Thinking Outside the Snack Bowl: Popcorn in Entrees, Drinks, and Dessert!
Here’s a little kernel of wisdom: Popcorn isn’t just for the movies! This versatile ingredient makes a beautiful entree salad, a crunchy topping for mac and cheese, and heavenly milkshakes, creme brûlée, and cocktails.
It’s time to think outside that red-striped popcorn box. After all, why only enjoy popcorn as a movie night snack when you could be having it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and drinks?
Its butteriness, texture, and that crunch can upgrade any recipe with a familiarity that not many will be able to pinpoint but that they’ll love. These popcorn recipes would be a fun way to celebrate awards show season and those nights when some sort of sports game is on, loading up your table with popcorn appetizers, popcorn pizza, and popcorn cookies.
Plus this whole-grain snack is low in calories and fat (minus the butter) and therefore a favorite for health nuts.
Jump ahead to:
Popcorn Q & A
Not yet ready to try popcorn as a recipe ingredient? Here are some popular ways to improve that basic bucket of popcorn for movie night.
What are good popcorn toppings?
Whether you love sweet or savory, there are plenty of yummy ways to dress up your plain popcorn. It could be something as simple as garlic powder and parmesan cheese, everything bagel seasoning, or melted butterscotch chips.
How to make movie theater popcorn
To make movie theater popcorn that tastes (and smells) exactly like what you’d pick up in the cinema lobby, you actually need Flavacol seasoning popcorn salt. There have been taste tests conducted where people compared buttery and well-salted popcorn to those seasoned with this magical yellow-colored flavoring that you can purchase on Amazon, and it was no contest. Fake butter and yellow popcorn for the ultimate movie-going experience.
How to make flavored popcorn
Homemade popcorn can be flavored with whatever you fancy. But coat the popcorn with melted butter, canola oil, olive oil, or even coconut oil first so that your chosen ingredients will be better able to stick to each popped kernel. Then sprinkle salt and sugar for homemade kettle corn or chili powder for some kick, mixing it in thoroughly. For game night, forgo the pretzels for buffalo flavored popcorn, made with a sprinkling of paprika, cayenne pepper, and sriracha.
How to make cheese popcorn
Coat your popcorn with melted butter or canola oil and then sprinkle it with grated cheese or cheddar cheese powder and nutritional yeast for a cheesy snack.
You don’t have to feel guilty for having popcorn for dinner when you prepare these recipes
For a lower-calorie pizza, simply cut the flour with popcorn. One cup of popcorn is only 20 calories. Not only does it make this pizza less sinful, it gives the crust a slight crunch and softness. To make sure no unpopped kernels sneak into your batter, drop in the popped pieces one by one.
With roasted pumpkin and bacon, this is the perfect bowl of soup to cozy up to on a chilly night. And the popcorn granola just puts it over the top. Crazy thing is that this deliciousness is so easy to make. Simply reduce honey in a pan over medium-high heat and toss the popcorn, pumpkin seeds, dried currants, and crispy bacon. Just make sure not to start snacking on them because then you won’t have any for the soup topping.
You’re in real danger of shocking your mom with this recipe as it means you’ll technically be having popcorn AND breakfast for dinner. But subbing popcorn batter for buttermilk makes for a tender and fluffy buttered popcorn-flavored pancake. And garnishing with even more popcorn gives it a beautifully crunchy texture.
That’s not a side of polenta with that roasted chicken, but popcorn puree. And dinner just got a lot more interesting. This puree, which is made with popcorn, heavy cream, water, and butter, takes about a half hour to create but can be made a day ahead.
Serve this silky popcorn soup as an appetizer for your fancy Oscars night dinner. It’s a comforting stew of corn, potatoes, and freshly grated parmesan cheese with a gourmet touch of homemade truffled popcorn for the topping.
If you love corn, you’ll go crazy for this cornbread recipe, which features corn three ways: popcorn, cornmeal, and fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels. The recipe works with store-bought popcorn, stovetop popcorn, or microwave popcorn, which you’ll then run through a food processor to pulverize into flour.
Instead of panko crumbs to give your mac and cheese that extra crispy texture, top it with five cups of popcorn and bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes. It’ll take that standard mac and cheese to the next level.
What’s not to love about this salad? It’s gluten-free and vegan, plus that popcorn touch will go down well with kids. This recipe specifies making organic stovetop popcorn.
Why take a bag of popcorn on the trail when you can create a more substantial snack with these recipes?
There’s nothing that says you can only enjoy these on a hike. Switch out that bowl of plain popcorn at snack time for this trail mix. The recipe calls for dried apricots, dried cranberries, cashews, and sunflower seeds, but you can throw in your favorite nuts and fruits, such as pecans and dates.
The author had a disappointing experience with a kettle corn protein bar. She was expecting it to be sweet, salty, and crunchy and wanted to improve upon it. And she has with this easy-to-make recipe.
Food52 swapped out oats in its snack bar recipe for popcorn, inspired by stories of people in the 19th century pouring milk over popcorn like a cereal. This delicious granola bar is made with four to six cups of popcorn, nuts, sunflower seeds, shredded coconut, and flax seeds, which are held together with a mouth-watering "glue" of unsweetened applesauce, maple syrup, and peanut or almond butter.
The snack bar for those on a gluten-free diet. It’s sweetened with honey and brown sugar and can be enjoyed plain. But the recipe author highly recommends drizzling it with a chocolate and peanut butter mixture. Yes, please.
Popcorn for dessert
Salted popcorn provides the right counterbalance to these classic sweet treats
The game time spread is usually made up of salty and savory dishes. But set out this fudge and watch it disappear before your eyes. This scrumptious mix of dark beer, brown sugar, and popcorn makes for a soft fudge “with a beerish flavor and a hint of maple.”
Are you a big fan of caramel corn? You have to make this dessert, which is described as “caramel corn, but only in creme brulee form.” Cream is infused with buttered popcorn, making for a salty-sweet custard. Plus the salt with the caramelized sugar top creates salted caramel magic.
Two cups of lightly crushed popcorn bestow what looks like a typical chocolate chip and pecan cookie with a lightness and a surprising and welcomed crunch. This would be the dark horse hit of any treat exchange.
This recipe uses one 3.5-ounce bag of store-bought buttered popcorn, which gives the ice cream a really subtle popcorn flavor. But if you want a bigger popcorn taste, just add another bag. For a sundae, top it with caramel sauce and homemade Cracker Jack.
You'll get over your aversion to soggy popcorn thanks to these delicious drinks
This dessert shot is non-alcoholic but it will bring on a bout of nostalgia. Here your childhood favorite flavors are presented in a two-part shot of warm popcorn broth and caramel froth courtesy of James Beard award-winning chef, Grant Achatz, who served this at his Chicago restaurant Alinea.
This is THE cocktail to serve at your awards show watch parties. Fat-washing is a popular technique among bartenders to infuse a spirit with the flavors and fattiness of a certain ingredient but straining out the bits that you wouldn’t want in a cocktail, like, in this case, popcorn kernels. All you need is time and coffee filters.
This hot drink actually isn't as difficult to make as it sounds. Simply warm bourbon and caramel corn in a small saucepan over really low heat for about 15 minutes, strain through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the popcorn bits.
This milkshake recipe takes more than blending popcorn with ice cream. It’ll take a day. You make your own popcorn milk and chill it overnight. But it’ll be worth the time and effort, especially with a splash of bourbon.
Looking for snack ideas?
Popcorn isn’t the only snack on the block. Check out these additional snacky articles on Yummly: