Smartfood Popcorn Flavors Ranked Worst To Best - Mashed (2024)


Smartfood Popcorn Flavors Ranked Worst To Best - Mashed (1)

Brandon Schultz/Mashed

ByBrandon Schultz/

As far as snacks go, popcorn is among the oldest that we're still consuming. Popcorn has been around longer than you think, dating back more than 5,000 years, according to archaeological evidence. But that doesn't mean it hasn't changed. Today, popcorn comes in a wide variety of flavors, and not just at gourmet popcorn shops or from specialty mail-order providers. Smartfood has perfected the art of bringing this humble snack to the masses with six flavors that are regularly available in most markets.

While Smartfood releases seasonal specialties and often takes part in limited-time-only collaborations with brands like Krispy Kreme and Doritos, the collection of six standbys truly pushes the brand to the top of the heap (of kernels, that is). A bag of Smartfood popcorn is certainly not cheap, but it's typically less expensive than those gourmet varieties, making it far more accessible for satisfying snacking.

If you haven't yet popped open a bag and are wondering where to start, we're here to help. Having tested every variety and compared the taste, ingredients, and overall experience of each, here's our verdict on standard Smartfood popcorn flavors ranked from worst to best.

6. Sea salt

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Brandon Schultz/Mashed

Among Smartfood's stable six classics, the least impressive is sea salt, and not just because it's the least creative flavor. There's nothing wrong with offering flavors on the plainer side of the spectrum. Even though some of us may eat a little too much salt, there's no denying it's a seasoning most people love. We wouldn't recommend anyone go overboard with sodium intake, but we do think there's far too little salt in Smartfood's sea salt variety. Popcorn and salt go hand in hand and, when salt is in the product's name, we expect to taste a fair deal of it. Unfortunately, this particular popcorn is so minimally salted it's hardly detectable.

If it were marketed as being "lightly salted," it might rank slightly higher on our list but it still wouldn't climb much. While there's a hint of movie theater quality to this popcorn's overall taste, it's lacking the butter or salt profiles that would make it a more worthwhile purchase. It's not that it's at all bad, but there's simply not much reason to reach for this bag when there are better choices on the shelf. That is unless you're truly looking for the plainest option, in which case we're not sure why you'd want to pay Smartfood prices for it.

5. Flamin' Hot white cheddar

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Brandon Schultz/Mashed

We treasure a spicy bite as much as the next heat lover, and there are plenty of us out there. If you're among us, you'll agree that not all spicy snacks are created equal. While the spice-drunk feeling is a real phenomenon that makes eating spicy foods actually pleasurable for some, we don't find that Smartfood's Flamin' Hot white cheddar delivers on it. We're not saying the only worthwhile spicy snack is a super spicy snack or even that this popcorn isn't hot enough, but there's something lacking in the flavor. It doesn't quite taste like any naturally occurring spicy food, and we actually couldn't find one in the ingredients list either. There's definitely a sensation of heat, but it's not a feeling we've encountered before, and we found that it does more to dry out the throat than excite the tongue.

What we appreciated most about this Smartfood variety was the flavor combination of white cheddar with the heat. Rather than purely providing some spice, the cheesy element adds saltiness and texture that improves the overall experience — even if it's not quite enough to diminish the curiosity of the heat. In fact, we wonder if that powdery cheese addition might be what causes the seasoning to dry out the throat so thoroughly. While we appreciate the flavor it adds, it doesn't help improve this variety's overall ranking much. We wish this one were simply more authentically spicy, leaving us feeling hot instead of dry.

4. Caramel cheddar mix

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Brandon Schultz/Mashed

Popcorn tins were once a holiday staple, and fans of those behemoth cylinders of popped kernels are likely to appreciate Smartfood's caramel cheddar mix. The classic tins were divided into three sections of different flavors, and two of them are combined in this bag. When we first heard about this variety, we were hesitant and unsure that the two flavors belonged together in every bite. Once we tasted it, we're happy to say we were wrong about a couple of things.

To begin with, the contents of this bag are not doused in both cheddar and caramel flavors but are a relatively equal share of each. This allows you to mix them as you see fit, stacking the flavor profile in whichever direction you prefer. Still, we found them truly best when evenly mixed, which was a pleasant surprise. Additionally, we appreciated that the caramel popcorn was more lightly coated than some cheaper alternatives (we're looking at you, Christmas tins). This was easier on the stomach and left less stuck between our teeth without sacrificing the caramel flavor or crunch. The cheddar wasn't overpowering, either, though we found it to be unevenly dispersed, with some kernels considerably cheesier than others. Overall, we were impressed that this combination delivered more than expected, even if it didn't make its way to the top half of Smartfood flavors.

3. Sweet & salty kettle corn

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Brandon Schultz/Mashed

In the modern days of kitchen hacks for every technique, it's hardly a stretch to whip up a homemade batch of kettle corn without a giant kettle. In fact, an easy kettle corn recipe only takes about 15 minutes in a common kitchen pot and doesn't require many ingredients. Still, you're unlikely to produce professional quality kettle corn without a bit of experience, and grabbing a bag of Smartfood sweet & salty kettle corn is an even simpler alternative.

While sugar is what really sets the traditional kettle corn flavor apart from standard popcorn, we're happy to report that this Smartfood variety better delivers on its salt profile too — just as advertised. Admittedly, this one is among the least healthy varieties of Smartfood as sugar is the number one ingredient, so we can't justify placing it any closer to the top. Still, it's impossible to say it isn't delicious. Despite the higher sugar content, it doesn't overwhelm with a sickening sweetness. While this may not be the healthiest choice in the snack aisle, especially compared to other Smartfood offerings, it's far from the worst. For those who have never been able to decide if they're a sweet or salty snacker, this bag is hard to put down.

2. White cheddar

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Brandon Schultz/Mashed

Creativity and innovation are two elements we deeply admire in the culinary world, but it's not always necessary to reinvent the (cheese) wheel. Sometimes the best bites are among the most classic, and we're not ashamed to place simple white cheddar toward the very top of our Smartfood flavors ranking. It's pure and simple, delivering everything you want from a snack that's basic in the best way. Where Smartfood's sea salt fell a little short in providing an unadulterated snack, white cheddar excels.

Not to obsess over salt content, but it's an essential component of quality popcorn, so we're going to bring it up one more time. There's a noticeable saltiness to white cheddar that surely comes from the cheese component and we love it. While higher sodium content may not be what you're aiming for in a sensible snack, it's interesting to note that white cheddar contains more sodium than either of the two Smartfood flavors with salt in their name. Further, we found this variety among the most evenly seasoned, with each handful tasting reliably uniform. It was also the most filling of the flavors, which is a great bonus if you're hoping not to plow through an entire bag in one sitting, an offense of which we are often guilty.

1. Movie theater butter

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Brandon Schultz/Mashed

While there may not be as many movie theaters left as there were just a few years ago, there's still no place more associated with popcorn than the cinema. It's hardly even reasonable to have a movie night at home without a heaping bowl of popcorn — the two go hand in hand. Unfortunately, the secret ingredient of movie theater popcorn isn't actually butter; in fact, there's typically no butter in it at all, and it's far from a healthy choice. The movie theater butter bag from Smartfood, on the other hand, contains real butter and we can't get enough of it.

Smartfood movie theater butter popcorn doesn't just offer real butter, it delivers a strong buttery taste with a slight sweetness despite no added sugar in the recipe. Best of all, while it is a healthier take on the alternative from actual movie theaters, it also comes without the greasy fingers. It's all of the flavor, none of the mess, and better for your body (at least marginally). If you're craving popcorn for movie night or any other snacking occasion, chances are the flavors you're looking for are butter and salt (okay, so we lied and brought it up again); movie theater butter offers both in perfect proportion. It's not groundbreaking, but it's a champion.


Smartfood Popcorn Flavors Ranked Worst To Best - Mashed (2024)
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