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Try These Creative Popcorn Toppings

Elevate your popcorn bowl with these toppings and seasonings.

Popcorn is one of the most enjoyable and classic snacks to eat. That’s why it has become a staple food not only at movie theaters but also for parties, barbecues, holiday events, and much more.

Delicious popcorn with caramel in bowl and candies

Popcorn is a delicious and versatile snack because of how many different toppings you can put on it to create a unique new flavor.

Popcorn, without anything added to it at all, is a light, whole-grain food with a neutral yet agreeable flavor. It is one of my all-time favorite snacks, but eating plain popcorn can get pretty boring.

Adding additional ingredients to dress up this traditional snack can elevate the snacking experience and make it all the more satiating.

What are the best popcorn toppings?

Best Popcorn Toppings

I’ll share several of my favorite popcorn toppings, why I like them, how they enhance the flavor of the popcorn, and the best occasion to try each topping recipe.


Butter

Butter is the most typical popcorn topping, and for a good reason.

It quickly takes plain popcorn to a new level by adding a rich and savory component to an otherwise bland snack.

This topping is so popular that you can typically find buttered popcorn at any movie theater. 

Butter also has a way of binding other toppings together, such as salt, pepper, or candy.

I love going to the theater and loading my popcorn with as much butter as possible.

Of course, this is not the healthiest option for popcorn, but it’s nice to treat myself to ultra-buttery popcorn now and then.

Learn about different kinds of butter you can use on your popcorn!


Salt 

Salt is similar to butter in terms of popcorn topping popularity.

I love sprinkling a little bit of salt on plain or buttered popcorn to amplify the natural popcorn flavor.

I sometimes appreciate salt more than butter if I don’t want my fingers to get too sticky.

Salt is also a tasty way to cut through the sweetness of the other options on this list.

You can buy pre-salted microwaveable popcorn at the grocery store or make your own salted popcorn at home.

I often prefer making mine at home so that I can add the perfect amount of high-quality sea salt.


Caramel

Caramel corn is a staple sweet and salty treat!

Whoever first put caramel on popcorn was onto something. The sticky caramel makes the popcorn extra crunchy, and the salty sweet flavor makes it hard to put down the bowl.

You can buy caramel corn at many sweet shops, or you can make it at home. Whether you make homemade caramel or just melt some caramels down and pour it on, you can’t go wrong!


Cheddar 

Cheddar cheese is another classic popcorn topping that upgrades plain popcorn.

The sharpness of cheddar cheese goes so well with the light and airy popcorn.

Cheddar cheese powder is a great way to add cheddar flavor to popcorn without any actual chunks of cheese getting in the way.

You can find cheddar cheese powder at most grocery stores near the spices.

Melted cheese is a tasty yet much messier option. Go ahead and try it if you’d like, though!

I also like adding a bit of cayenne pepper to my cheddar cheese popcorn for an extra kick. But I would avoid adding salt, as cheddar already adds enough saltiness.


S’mores

This topping is a fun twist on a classic campfire treat.

It’s perfect for movie nights spent at home or for outdoor movie screenings in the summer. I love indulging in this decadent option whenever I’m craving something extra sweet.

To make s’mores popcorn, simply mix some melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, and mini marshmallows.

You could also add chocolate chips or melted chocolate to the mix. Pour the mixture over your popcorn and enjoy!

S’mores popcorn is a messier eating option for your hands, but it is totally worth it. Just make sure to keep a few napkins nearby, especially if you need to grab the remote!


Buffalo

Buffalo sauce is one of the best popcorn toppings and one of the best sauces in general. It is completely underrated, in my opinion.

I love the dynamic taste of buffalo sauce. It’s simultaneously sweet, sour, and slightly spicy, with a tangy hint from the vinegar and an umami flavor from the hot sauce and butter.

What more could you want?

Buffalo sauce on popcorn is such a treat because the popcorn soaks up all of the flavors and becomes nice and coated.

This sauce is the perfect combination of salty, savory, and slightly spicy, so there’s no need to add additional salt, pepper, or butter.


Chili Lime

This flavor combination is a fun and unique twist on your typical popcorn topping. I love the zesty lime flavor paired with the heat from the chili powder.

Since chili lime is a unique popcorn flavor, it’s a fun option for a friendly gathering.

However, you might want to ask the people you’re eating it with if they’d be interested in these flavors. I personally love it, and all of my friends do too!

But both chili and lime are potent flavors that might be a bit overpowering for some.

Mix some chili powder, lime juice, and melted butter to make chili lime popcorn.

You could also add a bit of salt, pepper, or cumin to taste and leave out the butter if you want a healthier version.

Pour the mixture over your popcorn and enjoy!


Cinnamon Brown Sugar

Every time I think about cinnamon brown sugar, I start drooling. I mean, what’s not to like?

The warm and robust flavor of cinnamon combined with the sweetness of brown sugar is a heavenly combination.

I like cinnamon brown sugar on cakes, muffins, oatmeal, and of course, popcorn! It’s the perfect topping for a chilly winter day spent inside.

To make this flavor, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter. You could also add a little bit of nutmeg or allspice to taste.

Cinnamon brown sugar is also an excellent option for a cozy date night curled up on the couch.


Dark Chocolate

Like cinnamon brown sugar, dark chocolate is another flavor that I love on almost everything. It’s rich, creamy, and indulgent—the perfect movie night treat.

You can include it in a recipe with other ingredients, such as the s’mores popcorn recipe.

I like to make triple chocolate popcorn with dark, milk, and white chocolate mixed in. It’s impossible to resist.

You can also keep your dark chocolate popcorn simple and pour melted dark chocolate on it all by itself.

Another fun suggestion is to try adding a touch of salt to enhance the sweetness of the chocolate and maximize the flavor.


Cookies ‘n Cream

Cookies ‘n cream is one of my all-time favorite popcorn toppings, which I always go back to.

It’s simple yet so effective, and it’s perfect for when you’re craving something sweet.

To make cookies ‘n cream popcorn, you only need some melted butter or coconut oil and crushed cookies. I like to use Oreos because they have that classic cookie flavor we all know and love.

Pour the mixture over your popcorn and enjoy! You could also add a little bit of salt to taste.

And if you wish to add even more sweetness, this recipe tastes decadent with melted white chocolate chips.

Cookies ‘n cream popcorn is an excellent choice for an event because it’s simple enough to make large amounts of but unique enough to be impressive and exciting for your guests.


Everything Bagel

Another unique option for popcorn toppings is an everything bagel.

I love actual everything bagels because they taste like a party in my mouth, with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, and onion as the hosts. This recipe brings that party to popcorn. 

To make everything bagel popcorn, all you have to do is mix the seeds and seasonings, including:

  • salt
  • black pepper
  • poppy seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • onion flakes
  • garlic flakes

Then add the ingredients and melted butter to the popcorn, and there you have it—everything bagel popcorn.

Not only is this recipe a bit healthier than many others on this list, but it’s also arguably healthier than an everything bagel, depending on how much of it you consume.


Peanut Butter

I’m a sucker for peanut butter in many recipes—peanut butter ice cream, peanut butter cookies, peanut butter muffins, peanut butter sandwiches, and beyond.

So it’s no surprise that peanut butter popcorn is excellent as well. This topping is both sweet and savory, and it’s a great choice when you can’t decide which flavor you’re in the mood for.

To make peanut butter popcorn, all you need is some melted peanut butter and popcorn. I like to add a little salt to taste, but that’s completely up to you.

You could also drizzle melted chocolate because peanut butter and chocolate are a winning combo.


Bacon

Like peanut butter, bacon is arguably good on most food items.

It’s great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even some desserts like brown sugar and bacon cakes, so why not include it in your popcorn snack too?

Because salty, savory bacon pairs well with a wide range of flavor profiles, this ingredient is fun to add to compliment a recipe.

For example, I like combining it with jalapenos for spicy popcorn, maple syrup for sweeter popcorn, and cheddar cheese for savory popcorn.

Bacon is usually welcomed anywhere, so this is an excellent recipe for a date night, movie night with friends, barbecue, or birthday party. 


Best Popcorn Toppings

  1. Butter
  2. Salt 
  3. Caramel
  4. Cheddar 
  5. S’mores
  6. Buffalo
  7. Chili Lime
  8. Cinnamon Brown Sugar
  9. Dark Chocolate
  10. Cookies ‘n Cream
  11. Everything Bagel
  12. Peanut Butter
  13. Bacon

Final Thoughts

As you can see, many topping ingredients pair wonderfully with popcorn, including but not limited to the stand-by combination of butter and salt.

The best popcorn toppings make plain popcorn shine in different and delicious ways, elevating the snack to a new level. 

You can try something sweet, savory, spicy, or a combination of all three. Recipes might include classic ingredients like butter, chocolate, and peanut butter or more unique ingredients like bacon, buffalo sauce, and poppy seeds.

What’s your favorite popcorn topping? Do you like sweet, savory, spicy popcorn, or all three? Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.