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I like to consider myself a popcorn connoisseur. Growing up, my family had a movie night each Friday and made popcorn in an old-fashioned popper. My first job was a concession worker at a movie theater making and serving the snack for hours on end. (We were allowed to take massive bags of day-old popcorn home. I’d bring them to sleepovers and birthday parties to the delight of my friends.) Eventually, my family got a carnival-style popper that we still use over a decade later.
I’m fairly adventurous with the treat, too. I’ve had candy-coated popcorn balls, plenty of theme park kettle corn, and even bizarre experimental popcorn flavors, such as Dr. Pepper and white chocolate Oreo. I love trying new varieties, which encouraged me to sample a wide array of popcorn seasonings. Just a few shakes can elevate your popcorn game and make a good snack great. There’s a whole world of flavor out there, from sweet to savory and everything between.
Here are the best popcorn seasonings, according to a taste test.
Best Movie Theater: Tone's Popcorn Seasoning
If you want to recreate movie-watching magic at home, give this popcorn seasoning from Tone’s a starring role. It’s a classic popcorn salt similar to ones that movie theaters use at their concession stands. Just note that a little goes a long way with this brightly colored seasoning. The nostalgic salt and butter taste enhances homemade popcorn in the best way. You can even sprinkle some into the oil before popping your popcorn for added flavor.
Size: 4.23 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Snap | Distribution: Sprinkle opening
“My family has been using Tone’s Popcorn Seasoning for well over 20 years. It’s our go-to choice and it never disappoints. For me, it’s the quintessential, classic seasoning that makes each batch of popcorn incredible.”
Best Cheddar: Kernel Season's White Cheddar Popcorn Seasoning
Cheese and popcorn go hand-in-hand. It’s an iconic flavor combination, which explains why cheesy seasoning is one of the most popular popcorn toppings available. Kernel Season’s White Cheddar seasoning adds a notable zing to the snack, and according to the company, real cheese is used to give this punchy flavor an authentic taste. Kernel Season’s has a number of other cheese-themed seasonings, as well, including nacho cheddar, bacon cheddar, cheesy jalapeño, and even cheesy caramel corn.
Size: 2.85 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Snap | Distribution: Sprinkle opening
“I’m not normally a cheesy seasoning kind of person, but this white cheddar really packed a tangy punch. I kept going back for more handfuls of popcorn.”
Best Ranch: Oh My Spice Zesty Ranch Seasoning
We Americans will really try to “ranch-ify'' anything we can. There’s ranch dressing, ranch chips, and even ranch-flavored soda, so it should come as no surprise that ranch seasoning exists—and for good reason. Oh My Spice’s Zesty Ranch Seasoning lives up to its “zesty” title and tastes just like the fan-favorite salad dressing. Just be sure to use a little bit at a time to build up to your preferred flavor potency because this is quite strong. Oh My Spice has a wealth of seasonings to try, such as lemon pepper dill, garlic lovers, pizza, and sriracha lime. Of course, any of these seasonings can go on more than just popcorn. Try it on chicken, pizza, baked potatoes, salads, or anything you want.
Size: 4.8 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Snap | Distribution: Sprinkle opening
“Wow. This seasoning is just bursting with ranchy flavor. I licked up the excess powder on the bottom of my bowl when I’d finished the popcorn.”
Best Bacon: J&D's Bacon Salt
“Everything should taste like bacon” is the slogan of this tasty seasoning. It’s a great salt for flavoring omelets, grilled veggies, and, of course, popcorn. The taste is a good balance of smoky and salty with plenty of bacon goodness. Despite its namesake and flavor, the seasoning itself is actually kosher certified. According to J&D, the bacon salt is also vegetarian, all natural, and has 0 calories per serving. It’s a nice option for those with dietary restrictions or those who just really enjoy bacon.
Size: 2 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Snap | Distribution: Sprinkle opening
“I’m a sucker for bacon, and this salt exceeded my expectations. It’s so wonderfully smoky. I can’t wait to try this on more than just popcorn. Maybe it will get me to actually like salads.”
Best Spicy: Frank's RedHot Original Seasoning Blend
Want to add a bit of spice to your popcorn? Frank’s RedHot makes a seasoning blend that offers a good balance of flavor and spiciness. It’s a delicious blend of spices and herbs, including cayenne pepper, garlic, and paprika. Beyond just popcorn, it pairs well with fries, burgers, hummus, and is great for buffalo chicken dip. Frank’s RedHot has a whole lineup of spicy flavors, including buffalo ranch, chile n’ lime, and stingin’ honey garlic.
Size: 4.12 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Snap | Distribution: Sprinkle and scoop openings
“As someone with a low spice tolerance, I was surprised at how much I genuinely loved this seasoning blend. It had a great flavor and enough kick to feel the burn without being painful.”
Best Caramel: Wabash Valley Farms Sweet Caramel Popcorn Seasoning
Caramel popcorn is a delightful treat, though it’s a bit tricky (and quite messy) to make at home. If you want the flavor without the hassle, try the caramel seasoning by Wabash Valley Farms. It’s definitely on the sweeter side, but it has a nice caramel flavor to balance it out. Wabash Valley Farms has a whole suite of popcorn seasonings to try, including sea salt and cracked pepper, movie theater, French toast, and homestyle biscuits and gravy.
Size: 3.7 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Snap | Distribution: Sprinkle and scoop openings
“Though you may need to season your popcorn with a heavy hand to get the full flavor of the sweet caramel, it’s totally worth it.”
Best Birthday Cake: Kernel Season's Birthday Cake Popcorn Seasoning
For its 20th anniversary, Kernel Season’s put out a special birthday cake-flavored popcorn seasoning. It’s a great option for those who prefer sweeter toppings on their popcorn. It tastes just like a Funfetti cupcake, so it may go without saying, but this seasoning is both nostalgic and delicious. The packaging recommends trying the birthday cake seasoning on pancakes, yogurt, and toast.
Size: 3 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Snap | Distribution: Sprinkle opening
“I’ll admit, I had my doubts about this flavor, but it ended up being one of my favorites. It totally evokes memories of birthday cupcakes and childhood parties. Sprinkle this on some popcorn during family movie nights; the kids will love it.”
Best Sour Cream and Onion: Pork King Good Onion & Sour Cream Seasoning
Normally in the legendary duo, sour cream is introduced before onion, but this seasoning introduces the onion first because there’s a heavier emphasis on the onion flavor, and therefore it gets top billing. Pork King Good is known for bold flavors, which show in other seasonings, such as pink Himalayan salt and vinegar, smoky jalapeño and cheese, and taco seasoning—all of which are keto-friendly, paleo-friendly, and gluten free, according to the brand.
Size: 2.75 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Snap | Distribution: Sprinkle and spoon openings
“I found this onion and sour cream seasoning incredibly flavorful, but not overpowering. It’s definitely onion-forward and will leave you with potent breath, but it’s a trade-off I’m happy to take.”
Best Kettle Corn: Urban Accents Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn Seasoning
A staple of state fairs and circuses, kettle corn is a tasty balance of salty and sweet. If you’re craving that carnival confection, Urban Accents has a seasoning that can flavor your popcorn with the same old-fashioned taste. Urban Accents has a number of other flavors available, too—including sizzling sriracha, cracked pepper Asiago, and white cheddar.
Size: 2.75 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Snap | Distribution: Sprinkle opening
“I’ve eaten a ton of kettle corn at fun fairs, and it’s astounding how much this seasoning tastes like the real thing.”
Best Gourmet: Sabatino Tartufi Truffle Zest Seasoning
Black truffles are a delicacy that can bring rich, complex flavors to any dish, including popcorn. Sabatino Tartufi’s Truffle Zest Seasoning is made in Italy using real summer black truffles. It’s a versatile seasoning that can go on gourmet dishes, like soups and pastas, as well as everyday snacks, like fries and popcorn.
Size: 1.76 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Screw-top | Distribution: Sprinkle opening
“For the truffle lovers, this seasoning is a must have. It has a deep, rich flavor without being overwhelming. That said, the scent is pretty pungent. I had to seal my bottle up in a baggie to keep it from dominating my spice cabinet.”
Best Variety Pack: Kernel Season's Popcorn Seasoning Mini Jars Variety Pack
Kernel Season’s is a titan of the popcorn world. If you want to try a bunch of seasonings while keeping things affordable, we recommend the Mini Jars Variety Pack, which features eight delicious flavors: nacho cheddar, butter, cheesy jalapeño, kettle corn, bacon cheddar, white cheddar, caramel corn, and ranch. Once you’ve tried each kind, try mixing and matching the flavors to find your favorite combinations.
Size: 0.88 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Snap | Distribution: Sprinkle opening
“Each and every one of these is a winner in my book. However, I found the butter seasoning to be my personal favorite. It was an excellent balance of salty and buttery with just a hint of sweetness. The bacon cheddar was a very close second, though.”
Best Novelty Set: Spiceology Popcorn Seasoning Variety Pack
There are definitely some interesting popcorn seasoning flavors out there. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, the Spiceology Popcorn Seasoning Variety Pack has six different flavors to try. Some are more conventional (truffle parmesan and jalapeño popper), while others are slightly more creative (blue cheese buffalo, s’mores, pizza, and apple cinnamon). This set is anything but boring and bland.
Size: 2.5 ounces per bottle | Lid Type: Rotating | Distribution: Sprinkle, spout, and scoop openings
“This variety pack gave my tastebuds whiplash in the best way. The blue cheese buffalo seasoning definitely brought the heat, while the apple cinnamon was both sweet and strangely sour. The s’mores seasoning had a fun chocolate and marshmallow taste that reminded me of childhood cereals.”
What to Look for in Popcorn Seasoning
The most important thing about a popcorn seasoning is the flavor. It’s meant to enhance the overall taste of popcorn, after all. There are classic options, such as butter, cheddar, or caramel, but also varieties that add a tasty twist, including birthday cake, bacon, or ranch. If you can think of a flavor, someone has probably made a popcorn seasoning of it.
Are you a fan of in-your-face flavor, or do you prefer a subtler taste? Popcorn seasonings can vary in the strength of their flavors. While you’ll have some control over the intensity depending how much seasoning you put on your popcorn, some flavors are naturally more overpowering than others. Be sure to check some of the reviews before purchasing a seasoning to see if other customers have flavor intensity feedback.
In general, popcorn seasoning isn’t all that expensive. That said, it’s still nice to get a good value from your purchase. Price can depend a lot on the amount of seasoning in the bottle, the rarity or quality of ingredients, brand reputation, and even the type of flavor. For example, a small 1-ounce bottle of butter seasoning will be notably less expensive than a 3-ounce bottle of Italian black truffle seasoning. Ultimately, the overall value of a seasoning depends on the person buying it. Just keep in mind that even a little bit of seasoning can last you a while.
How do I get popcorn seasoning to stick?
The tricky thing about seasoning is getting it to stick to the popcorn itself. You might find a lot of excess powder at the bottom of the bowl when you’re done. One popular option for making sure seasoning sticks is simply melting butter and adding it to your popcorn first. Some might prefer the convenience of spray butter since just a few spritzes can cover and flavor your snack and get salt or seasoning to stick. You can even spray neutral-tasting cooking oils, like olive or vegetable oil, in your bowl.
What kind of popcorn should I season?
You can season any kind of popcorn you want, whether that’s homemade stovetop popcorn, microwave popcorn, store-bought bags of pre-popped kernels, or movie theater popcorn. Whatever you want to enhance, the seasoning will help.
Can I make my own popcorn seasoning?
Absolutely! Though store-bought seasonings are convenient and often have flavors you may not easily find in your pantry, making your own can be a lot of fun (not to mention you get to control the flavor). Popcorn seasoning recipes can be as simple as combining a few spice ingredients, while others might require a spice grinder to make a fine powder.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Allison Wignall has over two decades worth of popcorn-related experience. She made hundreds of batches while working at a movie theater and hundreds more at home for family and friends. Her favorite snack by far, Allison takes her popcorn very seriously and sampled every seasoning included in this roundup. Her work has been featured in publications, such as Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and Southern Living.