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Take Snack Time to the Next Level with Flavored Popcorn 

It’s family movie night. What are your kids snacking on? If you’re like most Americans, there’s a good chance you have a bowl of popcorn somewhere within reach. 

This poppable snack is popular with children and adults alike. In fact, people in the U.S. consume a total of about 14 billion quarts (56 billion cups) of popcorn each year—that’s more than enough to fill 83 million bathtubs to the brim! 

It’s easy to understand why popcorn is so well-loved: The whole-grain food is delicious, quick to make, and easy to dress up. All you need is a little time and the right flavored popcorn recipe!

A Healthy Snack with a Long History

For many, popcorn calls to mind movie theaters, ballparks, and county fairs. But did you know this snack is actually thousands of years old? 

The earliest archaeological evidence of popcorn comes from Peru, dating back about 6,700 years. Ancient Peruvians would have popped the kernels by heating a corn cob in a cooking pit (an ancient outdoor oven-like structure), wrapping it and placing it on hot coals, or roasting it over a flame.

In North America, the Iroquois people created popcorn in pottery jars filled with heated sand hundreds of years ago and likely shared their cooking techniques with settlers throughout the Great Lakes region. By the mid-1800s, people were enjoying popcorn as a late-night snack or party treat (much like we do today). Then in the 1890s, a Chicago candy store owner named Charles Cretors came up with a new way to popcorn. He built a machine with a steam-powered engine that stirred the kernels while they cooked, allowing him to heat each piece evenly and popcorn directly in seasonings. In 1900, Cretors created a horse-drawn popcorn wagon, and new street food was born!

Popcorn jumping out of a frying pan.

Two Ways to Get Popping

While you can still make popcorn over a flame like the ancient Peruvians, there are two main ways we pop corn at home in the twenty-first century: in the microwave or on the stove.

Microwave popcorn is available in most grocery stores, but you can also pick up a jar of popcorn kernels and heat them in a saucepan. Either option results in delicious, warm popcorn that you can make extra special with your children’s favorite seasonings.

Chocolate popcorn and unflavored popcorn in white bowls.

Three Flavored Popcorn Recipes to Make at Home

The best part about homemade flavored popcorn is you can make it cheesy, buttery, sweet, or any other way your kids like it. Here are three mouthwatering recipes sure to hit the spot.

(Each recipe uses tools and appliances that require adult supervision. You are the best judge of your child’s abilities. Please read through each recipe to determine its suitability for a particular child and assess how much assistance will be needed.) 

Chocolate Popcorn

If your children enjoy chocolaty treats, they’ll love this sweet-flavored popcorn recipe. Chocolate popcorn is a delicious snack perfect for a movie night, dessert, or an afternoon bite.


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 8 cups popped popcorn
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup peanuts (optional)


  1. An adult preheats the oven to 250°F (120°C) and helps kids spray a 10-by-15-inch (25-by-38-centimeter) baking pan with nonstick spray. 
  2. Kids pour popcorn and peanuts (if using) into a large metal bowl and set it aside.
  3. Kids add sugar, butter, corn syrup, and cocoa to a saucepan away from the stove. 
  4. An adult stirs the mixture over medium-high heat until the ingredients come to a boil. Continue to cook for 2 more minutes, stirring continuously. Older kids can do this step under close supervision, but younger children should be kept away from the stove.
  5. Add the vanilla extract to the mixture and stir.
  6. An adult pours the chocolate mixture over the popcorn (and peanuts, if using), then helps kids stir with a large spoon until every piece is coated.
  7. Spread mixture onto a large baking pan. An adult bakes the popcorn for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to ensure the pieces don’t stick together. 
  8. Allow the popcorn to cool to room temperature before serving. Yum!

Caramel Popcorn

This recipe makes a lot of popcorn—and that’s a good thing because this stuff will be gobbled up! Homemade caramel corn makes a great birthday party favor or holiday gift for foodies of all ages.


  • 20 cups popped popcorn
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda


  1. An adult preheats the oven to 250°F (120°C). While the oven warms, kids pour the popped popcorn into a large bowl and set it aside.
  2. An adult melts the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. 
  3. Next, stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Older kids can carefully add the ingredients under close supervision, but younger children should be kept away from the stove. 
  4. An adult brings the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Allow it to boil without stirring for 4 minutes, forming the caramel sauce.
  5. An adult removes the pan from heat, then stirs in the vanilla extract and baking soda. 
  6. An adult pours the caramel over the popcorn, then stirs with a large spoon until every piece is coated. 
  7. Divide the popcorn between 2 baking sheets. An adult bakes the popcorn for 1 hour, mixing every 15 minutes.
  8. Allow the popcorn to cool completely before serving and enjoy. 

Italian Parmesan Popcorn

Does your family prefer savory popcorn to sweet? No problem—we’ve got you covered! This simple popcorn recipe is full of rich flavors and makes for a scrumptious munch.


  • 6 tablespoons unpopped popcorn
  • ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Kids combine unpopped popcorn and ¼ cup olive oil in a two-quart saucepan away from the stove. 
  2. An adult cooks popcorn in the saucepan over high heat, continually shaking the pan until the kernels pop (about 5 minutes). 
  3. An adult pours the popcorn into a serving bowl and drizzles two tablespoons of olive oil on top. 
  4. Kids add Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and freshly grated Parmesan to the bowl. Stir the popcorn with a large spoon to coat every piece.
Two kids watching TV at home and eating popcorn.

Make Every Snack a Flavorful Adventure

Learning how to make flavored popcorn transforms snack time into something extra special—and as a bonus, these simple recipes will introduce your kids to the fantastic world of cooking! Your young chefs can discover how new flavors enhance a snack they already love, expanding their palates and inspiring a love of adventurous eating.

Keep the culinary adventures coming by making a sweet treat like cake pops, savory biscuit pizzas, or these delicious and easy baking recipes. And if your kids crave even more in the kitchen, send their curiosity soaring around the globe with our Kitchen Adventures subscription box. Every month, they’ll receive kid-friendly recipes and kitchen tools designed for children ages seven and up. The whole family can explore world cultures through fun hands-on activities and delicious dishes, all while your kids build practical skills and confidence as they learn to cook with you.