Budget Gourmet: Get Poppin'

Long the staple of movie theatres and sleepovers, popcorn is the ultimate comfort food. Years ago I was stunned to see a friend top hers with balsamic vinegar, opening up a world of popcorn possibilities I never knew existed: Gourmet popcorn.

Adding seasoning to your popcorn instantly creates a dish that goes far beyond movie theatre fare. These popcorn recipes are tasty enough to eat when binging Netflix and refined enough to serve at holiday parties.

All of these recipes start with 1/2 cup of unpopped kernels. Get your biggest pot and pour them in with three tablespoons of your favorite oil (peanut, canola, coconut, or even ghee works!), stir it all up to coat evenly. Cover the pot with a piece of aluminum foil poked with a few holes. Set your stove to medium heat and constantly shake and shimmy the kernels. Once it's been five seconds since that last kernel popped, it's done! Even easier? Put the kernels and oil in a brown paper sack and microwave it for about 5 minutes.

Classic butter and lemon

This is by far the easiest way to achieve fancy popcorn, and why I call it Classic. Heat three tablespoons of butter in a saucepan until browned. Take off heat and stir in the zest from one lemon. Pour over your popcorn.

Fancy Popcorn
credit: Tatum Dooley

Garlic bread

Melt three tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, add two cloves of finely chopped garlic cloves. Add one teaspoon each of finely chopped fresh basil and thyme. Drizzle over popcorn with a pinch of kosher salt. Goes perfect with spaghetti and meatballs.

Trail mix

Add a handful of pretzels, broken up pieces of a chocolate bar, cashews, and almonds for a popcorn mix that's worthy of your next hike...even if you just hike to the couch to watch Black Mirror.

Parmesan and rosemary

Add half a cup of grated parmesan to popcorn and toss, drizzle about 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1/2 tbsp of fresh rosemary. Add ground pepper and kosher salt to taste.

Matcha and dark chocolate

Constantly stir 1.5 ounces of good-quality dark chocolate with half a tbsp of coconut oil in a saucepan, over low heat. Season popcorn with one teaspoon of matcha and mix. Drizzle the dark chocolate over the popcorn and throw in the fridge for ten minutes. Get really fancy with some flaked sea salt.

Smoked paprika, black Pepper, and parmesan

Stir into popcorn one teaspoon each of paprika, pepper, and parmesan cheese.