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How do you add food coloring to microwave popcorn?

Popcorn is a classic snack that’s beloved by many. The crunchy, fluffy kernels bursting with flavor are hard to resist! While plain popcorn is delicious on its own, adding custom colors and flavors can take this tasty treat to the next level. With just a bit of food coloring, you can easily jazz up your microwave popcorn and make it more festive and fun.

Why Add Food Coloring to Microwave Popcorn?

There are a few great reasons to add food coloring to your popcorn:

  • Make it festive – Colored popcorn is perfect for holidays, parties, and events. Red and green for Christmas, orange and black for Halloween, pastels for Easter, etc.
  • Add flair – A bowl of rainbow-colored popcorn looks cool and adds visual appeal.
  • Distinguish flavors – Use different colors to tell flavors apart when making sweet, savory, or flavored popcorn.
  • Kid-friendly fun – Colored popcorn makes a fun snack for kids’ parties or arts and crafts projects.
  • Easy way to jazz it up – Food coloring allows you to dress up plain popcorn in a simple, inexpensive way.

How to Add Food Coloring

Adding food coloring to microwave popcorn is easy and only requires a couple extra steps. Here is a simple process:

  1. Pop your popcorn as normal in the microwave according to package directions.
  2. Place the popped popcorn into a large mixing bowl. Remove any unpopped kernels.
  3. Add several drops of liquid food coloring. Start with just a few drops and increase as needed to achieve the desired color intensity.
  4. Gently toss the popcorn to evenly distribute the food coloring.
  5. Add more food coloring if needed to reach your preferred color saturation.
  6. Mix well before serving or storing.

Liquid food coloring works best since it easily coats and absorbs into the popcorn. Gel food coloring is thicker and doesn’t distribute as evenly. Any standard food coloring you find in the grocery store baking aisle will work.

How Much Food Coloring to Use

It takes just a small amount of food coloring to tint popcorn. Here are some general guidelines for how much to use:

Amount of Popcorn Starting Amount of Food Coloring
1 Bag (approx. 3-4 cups popped) 5-10 drops
2 Bags (approx. 6-8 cups popped) 10-15 drops
3 Bags (approx. 9-12 cups popped) 15-20 drops
4 Bags (approx. 12-16 cups popped) 20-25 drops

Start with less coloring and mix it in gradually for a subtle tint. Use more coloring for a bolder, vivid effect. Adding too much initially can lead to an intensely saturated color. You can always add more, so start sparingly.

Color Combinations

You can get creative with food coloring and make all sorts of fun color combinations! Here are some ideas:

  • Primary colors – Red, blue, and yellow popcorn looks bright and retro.
  • Neon rainbow – Vibrant neon food coloring packs make rainbow popcorn.
  • Pastels – Soft pink, mint, lavender, and peach make delicate pastel popcorn.
  • Tie-dye – Use a blend of colors like purple, green, blue, and pink for a tie-dye effect.
  • Ombré – Gradually blend from light to dark shades of one color.
  • Confetti – Dot different colors randomly throughout the popcorn.

Get creative and make each batch unique! The possibilities are endless with food coloring.

Flavored Popcorn Color Ideas

Match the food coloring to the flavor to make coordinated sweet or savory popcorn:

  • Cheddar – Yellow or orange coloring.
  • Kettle corn – Yellow or amber coloring.
  • Cinnamon – Red, brown, or orange coloring.
  • Caramel – Golden brown or dark brown coloring.
  • Ranch – Green or yellow coloring.
  • Pizza – Red and yellow for a pepperoni pizza look.
  • Birthday cake – Rainbow sprinkled colors.

How to Microwave Colored Popcorn

To maintain the vibrancy of the food coloring, it’s best to add it after microwaving the popcorn. However, you can still add color beforehand with a couple extra steps:

  1. Place popcorn bag in microwave, but don’t start cooking yet.
  2. Use a push pin to poke 5-10 small holes in the top of the bag.
  3. Add desired amount of food coloring through the holes.
  4. Gently shake bag to distribute coloring throughout unpopped kernels.
  5. Microwave popcorn according to package instructions.
  6. Shake again once finished cooking to further mix color.

The steam released from the microwaving process can cause some food coloring to fade or bleed. Poking holes gives the steam an escape route. Let the bag sit 1-2 minutes before opening to prevent burning from steam.

Storing Colored Popcorn

To maintain vibrant color and prevent bleeding, follow these storage tips:

  • Let cool completely before storing.
  • Place in an airtight container or sealable bag.
  • Avoid moisture to prevent colors from bleeding and running together.
  • Store at room temperature in a pantry or cupboard.
  • Use within 1-2 days for optimal texture and color.
  • Don’t store in direct sunlight which can cause fading.

With proper storage, the colors should remain fairly well set for a couple days. Just be sure to seal it in an airtight container to lock in freshness and color.

Safety Tips

Food coloring is generally safe, but here are a few precautions to take:

  • Use food-grade coloring only.
  • Avoid getting liquid food coloring on hands to prevent staining skin.
  • Monitor children to prevent excessive ingestion of liquid coloring.
  • Check ingredient list for potential allergens like Red Dye #40.
  • Natural color alternatives like beet, carrot, and spinach juice can also stain.
  • Don’t use food coloring to disguise old or spoiled popcorn.

As with any food dye, just use a reasonable amount of coloring. A few drops per batch is plenty for safety and vibrancy. And be sure to use high quality popcorn for your base.

Ready-to-Color Popcorn Kits

For added convenience, there are some ready-made popcorn coloring kits you can buy. These include pre-measured food coloring along with shakers and instructions:

  • The Popcorn Factory Color Pop Kit
  • Welly Coloring Popcorn Kit
  • Ultimate Popcorn Coloring Kit
  • Pop It! Popcorn Coloring Kit

The kits take the guesswork out of how much coloring to add. They also often include fun sprinkle toppings to make the experience more festive for kids. The color mixes and shakers make it easy to customize each batch.

Natural Food Coloring Alternatives

If you want to avoid synthetic dyes, you can try using natural food coloring alternatives. Here are some options:

  • Turmeric – Adds a golden yellow/orange color.
  • Paprika – Infuses a reddish-orange hue.
  • Spinach – Blend with water to make green coloring.
  • Blueberry – Purée with water for a purple-blue tone.
  • Beet – Juice beets to create a pink/red coloring.

Mix the juices or powders with a bit of water or oil to make the color easier to evenly distribute on the popcorn. You can also find natural coloring gels online or in some stores.

Edible Glitters and Sprinkles

For an extra pop of fun, you can top your colored popcorn with edible glitter or sprinkles. Here are some ideas:

  • Fine crystal sugar sprinkles
  • Sanding sugar
  • Rainbow sprinkles
  • Shimmery disco dust
  • Edible glitter
  • Candy beads or decorative pearls

Lightly spray the popcorn with cooking oil first so the sprinkles adhere. Gently toss to coat. Add these sparkly toppings along with the food coloring for a snazzy treat!

DIY Flavored Popcorn Seasonings

Along with food coloring, you can also add DIY seasonings to flavor your popcorn. Whip up your own blend at home with spices and herbs:

  • Ranch – Garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, dill
  • Pizza – Oregano, basil, garlic powder, pepper
  • Cinnamon sugar – Cinnamon, sugar
  • Chili lime – Chili powder, lime juice powder, cumin, salt
  • Sweet and salty – Brown sugar, kosher salt

Use about 1-2 teaspoons of seasoning per batch of popcorn. Sprinkle it on top after adding oil and food coloring for maximum coverage and taste.

Make it a Party Activity

Colored popcorn can be fun activity for kids’ parties, play dates, and school events. Set up a popcorn coloring station with the following:

  • Microwave popcorn – Prepopped or microwave bags
  • Food coloring – Variety of bright colors
  • Small bowls – For mixing coloring
  • Spoons – For drizzling and tossing
  • Disposable gloves – To protect hands from stains
  • Sprinkles – For extra decoration

Let kids decorate batches of popcorn with their choice of creative colors. They’ll love seeing how the hues mix together as they shake the bags. The colorful, crunchy snack will be a big hit!

Creative Uses for Colored Popcorn

Aside from eating it, you can use DIY colored popcorn for more crafty decorations and projects:

  • Glue onto art projects for texture and color
  • Fill clear glasses or vases for decoration
  • Use as confetti for parties
  • Create colorful popcorn garlands
  • Make a piñata and fill with popcorn
  • Fill clear balloons or ornaments

Let your creativity run wild! The popcorn provides a fun material to add color, shape, and whimsy to crafts.


Adding your own custom food coloring is a simple way to give basic microwave popcorn a fun, creative twist. With just a bit of liquid dye, you can jazz up this classic snack and make it more festive for themed events or everyday enjoyment. Get the whole family involved and let kids help decorate the batches. Try out different color palettes like neon rainbow or pastels. And add sprinkles, seasonings, or glitter to take the flavor up a notch. With the right preparation and storage, the colors will maintain their vibrancy for a couple days. Whip up a batch of your own colorful popcorn and let the creativity and snacking enjoyment commence!