I watch a lot of movies. I’ve even started keep track of them all with the Letterboxd app. And yeah, I do love the movies themselves, but you want to know a secret? The driving force that compels me to go to see something in the theater (as opposed to at home) is the prospect of eating movie theater POPCORN. Yes, it’s overpriced. Yes, it’s full of crap and loaded with fat and calories. Yes, IT IS DELICIOUS.
As long as it’s not air-popped, I love popcorn so much that I would say it’s my favorite food (right after bagels, of course). It’s definitely my favorite snack! I make it at home at least a few times a week, and until recently, I’ve almost always gone with a variation on my maple pepper popcorn recipe. You know, kernels popped in coconut oil with something sprinkled on top. AND THAT’S FINE! It’s all yummy!
But…what if I could make movie theater popcorn at home? For a long time, I didn’t want to find out how to do it. I think I was subconsciously afraid that I’d find out there’s something really, really bad in movie theater popcorn, or that there was some kind of super-bacteria living in the theater popcorn troughs waiting to kill me, and frankly, I would just rather not know. If my time comes as I’m devouring jumbo tub with my feet on a sticky floor while I’m watching a Jim Jarmusch movie, then that’s just what fate intended for me.
One day, though, I was waiting for a bag of popcorn at Target in Albuquerque (I also love Target popcorn, and it’s a grave disappointment that the Target in Santa Fe doesn’t have a cafe—SOB), and the cabinet under their popper was open. Inside were dozens of orange milk box-style cartons emblazoned with the name FLAVACOL. Intrigued, I discretely snapped a picture and made a mental note to look up this mysterious product at home.
Friends, trust me when I say that Flavacol is nothing short of fluorescent orange MAGICAL POWDER. It’s ultra-fine salt, artificial flavors, and a bunch of artificial colors, and what it does to popcorn is nothing short of a miracle. THIS is what the movie theaters use. And Target. And probably Jiffy Lube (I am 10x more likely to use businesses that have free popcorn in their waiting area, so thanks for the snacks and the fluid changes, Jiffy Lube!).
Now, you don’t put it in a shaker and sprinkle it on top of popcorn. That’s important. You mix it in with the kernels and the oil while they’re heating up in the pot (or popper, if you’re fancy). Every piece of popcorn winds up coated in the most delicious layer of salty, buttery, movie theater-worthy, totally addictive goodness. Is the orange dye toxic? Maybe. Do I care? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ *SNACK*SNACK*SNACK*
It took me a little while to figure out the right amount to use, and here’s how it works out with my longtime kernel-oil ratio:
Movie Theater Popcorn (vegan)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 tsp Flavacol
In a small pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Pour in the popcorn kernels and Flavacol, stir to combine, and put the lid on. Get excited when the corn starts to pop, but listen carefully—when you hear that there are more than 2 seconds between pops, turn the heat off. Pour the popcorn into a big bowl! Enjoy as-is, or add butter (I love Miyoko’s on popcorn), cashew Parmesan, maple pepper, or whatever else you love on popcorn!
I ordered my carton from Amazon for ~$8, and it will probably last me for the rest of my life. There are other sellers online (mostly food service suppliers) who have it for $2-5, but none of them are businesses I’m familiar with, so I don’t have a recommendation. If you’re an absolute freak (which I totally respect), you can get a 12-pack from Sam’s Club for $25.
p.s. Enjoy your popcorn while you watch “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.” It was one of the best movies of 2019, and it’s streaming on lots of services.