Sweet + Spicy Popcorn with Chili Oil

Difficulty Easy

Make homemade popcorn with an irresistible, spicy-sweet twist: Sweet and Spicy Popcorn with Chili Oil! Add your favorite chili oil and some sugar to the kernels while cooking. As the popcorn pops, it will take on an infused spicy-sweet flavor. Drizzle more chili oil on top for added heat. YUM!

Sweet + Spicy Popcorn with Chili Oil

A movie night recipe that’s irresistible and easy: Sweet and Spicy Popcorn with Chili Oil!

The bold flavor of chili oil adds a rich, spicy profile to homemade popcorn. In this recipe, chili oil is used twice — at the beginning of the cooking process so the kernels are infused with aromatic chili oil while they cook. And at the end, when more chili oil (or crisp) is drizzled on top of the fluffy, fully-popped popcorn.

Drizzle with homemade chili oil or your favorite store-bought brand. A little bit of sugar lends a kettle corn vibe and balances the flavor for the perfect blend of sweetness and heat. The fiery, intense flavors of chili oil work well an unexpected popcorn seasoning.

Sweet and Spicy Popcorn with Chili Oil is a crowd-pleasing party favorite! An easy-to-make recipe that needs to be on your popcorn-making night repertoire!

Ingredients:

  • Popcorn Kernels. You’ll need plain popcorn kernels vs microwavable bags of popcorn. Yellow popcorn kernels can be found in the snack aisle at any grocery store. You can also find white kernels at Bulk stores, which are especially delicious.
  • Chili Oil. Use your favorite chili oil or chili crisp. I like locally made, small-batch Da Jiu Jiu chili oil or my own homemade Chinese Chili Oil recipe. You’ll need to use both the oil and the chili crisp on the bottom. FYI, chili oils all vary in their intensity and spiciness so you will get different results, depending on the kind of chili oil that’s used.
  • Cooking Oil. Any neutral-tasting cooking oil with a high smoke point works. I recommend grapeseed oil or avocado oil. But regular vegetable or canola oil will work, too. Do not use olive oil or sesame oil, as they will smoke and burn in this recipe.
  • Sugar. A little bit of sugar adds balance to all that spicy heat from the chili oil. When heated, the sugar will melt and caramelize to provide a slightly crunchy finish. Similar to Kettle Corn Popcorn, the final texture is crunchy and sweet!
  • Salt. Finely ground sea salt or kosher salt will stick to the popcorn. Season to taste and make sure to sprinkle all over while the popcorn is hot! The heat will help the salt stick and adhere better.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the pan. A well-heated pan ensures fluffy, well-popped popcorn that’s not burned. Heat a heavy bottom cooking pot or skillet over medium heat. Wait until it’s hot, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add cooking oil, chili oil, sugar, and popcorn kernels. When the pan is hot, add the chili oil and cooking oil to the middle of the cooking pan. Sprinkle the sugar on top of the oil. Add the kernels. Work quickly and be careful of splatter.
  3. Pop! Cover with a lid. Gently shake so the kernels are coated in the oils and sugar. When the kernels start popping, continue to shake the pan occasionally. Turn off the heat when the popping sound slows down (about 10 seconds between pops) or stops completely.
  4. Season with salt. Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl. Add salt to taste and mix with a generous sprinkle of salt, so it’s evenly distributed. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if you prefer.
  5. Drizzle with more chili oil. Optional but highly recommended — add a drizzle of chili oil on top. Mix well with a spoon and enjoy!

Watch how to make it:

PRO Tips:

  • Use a heavy-bottomed cooking pot. A thick, heavy-bottomed cooking pot or skillet will evenly distribute the heat. If using a thin pan, the popcorn can burn and scorch on one side of the pan while remaining uncooked on the other. I like to use a 14-inch heavy-bottom skillet with a glass lid. But I’ve also made this in a heavy-bottom stock pot (5 quarts) successfully.
  • Spread kernels into one layer. Make sure that the cooking pot is big enough that all the kernels can spread out easily into one layer. The popcorn will expand enormously as it pops!
  • Keep the lid closed. A tight-fitting lid is essential! It keeps the heat inside for more fluffy popcorn and prevents kernels from popping out of the pot. I like a glass lid so you can watch it pop but any lid will work. Some people recommend setting the lid slightly ajar so steam can escape. But the popcorn pops so quickly, I find this unnecessary. It will not get soggy.
  • Shake the pot! For evenly popped popcorn, shake the pot! The light, fluffy popcorn will rise to the top while the heavy kernels fall to the bottom so they can be popped.
  • Transfer immediately. Once it’s finished popping, IMMEDIATELY transfer to a large bowl. The residual heat of the cooking pot will continue to heat the sugar and popcorn, resulting in burned or scorched popcorn.

Variations:

  • Herbs. Infuse the chili oil with your choice of dried herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, or oregano. This will give the popcorn a savory and aromatic twist.
  • Sesame. Sprinkle with toasted ground sesame seeds on top. Combining spicy chili oil and nutty sesame seeds will add a delicious, nutty twist.
  • Cheese. Add a sprinkle of Parmesan to the popcorn before drizzling with chili oil. Toss until the cheese melts and coats the kernels, creating a spicy and cheesy delight.
  • Furikake. For more umami flavor, sprinkle Furikake on top. Furikake is a Japanese condiment combining bits of nori with bonito flakes, sugar, sesame seeds, and other seasonings.

FAQ:

How do I store leftovers?

Leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 5 days. Make sure it’s completely cool.

Can I adjust the level of spiciness in the popcorn?

Yes, the heat level is adjustable. For less spicy popcorn, add less chili oil. For 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels, I recommend a total of 3 Tbsp of oil. The combination of regular cooking oil PLUS chili oil will infuse the kernels with maximum flavor and heat while keeping the kernels fluffy and crisp.

  • For bold spicy flavor: 1 Tbsp regular cooking oil + 2 Tbsp chili oil
  • For subtle spicy flavor that’s less intense: 2 Tbsp regular cooking oil + 1 Tbsp chili oil
Can I use microwave popcorn for this recipe?

Microwave popcorn is not preferred, as the kernels must be coated with chili oil to develop their full flavor. Although you could add a drizzle of chili oil at the end, it won’t taste quite the same!

More snack recipes:

Serve with drinks:

small gold bowl filled with spicy popcorn with chili oil on the side

Sweet and Spicy Popcorn with Chili Oil

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
Make homemade popcorn with an irresistible, spicy-sweet twist: Sweet and Spicy Popcorn with Chili Oil! Add your favorite chili oil and some sugar to the kernels while cooking. As the popcorn pops, it will take on an infused spicy-sweet flavor. Drizzle more chili oil on top for a unique popcorn snack that's so delicious! YUM!
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Appetizer, Party Food, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 193 kcal

Equipment

  • Heavy bottom pot or large skillet with a lid
  • Large Bowl

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup/ 110 grams popcorn kernels
  • 2 Tbsp chili oil (*see notes for how to adjust spicy level) plus extra for the end
  • 1 Tbsp neutral or regular cooking oil grapeseed oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • salt to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the pan. A well-heated pan ensures fluffy, well-popped popcorn that's not burned. Heat a heavy bottom cooking pot or skillet over medium heat. Wait until it's hot, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add chili oil, cooking oil, sugar, and popcorn kernels. When the pan is hot but not smoking, add the chili oil and cooking oil into the middle of the cooking pan. Carefully sprinkle the sugar on top of the oil. Next, add the popcorn kernels. Work quickly and be careful of splatter.
  • Pop the popcorn! Cover with a lid. Gently shake the pot so the kernels are coated in the oils and sugar. When the kernels start popping, continue to shake the pan from time to time. When the popping sound slows down so there's 10 seconds between pops or stops completely, turn off the heat.
  • Season with salt. Transfer the popcorn into a large bowl. Add salt to taste and mix the popcorn kernels with a generous sprinkle of salt, so it's evenly distributed. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if your prefer.
  • Drizzle with more chili oil. Optional but highly recommended — add a drizzle of chili oil (just the crisp that's on the bottom, preferably) on top of the popped popcorn. Mix well with a spoon and enjoy!

Video

Notes

*To adjust the spicy level, adjust the proportion of chili oil to cooking oil. For 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels, I recommend a total of 3 Tbsp of oil. The combination of regular cooking oil PLUS chili oil will infuse the kernels with maximum flavor and heat while keeping the kernels fluffy and crisp. A guideline:
    • For bold spicy flavor: 1 Tbsp regular cooking oil + 2 Tbsp chili oil
    • For subtle spicy flavor that’s less intense: 2 Tbsp regular cooking oil + 1 Tbsp chili oil
**Leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 5 days. Make sure the popcorn is completely cool.
PRO Tips:
    • Use a heavy bottom cooking pot. A thick, heavy-bottomed cooking pot or skillet will evenly distribute the heat. If using a thin pan, the popcorn can burn and scorch on one side of the pan while remaining uncooked on the other. I like to use a 14-inch heavy-bottom skillet with a glass lid. But I’ve also made this in a heavy-bottom stock pot (5 quarts) with great success.
    • Spread popcorn kernels into one layer. Make sure that the cooking pot is big enough that all the kernels can spread out easily into one layer. The popcorn will expand enormously as it pops!
    • Keep the lid closed. A tight-fitting lid is essential! It keeps the heat inside for more fluffy popcorn and prevents kernels from popping out of the pot. I like a glass lid so you can watch the popcorn pop but any lid will work. Some people recommend setting the lid slightly ajar so steam can escape. But the popcorn pops so quickly, I find this unnecessary. The popcorn will not get soggy.
    • Shake the pot! For evenly popped popcorn, shake the pot! The light, fluffy popcorn will rise to the top while the heavy kernels fall to the bottom so they can be popped.
    • Transfer popcorn immediately. Once the Spicy Popcorn has finished popping, IMMEDIATELY transfer to a large bowl. The residual heat of the cooking pot will continue to heat the sugar and popcorn, resulting in burned or scorched popcorn.

Nutrition

Calories: 193kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 2gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0.01gSodium: 2mgPotassium: 56mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gCalcium: 1mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Chili Oil, Spicy Popcorn
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
15 minutes, All Recipes, Asian, Featured, Game Day Food, Snacks

2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    this is breathtaking just imagining the delightful crunch of the popcorn followed by the burst of sweetness and the heat from the chilli oil will make your day I am so sure of it

  2. 5 stars
    The combination of sweet and spicy flavours is a match made in snack heaven and the idea of drizzling chilli oil over freshly popped popcorn is pure genius

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