How to Spice Up Your Popcorn with Pantry Ingredients

Never eat boring popcorn again.

6 min read

*This article includes mentions of merchants or brands who are partners of DoorDash, and DoorDash may receive a commission if you choose to make a purchase from these merchants or brands.

For the vast majority of my life, I didn’t like popcorn. That is until I realized it can be so much more than the microwavable snack of my childhood. With a little creativity, popcorn becomes the most versatile ingredient on the planet, functioning as a blank canvas for basically any flavor so long as it can cling to the kernel. For your next Netflix binge, try some of these variations on the classic movie theater nosh. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, make your own popcorn blend; the variations are truly endless.


For the below recipes, stovetop popcorn works best, but classic butter-flavored microwave popcorn can work as equally well in a pinch, depending on your seasoning of choice. For an individual portion of stovetop popcorn, heat 1-2 tablespoons of neutral oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Place a few popcorn kernels into the hot oil. Once they pop, pour in 2-3 tablespoons of kernels in an even layer, cover the pot, and take it off the heat for 30 seconds. The popcorn should begin popping at this point. Place the pot back on the burner, and on medium-high heat (with the lid on), shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. Once the popcorn slows to several seconds between pops, take the pot off the heat to prevent any burning. Pour it into a bowl where it can be seasoned to your heart’s content. 

To make sure your flavoring sticks, toss your popcorn when it’s hot. The steam emanating from the kernels helps seasonings adhere, especially if you don’t add a fat like butter (though a little never hurts).

Note: Most of these recipes don’t have exact measurements, as the volume of popcorn differs depending on how much you need, and seasonings are added to taste. If you want to make all of these variations in one go — say, for a poppin’ party — I suggest making 1.5 to 2 cups of stovetop popcorn for each flavor, keeping it warm on the stove, and mixing each batch accordingly. You can easily scale up from there.

Seasoned Salt

Instead of salting your stovetop popcorn with regular kosher salt, try using your seasoning salt of choice. I personally love the salty-sweet punch of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, but whatever you have on hand will work.

Old Bay


This is my personal favorite. In a serving bowl, toss hot popcorn with a conservative amount of classic Old Bay Seasoning and add to taste. If you’re using stovetop popcorn, be sure to include a little salt to bring out the flavors, and feel free to add a splash of melted butter for extra luxury. Aromatic, spicy, and savory, it’s the ultimate late-night snack.

Taco Seasoning


This mighty store-bought seasoning mix has a use beyond tacos. For that classic, smoky-spicy Mexican-American flavor, toss popcorn with your preferred seasoning brand (I like Old El Paso or McCormick Original Taco Season) until each kernel is coated to your liking. The stuff is salty, so start with half a teaspoon and go up from there. Pair it with a margarita for the perfect dinner party cocktail hour. 

Lemon Zest and Fresh Herbs


Whoever said popcorn wasn’t sophisticated? For this elegant version, mix the zest of a lemon, fresh minced herbs of your choice, and salt with melted butter. Toss the warm butter mixture with hot stovetop popcorn, adding flavorings and salt to taste. The amount of zest, herbs, and butter depends on your personal preference and the herbs you end up using – herbs like thyme and rosemary should be used sparingly, whereas you can be more generous with others like tarragon and dill.

Soy Sauce Butter


Inspired by the Shoyu Butter Popcorn found at Tokyo Disneyland, this popcorn tastes surprisingly complex – warm, rounded, and deeply umami. Melt two tablespoons of butter, then mix in half a teaspoon of soy sauce and taste. It should be rich and almost caramel-y, but not overly salty. If it’s not strong enough, add more soy sauce, but remember a little goes a long way. This popcorn is best served warm as soon as you mix it, but be warned: You might just eat the entire bowl.

Cinnamon Sugar


Instead of the hassle of making caramel corn, satisfy your craving for sweet popcorn with this  easier alternative. To make cinnamon sugar, mix white sugar and cinnamon in a 4:1 ratio (McCormick’s also makes a premixed version). Served warm, the buttery crunch of this popcorn evokes Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but even lighter and more snackable. 


  • Photography: Paul Quitoriano

  • Food Styling: Lena Abraham

  • Prop Styling: Gerri Williams

  • Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez