What are Some Different Popcorn Toppings?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Salt, which is often used to top popcorn.
Salt, which is often used to top popcorn.

There are all sorts of things you can use to top popcorn, ranging from mundane butter to pesto. Many regions have their own unique popcorn toppings which may be showcased at fairs and other social events, and individual families may develop their own recipes for toppings to keep popcorn consumption lively and entertaining. Almost any sort of condiment or seasoning mix can be added to popcorn, as the flavor of popcorn on its own is relatively neutral.

Grated Parmesan cheese can be used to top popcorn.
Grated Parmesan cheese can be used to top popcorn.

Popcorn itself is a relatively healthy food. It is high in fiber, making it a good addition to the diet, and it is naturally fat free. Popcorn also has useful amounts of trace vitamins and minerals which can be increased with the addition of certain popcorn toppings.

The definition of classic popcorn toppings varies, depending on where you are. In Germany, for example, many people like kettle corn, popcorn which is tossed with salt, sugar, and oil for a sweet, salty, crunchy food. Many Americans prefer butter in both natural and artificial form, and some people add brewer's yeast, also known as nutritional yeast, to their popcorn.

Blocks of sharp cheddar cheese. When powdered, cheddar can make a great popcorn topping.
Blocks of sharp cheddar cheese. When powdered, cheddar can make a great popcorn topping.

Dry condiments which can be used as popcorn toppings include paprika, pepper, ground chiles, and spice mixes. Jerking spices sometimes pair quite well with popcorn, as do herb blends. If you want to keep your toppings low in fat, sprinkle the topping on without oil to carry it; if you want a more full flavor, add a little bit of oil or butter. You can also add things like bonito flakes, powdered nori, and plain old salt.

Popcorn can be topped with a sprinkle of paprika.
Popcorn can be topped with a sprinkle of paprika.

You can also experiment with wet condiments like honey, pesto, ketchup, and chili sauce, all of which will lightly coat popcorn when it is tossed while hot. If you are worried about sogginess, you can apply a small amount of topping at a time to ensure that the popcorn stays crisp. Some people also like to use vinegars such as malt vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Flavored syrups made from things like apples, cherries, or caramel are also quite popular in some regions as popcorn toppings, especially during the holidays. Flavored oils are also great toppings for popcorn.

Almost any seasoning can be added to popcorn.
Almost any seasoning can be added to popcorn.

Cheese is another beloved popcorn topping in some parts of the world. You can use powdered Parmesan or cheddar cheese, or cheese blends designed specifically for use as a topping. If you're feeling more experimental, you can try things like chocolate, soy sauce, maple syrup, coconut flakes, curry paste, or mustard.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon280010

For popcorn, I always melt butter and toss it little by little into my hot popcorn, then add a little salt, sugar, and parmesan.

anon16016

There are some things that should not be used as a topping for popcorn. One such topping is melted margarine. This is because the melted result will make the popcorn soggy. Melted butter is a better topping as it will not make the popcorn soggy and may be a healthier choice anyway; some margarines can contain trans fatty acids while others may not. But no margarine is a natural food product, as it is made of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Butter, on the other hand, is a natural dairy product that is made from churned milk, though it contains cholesterol.

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    • Salt, which is often used to top popcorn.
      Salt, which is often used to top popcorn.
    • Grated Parmesan cheese can be used to top popcorn.
      Grated Parmesan cheese can be used to top popcorn.
    • Blocks of sharp cheddar cheese. When powdered, cheddar can make a great popcorn topping.
      Blocks of sharp cheddar cheese. When powdered, cheddar can make a great popcorn topping.
    • Popcorn can be topped with a sprinkle of paprika.
      Popcorn can be topped with a sprinkle of paprika.
    • Almost any seasoning can be added to popcorn.
      Almost any seasoning can be added to popcorn.
    • Caramel popcorn is a sweet alternative to movie theater popcorn.
      Caramel popcorn is a sweet alternative to movie theater popcorn.
    • Popcorn, tossed with maple syrup, offers a light sweetness similar to caramel corn.
      Popcorn, tossed with maple syrup, offers a light sweetness similar to caramel corn.