Recipe Review

This Sichuan Magic Dust Popcorn Is Perfect for Lunar New Year

published Jan 4, 2022
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popcorn in pot
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Popcorn is one of my favorite snacks. It fuels my movie binges and late-night writing sessions. I’ve been putting nutritional yeast on popcorn for years, and recently even tried tossing popcorn in my brother’s homemade chili crisp oil, which was a messy and delicious endeavor.

I’m Chinese American and my grandfather is from Sichuan, so I was immediately intrigued by Andrea Nguyen‘s recipe for Sichuan Magic Dust Popcorn. Although the recipe itself was first published in collaboration with Andrew Janjigian on Nguyen’s website in 2018, the chef and cookbook author brought this sweet, salty, and spicy umami flavor bomb back to our attention right in time for the new year. Yes, there’s MSG in the recipe. And yes, it’s totally irresistible.

To start, you’ll need a spice grinder to grind the Sichuan peppercorns and Korean gochugaru as finely as possible, then you’ll add the MSG, salt, nutritional yeast, and paprika. The final blend should be a superfine orange powder, to best cover the surface area and stick to each kernel of popcorn. Use a neutral oil, like canola, for popping the popcorn, and you’ll want to pop your kernels with some sugar to create a sticky glaze that will help the seasoning adhere. Transfer the popcorn from the pan to a baking sheet lined with parchment and sprinkled with the bright orange magic dust. Sprinkle even more magic dust on top of the popcorn and lightly toss with a spatula or metal spoon to thoroughly coat every kernel. Now, you’re really ready for that Netflix marathon!

While the recipe was created as a holiday treat, it’s delicious year-round and has quickly made my list of top snacks to make whenever I need the perfect pick-me-up. And if you have any leftover magic dust, it’s not only good for popcorn; you can also try sprinkling it in cookie dough or on air-fryer tofu too.