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Cheesy Barbecue Popcorn

Jennifer Carroll
Cook Time:
10 mins
Prep Time:
5 mins

Chef notes

Cheese popcorn and barbecue potato chips have always been two of my favorite snacks. When I was a kid, I would mix the two together to get the perfect salty, cheesy, sweet-heat bite! Now I just make my own fresh and it's so much better than microwave popcorn.

Technique tip: Only partially cover the pan while cooking; this allows some steam to escape and ensures no sogginess.

Swap option: Swap melted butter for olive oil, nutritional yeast or freshly grated Parmesan for cheddar cheese powder; use any spice you like — for example, za'atar, berbere, cinnamon sugar, ranch, sesame, etc.


  • teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne (optional)
  • teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup cheddar cheese powder
  • 1/4 cup any neutral, high-smoke-point oil like sunflower, canola or avocado
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil



In a small bowl, mix together all the spices, sugar, salt and cheese powder.


In a large pot with a lid, heat the neutral oil over medium heat. Add three kernels.


As soon as they start to pop, add the rest of the kernels and remove the pot from the heat for 20 seconds so that all the kernels gently come to the same temperature.


Put the pot back on the heat with the lid on but just partially off-center, venting so some of the steam can escape. Continuously shake the pan to avoid kernels from burning. Once popping slows, transfer the popcorn to a large bowl.


Drizzle the olive oil over the popcorn and sprinkle on the barbecue-cheese mixture. Toss gently to coat.