For many, it's a movie-viewing tradition to pair Coke and popcorn with watching a flick on both the big and small screens. With Hollywood's celebration of the year's best movies just days away, we have suggestions for dressing up an old favorite just in time for the big occasion. So don’t stop at merely melting butter. And put away your salt shaker. These recipes will liven up any snack bowl.

The Basics

Corn, the tiny kernel that most of the world calls maize, is a bona fide whole grain – and yes, even the popped version counts, says Janet Bond Brill, PhD., a registered and licensed dietician, and author of the bestselling books Cholesterol DOWN (Random House) and Prevent a Second Heart Attack (Three Rivers Press). 

Studies have shown that people who routinely snack on popcorn ingest a whopping 250 percent more whole grains and 22 percent more fiber compared to those who don’t. “Popcorn contains more fiber per ounce than even whole wheat bread and brown rice,” says Brill. So what better reason do you need to add a few well-placed bowls to your viewing party?

To pop your kernels, Brill says place about ¼ cup of dry popcorn kernels (equivalent to 8 cups of popped popcorn) in a brown lunch bag. Fold bag over at the top and tape it shut. “Microwave the bag of popcorn kernels for approximately two-and-a-half to three minutes until you don't hear much popping going on.”

Once you’ve got a bowl of plain popcorn as your base, try out these spicy recipes Brill says offer seasoning alternatives to the traditional fare of popcorn with just butter and salt.

Cinnamon Stick Popcorn



Popcorn




Ingredients:

  • 8 cups hot, plain popped popcorn  (from 1/4 cup dry kernels)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon (you can add up to 2 ½ tsp for extra flavor)
  • 1 ½ tablespoon melted butter 

Directions:

  1. Place popped corn in a large bowl.
  2. Drizzle butter over it and sprinkle with remaining ingredients.
  3. Toss until well mixed.
     

Citrus Twist

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups popped popcorn
  • ¼ lemon cut in half
  • ¼ lime cut in half

Directions:

  1. Place popped corn in a large bowl.
  2. Squeeze lemon and lime on popcorn, mix and taste.
  3. Continue to squeeze lemon and/or lime, mix and taste until you reach desired flavor. 
     

Chili Pepper Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups hot, plain popped popcorn
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

Directions:

  1. Place popped corn in large bowl.  
  2. Drizzle oil over hot popcorn and toss with herbs and spices (you can mix as you go).
  3. Shake up well in plastic bags and store overnight to let the seasonings soak in.
     

Popcorn Trail Mix

High in fiber and protein, a few handfuls of this mix will keep you and your guests feeling full. 

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups hot, plain popped popcorn
  • 1 cup Cheerios
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup dry roasted peanuts
  • ¼ cup dry roasted sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 ½ tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon sugar

Directions:

  1. Place popped corn in a large bowl.
  2. Pour butter, brown sugar and sugar in a small, glass measuring cup and microwave on high for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from the microwave, stir until blended and set aside.
  4. Add peanuts to popcorn and toss.
  5. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil.
  6. Pour butter mixture over popcorn mixture and toss to coat.
  7. Spread popcorn on baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
  8. Add Cheerios, raisins, cranberries and sunflower seeds and mix together.
     

Cajun Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups hot, plain popped popcorn
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil 

Directions:

  1. Place popped corn in a large bowl.
  2. In small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat for 1 minute then stir in all spices.
  3. Reduce to low and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Pour mixture over popcorn and toss to evenly coat.