Yes, you can have delicious stovetop Popcorn For Dinner – don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! Adding some extra ingredients can turn popcorn into a full-fledged popcorn meal. Learn this foolproof method for making perfect stovetop popcorn, and try these four delicious ways of dressing up your popcorn for a healthy snack or light dinner!
What's The History Behind This Popcorn For Dinner?
You know those days when you just don’t feel like cooking? When the thought of chopping and slicing and preparing and even just turning on the oven feels like too much? Those are exactly the kinds of nights when stovetop popcorn for dinner is appropriate, and it’s just the kind of night we had last weekend.
Yes, my friends, popcorn for dinner (or popcorn for lunch, for that matter) is a thing.
It was just the kiddos and I last weekend and I had promised them a movie night. And while I don’t normally serve popcorn as a full-blown meal, since it was just us and we wanted something easy, popcorn it was. Plus, the boys love it and it’s always a special treat for them.
I grew up eating this combo often (waaay before Olivia Pope made it a thing). I have vivid memories of spending the night at my grandparent’s house with my siblings and my cousins, my grandma violently shaking the oiled pan of popcorn corn over the gas burner so that it wouldn’t burn. She’d pile the popcorn high in our bowls, but it didn’t stop there. Next came “the toppings”. What – you didn’t know that popcorn could have toppings? Read on my friend.
First, a little background. My Grandpa was a butcher and the owner of a meat market in the small town where they lived called Eckert’s. His father had owned the store too, and my Grandpa had grown up, alongside his brother, working in the store, which is what they both did until they finally sold it many years later. In the old days, they used to butcher the hogs and steer (and probably scores of other game) right in the back of the store!
Eckerts was known for its quality meats and cheeses, but the store also stocked a small selection of grocery items, and I loved stopping by grandpa’s store with my Mom when we were little to pick up our essentials.
Back To The Popcorn Toppings
So, back to the popcorn toppings. Being a butcher, my grandpa naturally brought home lots of delicious deli meats and cheeses with him from the shop. And they all managed to find their way atop our popcorn bowls on these nights we’d stay with my grandparents.
Salami and ham, cheddar, Swiss, and Munster….the saltiness and sharpness of the meats and cheeses mixed so well with the oiled corn, and the combined texture made it completely addicting.
So, yes. Eating popcorn as a meal is totally a thing in our house. My kids have grown to love this combo, so it’s always on the menu around here, especially during movie nights. And, I love that popcorn itself is a fairly healthy snack and it totally fills us up so I never really feel bad about giving it to them. I decided to play around with a few more popcorn topping mixes for variety and came away with some definite winners.
Serve these gussied-up popcorn bowls at your next party, movie night, or whenever you feel like taking a night off from the kitchen. With a little creativity, you can totally serve popcorn as a meal. And your family will thank you, trust me.
What Goes Well On Popcorn?
Really, so many things! Popcorn dinner is so simple, but it’s so customizable - you can make it sweet or salty, or both! Simple or gourmet. I love a simple mix - popcorn, salt, butter - but there are so many other flavorings for popcorn! Try some of these delicious ideas for popcorn toppings.
The Best Oil For Popping Corn
The type of oil you use for stovetop popcorn really depends on the flavors you're going for. Here are some great options to try:
- Neutral oils like canola, avocado, safflower, or grapeseed oil
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
- Coconut oil
- Truffle oil (truffle popcorn is truly a decadent treat!)
Meats and cheeses!
This one is obviously my fave, and you can customize it however you want! Spicier meats and cheeses like salami and pepper jack provide a bolder flavor, while more mellow varieties (ham and swiss, or Colby jack) offer a sweeter, more mild topping for your popcorn.
When choosing your meats and cheeses for a popcorn topping, I find that meats like salami, ham, or prosciutto work better than something like turkey. Sharp cheeses, like cheddar, gouda, swiss, or pepper jack work better than a soft mild cheese.
What are the best popcorn seasonings? That's up to you! There are so many combinations - sweet and salty popcorn, savory popcorn, spicy popcorn - the flavor choices are endless! Experiment here and see what you like - you might be surprised by the results! Some ideas for spices are:
- Lemon pepper, rosemary, and thyme
- Italian seasonings
- Jerk seasoning, or cajun seasoning
- Curry powder
- Garlic powder
- Ranch seasoning
- Flavored salts
- Cheddar flavored seasoning
- Black pepper and oilive oil
- Cinnamon and sugar
- Sea salt
Combine spices with your choice of oil and you’ll have an easy and healthy way to add some new flavors to your snacking popcorn.
Make it sweet!
Who said dessert popcorn wasn’t a thing? Of course, you’ve probably had caramel corn (or spicy caramel corn!) or popcorn balls, which are great options. But adding a bit of chocolate, dried fruit, or even small candies, like M&Ms can be fun for a treat. Or, try adding a little cinnamon and sugar mixture to your buttered popcorn to make it sweet.
The sky really is the limit and you can experiment with all different kinds of flavors, including different flavored oil for popping, spices, and toppings. Just use your imagination and have fun.
Is Popcorn Healthy?
Popcorn is a great healthy option if you’re trying to watch your weight. On its own, air-popped popcorn is relatively low in calories and packed with fiber. In fact, a cup of air-popped popcorn has 1.2 grams of fiber, about 3-5 the percent of the daily recommendation for women. This makes it a very filling snack (more so than a bag of chips!). It’s also loaded with good-for-you vitamins like Vitamin B, Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, and Zinc. And, clocking in at only 31 calories for per cup, it's a healthy snack that won't push you to your calorie limit.
Popcorn is also a great night-time snack. Since it's a complex carbohydrate, it helps to boost serotonin, a hormone that helps you to relax and feel sleepy.
Where you need to watch out for is the type of popcorn you eat, how it's prepared, and what you put on top. Movie theater popcorn, for instance, is loaded with unhealthy fats, loads of butter, artificial seasonings, and loads of salt or sugar. In fact, most large tups of movie theater popcorn contain as many calories as 2 Big Macs - without even adding that buttery topping. (Yowzers!)
And, while microwave popcorn is an easy option, some varieties use artificial flavors, partially hydrogenated oils, and unhealthy chemicals in their bag liners, making them a risky choice.
The best and healthiest popcorn is homemade. I like to use real popcorn (we always buy a big batch from our local boy scouts!) in a healthy fat like butter or oil (you only need a small amount) and just a bit of butter, seasoning, and/or toppings for flavor and fun.
(Fun Tip: Did you know that popcorn is even healthy for dogs, in small quantities? Just make sure you give your pup air-popped popcorn. The kind cooked in oil, (like in this recipe) or with any type of salt or added seasoning is not recommended for dogs.)
How To Make Homemade Popcorn On The Stovetop
My favorite way to enjoy this treat is to make the popcorn on the stovetop. All of the popcorn recipes below are made by heating the oil in a large pan over the stove along with the kernels, my preferred method. Yes, you can make air-popped popcorn, and it’s probably healthier (ok, definitely healthier). But the flavor with that method is lacking and for a special treat, the oil-popped corn is hands down the best. And, even if this isn’t as healthy as air-popped corn, it’s definitely healthier (and tastier) than a store-bought microwave bag. Here's how to do it:
- Use a quality heavy-bottomed pot that also has a lid. You'll want something that distributes the heat evenly so that you don't burn portions of your popcorn.
- Start by adding 2 tablespoons of oil to a large pot with a lid and set it over medium heat. You don't want to burn the oil, but it needs to be hot enough to pop the corn.
- Add a couple of popcorn kernels to the oil. How do you know when your oil is hot enough for popping corn? Let the two kernels be your guide. Once they pop you'll know you can add the rest of the kernels to the pot.
- Add the remaining kernels to the pot, and loosely cover with the lid. You want a little steam to be able to escape so leave a little bit of a gap here.
- Once your popcorn starts popping, shake the pot with one hand while holding the lid with the other (be sure to use oven mitts!). Shaking the pot while the popcorn is cooking will help to prevent the popped kernels from burning on the bottom.
- If the pot gets too full, pour some of the popped corn into a large bowl nearby (be sure to have this ready to go before you start popping the corn!)
- Add your seasonings and popcorn toppings and serve immediately.
- Don't add too many kernels at once. Just a little goes a long way. Fill your pan too full of un-popped kernels and it will overflow, resulting in popped corn all over your kitchen! (Note - if you do find yourself with an overflow, it's not a huge deal - just be ready with a large popcorn bowl and tip some of it into the bowl as it's popping, then continue with popping the corn on the stove until all the kernels have popped.
- Don't put the lid on your pot too tightly. I like to hold the handle of the pan with one hand and the lid with the other, making sure to leave a little bit of a gap to allow the steam to escape. If you hold the lid too tight, the popped corn will steam, and the popcorn won't be nice and crispy.
- Be Ready! A word of caution – once it gets going, the corn pops FAST! You’ll need to be ready and waiting by the stove. Keep one hand holding the pan (shaking it back and forth as it pops to avoid the corn from burning) and another hand holding a lid over the popping corn so the oil doesn’t splatter. Also, be wary of stray kernels popping out of the pan – they’re hot little suckers!
Did you try any of these popcorn recipes? Let me know what you think in the comments! And tag me on Instagram with your pics of how you decide to do Popcorn For Dinner- I'd love to see what other delicious popcorn meals you come up with!
More Great Snack Recipes!
- Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels
- Homemade Tortilla Chips
- Maple Spiced Toasted Walnuts
- Apple Chips With Maple Tahini Dip
- No Bake Peanut Butter Energy Balls
- Spicy Caramel Popcorn
- Louisiana Voodoo Fries
Popcorn For Dinner
Combo #1: Deli Meat And Cheese Popcorn
- 2 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup popping corn
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- chopped deli meats and cheeses We used a couple of different mixtures here - salami and colby jack for one, and prosciutto and gouda for the other, which was my favorite. When choosing your meats and cheeses, I find that meats like salami, ham or prosciutto work better than something like turkey. Sharp cheeses, like cheddar, gouda, swiss or pepper jack work better than a soft mild cheese.
Combo #2: Fancy Italian-Style Popcorn
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup popping corn
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 2 teaspoon rosemary
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Combo #3: Trail mix Popcorn (Also known as dessert!)
- 2 tablespoon peanut oil (coconut oil could also work well here)
- ⅓ cup dark chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoon coconut flakes
- ¼ cup roasted peanuts
- Pour oil into a large pot (that has a lid) over medium heat.
- Add 2 kernels of the unpopped corn to the oil and standby. Once the kernels pop, you'll know that your oil is hot enough for the rest of the kernels. Add the rest of the popcorn to the oil and cover the pot with a lid.
- As the popcorn starts popping, use one hand to shake pon to prevent the popcorn from burning. Use your other hand to hold the lid over the popcorn, tilting the lid a bit to allow the steam to escape (but not so much that the popcorn pops out of the pot!)
- Once all corn has popped remove the pot from heat immediately and pour popcorn into a large bowl.
- If using butter, drizzle the butter very slowly over the popcorn in a circular motion, while at the same time stirring the popcorn to mix it.
- Add all other ingredients and stir to combine.
- Serve and enjoy!
- Definitely use a big pot with a lid. You'll need a way to contain the popcorn and the oil (it can splatter, which could not only cause a fire but also hurts if it touches you!). Stay close by while your oil and popcorn are on the stove and watch the pot closely.
- Add 2 popcorn kernels to the oil to start. Once they pop, you're good to add the rest of the kernels.
- Don't add too many kernels at once. Especially if this is your first time making stovetop popcorn. Add just a little and get a feel for how much your pot can handle. That way you won't end up with too much overflow.
- Be sure to not put the lid on too tightly. You want a bit of a gap so that there's room for the steam to escape. Otherwise, you'll end up with soggy popcorn.
- If the popcorn starts to overflow in the pan, just tip some of it into a prepared popcorn bowl and continue popping the rest of the kernels.
- You can find unpopped popcorn kernels in your local grocery store. They're usually sold in the same area as microwave popcorn. Or, look for a local boy scout and buy from them!