The Best Homemade BBQ Popcorn Recipe

easy homemade bbq popcorn recipe

If you read my previous post on this Brown Butter & Black Pepper popcorn, then you know how much I regularly enjoy eating popcorn for dinner. 

I try to eat fairly well, but sometimes I’m super tired on a Friday after a long day of work and it’s much more appealing to me to make a huge bowl of popcorn with butter and this amazing BBQ spice mix than it is to have a salad or spend and hour making some kind of curry. 

So here we are. 

You can, of course, eat this popcorn as a movie night snack like most normal people, but then your dinner wouldn’t be as fun. 

How to Make The BEST Smoky BBQ Spice Mix

This Homemade BBQ Popcorn Recipe is everything you’re looking for in a bag of BBQ chips. I kid you not, the seasoning tastes SO similar. I’ve modified a recipe for basic BBQ seasoning that I’ll get to below, but I’ve found a couple tweaks for making it the best BBQ popcorn you’ve ever had. 

Get Sweet

The best thing about this recipe, in my humble opinion, is the brown sugar. It lends the perfect sweet touch that helps to balance out the spice. I don’t always have brown sugar on hand because I find that it often dries out before I can use the entire bag. BUT, this BBQ seasoning is actually the perfect use for dried brown sugar! When the brown sugar is fresh, it’s a bit wet and tends to clump together which isn’t the best for trying to evenly distribute over popcorn. A lot of it ends up at the bottom of the bowl which isn’t fun for anyone.

So what I do is, I measure out my brown sugar and then I pulverize it with my mortar and pestle. The sugar is dry so you’re able to get it into a really fine powder that evenly distributes over your popcorn so much better. 

Best BBQ Popcorn

Get Salty

The other tweak that I’ve taken to doing lately – but is completely optional – is using smoked salt. This is one of those ingredients that you may not have on hand, but on the off chance you do, or if you were looking to buy some, consider this the perfect excuse. It adds another layer of subtle smoky flavour that works perfectly in this seasoning. I use Maldon smoked salt, but I know there are other brands like Jacobson that make a good smoked salt too. Usually, a smoked salt is going to have a much larger flake than your normal kosher salt, so I grind this up in my mortar and pestle as well just to make sure it also distributes evenly throughout the popcorn. 

Best BBQ Popcorn

The other ingredients in the spice mix are fairly standard. I will say that I think it’s absolutely necessary to use the smoked paprika. Don’t use regular paprika just because you have it. We want that amazing smoky flavour here to really emulate the flavour you get with BBQ chips so please for the love of God get the smoked paprika. You will thank me later. And then you’ll start using it in most recipes you make because it’s so incredibly delicious. You can modify this spice mix to be hotter if you want, you’d just have to up the cayenne pepper. 

Choose Good Popcorn

For the popcorn, I’d recommend popping your own kernels on the stove or in a popcorn maker so that you can control the amount of oil that goes in as well as the fat that the popcorn is made with. Microwave popcorn doesn’t really taste good to me, so I say skip the microwave and make your popcorn on the stove so that you can add real butter at the end which makes all the difference in taste.

Best BBQ Popcorn

Best BBQ Popcorn

The Best BBQ Popcorn

Tess Ciarloni
Popcorn designed to taste like a slightly healthier version of your favourite BBQ chips.
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 8 minutes
Course Snacks
Servings 1 large bowl


  • Spice Mix
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar Ideally dried out brown sugar so that it grinds easily
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked salt use regular salt if you don't have
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • a pinch of cayenne optional
  • Popcorn
  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels


  • Add your brown sugar and smoked salt to a mortar and pestle and grind until you have a fairly fine powder.
  • Transfer this to a small bowl and add the remaining spices to create your BBQ spice mix.
  • Melt your butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Set aside once melted.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pot heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add 3-4 kernels to the oil.
  • Once those kernels pop, you know your oil is hot enough to cook the popcorn, so add the remaining kernels to the pot and cover leaving the lid slightly askew for steam to escape
  • Move your pot back and forth over the element as the kernels pop.
  • It should only take about 30 seconds or so for all your kernels to pop. Once the rate of popping has gone down and you only hear about 2 every second, you can take the popcorn off the heat.
  • Immediately dump the popcorn into a large bowl.
  • Start by drizzling 1/3 of the butter over the top of the popcorn followed by about 1/3 of your BBQ spice mix
  • Hold your bowl with both hands and gently toss the popcorn so that you have a fresh layer on top. Repeat the butter/bbq spice mix process.
  • Toss the popcorn again using your last 3rd of butter and the last bit of your spice mix
  • Enjoy!

Use This Smoky BBQ Spice Mix for Other Things!

I usually just make this in small amounts for one bowl of popcorn, but I highly recommend that you make extra so that you can have it around for other uses. This seasoning is also great for roasting sweet potatoes or tofu to add to a buddha bowl, or you could even use it to season chicken or ribs if meat is more your jam. I also make this amazing appetizer that’s a bite-sized piece of chicken wrapped in bacon and then seasoned using a sweet and savoury spice mix and this would be the perfect spice mix to use. I always get so many complements when I make those for parties, so you really can’t go wrong.

Best BBQ Popcorn

No matter when you decide to eat this Homemade BBQ Popcorn Recipe I hope you enjoyed the delicious smoky, slightly sweet flavours! This is now a regular in my popcorn flavour rotation and hopefully it will be in yours, too! 

Best BBQ Popcorn


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