In strong defense of Molly Yeh's popcorn salad recipe

We made the popcorn salad the internet's exploding over — and fell in love

By Jess Kapadia
Published April 23, 2021 6:53PM (UTC)
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(Jess Kapadia / Food52)

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Cookbook author, Food Network host, and Food52 fan-favorite Molly Yeh has effectively shaken the internet with her recipe for crunchy snap pea popcorn salad. Naturally, we couldn't be happier for her or more excited to test out this tantalizing-sounding concoction ourselves (though whether or not popcorn salad sounds tantalizing is, again, notably subjective).

Popcorn salad isn't a novel concept — it's existed in its traditional mayo-coated, vegetable-studded form across the Midwest for untold decades (though scores of Midwesterners weighed in to say they'd never heard of it until the recipe made its way into headlines). In fact, adding an acidic dressing to a puffed grain is commonplace in plenty of food cultures — think Indian chaat and Ecuadoran or Peruvian ceviche — and adding a liquid element of any kind to a puffed grain frequently results in a texturally pleasing crunchy-soggy hybrid that keeps us going back to the cereal box.

More importantly, however, Yeh likes it, which in and of itself is a strong indicator that there's something very real to be enjoyed in the mix. Like many of my favorite recipes, popcorn salad consists of pantry ingredients and produce staples I happened to have in my kitchen.

I popped the kernels, dusted them with cheddar cheese powder (which I always have on hand for turbocharging cheddar cheesiness), coated the carrot, celery, and shaved Brussels sprouts I subbed for watercress in a simple tangy-sweet mayonnaise dressing, and tossed the whole thing together. The internet has been offering an abundance of commentary on whether the mayonnaise dressing would make the popcorn soggy and whether soggy popcorn was akin to a food crime (among other opinions), but I love it. Even if I weren't such a hardcore popcorn devotee, I would have enjoyed it, but I am a hardcore popcorn devotee, so I really enjoyed it.

Fans of croutons that get slightly softer as they absorb dressing will delight in popcorn's ability to enhance its own toasty, savory, corn flavor with nothing more than a light glaze of acidic mayo. While I'll always prefer it as a snack over a salad element or source of controversy, popcorn's crisp sponginess definitely invites this kind of enhancement. While my assessment is only one in a veritable sea of (mostly) malcontent, it's one I'm standing by. Try your hand at this extra-crunchy, incredibly flavorful, and very satisfying salad that's my new favorite way to enjoy a pantry adventure.


Jess Kapadia

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