• Kara Cushway

Cheesy Cheddar Popcorn

Updated: Aug 16, 2019

Let me just pre-empt this post by saying something:


Okay. Now we’ve got that out of the way we can continue. My siblings and I grew up on this cheesy popcorn. My dad was the only one who could make it just right. He still is, honestly. We’ve never been able to precisely replicate his recipe, though he taught me the way to make it long ago. But I keep trying because it’s so damn good, and I think – I’m not certain, but I think – the secret may be to make this on a gas stovetop. (Not that you can’t make it if you have an electric/other type of stovetop!)

I’m going to admit to you all straight-out that I was and am feeling quite hesitant about sharing this recipe. Not only because it uses margarine (I keep margarine on hand for LITERALLY this recipe. Only this recipe), which is like, morally and nutritionally wrong IMO, but because if I share this with you and you try it, then you’ll all be able to share it with your families and they’ll all love it and it won’t JUST be my family’s recipe anymore. Maybe I should throw something crazy in the recipe just so you guys don’t get the true secret Wixtrom family recipe.

I won’t.

Don't you just want to dig into this??

So, first step to this recipe is to get yourself a big bowl to serve this popcorn in. There’s a bit of tossing that has to go on so you can get the cheese more evenly distributed among the popcorn, and for that, a big bowl is a must.

I’ve always used an air popper for my popcorn, but I understand that not everyone has one of these appliances. (They are, as Alton Brown would say, a unitasker, but I feel it’s worth it to have this unitasker in my kitchen since I eat popcorn so often. That’s the thing with unitaskers: if you use them often enough, they do earn their place in the kitchen.) For those who don’t have an air popper, simply pop your corn the old-fashioned way, with a pot, a bit of oil and salt, and kernels. (See the links later on in this post for both stovetop and microwave versions of plain popped corn.)

We loved gathering around a big hot bowl of this salty, cheesy popcorn on movie nights, game nights, or basically any night. If you ask me, it’s a delicious, comforting way to make any weeknight better!

A closer close-up of heavenly cheese popcorn. This is as close as you'll get till you make it.

Cheesy Popcorn

Serves 4, 2 c serving, 372 calories per serving


½ c popcorn kernels

4 Tbsp margarine

2 c shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (this is about an 8 oz block, shredded)**

2 tsp garlic salt


1. Set a small nonstick saucepan over low heat on the stovetop. Add margarine. Meanwhile, shred cheddar cheese. Add shredded cheddar to saucepan and monitor closely for even melting, whisking often.

2. Meanwhile, if you own a countertop air popper, prepare a batch of popcorn based on the machine’s instructions. If you do not own an air popper, see this link for how to prepare your popcorn on the stovetop! Only a couple more steps and totally easy! OR go for Alton Brown’s microwave popcorn recipe – located here. Once your popcorn is popped, have it standing by for step three.

3. Turn the heat up to medium-high and allow the cheese to melt, helping it along by whisking regularly. The melting process can take 3-5 minutes depending on the type of heat you’re using (electric, gas, other). You want the cheese to be smooth, almost like a nacho dip, and not separated too much from the margarine. Whisking helps the two ingredients incorporate a bit better.

4. Once the cheese is the desired consistency, turn off the heat. Working quickly, pour a third of the cheese over the top of your popcorn and sprinkle on 1/3 of the garlic salt. Then toss vigorously and repeat the process till you’ve used up all the cheese and garlic salt. Taste to see if it needs any more salt, and then pop a movie in, flop down on the couch, and ENJOY!


  • ** For the cheese in this recipe, it HAS to be freshly grated from a block. If you use the pre-shredded stuff, just know that it won’t be the true recipe. Plus, the pre-shredded stuff has this powdery anti-clumping stuff on it that just … it messes up the meltiness of the cheese. Just don’t do it.

  • I use a nonstick saucepan nowadays for this recipe, simply because it makes cleanup a lot easier. Cheese is the worst thing to clean off dishes.

  • If you don’t have an air popper, I'll again link those two great tutorials for how to pop corn on the stovetop, or in the microwave using only a brown paper bag: stovetop link here and microwave link here. Both are ridiculously easy. Just pour the cheese on this prepared popcorn, toss with garlic salt, and enjoy!

  • I have never tried substituting the margarine for a different fat. If you try something different and like the result, let me know in the comments!

Do you have a go-to family popcorn recipe? Are you here for the cheese-on-my-popcorn scene, or nah? Talk to me about popcorn, people!


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