By Mike Thayer

Making your own gourmet popcorn Use your imagination to create flavor

I love popcorn, I typically pop my own, but I appreciate bagged varieties as well.  And while those bagged options provide a variety of flavors to choose from, I can create those same flavors and a lot more in my kitchen.

Taking advantage of my pantry and fridge, I can create just about any flavor you see on the grocery store shelves.  My go-to however and it's easy-peasy, is to use leftover sauce packets from carry-out and delivery meals.  There's all kinds of flavor options available at the ready, all you have to do is add a packet or two and a pinch of salt to the butter when you're melting it while that popcorn is popping!

The sauce packet options are almost endless...  There's duck sauce from a Chinese restaurant (Awesome!), Arby's Sauce, mustard packets (combined with a packet of honey - Delicious!), sweet and sour sauce, BBQ sauce from Papa John's (BBQ popcorn is excellent).  The melted butter sauce created tossed with the popcorn kicks that popcorn up to gourmet status!   Just about any kind of sauce packet will do, Burger King, KFC, Arby's, Taco Bell, you name it!

From the fridge, whatever kind of hot sauce you have on hand is a good add to the melting butter.  Frank's Red Hot, Tapatio', Sriracha (Sriracha and Parmesan cheese is a GREAT combo, but sprinkle on the Parm AFTER you sauce the popcorn).  You can go with your favorite bottle BBQ sauce if you don't have a convenient sauce packet.  And if you like dill pickle flavored chips, you'll LOVE dill pickle flavored popcorn, just put a little splash of the pickle juice in the melting butter.  You can do the same thing with some vinegar from the pantry if you're into salt & vinegar chips.  Got some leftover bacon?  Chop it up and add it to the melting butter (just a tab will do) to warm it through (I've been known to have this for dinner...).

From your seasoning cabinet, use your imagination.  You've probably got onion powder, garlic powder (the onion/garlic combo is really nice), maybe some dried dill, or chili powder on hand.  Combined with that melted butter, any one of those is another dose of YUM!  If you decide to use a seasoning mix like Montreal Steak Seasoning, great, but hold off on the pinch of salt when melting the butter, you don't want to create a salt bomb.  Taco seasoning is another good one, but remember, don't add that pinch of salt.

And you're not limited to the powders, sauce packets from restaurants or bottled sauces you see pictured above to create flavor either.  And no, I'm not talking about the popcorn seasonings you can get at the grocery store.  Go fresh!  Dice up a jalapeno and throw that in the butter when you're melting it.  Bell peppers are a nice add too.  Go herbal and chop up some fresh parsley, dill, thyme and/or rosemary.  Chopped green onion or chives work too, super when tossed with some Parmesan cheese. 

Play with it, mix and match the flavors, find new combinations, have fun making popcorn!

BONUS:  Popping your own corn is SO inexpensive, talk about a cheap snack!  A bag of popcorn at the grocery store will typically cost you $3 and up.  Those bagged varieties are good, but you can purchase a bag of unpopped popcorn and make a boatload, flavor it how you want to and it's freshly popped and hot to boot! 

Coming soon:  Dessert popcorn options!

Related: Bachelor on the Cheap - Product Review: The Salbree Popper

$pend Wisely My Friends...