Stale Popcorn? Don't Throw It Away

Stale popcorn? As a kid, I ate stale or left-over popcorn and never considered it stale. However, I realize not everyone likes day-old popcorn.

How to Revive Stale Popcorn

The easiest way to refresh stale or leftover popcorn is to toss it in the oven to warm it up and re-crisp it. Simply spread it out in an even layer on a baking sheet and place it in a 250°F oven for about five minutes, until it's warmed through.

You'll want to check on the popcorn frequently as it's in the oven just to ensure it doesn't begin to burn. Once warmed and crisp again, pour it into a bowl and snack as usual. Bonus points if you finish it with a fresh drizzle of melted butter and a healthy sprinkle of salt.

Five (5) Ways to Use Stale Popcorn

1. Maple-Cinnamon Popcorn Wafers


2 cups (about 1 ounce) left-over air-popped popcorn
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounce) gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons canola oil, or other neutral-tasting oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup

popcorn wafersPopcorn wafers


1.   Preheat the oven to 325°F.

2.   Combine the popcorn, oats, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor.

3.   Drizzle the oil and maple syrup over the top and attach the mixer's lid.

4.   Process the ingredients for 45 seconds or so, scrape down the sides, and then process for another 45 seconds. Everything should be broken down into tiny granules and clump together like wet sand.

5.   Pour the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Divide it into 12 little piles.

6.   Dampen your fingers with water and flatten each pile into 1/8-inch thick rounds, re-wetting your fingers as needed. Neaten the edges of the rounds with your fingertips.

7.   Bake for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and just barely starting to darken on the edges. It's better to under-bake these cookies a bit than over-bake, as they turn more brittle the longer they cook.

8.   Allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet. Lift the parchment to loosen each one and store in an air-tight container. These will retain their crispiness for several days.

2. Chocolate & Pistachio Popcorn Trail Mix


7 to 8 cups left-over air-popped popcorn (about 1/3 cup un-popped kernels)

1 cup shelled pistachios, roasted and salted

3/4 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped

3/4 cup dried pineapple, roughly chopped

6 ounces dark chocolate

Coarse sea salt


1.   Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and divide popcorn between the sheets. Toast the pistachios in a dry skillet over low heat until they are fragrant. Sprinkle the pistachios and dried fruit over the popcorn.

2.   Melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler, or in 15 second bursts in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave, until it's smooth and pourable.

3.   Drizzle it over the popcorn mixture and immediately sprinkle it with coarse sea salt.

4.   Let the chocolate harden in the freezer or fridge for a few minutes and then break the snack mix into clusters and store it in a large plastic bag. (Makes about 10 cups total snack mix.)

Recipe Notes:

Serves 8 to 10

If you don't have an air-popper, you can pop the popcorn either on the stove top or in the microwave.

3. Chai-Spiced Popcorn Bars

chia-spice popcorn barsChai-spice for popcorn bars

For the chai spice:
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Large pinch ground cloves
Large pinch freshly ground black pepper

For the popcorn bars:
Cooking spray or butter, for greasing the baking dish
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 (10-ounce) bag mini marshmallows 
12 cups popped popcorn

Chia-spiced popcorn barsChia-spiced popcorn bars


For the chai spice: 

1.   Combine all the spices together in a small bowl.

2.   Set aside 1/2 teaspoon of the spice mixture for sprinkling on the top; reserve the rest for mixing into the popcorn bars.

For the popcorn bars: 

1.   Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, making sure there is extra paper hanging off of 2 sides. Coat the paper and sides of the pan with cooking spray or butter; set aside.

2.   Melt the butter in a large pot over low heat. Stir in the spice mixture and salt and cook until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the marshmallows and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes.

3.   Remove the pan from the heat and add the popcorn. Stir with a rubber spatula until the popcorn is completely coated in the marshmallow mixture. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and use hands dampened with water to press it into the corners of the pan and into an even layer. Sift the reserved 1/2 teaspoon chai spices over the surface of the bars and let cool completely, about 10 minutes.

4.   Grasp the parchment and lift the bars out of the baking dish and onto a cutting board. Cut into 20 pieces.

Recipe Notes

Makes 20 pieces

Storage: These bars are best eaten the same day they are made, as they soften up quickly. If you have leftovers, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

4. Buttery Popcorn Ice Cream


2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole or 2% milk, divided
6 cups popped buttered popcorn*
6 egg yolks 
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1.   Heat cream and 1 cup of the milk in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat until just scalded.

2.   Add the popped popcorn to the pan and let steep for one hour.

3.   Strain the popcorn milk through a fine mesh sieve into a large liquid measuring cup. Add enough of the remaining milk to make 3 cups total (about one more cup, give or take).

4.   Return the milk to the sauce pan and return heat to medium.

5.   While the milk is heating, beat the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a separate bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

6.   When milk is hot but not scalded, add a cup to the egg mixture and whisk vigorously. Pour the tempered (warmed) eggs back into the sauce pan with the remaining milk.

7.   Reduce heat to low/medium-low. Cook, whisking constantly, until the custard reaches 185°F on an instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to just coat the back of the spoon. (You can stir occasionally at first, and more constantly towards the end, watching carefully to make sure the eggs don't scramble).

8.   Remove pan from the burner, stir in vanilla extract, and continue stirring for another minute or so to release some of the heat.

9.   Strain the cooked custard through a fine-mesh sieve, if desired.

   10.Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until completely cool, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

  11.Freeze the custard according to your ice cream maker's instructions. 

5. Birthday Cake Popcorn


5 cups left-over popped popcorn
1 (1 1/2 ounce) white chocolate candy bar, broken into small pieces, or 1/2 cup white-colored candy melts
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup rainbow-colored coarse sparkling sugar
2 tablespoons pearl decoratifs or sprinkles


1.   Place popcorn on two large cookie sheets lined with parchment or a baking mat.

2.   Heat the white chocolate melts in the microwave for one minute or until melted, stirring halfway though.

3.   Stir in the melted butter.

4.   Drizzle over the popcorn and mix with a spatula to coat; be careful, it will be very hot.

5.   Toss in the salt and sprinkles.

6.   Let cool completely, then break apart any large pieces that are stuck together.

The above recipes are from The Kitchn.