Pop It Up a Notch

I grew up with a father who loved popcorn, and he made it so well—popped perfectly on the stove and topped with melted butter and a generous sprinkling of salt. Sometimes he would make it for my mother, my little sister and me and we’d sit all cozy with my mom, noshing on the freshly-popped corn while she read our nightly stories. Ah, popcorn memories…

Popcorn Stock Photo
Freeimages.com/Adriana Herbut

Luckily, popcorn is inherently nutritious (did you know?). Yes folks, popcorn is a whole grain, provides fiber, complex carbohydrates and is low in calories (31 per cup of air-popped, 55 per cup of oil-popped). Of course, how you top your popcorn makes a big difference in the fat and calorie content overall. Developing a liking for plain or lightly seasoned popcorn (as opposed to popcorn drenched in butter) is a good idea—especially if you want to snack on it often.

That’s not to say there isn’t room for an old-fashioned bowl of butter and salt popcorn once in a while. But I’ve come to realize that there is a great big world of popcorn flavoring combos out there. If, like me, you find your popcorn cravings increase as the temps get lower through the fall and winter, consider opening yourself up to some new popcorn topping ideas. You might be surprised to find a new favorite…or at the very least, you’ll have a large repertoire of topping ideas to help you pop it up a notch.

Spritz and sprinkle

When you are popping corn at home and using a little fat to do it, getting seasonings to stick is not really a problem. However, if you use an air popper or microwave to pop corn, seasonings don’t like to stick very well (an exception is parmesan cheese that’s sprinkled immediately on warm popcorn—it melts right onto the kernels and well, yum). The answer to this problem is to spritz the popped corn with something first (use a clean spray bottle or mister to get the job done nicely) and then sprinkle on your choice of seasonings. Here are some ideas to get you started…


  • Tamari
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh- squeezed lime juice
  • Water
  • Flax oil


  • Garlic powder
  • Five spice powder
  • Italian seasoning (with or without Parmesan)
  • Black pepper
  • Chili powder and a little salt
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Cinnamon

Get your glaze on

Sweet, lightly glazed popcorn is a sublime snack that is special enough for an occasion, but easy enough for everyday, too. Make your own lightly sweet and crunchy glazed popcorn by melting 1 tablespoon of butter with 1/3 cup of real maple syrup to heat through, then drizzle it over 4-5 cups plain popped corn. You can do a similar version with butter and honey (2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup honey). If you like, crisp the glazed popcorn up by placing it on a parchment-covered cookie sheet in a 350° oven for 5-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice if you like, then let it cool and break it apart. (Be sure to keep an eye on the glazed popcorn in the oven, since it has a tendency to want to burn).