If savory, salty, cheesy popcorn is your ultimate movie-night dream, then you’re in the exact right place. Don’t go anywhere, because this Parmesan Garlic Popcorn is the popcorn of all popcorns. Yes, I said it. The popcorn of all popcorns.

Large bowl of popcorn next to smaller one and two wine glasses.

The popcorn you’re going to make over and over once you try and fall in love with the tangy parmesan that coats the kernels, paired with a spicy kick from the red pepper flakes, and the buttery popcorn kernels we already know and love.

The combination is like a cheeseboard in popcorn snack form (could there be anything better?!). Which also makes it the best wine-and-popcorn pairing I’ve ever had. So if you’re a red wine lover, too, pour yourself a glass, and let’s make this easy, cheesy, homemade popcorn ASAP.

Up close look at popcorn kernels with parmesan and red pepper flakes on top.

Gather the Parmesan Popcorn Ingredients

To make the garlic parmesan topping for this popcorn, you’ll need just a couple of simple ingredients, and I’m willing to be you already have them on hand!

Ingredients in bowls on tray: parmesan cheese, melted butter, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder.
  • Popcorn Kernels – no surprise here, you’ll need popcorn kernels! Either yellow or white will work; I prefer yellow as they’re a little more sturdy and hold up to the toppings better, opposed to the slightly more delicate white kernels. Go ahead and read more about the differences between white and yellow kernels if you want.
  • Oil – an oil of choice to pop the kernels in. If you’re new to homemade popcorn and want to know more about it, and the differences between oils for making popcorn, be sure to read the post on how to make homemade popcorn!
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese – I highly recommend using freshly grated parmesan cheese (the fine, powder-like kind) so that it gets into all the nooks and crannies of the popcorn. Either grate it yourself or check the specialty cheese area of your grocery store to buy some. You can also use a Microplane to grate fresh parmesan, and it will melt with the warmth of the popcorn (just be sure to have it prepped before the popcorn is done!).
  • Red Pepper Flakes – ah, the spicy kick. Adjust the level of pepper flakes you add to match your desired spice level. Not into spicy and want garlic parmesan popcorn all on its own? Totally leave them out.
  • Garlic Powder – for the sake of really easy-to-make parmesan popcorn that didn’t require mincing fresh garlic, dirtying more dishes, and taking more time, we’re using good ol’ garlic powder. I don’t really recommend using garlic granules, as they’re coarser and won’t dissolve into the butter as well. Go for the powder.
  • Unsalted Butter – I prefer high-quality unsalted butter so I can adjust my own salt levels. And high-quality, because it’s only the best for popcorn.
  • SaltThe parmesan cheese is already salty, so you likely won’t need to add too much additional salt. I recommend using high-quality fine sea salt on any kind of popcorn.

How to Make Parmesan Popcorn

First things first: you have to make homemade popcorn. If you’re not sure about how to go about it, I have a whole post dedicated to making homemade popcorn, including a video! Be sure to check it out for in-depth details, but here’s a quick overview:

4 photos of popcorn kernels and popcorn in large stock pot.
  1. Heat the oil and test kernels.
  2. Once the test kernels pop, and the remaining popcorn kernels.
  3. Remove from heat and swirl for 20 seconds.
  4. Return the pan to the heat and let the popcorn pop away, cracking the lid halfway through the popping.
  5. Once the popping stops, immediately transfer the popcorn to a serving bowl.

Now, before you start popping the popcorn, or while you start the process if you’re feeling confident in the timing of it all, you will want to prepare the butter and parmesan mixture so it’s ready when your popcorn is freshly popped and still hot.

Bowl of grated parmesan cheese with red pepper flakes and garlic powder.

I find it’s best to melt the butter and mix the grated parmesan, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes separately.

Once the popcorn is tossed with the melted butter, then on goes the cheese mixture. With the popcorn still hot and coated with melted butter, the parmesan cheese, and seasoning stick to all the kernels most evenly.

Parmesan cheese mixed with red pepper flakes in bowl with spoon.

If the parmesan cheese and seasonings are mixed in with the butter, they clump up and don’t coat the kernels as evenly. And we all know we need each bite to be cheesy, salty, and garlicky.

The best way to add butter or the cheese mixture? Evenly spread it across the popcorn, and shake or toss as you go along to coat it evenly. Enlist the help of your fellow popcorn-eating companions, or if you’re flying solo (the best, more popcorn), use a spoon to help toss the popcorn while adding the toppings, or just after.

Side by side images: pouring butter and pouring parmesan mixture onto popcorn

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use an air popper to make the popcorn?

Absolutely! Just top the freshly made popcorn as directed and enjoy!

Can I use pre-shredded parmesan cheese?

So sorry, but no, not really. The store-bought pre-shredded popcorn will not melt or coat your popcorn evenly. You need to finely grate it or buy freshly grated parmesan cheese.

How spicy is this popcorn?

You can easily adjust the spice level of this popcorn by adding more or less red pepper flakes. When you get a bite with a red pepper flake, there is a bit of a spicy kick, that’s then balanced out with the salty cheesy popcorn. If you don’t like spice at all, you can simply omit the pepper flakes and make garlic parmesan popcorn without them.

Can I add herbs or other seasonings?

Absolutely! Fresh or dried herbs would be an excellent complement to the parmesan, garlic, and spice. Rosemary would be my first go-to, thyme would also be great, or an Italian blend of dried herbs. Toss them in with the cheese mixture and enjoy!

What should I make this popcorn for?

Ok, so this hasn’t been a FAQ per se, but I wanted to take the chance to remind you that savory popcorn isn’t just for movie nights, it also makes for an amazing party snack or appetizer. It’s great to have on hand for your guests to munch on throughout the night. This combination has more elevated flavors and the salty, cheesy parmesan cheese goes well with alcoholic beverages like wine or beer.

Hand going into popcorn bowl and another hand holding wine glass.

More Homemade Popcorn Seasoning Recipes

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!

Large bowl of popcorn next to smaller one and two wine glasses.
5 (5 ratings)

Get the Recipe Spicy Parmesan Garlic Popcorn

Dig into a big bowl of warm, buttery Spicy Garlic Parmesan Popcorn for your next movie night or party snack! You won't be able to stop snacking on this savory, salty homemade popcorn. It's ready in 5 minutes and made with simple ingredients.




  • In a large heavy-bottomed large stockpot or dutch oven, add the oil and three popcorn kernels, heating over high heat. Cover the pan. These are the "test kernels" and once they pop, it signals that the oil is officially hot enough to pop all the kernels at the same time.
  • Meanwhile, measure out the remaining 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels and begin preparing your butter by melting it either in a microwave-safe bowl or on the stovetop. If microwaving, run it in 30 second intervls, checking often to keep it from exploding.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the grated parmesan, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
  • Once the three test kernels have popped, immediately add the 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels to the pan. Cover and remove from heat, gently swirling from side to side for 20 seconds. Return the pan to the heat, and the popcorn kernels will almost immediately beginning popping.
  • Once the kernels are about halfway done popping, slightly crack the lid to allow excess steam to escape. Do this when the stockpot is approximately halfway full with popcorn, or about 30 seconds to 1 minute after they've popped – this does not have to be exact.
  • If needed, you can gently shake the pan side to side to allow any remaining kernels to make it to the bottom of the pan to pop. Once the popping has slowed or just stopped, immediately pour the popcorn into your serving bowl.
  • Toss the freshly made popcorn with the melted butter until evenly coated. Then, sprinkle the cheese mixture evenly over buttered popcorn and toss to coat. Add salt and adjust to taste. Enjoy immediately!


  • Parmesan Cheese – use grated parmesan cheese or finely grate it with a Microplane. The fine texture ensures it fully coats the popcorn. 
  • Nutrition is based on 4 servings; the popcorn will make approximately 16 cups of popcorn, which can easily serve up to 8 or more, depending on your hunger levels and situation.
  • *Look for cheese specifically labeled vegetarian, if needed.
Calories: 286kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 17g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 33mg, Sodium: 68mg, Potassium: 77mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 453IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 50mg, Iron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!

This post was originally published in October 2018 in partnership with Decoy Wine and CLEVER. The text and images were updated in April 2021.