This Build Your Own Popcorn Bar is the perfect way to entertain! Let guests pick and choose their own toppings at your next party.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Plain popcorn – you can make fresh popcorn with kernels, use microwavable popcorn or buy some pre-made popcorn.
- Butter – vegan butter, melted coconut oil or spray oil work as great alternatives.
- Citrus zest – dried citrus peels can work well. Using lemon pepper seasoning, a few drops of citrus juice, citrus extracts or even candied peels can offer a similar taste to citrus zests.
- Hot sauce – any flavour can work. You can also use spices like chili powder, chili flakes or paprika for a different way of incorporating some heat.
- Shredded cheese – nutritional yeast is a great substitute for any type of shredded cheese. You can also use dehydrated or dried cheese to sprinkle on top.
- Spice rubs – any flavours or spices can work. You can make your own or used store-bought blends. Using bought seasonings packets like taco or fajita seasoning, BBQ seasoning, ranch seasonings, etc. all work great as well.
- Shredded coconut – coconut flakes are great, too. Using ground nuts, like almonds, pecans, walnuts or pistachios, can give a similar texture and a great taste!
- Caramel/chocolate sauce – chocolate/caramel syrups can work, as well as melted chocolate, hazelnut spread or peanut butter. You can even drop some chocolate or butterscotch chips into your popcorn, too!
- Chili powder – paprika or cayenne powder are both great substitutes.
- Red chili flakes – chili powder, cayenne pepper, and chipotle powder can all be used as substitutions.
- Garlic powder – you can also use garlic salt to replace both the garlic powder and salt, if desired.
- Onion powder – dried onion flakes, onion salt or chopped chives can all work well.
- Zaatar spice – mixing ground thyme, oregano, cumin, and coriander can be used to make this spice mix.
- Kraft Dinner dried cheese mix – any boxed mac and cheese mix can work. Using white cheddar or sharp cheddar mixes are great options, too.
How to make a popcorn bar
- Pop the popcorn.
- Melt the butter.
- Mix in the seasonings.
- Lay out any toppings.
- Toss the popcorn and dig in!
Setting up your popcorn bar
Making a popcorn bar is a simple yet thoughtful way to allow your guests and friends to customize their own snack, as well as help themselves to whatever, whenever they want. Once you’ve prepped all your toppings and popped the popcorn, setting up the bar requires nothing more than some seasoning, serving bowls, some spoons and your popcorn-serving containers.
Put each seasoning option into a separate bowl and lay a couple of spoons out. You can serve your popcorn in anything you want to! Whether it's in a bag, a bowl or a vintage popcorn bucket, any container will work. For the butter, you can also offer different options for anyone with dietary restrictions and have them prepared in a serving bowl, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Looking for popcorn bar ideas? The options are endless when it comes to what to put on your popcorn bar. I like providing as many options as possible so my guests can pick and choose what they want!
I find that freshly-popped popcorn using kernels is best (and also has the least calories). If you don’t have any fresh kernels, you can use microwave popcorn or even store-bought bags of pre-made popcorn for your popcorn bar.
If you're planning to make your popcorn or put the popcorn out in advance, try to keep it in a container that can be sealed, like a popcorn tin or a regular container with a sealable lid. This will help keep your popcorn bar fresh. Another option is to freshly pop your kernels just before serving. This is the best way to keep popcorn as fresh as possible when being served.
Storing and reheating
As mentioned above, I suggest storing your popcorn and popcorn bar toppings in sealed containers to make sure nothing gets stale. When your popcorn is ready to be eaten, you can cover the bowl or container with plastic wrap or a slightly dampened paper towel and microwave it for about 30 to 40 seconds. This will reheat and bring moisture back into the popcorn and is a great way to revive any leftovers. Once your popcorn is warm again, add your toppings then serve!
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Build Your Own Popcorn Bar!
- 3 bags plain popcorn
Extra topping ideas
- Lime wedges/citrus zest
- Sriracha or hot sauce
- Shredded cheese (parmesan, cheddar, Swiss, etc)
- Spice rubs
- Shredded coconut
- Caramel/chocolate sauce
Chili Lime Popcorn Seasoning
- 1/2 cup chili powder
- 2 tbsp lime zest
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
- 1/2 tsp salt
Garlic Parmesan Popcorn Seasoning
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
Zaatar Spiced Popcorn Seasoning
- 1/2 cup zaatar spice
- 1 tsp garlic or onion powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
Mac n Cheese Popcorn Seasoning
- 1 package Kraft Dinner dried cheese mix
- Pop your popcorn, melt some butter and then mix in your seasonings of choice, tossing well to combine. Serve and enjoy!