The holidays are a great time for cozy nights, beloved movies, and that ultimate comfort food, popcorn. While popping a bag in the microwave may be easy, it only takes a few minutes more to make your own stove-top or air-popped popcorn, and the results are so much more delicious and nutritious.
Choose Your Corn
When making your gourmet popcorn plans, start with the best kernels you can find. You can choose from a range of colors: yellow, red, and white, to blue and even black. While recent studies have shown that polyphenols (antioxidants) are present in all popcorn, black popcorn contains polyphenols and anthocyanins, making it even better for you. If you want a break from your usual yellow kernel popcorn, try specialty kernels like Black Jewell or Crimson Jewell. Yellow kernel popcorn pops well with prominent hulls, while Black Jewell kernels are smaller with a tender hull that shatters when it pops. Crimson Jewell kernels pop snow white with red centers and blue kernels pop white with flecks of blue.
Pick a Method
Once you’ve chosen your favorite popcorn, choose your preferred method of cooking. Air-popping or an electric non-stick popper maintain the low fat nature of popcorn, but stove-top popping in a good drizzle of your favorite oil enhances the flavor amazingly and is definitely my preferred method. Now that you’ve chosen your popcorn and your cooking method, the fun really begins. Good, flavorful popcorn begins with heating in a small amount of oil. Experiment with different flavored oils that will blend well with any spices you may add later on. Try coconut oil and curry powder, sesame oil with lime zest and cumin, or — my current favorite — olive oil and nutritional yeast.
Add Some Pizazz
Once the popcorn is cooked, it’s time to flavor those tasty little morsels. While melted butter drizzled over piping hot popcorn is by far the most popular, oils can be used just as well and provide a unique flavor contrast. Try a walnut or hazelnut oil with cinnamon or nutmeg, or add some chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme. Avocado oil goes well with Mexican spices like cumin, coriander, and lime, and coconut oil is a delicious backdrop for Indian and Asian spice mixes. Caramel corn is a beloved favorite, but you can make it especially interesting by added toasted nuts, dried apple slices, or even chocolate-covered coffee beans. No matter what your palate craves, popcorn is a fantastic canvas for delicious combinations of savory or sweet.
by Tricia Barrett
- plain organic, non-GMO popcorn
- organic olive oil
- nutritional yeast
- truffle salt
- cayenne pepper
Pop your popcorn and let cool 3-4 minutes. Place all ingredients in ziploc bag, seal and shake until evenly coated. Serve immediately.
Simple-n-Easy Caramel Corn
by Nick Church
- 1 cup popcorn
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons nonfat milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Pop your popcorn; set aside. Preheat oven to 200F. In a shallow saucepan, combine the brown sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla; bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally until the mixture turns a deep brown color. Remove from heat and drizzle on your popcorn. Use a wooden spoon to turn carefully, then lay out popcorn on a cookie sheet.
Bake for approximately 60 minutes; take popcorn out and turn every 20 minutes. Enjoy piping hot; store in an airtight container if you have any leftovers.
Note: Recipe for a stovetop pan. Adjust popcorn/oil ratio if you’re using a steam popper or microwave.
Photo credits: bcmom, Bunchofgrapes, author, and Monica Nguyen.