Spice up your popcorn with chai masala or pumpkin flavor

By Evan Kleiman

There are many types of heirloom popcorn varieties, like this ruby red strawberry corn. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m watching more TV than usual or my anxiety has ratcheted up, but a big bowl of popcorn finds its way onto my lap with greater frequency than ever. In my efforts to not consume massive quantities of butter with the healthy whole grain, I’ve turned to spice mixes to, well, spice things up.

Are you shocked to read that popcorn is a whole grain? I’m not sure how much more whole a grain could be. Even if you don’t consume the barely-popped kernels the way I do, the snack is a high-fiber, whole grain that is diabetic-friendly since it’s low on the glycemic index.

A note about dry spices sticking to dry popcorn: They don’t stick very well. So if you’re going to add toppings, pop your corn using ghee or vegetable oil. You don’t need much – a thin film on the bottom of your pan is fine, but it will add just enough to the popped kernels to help the spice mixes stick. This is the method I use to pop my corn. I think popcorn is the reason I bought a 4 quart pan with a glass lid. It’s so fun to watch!

Of course if you’re not averse to butter, it’s the best “glue.” If I want a buttery bowl, I melt a little ghee, also called clarified butter, to drizzle on top. Fresh butter has water in it and has the tendency to make your crisp popcorn a bit wet. You can buy clarified butter at any Indian or Iranian grocery store, as well as at many supermarkets.  

I prefer toppings that give me a savory result instead of sugar-laden cinnamon forward toppings, but that’s a personal choice. If you’re into pumpkin spice, try sprinkling some chai masala on your popped corn instead. If you want it sweet, just mix a tablespoon of powdered sugar into the spice you’re going to add to the popcorn. 

Delilah’s fauxritos
This is a bulk recipe because you’ll want to keep it around.


  • ¾ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp hatch chile powder or mild Chile powder
  • 2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1- 2 tbsp pink sea salt
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (optional to add the flame)

Spaghetti corn


  • ¼ - ½ cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Nutritional Yeast (vegan)
  • ½ teaspoon Sun Dried Tomato powder (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon Onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Garlic powder
    ½ teaspoon salt

Everything bagel spice mix
Use your favorite spice blend or make your own.

A mix of red, black and yellow heirloom popcorn kernels. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

What popcorn to buy?

And what popcorn do I prefer? Truthfully I try to avoid GMO popcorn because I’d prefer to support farmers who farm sustainably. Here are some of my favorites:

The Severson family has a small organic farm in Grundy County, Illinois. They grow an heirloom variety called Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored White Popcorn. It doesn’t have butter flavoring but is just rich in flavor from being selected for flavor over many generations of planting.

Black Jewell sources its popcorn varieties from small multi-generation farms that adhere to a protocol of sustainable farming practices. They offer heirloom hulless varieties in white, black, yellow and red kernels. 

My staple popcorn is Rancho Gordo’s Crimson Popping Corn.