No matter where we are — at home, at our family’s house by the beach or on vacation somewhere — our guests inevitably crowd into the kitchen, watching me cook and keeping an eye out for tasty pre-dinner bites and sips.
For appetizers, I like to keep things easy. Sometimes I set out veggies and dip or cheese and crackers. Recently, I have been totally enamored with serving popcorn as a pre-dinner bite. What’s even better than popcorn? A DIY Popcorn Bar!
This is basically a design-your-own popcorn variety setup, with the popcorn as a base, and lots of toppings of varied flavors to make it special. It’s easy to pull together, and so much fun for your guests to enjoy. No matter the size of your kitchen, this is an easy and fun way to kick off the dinner festivities, because all you need is a stove-top or microwave for popping, and enough counter and/or table space for display and serving.
Here’s how to make your own DIY Popcorn Bar:
Start by popping the popcorn. You can do it however you like — in an air popper, an oil popper, or even by spooning kernels into a small brown paper lunch sack, sealing the ends, and microwaving it for about three minutes.
Set out small bowls or cute popcorn boxes or sacks — there are cute options available on Etsy or at some craft stores — to hold the popcorn. Then, set up a bar with toppings and mix-ins to make the popcorn super fun. I like to mix up the sweet and savory offerings so guests can really customize their pre-dinner treat.
Here are a few of my favorite toppings and mix-ins to set out:
- Melted unsalted butter (a must!)
- Olive oil, or an oil mister
- A selection of salts, such as fleur de sel, black sea salt, truffle salt and pink Himalayan salt
- Cinnamon sugar
- Cheeses — Grated Parmesan, fresh from the cheese department, is amazing. Crumbled blue cheese, feta, and cheddar can be good too
- Candies like M&Ms, chocolate chips, gummy bears and sour worms
- Herbs like basil, rosemary and thyme, fresh and finely chopped, or dried.
Don’t forget to include itty bitty spoons for the cheeses too, so that it’s easy to get just the right amount.
Once your guests design their own popcorn treat, remind them to gently shake it all up so the toppings and mix-ins get dispersed all around.
What’s your favorite pre-dinner snack when you entertain?
This post is part of BlogHer’s Kitchen Entertaining editorial series, made possible by KitchenAid.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.