Is popcorn salad a way to get kids (and salad-avoiding adults) a way to eat more salad? Is it a way to get more fiber into your salad? Is it food fun? Or is it all three?
While it may sound quirky and new, popcorn salad has a long history.
According to Sylvia Lovegren in the 2005 book ‘Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads, American housewives made banana and popcorn salads back in the 1920s.
The recipe involved cutting a banana in half, placing it on a lettuce leaf, and dotting it with popcorn and dabs of mayonnaise. Sort of a green salad banana split?
A popcorn salad was featured in 1994 community cookbook compiled by members of the Mercer County Historical Society in Beulah, North Dakota [Ibid].
Popcorn company like Jolly Time feature a popcorn salad recipe.
Food celebrity Molly Yeh notes that “Popcorn salad is one of those classic Midwestern dishes that you would often find in a church basement potluck.”
Yeh’s dish has roots in the mayo salad culture of the Midwest—we just can’t pinpoint the original source.
Yeh’s recipe uses fresh greens, sugar snap peas, shallots and white cheddar popcorn.
The more classic recipes are a mix of popcorn, bacon, water chestnuts, celery, carrots, chives and cheddar cheese, bound with mayonnaise.
While some people snicker at popcorn salad, food writer Allison Robicelli pointed out that, “If this [were] being served at a Michelin restaurant, people would say it’s genius. Eleven Madison Park, which was named the World’s Best Restaurant in 2017, has served popcorn with seared tuna, and the legendary Jean-Georges Vongerichten has paired popcorn with sea bass,” she notes [source].”
More recently, other grains—puffed quinoa, puffed sorghum—have made their way onto high-end plates.
So here’s a starter popcorn recipe. You can use your own creativity to take it from here.
Thanks to the National Popcorn Board for the recipe.
You can put your own touches to this salad. We added dried cranberries for a touch of sweetness (raisins work, too). We also added more greens: baby spinach leaves and frisée.
You can make it a main meal by adding diced chicken.
Our tip: Don’t mix the popcorn into the salad as a last step. Sprinkle it on top of the salad like croutons, to prevent sogginess. It will get mixed in fast enough as people dig in.
Check out popcorn nutrition below.
1. PLACE the popcorn in an extra large bowl.
2. SAUTÉ the bacon until crispy, then drain on paper towels. Chop or crumble the bacon and set aside.
3. MIX together the mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in small bowl. Set aside.
4. COMBINE the celery, carrot, bell pepper and green onions in medium bowl. Add the mayonnaise and mix thoroughly.
5. PLATE the lettuce leaves. Immediately before serving…
5. ADD the vegetable/mayonnaise mixture, bacon and cheese to the popcorn in bowl. Toss very gently to just combine. Do not over mix. (Or, per our earlier suggestion, just scatter the popcorn on top of the salad, like croutons.)