All you need is microwave popcorn, chocolate chips, mini m&ms, and a microwave to make the perfect crunchy, salty, sweet snack for any picnic.
When I was growing up, my grandparents used to host this massive July 4 BBQ in their back yard every year. The guests were mostly their neighbors and some of their lawyer friends, as well as any cousins or relatives in the area. It was a huge, all-day party with lots of food, sparklers, sprinklers and inflatable pools set up for the kids, and did I mention all the food?
The most infamous dish from these parties arrived in beautifully arranged, festive tissue-paper lined wicker baskets, filled with heaps of bright yellow and white popcorn held together with a drizzle of chocolate studded all over with mini-M&Ms.
As infamous as the chocolate-popcorn-M&M baskets were, they almost never made it out of the kitchen and on to the serving table. Everyone hanging out in the kitchen and prepping food would eat it, breaking off pieces to snack on while they worked. “Oh, it’s too hot outside — it’ll melt,” or “Let’s put it out once the sun goes down,” they’d say to each other. But by the time the sun went down and it was cool enough to keep the chocolate from melting, there was nothing left to share.
Next time you need to bring a last-minute dish to a picnic or BBQ, grab a bag of microwave popcorn, some chocolate chips, and M&Ms and you’re set. Sure, you could make ice cream, cookies, or bake a focaccia, but this comes together in about 5 minutes and is ready to go in 30. It’s a low-effort, high-reward treat that’s pretty much guaranteed to make you one of the most popular guests at any party.
how to make chocolate m&m popcorn
Pop a bag of popcorn (butter flavor recommended). I’m usually more of a lightly-salted popcorn kind of gal, but butter flavor really is the way to go for this recipe. Without the intensely buttery, salty flavor, your popcorn will taste flat and almost stale in contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate. No one wants that.
Spread the popcorn out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. To make sure the chocolate can stick the pieces of popcorn together, you want them in a semi-single layer, close together but not piled high on top of each other. You may need more than one sheet tray, or to crowd the popcorn on one side of the pan. It depends on how big your pan is or how much popcorn you’ve made. Take a minute or two to quickly go through and remove as many un-popped kernels as you can. No one wants to eat them.
DO NOT line your sheet pan with aluminum foil. A bare, un-greased cookie sheet works best, and hot water will melt any remaining hardened chocolate right off.
Melt a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave-safe cup or bowl. Of course you can use any kind of chocolate you want here, but I find semi-sweet pairs best with buttery popcorn. Dark chocolate ends up being too bitter, and milk chocolate melts too easily. Semi-sweet is your friend.
Chocolate chips have added stabilizers in them so they hold their shape while they bake, which can make it hard to tell when they’ve melted. To safely microwave them, heat them on high in 20-25 second intervals, stirring in between. When they’re ready, they won’t look melted, but when you stir them they’ll suddenly turn into liquid chocolate.
Alternately, you can melt your chocolate chips in a small pot on low heat stirring occasionally, or use a double-boiler if you’re feeling fancy. But why would you make more dishes if you didn’t need to?
Use a fork to drizzle the melted chocolate over the popcorn & sprinkle with M&Ms. The tines of the fork will help you get some variety in your chocolate drizzle. This way you can drop large globs of chocolate deliciousness as well as fine, thin strings of chocolate suspended between the popcorn pieces. Of course you can use a spoon or a knife, but I’ve found a fork gives you the most control over your drizzle.
Let the chocolate set for a minute or so before sprinkling on the mini M&Ms. If the chocolate is too melty, the weight of the M&Ms might make them slide off. You want them to stay in place when you drop them on.
Transfer to freezer for at least 20 minutes to harden the chocolate before serving. It really is crucial that the chocolate has hardened before you serve this. It’ll be a mess otherwise. So if it’s not solid after 20 minutes, give it another 10 and check again. (Also check that your freezer is working because 20 minutes really should do the trick.)
Once the chocolate has hardened, you can use your hands to gently break the popcorn pieces apart in to bite-sized chunks. Try not to knock the M&Ms off in the process.
BONUS OPTIONAL STEP: Flip the hardened chocolate popcorn chunks over and repeat the drizzling & M&M-ing process on the other side. Freeze for another 20 minutes, then break apart again.
variations on chocolate m&m popcorn
Other meltable drizzles (to be used in addition to, or instead of, the chocolate drizzle):
- Peanut butter chips
- White chocolate chips (melt your chips in batches and stir a few drops of candy food coloring into each of them for more colorful options)
- Butterscotch chips
- Add 2 tsp citrus zest into the melted chocolate
Other sprinkle-able sprinkles:
- Chrushed regular M&Ms
- Chopped mini pretzels
- Chopped toffee pieces
- Crushed Reese’s Pieces
- Chopped peanuts
- Rainbow sprinkles
- Dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, strawberries)
- Coconut shavings
Honestly, sky’s the limit here! You could even use kettle corn instead of butter popcorn if you want. I’d recommend against the cheese-flavored popcorns though.
What are you waiting for? Get popping!
You will need:
chocolate m&m popcornDifficulty: Easy
You only need a microwave, a fork, and a sheet tray to make this sweet-n-salty crunchy snack. It’s so popular, you’ll be lucky if it ever makes it out of the kitchen and onto the serving table.
YIELD: One 13×18″ sheet tray of popcorn.
1 bag buttered microwave popcorn
1/2 — 3/4 bag (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips (depending on if you’re drizzling chocolate on both sides or not)
1/2 cup mini M&Ms
- Pop microwave popcorn according to package directions. Spread popcorn in a single layer over a 13″x18″ sheet tray. Remove any un-popped kernels.
- Melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave in 20-25 second intervals, stirring in between. When the chips completely melt down when you stir, continue stirring until there are no lumps left.
- Use a fork to drizzle and dollop the melted chocolate over the popcorn, making sure to get the kernels along the edges and in the corners. Let chocolate set for appox 30-60 seconds.
- Sprinkle mini-M&Ms across the chocolate drizzle so that they stick.
- Transfer sheet tray into freezer or refrigerator for 20 minutes until chocolate has hardened, then break the popcorn into bite-sized pieces.
- OPTIONAL: Flip popcorn pieces over and repeat the chocolate + m&m process on the back. Freeze or refrigerate for 20 minutes, then break again.
- Scale up easily: 1 bag of popcorn + 1 cup of chocolate chips + 1/2 cup mini-m&ms per sheet tray.