Recently, I was at the movie theater with my sister. When buying popcorn, I could not help but realize how expensive just one bag of plain old buttery popped kernels could be. Later, while passing the condiments section, my sister stopped to pick up packets of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and hot sauce, as well as empty condiment cups.

Once we were seated in the theater, she lined up the condiment cups on the armrest between us. She opened the packets and squirted the contents of one into a cup. Then, she took a piece of popcorn from our bag and dipped it in the mayo and in the mustard before popping it into her mouth. I thought she was crazy until I tried it out myself. I was instantly hooked. It felt like popcorn never tasted that good. It’s safe to say that the popcorn is what I paid the most attention to during the duration of the movie, but hey, I had already watched Coco before.

A person in ripped jeans eating popcorn alongside a succulent plant and typographic sample
Photo by Mc Jefferson Agloro / Unsplash

Her spiced up popcorn got me thinking: In what ways can we make better popcorn with different flavors, potentially allowing us how to hack the system and create better, cheaper popcorn with ingredients from home for events, parties, and movie nights?

Below are some ideas I approve of or am eager to try. With a little creativity and mixing-and-matching, you are capable of creating popcorn flavors so wild yet so good that your friends will be jealous.

Popcorn Flavored with Powders:

Flavored popcorn seems like an expensive treat for when you have a little extra to splurge. But do not fear: it’s all a lie. With different types of flavoring (most of which you already have at home), you can create flavored popcorn in a jiffy, for a fraction of the cost from your very own kitchen. Keep in mind that lightly buttered popcorn tends to pick up the powders better than unbuttered popcorn. Try using powdered mixes from noodle packages. Instant ramen flavoring or Indian spices known as masala from noodle flavoring mixes can really step up your game. Grated or powdered cheeses, such as parmesan, would be perfect in popcorn if you enjoy cheese more than an average person, like myself. More ideas for sweet popcorn include matcha powder and sugar, cinnamon and sugar, or hot chocolate powder. To take it a step further, shake up your popcorn in a container with Doritos or Cheetos to transfer the powder to the popcorn.

Popcorn with Sauces:

Quite alike to the powder method, different sauces can add flavor to your popcorn. Wasabi, hot sauce, lime juice, and more can give your popcorn an extra kick. Personally, I wouldn't shy away from trying the condiments I mentioned above. However, be cautious of the popcorn being slightly wet when you put your hands in the bowl to take out a handful. If you don't mix too much of these sauces, this probably won't be a huge issue, though.

Chocolate Popcorn:

Popcorn and chocolate are two phenomenal developments in the history of humankind. Put them together, and you may end up with something even more phenomenal. Try taking regular popcorn and fold in a bowl of melted white chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate. Use as much or as little popcorn as you want to make the presence of chocolate as decadent or as subtle as desired. Drizzle on top for more of a store-bought, expensive effect. This popcorn can be easily customized for different holidays with the same techniques used with different colored candy melts. Repeating this procedure with caramel gives you the more renowned caramel popcorn.

Trail Mix Popcorn:

For more texture in your flavored popcorn or your chocolate covered popcorn, consider creating a trail mix by mixing some of your other favorite snacks to add texture and make the treat a bit more filling. Many find pretzels perfect for this. Depending on what you personally like or what suits your diet, feel free to add dried fruit, chips, fruit snacks, or nuts as well. One thing to keep in mind is that the flavors of different things you put in the same bowl do not clash. If you do it right, add-ons will break up the flavors you taste as you eat your snack while simultaneously making the popcorn more filling, stopping you from getting your twentieth bowl.

There is an infinite amount of ways to customize your popcorn to your liking. Whether for a movie night, a party, or just to feast on by yourself, popcorn continues to be a timeless classic snack for all ages. Next time you’re at your local grocery store and see various types of popcorn for sale, realize that you can do something very similar at home at a very low cost.