Why Do People Add Popcorn to Salad?

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If you love crunchy salad toppings, you've likely had your fair share of herby croutons. Or maybe you're a fan of nuts, seeds, or raw vegetables like thinly sliced carrots. But you have ever thought of adding popcorn to your salad?

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Depending on where you grew up, the concept might sound strange. However, as it turns out, eating salad with popcorn is a standard concept in the Midwest. More specifically, popcorn is used as a base for salads, rather than a simple topping.

The dish is known as (surprise!) popcorn salad. It's made of popcorn tossed in a dressing of mayonnaise, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard, though the exact ingredients can vary. This makes the popcorn somewhat soggy but mostly crunchy, given the dish is eaten sooner rather than later.

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Popcorn salad might also be topped with chopped celery, shredded carrots, and/or crumbled bacon for extra flavor and crunch. Some recipes also mix in cheddar cheese and water chestnuts. Essentially, it's like macaroni salad — but with popcorn instead of macaroni.

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Now, popcorn salad has been a thing for many years. However, in April 2021, it went viral when Food Network star Molly Yeh shared the recipe. Her version features white cheddar popcorn, sugar snap peas, and watercress, along with many of the ingredients listed above.

When you think about it, serving popcorn this way actually makes sense. Remember, popcorn is a whole grain, just like rice, barley, oats, and wheat — the latter of which is used to make pasta, such as macaroni. (Writer's note: We've eaten the dish, and we can confirm that the ingredients do work together. Is it something we'd prepare again? Probably not, but that's just personal preference!)

As for popcorn as a salad topper? Folks do that, too. Just check out out this recipe by the food blog Three Many Cooks. Many of the commenters noted that when you think of popcorn as croutons, it really isn't that different after all.

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