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The Daily Dish Top Chef

After Tasting this Tomato Butter Popcorn, You'll Never Snack the Same Way Again

The latest entry in #TopChefHome's Junk Food Challenge will upgrade your popcorn game immensely.

By Not Without Salt

As we mentioned earlier this summer, Top Chef Home Edition is back! It's where we put your cooking skills to the test and see if you have what it takes to be a Top Chef. Throughout the summer in addition to challenging you, we're teaming up with your favorite food writers around the web and putting them to the test, too.

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Our theme for September is Chef Hacks and we've asked Not Without Salt to take our Top Chef Home Edition Junk Food Challenge. Check out the delicious take on common snacks and then step up to the plate and show us your own take on this meal.

At the end of the day when I’m feeling a bit snack-ish — you know the feeling, hungry but too late for a full-blown meal — I turn to popcorn. It’s quick to make, mostly healthy (butter is healthy, right?), and so satisfying. In our house, most nights end with popcorn. So, it was an easy decision to tackle the Junk Food Challenge when I was asked to participate in Top Chef Home Edition. Because why should only the contestants on Top Chef have all the fun?! Well, now we get to join the competition and eat some delicious popcorn while playing.

I do so love a sweet and salty popcorn but with summer winding down, my mind is on tomatoes. Tomatoes and basil actually, the classic pair.

In order to make tomato and basil suitable for popcorn I blended butter and garlic along with sun dried tomatoes. They are intensely tomato flavored and don’t contain much liquid that could soften the popcorn. For basil I opted for dried. That too is an intensified version of its fresh self and blends beautifully with the salt giving the popcorn an herbal and woody flavor.

Then I said, “Why stop there?” A shower of finely grated Parmesan is added while the popped kernels are still warm. Suddenly our end of the day snack becomes the highlight of the day.

A few things to note about this highly addictive popcorn: First of all it’s very important that the butter, garlic, and tomatoes get blended until very smooth. From there I melt the butter which, as you can imagine, is a bit thicker than regular melted butter because of the sun dried tomatoes. Because of this you’ll just have to mix up the popcorn really well to make sure all kernels are well coated.

The recipe calls for one stick of butter. You may not need to use all of that for the popcorn. If you do, there’s no judgement from me but I will say that this butter is good for more than just popcorn. Leftover tomato butter can be slathered on grilled corn, used in lieu of regular butter for grilled cheese sandwiches, or tossed with spaghetti for a rich finish.

This popcorn is best served while still warm. Which shouldn’t be hard as a bowl of this stuff doesn’t last long.

Tomato Butter Popcorn with Basil Salt and Parmesan

Serves 4


1/2 cup popcorn kernels

1 stick butter, softened

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

1 garlic clove

Scant 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan


Pop the popcorn using your favorite method.

In a blender or food processor combine the butter, sun dried tomatoes, and garlic. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute on high speed.

Transfer the butter to a microwavable bowl or a small saucepan. Melt the butter. If using a microwave, melt at 20 second intervals.

In a small bowl combine the salt and basil and use your fingers to combine them and break up any large pieces of basil.

Add half of the butter to the popcorn. Stir well to combine then add more as needed. I usually use about 3/4 of it and save the rest to add to sliced bread or toss in spaghetti.

Sprinkle the salt in to taste and add the Parmesan.

Enjoy immediately. 

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