ¾ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried dill

Directions: In a large saucepan, stir together oil and popcorn kernels. Cover and cook over medium heat until you hear the first kernels begin to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Tilt the lid slightly to allow steam to escape and continue cooking, shaking pan, until popping slows, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat and let stand until popping stops, about 30 seconds.

Mix buttermilk powder and seasonings with melted butter. Drizzle over popcorn and toss to coat. Serve.

2. Smoky Barbecue Popcorn

white bowl filled with buttered popcorn

Barbecue popcorn | iStock.com

Some people like barbecue most for the smoky meats while others tend to gravitate toward the sweet and savory sauce. If you fall into the latter group, you’ll love Southern Living’s cookout-inspired snack recipe. Smoked paprika will give you the best flavor, but you can also use a regular paprika if it’s all you can find.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 15 cups popped popcorn

Directions: Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from burner and stir in Worcestershire. In a small bowl, combine sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Drizzle butter over popcorn, stirring as you go. Sprinkle evenly with spice mixture and gently toss to coat. Serve.

3. Chili-Lime Popcorn

lime popcorn with lime wedges on a white surface

Lime popcorn | iStock.com

Mexican food lovers will go nuts for this spicy popcorn from Martha Stewart Living. It’s packed with flavor thanks to chili powder, cumin, and lime zest. This is a particularly great recipe for those looking to keep things healthy because it uses just a tiny bit of oil to cook the kernels. And because popcorn is a whole grain, you’ll get some fiber as well.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • 1¼ teaspoons chili powder
  • 1¼ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1 large lime wedge

Directions: Heat 1 tablespoon oil with three kernels in a large, heavy saucepan over meidum heat. When kernels pop, add remaining kernels. Cover and cook, shaking pan, until popping slows, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 1 minute.

Stir spices, salt, and lime zest in a small bowl to combine. Toss popcorn with remaining oil in a large bowl. Add spice mixture, squeeze lime over, and toss to coat. Serve.

4. Bacon-Cheddar Popcorn

bowl of popcorn filled with bacon and cheese

Popcorn with cheese and bacon | iStock.com

Your favorite flavor duo from the breakfast table works just as well in a crunchy snack. Try it out with Serious Eats’ bacon and cheese popcorn. If you like things spicy, try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper to the mix.

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices cured bacon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • ¼ pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • Kosher salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. In a skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until fat renders and bacon is crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain. Once cool, crumble finely.

Pour 3 tablespoons bacon fat into a stovetop popcorn popper or a deep, heavy pot with a lid. Add oil and heat over medium-high heat until mixture just begins to smoke. Add kernels, cover, and cook until popping slows.

Transfer popcorn to a large, ovenproof pot. Add cheese, bacon, and salt. Toss to coat and transfer to oven. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Serve.

5. Lemon Poppy Seed Popcorn

poppy seeds in a wooden spoon on a wood table

Poppy seeds | iStock.com

Inspired by the popular muffin flavor, this sweet popcorn with lemon and poppy seeds from Bob’s Red Mill is as delicious as it is unexpected. It’s a great choice for those who don’t like overly sweet desserts. You can also try the method with orange or lime, so use whatever citrus you have on hand.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions: Pop kernels in a deep pot with a lid or with an electric popper. Meanwhile, combine butter and lemon juice. In a small bowl, mix lemon zest, sugar, poppy seeds, and salt. Pour butter over popcorn and toss with lemon sugar to coat. Serve.

6. Tipsy Bourbon Caramel Corn

caramel popcorn in a paper cone

Caramel corn | iStock.com

With a flavor that’s naturally caramel-like, bourbon makes a delicious addition to this sweet, pecan-flecked treat from Food Network. Just make a simple sugar mixture, stir in the booze and some baking soda, then toss it with the nuts and popcorn. After about 20 minutes in the oven, this snack is ready to go.

When it comes to choosing bourbon, you can easily end up spending a lot more than you anticipated. While great bottles can cost a lot, you can still find some good options that are affordable. Check out Liquor.com’s favorites for less than $30.

Ingredients:

  • 10 cups popped popcorn
  • ½ cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

Directions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place popcorn and pecans in a large mixing bowl. Combine sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and let boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in bourbon and baking soda. Pour caramel over popcorn and stir to coat. Divide caramel corn evenly between prepared baking sheets.

Bake until dry and crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes, gently stirring and rotating halfway through. Let cool completely. Break into pieces and serve.

7. Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn

sheetray of popcorn smothered in candy, caramel, and chocolate

Peanut butter cup popcorn | Source: iStock

Introduce peanut butter and chocolate to movie night with this outrageous popcorn recipe from Chocolate Moosey. It’s the perfect combination of sweet, salty, creamy, and crunchy. Best of all, it only takes 20 minutes to make. For even more crunch, stir in some cocktail peanuts.

Ingredients:

  • 3½ cups unsalted popcorn
  • 1 cup chopped peanut butter cups, divided
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Directions: Combine the popcorn and three-quarters of chopped peanut butter cups in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, combine honey and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let bubble until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and mix in salt, vanilla, and peanut butter.

Pour peanut butter mixture over popcorn and stir to coat. Sprinkle with remaining peanut butter cup pieces. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve.