Buttered Popcorn

“Popcorn is such a great snack. It is easy to forget how easy and cheap it is to prepare at home.” (Leanne Brown, Eat Well on $4 a day, Good and Cheap).

Thanks to Leanne’s encouragement and a $2 bag of popcorn, the Bautista family has been enjoying homemade buttered popcorn as a treat and snack. My eight year old may not care much about price or nutrition, but she is of the opinion that buttered popcorn “is fun” and screamed in delight when she pulled the lid off the popcorn pot too early.  My twelve year old also has an opinion, “I didn’t think I liked popcorn until I tried homemade buttered popcorn”, because “it tastes good. Can I have some more? LEAVE SOME FOR ME!!”

Homemade Popcorn

Homemade Popcorn by chef Ava

There are aroma chemicals that smell like popcorn, but I have never been asked to make “popcorn flavor”.  I remember International Flavors and Fragrance (IFF) used a three month fermentation process to manufacturer a chemical they called “Popcorn chemical” and it was $20K/pound. This was in the early 1990’s and I have been unable to find all my notes on this material.  If anyone remembers it, please remind me why it was so special and so expensive.

Less expensive aromatics are available for popcorn flavor, such as 2-Acetyl pyridine (FEMA 3251) and 2-Acetyl pyrazine (FEMA 3126).  Pyridines have one nitrogen molecule and are different than the pyrazines which have two nitrogen molecules.  Although the general aroma profile is similar between these two functional groups (roasted and green), the pyridines seem to be more powerful. Use pyridines and pyrazines cautiously, and start at 0.5-1.0 ppm.

Who needs popcorn flavor? Perhaps Jelly Belly® Company, which makes the ever so popular, buttered popcorn Jelly Belly®. My girls toured the factory in California with their aunt and learned that  buttered popcorn Jelly Belly® jelly beans have a big fan base. I personally find them “interesting”.

Jelly Belly flavors

Jelly Belly flavors

For those of you who want to know more about popcorn flavor, check out Flavor Chemistry of Popcorn.  Let me know how your flavor turns out and where to find it.  Also, if you decide to pop corn homemade style, let me know how that turns out as well.

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  1. The power of suggestion is pretty strong when it comes to popcorn-flavored jelly beans! That flavor doesn’t remind me of popcorn at all, but once I know it’s supposed to, my brain just says, “OK, popcorn it is”.

    I have always been fascinated by how “flavors” can taste/smell so differently than the thing they are trying to imitate… yet everyone knows that taste/scent is intended to represent. Neither grape soda nor grape candy tastes like fresh grapes or even grape juice.

    The photo of Jelly Bellys reminded me – do you know any information about what colors are supposed to represent flavors, and their differences internationally? For example green=spearmint, blue=peppermint, (but then, peppermint candies are red & white!) Also, in the US, purple signifies grape, but in the UK, it’s blackcurrant.

    • Susie Bautista says:

      Hi Joanna: My personal opinion is that the best candies are flavored with citrus peel oil: Orange, lime, tangerine, lemon, grapefruit. It’s a travesty that LifeSavers replaced the green lime flavored candy in 5-flavors with green watermelon.

      When I developed flavors for new products, we often developed a series of 4 flavors for a new beverage or candy. For example, a yellow, orange, green and red beverage. Red could be berry, cherry, wild berry, watermelon etc. Usually, I’d suggest our best flavor fit for the application and parameters (cost parameters, organic?, all natural? etc). Europe has moved away from synthetic colors, even in confections. Sweet flavors don’t cross borders well. There are much different expectations depending on the country you were raised in. Savory flavors don’t have this problem as much.

  2. Philip Van Den Broecke says:

    Dear Susie,
    FEMA 3126 = 2-acetyl-pyrazine (not pyridine). I know, in the heat of writing such a small typing error is easily made. Very interesting article, also for savoury apps ! (like the most you’re writing).
    Kind regards,

    • Susie Bautista says:

      Thanks! I corrected this. Autocorrect gave me trouble with pyrazine…keeps changing it to pyrazine….

  3. Hi Susie,

    Relatively new reader here.
    Your blog has the perfect mix of knowledge and humor.
    If you find out more about the IFF popcorn chemical story, please do share.