Three women smiling while showing off a box of Classic Kettle Popcorn

How to Create the Perfect Popcorn Bar for Any Occasion

If you enjoy eating popcorn and entertaining people, then you need to make popcorn bars a staple at your get-togethers! Here’s a guide to help you get started.

Looking for a fun yet easy way to make your next gathering memorable? A popcorn bar will do the trick, whether you’re planning your preschooler’s birthday celebration, throwing a graduation party, or hosting a casual game night with friends. 

Join us as we explore tips and tricks to making your popcorn bar the highlight of your event:

How to Make a Popcorn Bar 101

No matter what event you’re planning, these tips will help you build the popcorn bar of your dreams:

Find Out How Much Popcorn You Need

Women eating bowls of popcorn with a spread of toppings and boxes of kettle corn in front of them

How many people have RSVP’d? If it’s just family or you’re having a couple of friends over, you’ll probably only need a bowl or two of popcorn. But if we’re talking about a birthday party or wedding reception, you’ll need a lot more popcorn — and time — to get everything ready. 

It’s probably safe to prep one serving of popcorn per person. So if you’re using bagged or microwave popcorn, that’s around 4 cups of popped popcorn for each person. If you’re making stovetop popcorn or air-popped popcorn, you’ll need 2 tablespoons of kernels per person. 

Now cooking popcorn on stovetop may require a little more effort than buying ready-to-eat popcorn from the grocery store or even popping a bag in the microwave. But if you really want to wow your guests, stovetop popcorn is the way to go. It tastes fresher and sooo much better than any other kind of popcorn. And with the Popsmith Popper, it's never been easier to perfect! 

Choose a Theme

Match the theme to the vibe of your gathering. 

A wedding reception is a formal event, so it makes sense to decorate your popcorn bar with flowers, bring out your fanciest toppings, and have custom-made popcorn bags. 

Meanwhile, if you’re planning a Fourth of July party, you can make the colors blue, white, and red a recurring theme. Use a stars and stripes tablecloth, dye some of your popcorn blue and red — you get the drift. 

Pull out all the creative stops you want or keep it simple. It’s up to you! 

Pick Your Popcorn Flavors and Mix-Ins

Will you stick to savory popcorn bar toppings or keep it sweet for your Halloween party? Maybe you’ll want a combination of both and add some spicy mix-ins to make things interesting.

Figuring out the flavors and topping situation is the toughest part of putting a popcorn bar together, but it’s also the most exciting. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

Popcorn Flavors

You don’t have to go for all of these flavors below, but it doesn’t hurt to know your options, right? 

  • Unsalted: This is a perfect option for guests who are conscious about their health. It also gives your guests a completely blank canvas to work with. 
  • Butter: Buttery popcorn tastes great by itself, but if your guests want to add a twist to this classic movie night snack, they can sprinkle some bacon bits, garlic powder, or mini peanut butter cups. 

Popcorn Bar Toppings

A woman holds a box of Classic Kettle Popcorn while her two friends look on

Even if you decide to serve just two kinds of popcorn, having a variety of toppings and mix-ins will give your guests plenty of customization options. They can make their popcorn as healthy or as decadent as they please.  

Here are some popcorn bar toppings you might want to offer:

  • Salt 
  • Garlic powder
  • M&M’s
  • Pretzels
  • Nuts 
  • Gummy bears 
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Chocolate chips
  • Cinnamon
  • Parmesan 

Figure Out Where to Set Up Your Popcorn Bar

How much space do you need for the popcorn bar? You might want to dedicate a whole table for it if you’re expecting a lot of guests or just want to go all-out for your Oscars watch party. If it’s for a movie night with your best friends, you can use your countertop. 

Prepare Containers 

Popcorn toppings in colorful bowls

You’ll also need containers for the popcorn and toppings. Spice bottles work great for seasonings like chili powder, parmesan, and furikake, while you can use mason jars for chocolate chips, pecans, and gummy worms. If you’re doing a carnival-themed gender reveal party, you can also opt for colorful buckets.

Your guests will also need something to keep their popcorn in, so have mini popcorn buckets ready (or bowls for a more formal occasion). 

And one more thing: don’t forget scoopers for the popcorn and serving spoons for the mix-ins!

Label the Popcorn and Toppings

Label every popcorn bowl and topping so your guests don’t accidentally sprinkle cayenne instead of cinnamon all over their caramel popcorn — and even more importantly, to help those with allergies and dietary restrictions.

Let’s Get the Party Poppin’

That’s it for this post. Now — over to you. What are you planning for your popcorn bar? What kind of popcorn will you be making with your Popper?

Let us know how things go, and don’t forget to check out our blog for more popcorn inspiration and recipes. Happy popping! 

FAQs About Popcorn Bars

What toppings to have at a popcorn bar?

The sky’s the limit for your popcorn bar toppings! So that there’s something for everyone, it’s smart to have a combination of sweet, sour, and savory mix-ins.

How do you set up a popcorn bar?

To make a popcorn bar, you’ll need to come up with a theme, plan how much popcorn to pop, think of toppings, and then decorate the area. You’ll also need to prepare containers for the popcorn and mix-ins and make labels for all of them.

How do you keep popcorn fresh in a popcorn bar?

Popcorn tastes best right after popping, but since you’ll need to prepare it in advance, stowing it in airtight containers will help it stay crunchy. Just allow the popcorn to cool first before you transfer it — if it’s still warm when you store it, it can turn soggy. 

During the actual event, you can cover your popcorn bowls with mesh lids to lessen their exposure to moisture.

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