Popcorn is one of the most entertaining, delightful, and crowd-pleasing snacks around. While nachos go great with game days, and Oreos are ideal for after-school sweets, there’s no better or more lauded pairing than popcorn and a trip to the movie theater. Even if you’re streaming the latest Marvel action film from home and staying put on your couch, a gigantic bowl of popcorn takes the experience from typical to irresistible. Popcorn, overflowing like a waterfall of tiny individual cumulous clouds, is made to share with a big group while being passed around and scooped up in big, buttery handfuls — but don’t leave it at that.
Popcorn is way too delicious to enjoy only with a movie. It’s an anytime snack and has expanded into countless incredibly creative flavors and varieties. From kettle corn to caramel corn, to heirloom corn to on-trend brand mashups, there’s a lot to try and even more to love (like this spicy citrus version). But the best kind of popcorn is the one that takes as little effort as possible — no microwave, stovetop, or nostalgic vintage machine needed for snack perfection. Simply tear open a bag and enjoy.
Here are the top-tier bagged popcorns sitting on grocery store shelves, just waiting for you to devour by the bowlful or savor with each individual bite of single fluffy kernels. After all, you deserve the best-tasting popcorn possible — whether at your work desk or in your coziest pajamas.
20. SkinnyPop Butter Popcorn
While the name leaves a bad taste in the mouth of anyone attempting to break free from diet culture and fatphobia, the food is quite tasty in its own right. SkinnyPop Popcorn is "pure popped perfection" thanks in part to being certified gluten-free, non-GMO, devoid of any artificial ingredients, and (case in point) made with real, rich butter. When looking for a good butter-flavored bagged popcorn flavor, SkinnyPop comes in below other buttered popcorns on the official ranking list. There is slightly less butter flavor, but when you can’t get your hands on the competition, a bag of SkinnyPop is a suitable alternative. If you like your butter on the lighter side, go with this smooth, sweet snack as your new staple. But it’s important to note that the fantastic flavor does come from genuine dairy products, so the product can’t claim to be vegan. But don’t worry vegans, there are plenty of other great choices for you on the list.
19. Candy Pop Popcorn Butterfinger
Lots of snackers put popcorn on the same level as candy. Some people stock up on bags of popcorn the way others impulse-buy a bag of M&Ms, a packet of Starburst, or a sleeve of Reese’s. But there’s one candy bar that deserves its moment in the sun, and therefore, its moment to be paired with popcorn: Butterfinger! And it just makes sense — popcorn is all about that butter. Now, with Candy Pop Popcorn Butterfinger, you don’t have to imagine. You can just eat it straight out of the pantry and ready to go.
Each popcorn cluster is liberally coated in the best parts of a Butterfinger treat: sweet milk chocolate, nougaty wafer-like notes, and nuggets of golden peanuts. Oh, and throw in some pieces of Butterfinger bars so that no stone is left unturned. Definitely not vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, or nutrient-dense, it’s … kind of low in sodium? Oh forget it — just enjoy sinking your teeth into this gratifying Candy Pop Popcorn. Is it dessert? Is it a snack? It’s whatever you want, whenever you want it. Pro-tip: try topping your ice cream with it.
18. 365 Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Popcorn
How do you make regular, pure-tasting popcorn just a little fancier and a tad more elevated? Douse it in olive oil — make that extra virgin olive oil — and be sure to sprinkle fine sea salt into all those little caverns within each featherlight puff. Whole Foods knows how to make simple ingredients taste their best, and their popcorn products in the 365 Organic line are no exception.
Another bonus: you can order off Amazon Prime and get your snack in under two hours for no extra shipping cost on orders of over $35. That’s a pretty good deal, particularly if you’re already in your comfy clothes for the night and plan to break out the popcorn when you turn on your favorite TV show or series. Four grams of fiber, three ingredients, two grams of protein, and one more reason to have another handful — 365 Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Popcorn has a pleasant, mild flavor that compliments any occasion and checks all the necessary boxes of a great snack.
17. Wise White Cheddar Popcorn
Craving a savory cheese-flavored puff for a snack? Look no further than Wise White Cheddar Popcorn, perfectly air popped and "quietly exploding with fresh white cheddar." Of course, that satisfyingly sharp yet luscious creamy cheese flavor is only amplified by the generous sprinkles of salt that keep you hooked the same way their potato chips do. The brand believes in "living life wisely," with a wink and a nod from their mascot, the owl, who seems to possess the secret to happy snacking. Gluten-free, non-GMO, and 100% whole grain, Wise’s White Cheddar Popcorn is a little less heavy and greasy than a truckload of potato chips. The popcorn itself is fluffy and snow-white, like little clouds of soft, pillowy goodness. It has a creamy cheddar taste that is ideal for a lighter snack while still hitting the spot when you crave that sharp tang of cheddar cheese. Picking up this popcorn is a wise move — pun absolutely intended.
16. Trader Joe’s Hula Cruncha
While this popcorn mix also includes some crispy rice crackers alongside the popcorn itself, Trader Joe’s jauntily named Hula Cruncha still qualifies as popcorn. One thing a lot of popcorn is missing is umami, the fifth "core taste" along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty according to The Science of Cooking. This umami flavor, which expert sources like the Ajinomoto Group call "the essence of deliciousness in Japanese," comes from amino acids that create a "meaty, savory deliciousness that deepens flavor." It’s this next-level fifth taste that most popcorns never achieve.
Trader Joe’s puts some soy sauce atop its Hula Cruncha popcorn and rice cracker mix that’s scintillatingly savory. Seasoned with tamari soy sauce, vinegar powder, seaweed (another umami standout), and spices like onion powder, garlic, paprika, and cayenne, this ain’t your average plain Jane popcorn. For fun, tasty products that you can’t seem to find anywhere else, you can always turn to good old Trader Joe’s. It’s outdone itself this time — just look at that ocean-blue bag and transport your tastebuds to island time.
15. Cheetos Cheddar Cheese Flavored Popcorn
Watch your backs, everyone, because Chester Cheetah is on the loose and doing all sorts of crazy things for his fan-favorite brand: Cheetos. Yes, Cheetos wisely decided to expand into the popcorn territory. Think about it: Cheetos Puffs are basically bigger, longer, and slightly more porous versions of popcorn. So it makes perfect sense that Chester would take his talents and apply them to the popcorn universe. All that dusty, powdery, artificial but self-aware texture coats each little popcorn kernel, leaving your fingers just as messy as after a bag of Cheetos.
The ingredient list on one of these neon-orange bags is much longer than on many of the other entries on this list, but you’re not choosing Cheetos Cheddar Cheese Popcorn for its pristine aftermath and nutritional value. Nope, you’re reaching ever-deeper into the bag for all that cheddar jazz. The flavor is everything you already love about Cheetos but in popcorn form. But Chester Cheetah knows what’s up — on the bag’s design, his white paws are even stained orange as he tosses kernels into his mouth. Now that’s attention to detail.
14. Lesser Evil No Cheese Cheesiness Popcorn
Lesser Evil’s No Cheese Cheesiness premium quality, minimally processed popcorn somehow nails the flavor of cheese without any cheese at all. Vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and USDA-certified organic, the cheerful snack is suitable for all — even the skeptics who say that vegan food can’t also be delicious.
Air-popped and ready to eat, these kernels are called butterfly popcorn for their delicacy. Lighter and fluffier than other pre-packaged popcorn, it’s still got a nice dash of coconut oil that holds all that no-cheese "cheese" flavor down. If you’ve ever heard that nutritional yeast can be used as a vegan substitute for parmesan, it’s true — and that same ingredient is one element giving this magical concoction its cheesy creaminess.
You’ll also find a solid four grams of fiber per serving, but much less fat than expected. At Lesser Evil, they "believe that just a few simple acts can contribute to something great." But it’s no simple feat to achieve such a complex cheesy flavor with zero dairy products whatsoever. This popcorn is one of those "you just have to try it yourself" products.
13. Angie’s Boomchickapop Real Butter Popcorn
It’s gluten-free, it’s whole grain, it’s … Angie’s Boomchickapop Real Butter Popcorn! For the fans of movie theater-style popcorn that’s ready to eat at home, this popcorn is creamy, dreamy, and decadent. Still, it stays true to Angie’s motto: "Real, simple ingredients. Nothing fake." The ingredients are simply popcorn, clarified butter, sunflower oil, and sea salt. But it’s that second one that really takes this popcorn to the top: clarified butter is created when one separates the milk solids and water from the butter.
The remaining product is 100% pure butterfat and remarkably long-lasting in the flavor department. Clarified butter can actually be kept in the fridge for months on end and stay beautifully pure, flavorful, and safe to consume. Perfect for pantry snack purposes, huh? The gorgeous sky-blue bag of popcorn reflects Angie’s "pop of positivity" and matches the pure, buttery taste of the goodness within. This real-butter popcorn is perfect for anyone looking for that rich, buttery, originally perfect treat.
12. Sweet Chaos Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn
Sweet Chaos Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn definitely has chaotic energy but in the best way possible. Do you love nothing more than a peanut butter cup? Especially one that’s been in a warm environment just long enough for it to get a little melted? Sweet Chaos makes sweet and salty kettle corn popcorn with fantastic dessert-like flavor profiles like black-and-white and birthday cake. For peanut butter lovers though, their peanut butter cup flavor is tops. Each cluster of naturally nutty popcorn loses all its demurity when doused in dark chocolate and peanut buttery drizzle. As they say on the bag, "it’s a well-deserved sigh of pure relief — a delightful break in your day or, as we like to say, delightfully disruptive … we can bring a little sweet to the chaos."
As a bonus, this handmade non-GMO popcorn is lovingly popped in coconut oil; certified gluten-free; free of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives; and doesn’t have a drop of corn syrup in sight. Besides, with its ombré stripes of deep cocoa and light amber nut butter atop snowy white popcorn, it’s a pleasantly pretty picture. Keep on the lookout for seasonal drizzled snacks, though it’s hard to believe any will top the peanut butter party.
11. Angie’s Boomchickapop Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn
Ready-to-eat kettle corn straight out of the bag feels like somewhat of an oxymoron. Shouldn’t it only be accessible via, well, kettle? Nope. One giant handful out of this lavender-and-magenta colored bag proves just how far the food industry has come. By now, you’re well aware of all the good things that come in a bag of Angie’s Boomchickapop popcorn, from the simple ingredients to the magnificent tastes. If you’re ready to take that basic buttery popcorn up a notch and slide over to the sweeter end of the spectrum, give this Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn a try next time you’re searching for a new snack.
While still containing only four ingredients — popcorn, sunflower oil, cane sugar, and sea salt — Angie’s kettle corn manages to encapsulate layers of flavor. The warmth and subtle sweetness in each bite, enhanced by the briny savoriness of sea salt, are perfect both during a cozy solo night in or while passed around at a backyard hangout while the sun sets.
10. Smartfood Doritos Nacho Cheese Flavored Popcorn
You might have to hunt through a few different stores to catch a glimpse of this spot-on mashup. If you’re near a Harris Teeter, BJs, Publix, or some other recognizable grocery store chains, you’re in luck, because this is one good popcorn. The fact that it’s not sold online just adds to the mystique. If you thought that Chester had the right idea with the Cheetos mashup, get ready for an even better union of two amazing snacks: Smartfood Doritos Nacho Cheese Flavored Popcorn.
If you’re a fan of Doritos, particularly the sensational nacho cheese variety, imagine everything you love about the zesty, slightly spicy, utterly cheddary tortilla chip, plus the textural nuance of great Smartfood popcorn. The herbs, spices, and secret ingredients that give Doritos their magic — onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, red and green bell pepper, tomato powder, buttermilk, and of course, cheddar cheese — work just as magically on popcorn. The bag says, "there are people out there who would keep you and your beloved popcorn totally separate from Doritos. We are not those people." Don’t be those people and miss out.
9. Live Love Pop Cheddar & Sour Cream
"Dig in! Happiness is in the bag!" proclaims this golden container. While it’s still not exactly a proven fact, it sure is a nice thought, so just go with it. You have plenty of time to conquer the world after your snack break. Live Love Pop Popcorn delivers a delicious gourmet experience and proudly reminds you that "in popcorn we trust." This is one confident brand. But it has good reason to be, especially when it sports a sensational cheddar-and-sour-cream variety. Have you ever tried the classic Ruffles Potato Chips of the same flavors?
If so, then you know just how good this Live Love Pop Popcorn has the potential to be. Happily, it reaches that potential. Velvety, sharp cheddar is paired with the richness and creamy twang of sour cream in a double dose of cheesy celebration. Go ahead and enjoy every puffy little morsel of toothsome popcorn. Get this brand on your radar, pronto, because lime fresco, honey BBQ, zesty ranch, and cinnamon bun flavors await.
8. Pipcorn Spicy Cheddar With Tabasco Popcorn
Since there are two Pipcorn picks on this list, a little brand context is a good thing. In the midst of a hectic move and with no food in sight, brother and sister Jeff and Jen discovered a bag of mini heirloom popcorn kernels in the back of a cabinet and popped them up in relief. They must have been pretty brave to eat mystery food, but desperate times call for desperate measures — and all times call for popcorn. It was a life-altering moment because it wasn’t only safe to consume, but stunningly good. Jeff and Jen had to bring heirloom popcorn to the people. Bolstered by pure ingredients like non-GMO sunflower oil, real organic cheese, and a happy orange color (thanks to paprika instead of artificial food dyes), Pipcorn became a Shark Tank success and one of Oprah’s favorite snacks.
You can’t go wrong with any of their snacks, which have now expanded far beyond popcorn. It all tastes great. One of the best of the bunch, however, earns its spot on this list of best popcorns ever: the Spicy Cheddar Popcorn with Tabasco Sauce flavor. This is hot stuff, literally. The authentic Tabasco flavor is as real as if you’d poured the bottled sauce all over some popcorn. Plus, it’s covered in a cheesy savoriness that Cheez-Its would bow down to. And remember, heirloom popcorn means no kernels getting stuck in your teeth!
7. Cretors Cheese and Caramel Mix
This vintage-style popcorn mix might not be the first to catch your eye when surrounded by trendier new products, but it’s worth a second glance. Besides, it predates many of the other brands that mix cheese and caramel. But sometimes, newer isn’t better, and you deserve the best. The two flavors might not seem like they complement each other — cheese and caramel sounds like a bit of a stretch, doesn’t it? Rest assured, though, it’s a dynamic duo for anyone with that "more is more" mentality.
In a big bag of carnivalesque Cretor’s handcrafted small batch popcorn, you receive a perfect punch of sharp cheddar smoothed over by the silky caramel-coated popcorn. If you can’t choose between sweet or savory, don’t — just have it all! And it’s perfect for sharing amongst friends with conflicting snack interests. A bowl of this mix is perfect for a movie night, where everyone can pick and choose their favorite or, best of all, discover that Cretors Cheese and Caramel Mix is more than the sum of its parts.
6. Lesser Evil Watermelon Hibiscus Popcorn
Don’t sleep on Lesser Evil’s funkier flavors (yes, even funkier than No-Cheese Cheesiness). The brand’s Watermelon and Hibiscus flavor explosion — again made with organic coconut oil and Himalayan pink salt — takes popcorn to new depths of complexity and heights of deliciousness. It’s made with real fruit, because what else could you expect from Lesser Evil? How in the world they get the juicy vivacity of watermelon juice — so buoyant and delicate yet encompassing everything joyous about summer — into a puff of popcorn is mind-blowing. And to top it off, the unexpected piquancy of hibiscus flowers gives the final product an intriguing bite.
This fuschia-bagged variety is of course gluten-free, but it’s also one of the vegan options on this list and a good source of fiber. If you’re unfamiliar with hibiscus flavor or uncertain about watermelon making its way into your more familiar snacks, step outside of your comfort zone a bit. You just might discover your new favorite comfort food.
5. Pipcorn Truffle Popcorn
There’s something so uniquely enticing about Pipcorn’s mini-sized popcorn, and the heirloom kernel-less advantage is a winner. There’s very little waste at the bottom of a bag of Pipcorn, and when you purchase the truffle flavor, you’ll be scraping the sides for every single particle of the extravagantly aromatic snack. Like the previous Pipcorn entry, Truffle Popcorn is gluten-free, whole grain, and lacking in artificial colors and flavors. The cherry on top, however, is that it’s also vegan. The slightly musky, meaty savoriness of truffles is the stuff of legend and lore as reported in The New York Times. Expensive, rare, and biologically complicated, these mushrooms are grown underground and can be tough to dig up. As the growing truffle matures, the fungus produces smelly compounds — basically, gas — that are irresistibly appealing to the human senses.
Truffles are shaved onto high-priced, lavish dine-in entrees at the finest establishments, but you don’t have to go to the nearest Michelin-starred restaurant to get a truffle fix in your everyday snack. Simply break open a bag of Pipcorn Truffle Mini Popcorn and breathe in the scent of luxury. For those with a refined palate seeking an inspired, upscale snacking experience — but in popcorn form — you can’t do much better.
4. HT Traders Grilled Corn on the Cob Popcorn
Harris Teeter’s HT Traders line of groceries has quite a few worthwhile discoveries, one of which is the Grilled Corn on the Cob Popcorn — it’s absolutely ingenious, creative, and delicious. Corn on the cob, devoured fresh and coated in butter, is a thing of radiant beauty. Warm from the sun, you shuck the green husks, and carefully peel away the blonde strands to reveal mottled golden kernels bursting with fresh, juicy pops of enchanting summer flavor. It’s a really singular experience.
How do you make it even better? Grill up that corn to get some smoky notes going on, then slather on as much butter — preferably salted butter — as your carefree heart desires. Is your mouth watering yet? If shucking and grilling corn isn’t exactly on your immediate to-do list, Harris Teeter has your answer. This Grilled Corn on the Cob Popcorn is very meta, taking popcorn back to the platonic ideal of its original source material. It absolutely deserves the high ranking for its inspirational creativity, but also for its absolutely bonkers tastiness.
3. SkinnyPop Sweet Vanilla Kettle Corn
This happy pink-and-white bag holds some incredibly delicious kettle corn — so good that it’s tough to believe you can have such an amazing snack without doing any work of popping the popcorn yourself. The SkinnyPop Kettle Corn line includes a sweet-and-salty variety, too, but the vanilla flavor is just slighter superior. In fact, it’s the best product SkinnyPop has released yet.
The popcorn clusters are coated in a glaze reminiscent of a warm yeasted donut straight from the county fair. It’s quite sugary, but since it is laced with vanilla, the sweetness isn’t overwhelming. Instead, the taste is sophisticated but would also appeal to a four-year-old girl who can’t decide between popcorn and sugar cookies.
SkinnyPop did the right thing by not combining this flavor with other tastes that often accompany vanilla (looking at you, cinnamon and citrus). It would have been all too easy, considering that vanilla has a bad rap for being boring. But like the best vanilla ice cream, a bag of this kettle corn is exquisite all by itself, allowing you to really savor the mightiest of beans (well, cocoa beans would loudly disagree.) Unlike the best vanilla ice cream, however, SkinnyPop Sweet Vanilla Kettle Corn is certified vegan, as well as gluten-, nut-, and preservative-free.
2. Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn
Smartfood White Cheddar flavored popcorn has evidently become a classic snack. Here’s the evidence: Smartfood mini bags now appear alongside heavy hitters like Lays, Fritos, Doritos, and Funyuns. Who would have ever thought that "healthy" whole grain popcorn could stand up against these giants of industry? It doesn’t take long, however, for you to start replacing all those old snack classics with bag upon bag of Smartfood — specifically the lively white cheddar flavor. Full of pizzazz and panache, it’s got a savory appeal that keeps you reaching back into the bag but none of those artificial additions that coat your average cool ranch chip.
The back of a classy black and white packaging argues that "we are all born with a deep, primal need for savory white cheddar." While we’re not sure that’s entirely factual, we hold this truth to be self-evident: Of all the white cheddar snack products out there — from Cheetos to Cheez-Its — it’s possible that popcorn is the best vehicle for this cheesy flavor.
1. Poppy Parmesan & Black Pepper Hand-Crafted Popcorn
When Yelp released its list of the top food cities in the United States, Asheville, North Carolina reigned supreme. You might not be surprised — this destination has won over critics time and time again with its epic culinary scene full of innovative, delicious, and diverse options. So, it’s no surprise that the best popcorn is still locally handcrafted in Asheville.
Armed with a strong work ethic and a single popcorn machine, a local mom named Ginger decided to start her own popcorn business in 2014. Now, Poppy Hand-Crafted Popcorn can be found in quite a few states across the country.
Boasting a ridiculous variety of truly inventive flavors, consider yourself very lucky if you spot a bag at your local grocery store (Whole Foods is a promising one!). A standout is the Parmesan and Black Pepper flavor. A single kernel of this Poppy pick is sophisticated and savory like a nourishing bowl of cacio e pepe pasta, complete with freshly ground black pepper and just-grated fine Parmigiano. It’s *chef’s kiss* and takes the top spot on our popcorn rankings list. Now, get to snacking.