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How to improve the ultimate simple snack? Flavor the fat

Spiced Butter Popcorn

10 minutes

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Spiced Butter Popcorn

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


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