Move Aside, Kettle Corn—Peanut Butter Popcorn Has Arrived

Move Aside, Kettle Corn—Peanut Butter Popcorn Has Arrived

Kettle corn is one of the most famous representatives of the irresistible sweet-and-salty flavor combination. No one’s arguing how good the stuff is—its dueling flavors playfully argue in every bite—but kettle corn is not your only sweet-and-salty option. For a fail-proof and delectable twist on the classic snack, stir up a bowl of peanut butter popcorn. 

Initially, when I researched other recipes for peanut butter popcorn I kept seeing a thick, sticky, caramel-like coating. Some recipes used corn syrup or honey to create a sweet coating. While I support that corn, this isn’t what I want. I like popcorn for its mindless munchability. Pouring it into a loose mound and snapping a couple crunchy clouds while I watch a movie. A sticky, molar clinging, peanut-flavored caramel is rarely my mood.

So I developed a simple, light, non-sticky peanut butter coating. It ended up being so easy that it’s hard to believe more steps aren’t needed. Making the coating requires no special skills, no thermometers, no need to mix a bubbling invert sugar goo, and it takes mere seconds to make. If you like peanut butter even a little bit, this popcorn is for you. 

Air poppers to consider:

How to make Peanut Butter Popcorn

1. Make your popcorn as you like it

This works with air popped, microwaved, or stove-top popcorn. I’m a huge fan of microwave popcorn, so I popped a single bag and poured it into a large bowl. Set it aside for a moment. 

2. Make the peanut butter coating

In a large stock pot, melt a small amount of butter, about a tablespoon or two, over low heat. (The recipe below gives your more accurate measurements, but you can adjust it to taste.) Add a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of powdered sugar, and peanut butter. You can use regular peanut butter or peanut powder. Stir the mixture with a spoon until smooth and turn off the heat.

Stirring the peanut powder into the melted butter.
Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

The melted butter will help loosen up the coating so it clings to more kernels, and you’ll need to adjust the amount depending on what type or peanut ingredient you’re using. Peanut powder requires about a tablespoon more butter than regular peanut butter does. And while peanut butter is naturally oily, it’s not enough to turn into a sauce on its own. If you see your sauce is still too thick, add a smidge more butter and see if that helps thin it out. 

3. Stir in the popcorn

Now add the popcorn. This is why a large pot is best. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon, scraping along the bottom and corners of the pot. After about 10 to 15 complete turns and tosses, the popcorn should be evenly coated, and you won’t see much peanut butter residue at the bottom. Return it to the bowl and serve.

This popcorn is nutty, crunchy, salty, and finishes with a balancing sweetness from the powdered sugar. As a happy surprise, the coating isn’t sticky. I fully expected the peanut paste to gum up on my fingers, but the saturated fats only take a few minutes to cool down to room temperature and stiffen up. It’s just enough to keep your fingers clean.

Below are measurements for both peanut powder (I used PB2) and regular natural peanut butter. I used smooth peanut butter, but why not try chunky peanut butter for more textural interest? If I had had whole peanuts, I would have added a handful. 

Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Popcorn Recipe


For peanut butter powder

  • 1 bag microwave popcorn, popped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoon peanut butter powder
  • 3 tablespoon powder sugar 
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 

For smooth peanut butter

  • 1 bag microwave popcorn, popped
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 2 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For either variation: In a large stock pot, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in the peanut butter ingredient along with the powdered sugar and salt. Once it’s smooth, turn off the heat. Add the popcorn and stir, scraping the sauce at the bottom, until the popcorn is evenly coated. Pour into a bowl and serve. The popcorn will stay crunchy even after a couple hours at room temperature.

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