With the Oscars right around the corner, a good portion of your evenings these days might be spent catching up on the films you didn't see in theaters in 2015. Though movie-viewing at home may not be the ideal cinematic experience, it does have one major upside: the food. Instead of forking over a painful amount of cash for stale popcorn and boxed candy, you can make your own snacks, and they'll be tastier and more creative to boot. Popcorn, potato chips, and spiced nuts are all delicious when they're freshly homemade, and nachos any way you want 'em are an excellent choice if you're looking for something more substantial. Below are 18 recipes for award-worthy snacking during your own personal movie fest.
Store-bought microwave popcorn is hard to top for convenience, but it also tends to be crammed with artificial flavors. With a neutral oil, salt (plus any other seasonings you like), a paper bag, and just a tiny bit more effort, you can make a dead-easy and far more wholesome version at home. Just remember to seal the bag well, keep a close eye on it in the microwave, and err on the side of leaving a few kernels unpopped to avoid burning.
Bagna Cauda (Anchovy-Garlic) Popcorn
Once you start inventing your own flavoring schemes for popcorn at home, the sky's the limit. Inspired by the savory Northern Italian dip bagna cauda, this recipe drizzles prepared popcorn with melted butter infused with garlic and anchovies for plenty of bold, salty flavor.
Brown-Butter Maple Popcorn With Pecans
A sweet popcorn that's so compelling, you'll have to invite some friends over to keep yourself from scarfing the whole bowl. A quick caramel of butter and maple syrup is used to glaze crushed pecans, and the whole mix gets poured on the popcorn to coat. Add a healthy pinch of salt to bring out all the flavors.
Matcha and White Chocolate Popcorn
The fresh, subtly grassy flavor of Japanese matcha blends surprisingly well with mild white chocolate—the chocolate cuts the bitter character of the matcha, leaving you with an herbal semisweetness. There's nothing to it but melting white chocolate, mixing in the matcha powder until it's well combined, then drizzling it all over the popcorn. Note that not all white chocolate is created equal—check out our taste test for recommendations.
Extra-Crunchy Potato Chips
Homemade potato chips can be tough—in our experiments, we struggled to get them crisp without over-browning them. The reason is the fat load of starch in potatoes, which browns during frying. By rinsing your potato slices thoroughly and par-cooking them in vinegary water, you'll eliminate a lot of that starch and wind up with perfectly blond chips that are thin enough to be crispy, but have enough heft to provide a satisfying crunch.
Za'atar Potato Chips
When I was growing up, my family put za'atar—a Middle Eastern spice blend made with sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and oregano—on everything, and its complex blend of woodsy, nutty, and tart flavors is fantastic on homemade chips, too. Like all our chip flavoring recipes, this one will also work great with popcorn—just toss the popcorn with butter or oil before adding the toppings.
Miso Soup Potato Chips
Yes, they're what miso soup would taste like if it were crisp and crunchy instead of warm and liquid—and they're every bit as easy as the za'atar version above. Just toss your homemade chips with instant miso soup mix immediately after they come out of the fryer. For extra texture and flavor, crumble seasoned nori snack sheets on top.
Thai Coconut Red Curry Potato Chips
To get the rich flavors of a heavily spiced Thai coconut curry, pulverize a powerful mix of ingredients—dried coconut flakes, garlic and chili powders, dried makrut lime leaves, fresh lemongrass, sugar, ground ginger, and lime zest—in a high-powered blender or electric spice grinder. Then sprinkle the mixture over your chips and toss to coat.
Roast Chicken Dinner Potato Chips With Mushrooms, Lemon, and Thyme
American potato chip varieties are downright stodgy compared to what you get in the UK, where Brits are happy to take their crisps flavored in all kinds of wacky and often meat-centric ways—like roast beef with peppercorn sauce and sweet cured ham with pickle. In a similar vein, these chips draw inspiration from a roast chicken dinner. We season them with lemon, thyme, and garlic—all common flavorings for roasted chicken—plus dried mushrooms for a side dish. Surprisingly, they're also 100% vegan: The umami punch of nutritional yeast stands in for real chicken flavor.
Sea Salt and Vinegar Peanuts
A bowl of nuts is a simple movie-watching snack that's also a bit more filling than potato chips. For those who want the best of two worlds, though, this recipe combines crunchy peanuts with the tart and salty flavors used in salt-and-vinegar chips. Soak raw peanuts in apple cider vinegar, drain them, and fry them until golden, then add plenty of sea salt, chopped parsley, and a sprinkle of vinegar when they're hot out of the oil.
Olive-Rosemary Spiced Cashews
Your microwave is your secret weapon here: Store-bought dried rosemary is often weak on flavor, but you can make a more powerful version by dehydrating fresh rosemary in the microwave, then crushing it with a mortar and pestle. Oil-cured olives get the same treatment, producing a thick paste that's used to coat the cashews along with the herb. A light candy glaze balances out the savory flavors.
Smoky Candied Almonds
These almonds borrow their flavor scheme from a good old-fashioned dry barbecue rub—a sugar glaze coating, seasoned with smoked paprika, cayenne, Old Bay, and black pepper, makes them compellingly poppable. Mixing an egg white into the glaze gives the nuts a light, crunchy shell once they're cooked.
Mexican Spiced Chocolate Pecans
Dark chocolate and cocoa combine to give these pecans a double dose of chocolate, while cinnamon, brown sugar, and nutmeg lend warm, homey flavors and cayenne throws in a kick of heat. Just as in the almonds recipe, the egg white here provides a crisp coating that's not too airy.
Bourbon Old Fashioned Glazed Pecans
If you'd pair nuts with cocktails anyway, it only makes sense to infuse one with the other, right? Here, we glaze raw halved pecans with a heady blend of brown sugar and bourbon, plus a hint of cayenne for a subtle heat, then mix in whiskey-soaked dried cherries. Other nuts will work, too, if you don't like pecans.
The Ultimate Fully Loaded Nachos
It goes without saying that any nachos you make at home are gonna beat the movie theater version, usually a plastic box of stale chips accompanied by a cup of frighteningly orange "cheese." But these nachos do way more than beat—they crumple up those movie nachos in a ball, then jump up and down on top of them. This is the recipe for folks who like their nachos a big, sloppy mess of happiness: Start with freshly fried tortilla chips—they hold up to toppings much better than store-bought—and smother them with homemade cheese sauce, shredded cheese, refried beans, and pico de gallo, while remembering to leave a little room on your baking tray for sour cream and guacamole to dip.
The Ultimate Fully Loaded Vegan Nachos
Our vegan version of loaded nachos takes a bit more work, but ends up equally satisfying. We replace the original cheese sauce with a potato- and nut-based vegan cheese sauce and add vegan refried beans, vegetarian bean chili, roasted-tomato salsa, and crunchy fresh veggies, like cherry tomatoes, radishes, scallion, and onion.
Green Chile Chicken Nachos
The Arizona flair in these nachos comes courtesy of chicken browned in a chile verde made with roasted poblano, cubanelle, and jalapeño peppers. The extra heat added by melted pepper jack cheese is balanced by a cool, creamy avocado salsa. For some fresh flavors, we top the nachos with onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and radish.
Real Texas Nachos
It's my understanding that some of you out there don't embrace the total-chaos brand of nachos, with way more toppings than is reasonable, and it's true that it makes for a perilously messy eating experience on the couch. Texas-style nachos are the solution: They're individually, elegantly topped with Longhorn cheese and pickled jalapeño slices, and that's it—although a tiny dollop of refried beans and sour cream on each chip would be delicious, too.