A blend of five spices you likely have on hand mimics the key flavors of Moroccan harissa paste. Cumin, coriander and caraway are the perfect trifecta that forms the base, but if you do not have caraway, the blend still works and tastes delicious. What I love about this popcorn snack is that the flavor is more than just hot pepper spicy. It’s well rounded with garlic, smoked paprika and chili powders. The caraway and sumac bring it up another notch but aren’t required.


serving bowl of spicy harissa popcorn.

Why this recipe works

This spicy harissa popcorn snack is worth the 15 minutes it takes to pull it together if you appreciate a blend of spices that is more than just a chili or cayenne based spicy popcorn topping. Harissa paste has such an interesting history that it incorporates multiple spices not often brought together, as well as the aspect of spicy pepper paste. Here, I’ve dialed back the hot pepper, with equal amounts of all the spices so you can really taste it all. The addition of liquid smoke is fully optional but adds a great dimension as well.

top down view of a sunny bowl of spiced harissa popcorn garnished with broken up chive blossoms.

Above: Chive blossoms broken up over the bowl of spicy popcorn are really delicious and beautiful. If you’ve never eaten them and you have them growing in your garden, I highly recommend trying them. They taste like chives!

bowl of homemade harissa spice blend.

Above: This recipe calls for measuring 5 spices to use. As an alternative, you can link from the recipe card to my recipe for a full version of a homemade harissa spice blend alternative and have more on hand for future use. That recipe includes optional rose petals and ground caraway as well as the use of sumac and ground chilis that replace the laborious efforts of roasting and grinding dried peppers, so often recommended.

Simple instructions for making spicy harissa popcorn

First you will pop your corn, using whatever method you have available. I prefer to start with oil free popcorn by using an air popper. Place the popcorn in a bowl with plenty of room to mix in the spice/butter/oil mixture.

Melt the butter, oil and then whisk in the spices and salt. Stir on low for about a minute to allow the spices to bloom, but not so long the butter starts burning or evaporating.

Once the spices have bloomed and the mixture is ready, gently and slowly pour it little by little, over the popcorn, using a silicone (or other soft) spatula to gently distribute the spiced butter/oil mixture.

harissa spice butter in a pan with a whisk.

Tips for making and serving this recipe

  • Serve with steeped and chilled hibiscus leaves (not an affiliate link, just my most favorite place to buy it online). If you’ve never tried steeped hibiscus blossoms, I highly recommend it. You just brew them like an herbal tea and it is delicious on it’s own or mixed with other fizzy waters, etc. Stay tuned for mocktail recipes here!
  • If you happen to grow chives use their blossoms as a garnish (or other edible flowers). This is mostly for aesthetics, but the chive blossoms add a nice chive flavor.
  • Oil- if you are not averse to using a bit of olive oil, I recommend adding a third teaspoon to the mixture to help it distribute more readily over the popcorn (I just tend to go with the least amount of oil to start, in my recipes).
  • Don’t rush the mixing- as described, the butter/oil mixture is full of the spices, so you need to be careful to slowly drizzle it over the popcorn while at the same time moving the popcorn around with the spatula. It is a little fussy, but only for about 60 seconds 🙂
spicy harissa popcorn with hibiscus drink in the back.
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serving bowl of spicy harissa popcorn.

Spicy Harissa Popcorn Snack

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Servings4
Calories123
A blend of five spices you likely have on hand mimics the key flavors of Moroccan harissa paste. Cumin, coriander and caraway are the perfect trifecta that forms the base, but if you do not have caraway, the blend still works and tastes delicious. The flavor is more than just hot pepper spicy. It's well rounded with garlic, smoked paprika and chili powders. The caraway and sumac bring it up another notch but aren't required.

Ingredients
 

  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels (popped (I use air popper))
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter (sub salted butter and eliminate sea salt as ingredient)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
Spice Blend – see notes
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (I use chipotle chile powder for smokiness but use whatever blend you like.)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
Optional Ingredients – see notes
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds (ground (I use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle))
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke (I like Colgin's)

Method:
 

  • Pop the popcorn (air popper works great, but anything is fine).
  • Melt the butter with olive oil and whisk in spices, salt. See notes
  • Lightly drizzle the spiced butter mixture over the popcorn, in a large bowl, using a silicone spatula to lightly and continuously evenly distribute the mixture. As you can see in my photos, the spice mixture will tend to plop in larger than desired bits across the popcorn. You can add an additional teaspoon of olive oil to the mixture to help it's ability to mix into popcorn more easily. Take the extra time to distrubute the mixture well for delicious popcorn!

Notes

Spice blend- If you like harissa flavors, and want to be able to make more of my or your harissa recipes, consider using 1 Tbsp of my Easy Homemade Harissa Spice Blend in place of the listed spices here. You’ll have enough on hand for many batches of popcorn if you make it this way!
The caraway and sumac are listed as optional since you may be less likely to have them on hand. Caraway lends a nuttiness and is present in most harissa pastes, and sumac is my addition to replace the lack of red pepper or tomato in the dry spice blend. It lends a tang.
The Colgin’s liquid smoke is totally optional, but I’ve come to like the subtle authentic smoked flavor it brings recipes and it makes the popcorn really come alive as a special snack.

Nutrition (an estimate)

Calories: 123kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 297mg | Potassium: 62mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 0.2g | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg | Magnesium: 20mg | Net Carbohydrates: 9g
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5 from 1 vote

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    The harissa spices really come alive in this recipe. I couldn’t wait to share it with you.