These 7 Bagged Popcorns Are a Crunchy Good Time

When it comes to popcorn, there are tiers. Movie theater popcorn is clearly the most fun popcorn. It’s hot, it smells outrageous, and you can even put buttery slime on it if you want to feel like total crap by the time your movie is over. One tier down from the zenith of fun, you’ve got your make-at-home popcorn—Orville Redenbacher you zap in the microwave, Jiffy Pop you heat on the stove top like Drew Barrymore in Scream, or kernels you cook in one of those hot air machines everyone had in the ‘80s. 

Bringing up the rear is ready-to-eat popcorn that comes in a bag. Bagged popcorn, through no fault of its own, is often relegated to the world of diet snacks—a salty something to eat when you’d rather be eating chips. The thing is, a lot of bagged popcorn is really good and plenty of fun. You’ve got flavor options, like herbs, spices, and cheese (we saved sweet varieties for another tasting). Plus, there’s the convenience factor. Sorry, Orville, but sometimes we want popcorn that isn’t scorched from being cooked for one nanosecond too long. 

Joined by Good Mythical Morning head writer Maisie Hooper, the Sporked team gathered ‘round a tasting table littered with bags of popcorn and found seven we’d happily pick up for our next movie night on the couch.

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sprouts lightly salted popcorn

Best of the Best

Sprouts Organic Popcorn Lightly Buttered

It doesn’t quite live up to the movie theater stuff, but this popcorn from Sprouts does a good job of being salty, rich, and delicious. The kernels have a great texture and we loved that it tastes buttery without being too buttery. If you go ham on the liquified butter-flavored chemicals at the movie theater, this might not be for you, but people who want the movie theater experience without the stomach churn will dig it. “It’s very salty, but I feel like if you’re eating it with other sweet snacks at a movie night, it wouldn’t be a bad choice,” said Sporked editorial assistant Naajia Shukri. Grab a bowl of this and you might be able to sit through all of Morbius.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Instacart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

o organics sea salt popcorn

Best Salted

O Organics Sea Salt Organic Popcorn

Guest taster Maisie and Sporked staff writer Jordan Myrick both agreed that this sea-salt-dusted popcorn from O Organics was made for movies. “This tastes like unbuttered movie theater popcorn,” Jordan said. “I think there’s a market for that.” There definitely is. This bag is bursting with big, satisfying kernels that have a really fresh flavor and aren’t overtaken by any of the oils that were used in the popping process. There’s something extremely appealing (and addictive) about its simplicity. “This feels more like movie theater popcorn to me,” Maisie said. “It’s not buttery, but it’s crunchy and snackable.”

Credit: Ryan Martin / Instacart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

pop art cheddar jalapeno popcorn

Best Spicy

Pop Art Cheddar Jalapeño Popcorn

These are not the most robust kernels you’ll find in a bag of popcorn. They’re small and at least one taster described them as having a “soft staleness.” But the flavor of this popcorn is just so, so good, combining rich cheese notes with a little bit of peppery bite and just a touch of heat. “It’s got a nice subtle little spice that gets smoky at the end,” Maisie said. “That is nice,” Sporked staff writer Danny Palumbo added. “[The flavor] just kind of stays in your mouth.” If you like a super crunchy popcorn, Pop Art might let you down, but if you want big flavor, grab a bag.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

smartfood white cheddar popcorn

Best White Cheddar

Smartfood White Cheddar

Smartfood popcorn is ubiquitous to the point of being boring, but this taste test gave us a chance to see it in a whole new light—and it’s really good. Other white cheddar popcorns we tried had a strange, almost vanilla frosting-like aroma, some fluke of flavor science (or maybe some crossed wires in our flavor-blasted brains). None of us were entirely sure what differentiates white cheddar flavor from yellow cheddar flavor, but Smartfood has a really nice, creamy, cheesy essence that isn’t overwhelming so you can eat a bunch. “I love this popcorn,” Jordan enthused. “I buy a big bag at Costco, stick my whole arm into it, and then lick it off.” Not a bad endorsement.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

lesser evil popcorn

Best Vegan

Lesser Evil Organic Popcorn with “No Cheese” Cheesiness

Nutritional yeast is my absolute favorite popcorn topping. The flaky food additive gives rich, cheesy flavor to everything from vegan gravy to vegan mac and cheese, and it makes this vegan popcorn from Lesser Evil a real treat to snack on. Both of the Lesser Evil popcorns we tried tasted like the coconut oil the kernels are cooked in, but it was much more subtle in this case. The slightly coconutty flavor actually worked nicely with the mild flavor of the non-dairy “cheese” powder on the popcorn. “It’s like secret cheese,” Maisie said. “I like the secret cheese.” She also liked the nice big kernels in this bag.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

cheetos popcorn

Best Junk Food Homage

Cheetos Popcorn Cheddar Jalapeño

I’m a real sucker for Cheddar Jalapeño Cheetos, and this bag of popcorn has all of that flavor and even the psychotic orange color. “This color is already putting me off,” said Maisie, who conceded that it would be good road trip food upon tasting it. “I didn’t hate this as much as I thought I would.” Danny was a little more enthusiastic about the big, bold flavor. “This is dreamy,” he said. “Dreamy and creamy, with a real piquancy—it’s better than most Cheetos flavorwise.” We also tried the brand’s Flamin’ Hot popcorn, but it just didn’t have the same impact. Sorry, Flamin’ fans.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Walmart

Rating:

6.5/10

Sporks

trader joe's popcorn

Best Herb Flavored

Trader Joe’s Popcorn with Herbs & Spices

I firmly believe that croutons are the absolute best snack, and this bag of popcorn from Trader Joe’s does a good job of scratching my seasoned crouton itch (no, I haven’t seen a doctor for it). The popped kernels in this bag are enormous, and you can see little flecks of dried herbs on each and every one. The dried dill almost gives it pickle vibes, while yeast, sea salt, and onion powder give the seasoning blend an almost cheesy complexity. The seasoning is tasty, but super subtle—we wouldn’t be mad at them for amping up the flavors just a touch. I ate a lot of it chasing a flavor I wish was just a leeeeettle more pronounced. Now someone go get me some croutons.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

6.5/10

Sporks


About the Author

Gwynedd Stuart

Gwynedd Stuart, Sporked’s managing editor, is an L.A.-based writer and editor who spends way, way too much time at the grocery store. She’s never met an Old El Paso taco or mozzarella stick she didn’t like.

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  • My recent favorite is Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP bagged popcorn. The flavor I like is a mixture of cheddar cheese popcorn and caramel corn in the same bag.

    Reply
  • Spicy Bjorn Corn is actually the only acceptable reason for buying your popcorn pre popped

    Reply
  • Good health’s Half-naked popcorn was always my favorite if i went for bagged popcorn.

    Reply
  • My all-time favorite flavor-wise is Central Market’s (only in TX sorry) hatch cheddar popcorn <3 only bad thing is the hard bits at the bottom of the bag but I think all bagged pre-popped popcorn has that :/

    Reply