Flavoring popcorn with dry seasonings is easy—you just shake ‘em on. But there are a lot of flavors that live outside of that realm. These flavors come in the form of sauces, and some of them are pretty good on popcorn too.
But drizzling, dripping, or otherwise pouring liquid flavoring agents directly onto a big bowl of fresh and fluffy popcorn turns it into a big bowl of unevenly flavored, soggy popcorn, which is not what you want. To disperse your saucy flavoring of choice evenly and effectively, you have to whisk it with butter first.
By emulsifying your sauce with butter (or a vegan butter substitute), you’ll be able to distribute it throughout the entire bowl, without inadvertently creating soggy spots. We’ve used this technique before to make soy sauce butter and fish sauce butter, but it works with pretty much any sauce or liquid flavoring agent. Hot sauce is a good one—there are so many hot sauces to try!—but my new favorite is maple syrup, which reads like a sweet and salty, low-effort kettle corn (without the kettle corn texture, obviously).
To sauce your popcorn, melt two tablespoons of butter or butter substitute in small pan over medium-low heat, or cut it up and zap it in the microwave in 5-second bursts, stirring in-between, until it’s fully melted. Add a teaspoon of your sauce of choice to the butter and whisk it in with a fork. (You can scale up if needed, depending on how much popcorn you’re making.) Taste by dipping a piece of popcorn in your mixture and add more sauce if needed, making sure to whisk with each addition to form a homogenous mixture with the butter. Drizzle over your popcorn and toss to coat, then figure out which sauce and butter combination you’d like to try next. I highly recommend the aforementioned fish sauce, soy sauce, maple syrup, and hot sauce, but raid your condiment stash and get creative. You can also combine sauces—maple hot sauce butter sounds pretty exquisite, in my not so humble opinion.