Buttered Popcorn Sugar Cookies

published Sep 18, 2021
Buttered Popcorn Sugar Cookies Recipe

These sweet-and-salty cookies come together in just one bowl — no mixer required.

Makes32 (3-inch) cookies

Prep10 minutes

Cook13 minutes to 15 minutes

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popcorn cookies on parchment
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

No movie night is complete without a big bowl of buttered popcorn. The only way to improve upon the classic snack? Pair it with something sweet — which is why I created these buttered popcorn sugar cookies. Dense, chewy, and packed with sweet-and-salty flavor, these quirky cookies will become a must for movie night — or any other night.

The best part of this recipe is that it’s surprisingly easy. You don’t need to bring your ingredients to room temperature, it doesn’t require a mixer, and it comes together in just one bowl. Here, I’ll show you how to make them in just four simple steps.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

1. Pop some popcorn.

I like to pop the popcorn on the stovetop, which lets me control the amount of salt and prevents any fake butter flavor from coming into play (we want the butter flavor to come from the cookie dough, not the popcorn!). I typically pop 1/4 cup yellow corn kernels in a Dutch oven with a bit of vegetable oil, which takes about 5 minutes total and yields 5 1/2 cups — the perfect amount for these cookies.

With that said, you can absolutely use a bag of store-bought, pre-popped popcorn, or pop a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Just make sure it’s plain, lightly salted popcorn. If you’ve got a bag on hand that tastes pretty salty, cut back on the amount of salt you use in the dough.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

2. Melt two sticks of butter.

If you popped your popcorn on the stovetop, wipe out the pot and add the butter. You don’t want to brown it at all, just melt it completely — once it starts to sizzle, it’s done. Melting the butter gives the cookies a pleasantly dense, chewy texture, and makes it super easy to mix up the dough.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

3. Mix up the dough.

Pour the butter into a heatproof mixing bowl and let it cool for 30 minutes. Once it’s cool (but still melted!), add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla; whisk until ribbony; and then stir in the flour mixture. The dough will be soft, but that’s OK.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

4. Fold in the popcorn, and bake!

Now comes the fun part: adding the popcorn! Gently fold it into the dough, allowing your spatula to crush the pieces slightly. At first it will seem like a lot of popcorn, but remember: the popcorn is the star of this cookie, and the dough will spread a good bit as it bakes. Portion the dough onto baking sheets, sprinkle with flaky sea salt, and bake until golden-brown. Serve with your favorite flick!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Welcome to Jesse’s Cookie Club, where Studio Food Editor (and resident cookie expert) Jesse Szewczyk shares a brand-new monthly recipe that transforms a classic cookie into something new, bold, and exciting. From nutty brown butter blondies to chewy sweet potato snickerdoodles, these treats are anything but boring — and every recipe includes step-by-step photos so any level of baker can make them. Follow along and share your cookie creations using #Jessescookieclub.

Buttered Popcorn Sugar Cookies Recipe

These sweet-and-salty cookies come together in just one bowl — no mixer required.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 13 minutes to 15 minutes

Makes 32 (3-inch) cookies

Nutritional Info


  • 1 tablespoon

    vegetable oil

  • 1/4 cup

    unpopped popcorn kernels, divided

  • 2 sticks

    (1 cup) unsalted butter

  • 2 1/4 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1

    large egg yolk

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • Flaky salt (optional)


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 1 teaspoon of the popcorn kernels to test if the oil is hot enough. Once a few kernels start popping, add the remaining popcorn kernels. (Be careful, the popping kernels can fly out of the pot!) Cover the pot and cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until the popcorn stops popping and there is about 5 seconds of silence between each pop, 2 1/3 to 3 minutes total.

  2. Pour the popcorn into a large bowl, taking care not to include any unpopped kernels. (Makes about 5 1/2 cups.)

  3. Carefully wipe out the inside of the pot with a paper towel to remove any stuck pieces of popcorn. Place back onto the stovetop over low heat. Add 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until fully melted but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately pour into a large, heat-proof bowl and let cool on the counter for 30 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, place 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 350°F. Line 3 baking sheets (or as many as you have) with parchment paper.

  5. Add 1 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 large egg, 1 large egg yolk, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract to the bowl of melted butter. Whisk until completely smooth and glossy. Add the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until the flour is completely incorporated and a smooth dough forms.

  6. Smash the popcorn with your hands to break it up into small, irregular pieces. You want the popcorn to be slightly larger than the size of peas with random, whole pieces still intact. Discard any pieces of hard kernels that may still be stuck to the popcorn. Add to the dough and gently fold it in.

  7. Scoop out the dough with a 1 1/2-inch wide cookie scoop or into 32 (about 2 rounded tablespoon) portions, and roll into balls. Place the dough balls at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, 10 to 12 per sheet. Sprinkle the tops with flaky salt, if using.

  8. Bake 2 of the sheets, rotating the baking sheets from back to front and top to bottom halfway through, until cracks start forming, 11 to 13 minutes total. Err on the side of underbaking them (these cookies will not brown much). Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  9. Bake the last sheet of cookies on either rack, rotating the pan front to back halfway through baking. (If reusing one of the baking sheets, let it cool for 15 minutes before baking the last batch on it.)

Recipe Notes

Make-ahead: The cookie dough can be prepared up to 4 days in advance and refrigerated tightly covered in plastic wrap. When ready to bake, let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before scooping.

Freezing the cookie dough: The dough balls can be frozen solid on the baking sheet, then stored in a freezer zip-top bag for up to 2 months. When ready to bake, let the dough balls sit at room temperature for 1 hour in a single layer, on the baking sheet(s) then bake as directed.

Storage: The baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.