Hot Sauce On Popcorn? A PepperScale Primer

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It’s a pure spicy snacking win…

Hot sauce on popcorn? It’s not the combination you first think of when pulling out that microwave bag or kernels for the stovetop, but it has a long tradition and an impassioned fan base. Hey, Nick Cannon has expressed his love for this combo on Rachel Ray, so this combo has gone mainstream. Really it’s snacking heaven for spicy food fans.  Here’s our primer on this food trend and how you can make the best tasting bowl for yourself.

The roots of this spicy snack

Hot sauce on popcorn has been a long standing spicy snacking tradition in Mexico. There it’s called palomitas con salsa, and it‘s sold by popcorn street vendors who offer a wide variety of flavors for their snack of choice.

Making popcorn with hot sauce:

The concept is not rocket science. Have a bottle of hot sauce? Check? Unbuttered popcorn? Check. Well, you’re in business. But there are some tricks and tips you should follow to avoid soggy popcorn syndrome, unless that’s what you want. Some do love that hot sauce drenched bunch at the bottom of the bag.

The basic red hot sauces that you’ll find at your local supermarket do the trick here. Tabasco, Sriracha, Tapatio, Cholula, and Frank’s Red Hot all work very well. Really any tomato and vinegar based Mexican or Cajun hot sauce is acceptable. Avoid mustard based hot sauces, hot sauces with fruit, or super-hot brews. You want that vinegar tang mixed with eatable heat for the best experience.

Prepping method 1: The dip

Simply pour hot sauce into a separate dipping bowl – dip your popcorn at your leisure. If you’re unsure about this combo, this is obviously a good place to start.

Prepping method 2: The drizzle

Simply make your popcorn, place it in a bowl and drizzle it with the hot sauce of your choice. Stir the popcorn to disperse the hot sauce if you’d like. This is the simplest and quickest method (and most often served), but it’s prone to some popcorn not getting coated and other kernels becoming soaked through. For some, this is the exact hot sauce distribution that they prefer. For others, the hot sauce soaked popcorn may be too much.

Prepping method 3: The bag shake

Make your popcorn and place it into a paper bag. Drizzle in the hot sauce, close the bag, and shake thoroughly. This method helps disperse the hot sauce across all of the popcorn more evenly, keeping it crunchier and the taste the same throughout. The paper bag method is also terrific for creating popcorn on the go for family and friends.

Prepping method 4: The spray down

Put your hot sauce into a small kitchen spray bottle. Make your popcorn, place it into a bowl, then use the spray bottle to evenly disperse the hot sauce across the popcorn. There is, of course, the need for an extra tool, but if you find yourself often eating hot sauce on popcorn, keeping a spray bottle of hot sauce at hand may be much handier than paper bags.

Add a twist: Ways to spice up your bowl even more

Plain popcorn with hot sauce is excellent as it is, but there are some fun ways to add a twist to your snack.

  • Toss with chili powder or cayenne powder. This gives your popcorn that extra oomph, and if you’re one for texture, you’ll appreciate what the powder brings to the eating experience.
  • Toss with pickle juice. Another favorite for many eaters. Simply add a splash of pickle juice from the jar to your bag or bowl and toss until evenly spread. The pickle tang pairs very well with hot sauce.
  • Add some smokiness. You can control this by opting for a chipotle hot sauce (like Tabasco Chipotle) or sprinkling your popcorn with smoked paprika or chipotle powder. If you’re a fan of smokier tastes, it’s a flavorful alternative.

However you eat your popcorn with hot sauce, once you try it, a regular bowl of popcorn may never be enough again. This is such a simple snack that’s packed with flavor. Give it a shot the next time you’re making a bowl.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 5, 2019 to include new content.
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