JOIN! 12 Weeks for $1

Spiced Butter Popcorn

6 cups

10 minutes

Made This Recipe? Write a Review.
Thank you for submitting your review! A member of our team is confirming the review meets our site's Community Guidelines. It will be posted on the site shortly.

Tarka is an Indian technique that blooms herbs and spices in hot fat, infusing it with bold flavors and aromas while cooking off any raw, harsh notes. The term also refers to the flavorful fat that results from the infusion. We discovered that tarka is an excellent way to season popcorn. The cumin and curry blend in this recipe is bold and savory; if you prefer a mixture of sugar and spice, see the spicy-sweet tarka popcorn alternative below. To make the amount of popcorn called for in these recipes without special equipment, in a large saucepan, combine ⅓ cup popcorn kernels with 1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil. Cover and heat over medium-high until the kernels begin to pop, then reduce to medium and continue to cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the popping slows to 3 to 4 seconds between bursts.

For Spicy-Sweet Tarka Popcorn: Place 6 to 7 cups popcorn in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-high, heat 3 tablespoons butter until almost fully melted. Add 2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, then cook, swirling, until aromatic and the butter is foamy, 30 to 45 seconds. Immediately pour over the popcorn, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and toss. Taste and season with additional salt.




Don't overtoast the spices or their flavor will become bitter. Once the mixture is aromatic and the butter is foamy, it's ready to be drizzled over the popcorn.

10 minutes


  • 6

    to 7 cups popped popcorn (see note)

  • 3

    tablespoons salted butter

Pardon the interruption

You need to be a Milk Street Digital Member to see the full recipe


and get access to all of our recipes and articles online, as well as in print.

How we use your email.

Your email address is required to identify your subscription. We will use it for customer service as well as other communications from Milk Street. We will not share, or rent your email address.

Michele R.

Both the savory and the spicy-sweet option here are yu...mmmmm...y. We cut back the 1 1/2 tsp sat at finish (per instructions) to something less than 1 tsp just for our preference. As modification, sometimes we omit fennel from the savory version and add a big squeeze of fresh lime juice and a little zest to the melted butter at the very end after spices have bloomed. Either of the two original versions hold well for a day at room temp with leftovers to snack on a second day.

Peter Chris S.

Made the savory tonight and my wife and I devoured it. Will definitely make again, and look forward to trying the sweet version.