Popcorn is the ultimate fallback snack. Whether you prefer the ease and convenience of the microwave or the slightly more laborious stovetop approach, you can always count on the salty, crunchy kernels to keep you satiated as you meticulously scroll through your Netflix queue on a Friday night. But we'll admit that—even after the most intriguing binge-a-thon—it can get a little redundant.
That's why we asked Marcus Samuelsson—James Beard award–winning chef, owner of N.Y.C. chicken joints Red Rooster Harlem and Streetbird Rotisserie, and self-professed popcorn aficionado—for some thoughtful ways to zhoosh up the standard recipe. "Popcorn can easily be dressed up with spices or herbs depending on your mood," he tells InStyle. Below, just in time for National Popcorn Day, three worthy upgrades to the feel-good food from the man himself.
Spicy & Sweet Popcorn
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne
1 tbsp light brown sugar
Pop 1/2 cup popcorn kernels, put them in a bowl, and toss with the spice mix.
Spicy Dill Popcorn
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1. Pour the oil in a 4-quart pan and coat the bottom. Add the kernels and cover. Place the pan on medium-high heat.
2. The kernels will heat up and start to pop. Shaking the pan often to prevent burning, allow kernels to cook until popping starts to slow down to 2-3 seconds between each pop.
3. When the popping has stopped and the kernels have all popped, remove pan from burner. Transfer popcorn to bowl and add remaining ingredients while still hot. Toss to combine.
1/2 cup unpopped corn kernels
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
1. Let the oil get hot in the bottom of a big pot, then add the sugar and corn kernels and stir well, letting the kernels get fully coated.
2. Cover the pot and wait for the first few kernels to pop. Take the pot, which hopefully has handles, on both sides (with pot holders—it will get really hot!) and sort of swish the kernels around in a circular motion inside so that the sugar doesn't burn. Do this periodically, taking the pot momentarily off the direct flame.
3. Once the popping slows down noticeably, turn off the flame and let it sit for a few minutes to cool. Scoop the popcorn into a large bowl and sprinkle immediately with sea salt.