Happiness is Chocolate Popcorn
Ever since a trip to Seattle last year, I have been obsessed with chocolate popcorn.
My first taste of this crunchy, chocolatey treat came courtesy of the Cinerama movie theater in downtown Seattle, where the marquee not only flashes its availability in bright lights, but the intoxicating smell of it wafts out its doors.
The late Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, bought the iconic theater and proceeded to seriously up the game on the concession stand. Fortunately, you can even walk into the lobby and buy some of this popcorn without even buying a ticket to a movie.
That’s what my husband and I did after our interest — and nostrils — were piqued. On the second to last day of our trip, we bought a small ($6.50), which is fairly sizeable. One taste and we were completely hooked. In fact, I like chocolate popcorn way better than caramel corn because it’s not as cloying. We nibbled to our stomach’s content and even had enough leftover to bring home on the plane.
After the last of the chocolate popcorn was gone a couple days later (and mind you, it was still wonderfully crisp even at that point), I began to have serious withdrawal. So much so that I even looked online to see if the Cinerama might possibly do mail-orders of the popcorn. But alas, no.
So I was determined to try to make my own at home.
I tried a couple recipes I found online before I hit on fiddling with an AllRecipes one to get a close approximation to what I longed for. The secret is cocoa powder rather than actual melted chocolate. The former provides a deep chocolatey, almost Cocoa Puff-like flavor, without weighing down the airy puffed kernels, which is what melted chocolate, unfortunately, does.
Anyone can make this. Just pop some fresh popcorn. Then, heat together cocoa powder, butter, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla extract and a dash of salt. Take it off the heat, and stir in a smidge of baking soda, which will aerate the mixture. Then pour it over the popcorn and stir to combine quickly. Then, bake the coated popcorn in the oven for about an hour to help coat the popcorn even more and add even more crispiness. Let cool completely, then dig in. I dare you to not eat handful after handful after handful.
Store in a tightly covered container and the chocolate popcorn will stay crisp for more than a week. Well, if you don’t inhale it all immediately, which is a real possibility.
Make some this Valentine’s Day. It’s one of the sweetest ways to show some love.
(Makes about 8 cups)
3 ounces popcorn kernels
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 extra tablespoon, softened, for greasing the pan
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pop the popcorn kernels. An easy way is to just heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of neutral oil such as canola, then the kernels. Cover with a lid. When you start to hear the kernels begin to pop, shake the pan regularly to help distribute the kernels. Continue doing this until the popping has ceased. Transfer popcorn to a large bowl, and set aside.
Heat oven to 250 degrees.
Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with the 1 tablespoon softend butter. Set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the 4 tablespoons butter. When melted, stir in the cocoa powder. Next, add sugar and corn syrup, stirring until combined. Add vanilla extract, then turn the heat up to medium-high. Let the mixture boil for 2 minutes. Then, remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the salt and the baking soda. The mixture will foam up slightly. Pour it over the popcorn, and quickly stir to coat evenly.
Transfer chocolate-coated popcorn to the prepared baking sheet, distributing it in an even layer. Bake for 1 hour in the oven, giving the mixture a stir every 15 minutes.
Let popcorn cool enough so you can break it up into small pieces with your fingers. Store in an airtight container.
Inspired by a recipe on AllRecipes.com
Was just thinking about what to make for my Dad’s 89th birthday. Done, delicious, thank you!
The epitome of rich, sweet & salty goodness!
i love making and eating caramel popcorn, but i hadn’t even considered a chocolate version! yum!!!
A friend shared a bowl full at a recent holiday dinner gathering. So good I was inspired to try making a batch or 2… Bitterness of the chocolate nicely balances out the sweetness. Will definitely make more batches. Thank for you figuring out the measurements and timing, Carolyn!
SatzO: I’m so happy that you loved the popcorn, too. I made a batch for a friend for a Christmas gift, and I had to shoo my husband away from eating all of it before I gave it to her. LOL
Thanks for your recipe! Cinerama also does a mix so you can have half the buttered and chocolate version mixed together. I will be making yours and make a quick microwave buttered popcorn batch so I can achieve this tonight. Can’t wait!
Chelsea: I remember when we went inside the theater to buy the popcorn, we were torn about whether to order all-chocolate or the mix with half-buttered and half-chocolate. In the end, this being our first time trying it, we decided to go all in and get 100 percent chocolate popcorn. So good! I can still smell the intoxicating aroma of the chocolate wafting out of the theater a block away. I hope you like my version. You’ll have to let me know how it compares. Enjoy!
Thanks for posting this recipe. Now that Cinerama is likely closed for good, I have to figure out a way to get my chocolate popcorn fix. (In our house, it is called “choco pocco.”) I made this yesterday and we devoured nearly the entire batch (yield: one gallon).
FYI to others, I used a silicone baking mat on my baking sheet, which meant I didn’t have to butter anything and cleanup was a breeze. Using a Silpat rules for candied things!
The flavor of this was pretty close to the original, but I have no idea how they manage to get individual kernels. I do wish there were a way to coat the corn in the very thick mixture without forming extremely large clumps. Next time I plan to separate the coated corn onto two sheets and wear latex gloves for the every-15-minute tossing in an effort to make smaller, more bite-size pieces.
Heather: Oh man, I am saddened to hear the future of Cinerama is so bleak. But given the restrictions due to the pandemic, I can see how it would be nearly impossible to open up a movie theater for business as usual. And as wonderful as this chocolate popcorn is, a business can’t survive on sales of that alone. I’m glad my recipe comes close to the original. I actually like clumps of popcorn — I think it reminds me of popcorn balls at Halloween. But I’m thinking that if you break up the pieces while they are still warm from the oven, you can eliminate most of the clumps. Enjoy the popcorn! Stay safe and well. 😉
Thank you!! We really miss the Cinerama, and I love that at least we can recreate the popcorn at home now.
I had heard that the Cinerama closed last year during the pandemic, but I was hoping it wasn’t permanent. Discovering the chocolate popcorn there was truly one of the highlights of my trip to Seattle. I hope my version brings you a taste of what you miss. Enjoy! 😉