Black Pepper Olive Oil + Parmesan Popcorn

Difficulty Easy

Dig into a big, fluffy bowl of infinitely snackable Black Pepper Olive Oil + Parmesan Popcorn!

After a year of lockdown living, I’ve come to appreciate the virtues of a most humble snack: POPCORN!

Popcorn is a whole grain food, made in one pot, and familiar enough that everyone loves it. Plus, it’s highly customizable. Any flavor combination tastes good with popcorn.

I’ve happily experimented with different flavors all year. But my hands-down favorite is Black Pepper Olive Oil + Parmesan Popcorn.

A friend called it Cacio E Pepe Popcorn and that’s exactly the flavor profile!

Unusual? Maybe. Addictive? Definitely!

Pebbly chunks of black pepper, crushed into oblivion. Good olive oil, to keep things slick and rich. And a generous handful of parmesan, for that indulgently sharp and salty bite.

A unexpected combination that’s equal parts salty, peppery, and floral. If you prefer savory over sweet, this popcorn is calling your name!


Black peppercorns. Grind down black peppercorns to dust with a mortar and pestle. The intense, peppery flavor is so good! I love the dusky fragragrance and slightly nubby texture.

Extra virgin olive oil. Good olive oil makes all the difference. Use a fruity, floral olive oil to balance the pepper.

Parmesan. There is no comparison to real Parmesan Cheese. Freshly grated, real parmesan cheese takes this popcorn to another level. You can use the pregrated kind found in a plastic can but it won’t taste the same.

Finely ground salt. Kosher, mineral, or sea salt all work. But the salt needs to be finely ground, to cling to individual kernels. My suggestion is to add salt gradually, to taste. Similar to potatoes, popcorn requires more salt than you think. But once oversalted, it’s hard to adjust.


How to Pop Perfect Popcorn:

If you’re not popping popcorn on the stovetop, it’s time to start! Stovetop Popcorn is healthier and more affordable than the microwave kind.

Here’s a few tips for the perfect stovetop popcorn.

  1. Stainless steel works best. Stainless steel evenly distributes heat. If the pot gets too hot, the kernels will burn. If the pot doesn’t get hot enough, the kernels will pop into small, hard nuggets. (Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens also work great for even heat distribution. But I’ve found them heavy and cumbersome — shaking the pot takes more effort and it’s not as easy to empty popcorn into a bowl.)
  2. Use a large pot, preferably with a glass lid. Popped popcorn expands enormously! You will need a larger pot than you think. Also, if you have a glass lid — it’s fun to watch the popcorn pop, although not totally necessary.
  3. Heat on medium. Don’t be tempted to use high heat! You’ll end up with burnt kernels. Use medium heat and wait (patiently) for the pot to get hot enough.
  4. Don’t skimp on the oil. The kernels need oil to pop into fluffy, light kernels. The bare minimum is 2 Tbsp for 1/2 cup of kernels.
  5. Shake the pot. When the popcorn starts popping, shake the pot! All the unpopped kernels will sink to the bottom while the popped kernels rise to the top. Shaking the pot will ensure even popping.
  6. Transfer popcorn immediately. Once the popcorn is done, transfer to a serving bowl. Time is of the essence! Even residual heat from the pot can scorch popcorn.
  7. Season warm popcorn. Add the seasonings and spices while the popcorn is still warm. Everything sticks better.
close up of parmesan popcorn with black pepper

Black Pepper Olive Oil + Parmesan Popcorn

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
Dig into a big, fluffy bowl of infinitely snackable Black Pepper Olive Oil + Parmesan Popcorn!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 4 as a snack


  • Stainless Steel Pot
  • Mortar and Pestle (or ziploc baggie and rolling pin)


  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (any neutral kind works)
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp black peppercorns (2 tsp for strong pepper flavor, 1 tsp for milder pepper flavor)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • finely ground salt, to taste


  • Prep the seasonings: finely grate the parmesan cheese, bash the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle to dust, and place the extra virgin olive oil and salt on the counter. Also, take out a large serving bowl and mixing spoon. (If you don't have a mortar and pestle, bash the peppercorns in a ziploc baggie with a rolling pin until evenly ground. A few chunky pieces are OK.)
    wedge of parmesan cheese with grater next to salt cellar
  • Heat oil in a large stainless steel pot over medium heat. Be patient! It will take a few minutes. Once you see a few wisps of smoke, it's ready. (If there's a lot of smoke, it's too hot; remove from heat and cool.)
  • Add the kernels and cover tightly with the lid. Shake the pan to evenly coat the kernels with oil. Wait for the popcorn to start popping.
  • When the popcorn starts popping, shake the pot and slide back and forth over the burner. All the unpopped kernels will sink to the bottom while the popped kernels rise to the top. Shaking the pot will ensure even popping! The popcorn is done when popping slows down to several seconds between pops. Remove from heat and dump popcorn into a large serving bowl.
  • Add parmesan cheese and ground peppercorns. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss immediately with serving spoon. Add salt to taste, mixing well between each sprinkle. When ready to serve, add a little extra parmesan cheese and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top. Enjoy!
    white bowl of parmesan popcorn with black pepper
Keyword Black peper, olive oil, parmesan, Popcorn
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

More snack inspiration:

Salted Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
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Spicy Sweet Potato Fries + Chipotle Aioli
plate of sweet potato fries with aioli in small bowl
15 minutes, All Recipes, Game Day Food, Potluck, Snacks

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