Air Popped Popcorn


5 from 25 votes
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Learn how to make air popped popcorn three ways- Stovetop, paper bag, and air popper! No oil and no butter needed, it’s a healthy snack ready in less than 5 minutes!

air popped popcorn

If I could have my way, movie theatre popcorn would be its own food group.

There’s something incredibly delicious about piping hot, buttery popcorn. There is truly nothing more delicious than freshly popped popcorn, and it’s a snack I enjoy regularly. While I don’t have the movie theatre style popcorn machine, I enjoy it on a very regular basis, except air popped!

What is air popped popcorn?

Air popped popcorn refers to the cooking process of the raw corn kernels. The ‘air popping’ is done in three ways: an air popper (also known as a popcorn machine), microwave popcorn (in the brown paper bag), or stovetop.

Why make air popped popcorn?

  • It’s a healthy snack. Popcorn is high in fiber and low in calories. There is no oil or butter needed to pop the kernels!
  • It’s ready in less than two minutes. Depending on which method you choose, it’s ridiculously quick and there is no mess to clean up.
  • You can customize it any way you like. Air popped popcorn is a blank canvas that you can flavor any way you like.
  • It’s cheaper than store bought. Pre-packaged and flavored microwave popcorn can be up to ten times as much as a package of popcorn kernels.

I love enjoying popcorn this way, because it is healthy, delicious, and requires just one ingredient- popcorn kernels!

What you’ll need for this recipe

  • Popcorn kernels– Easily found in the potato chip or baking aisle.
  • Seasonings– See below for seasoning ideas!
  • Oil– Only if you use the stovetop method. 

How to air pop popcorn

Microwave method

Start by adding your popcorn kernels into a paper bag. Next, fold over the bag twice, to ensure it does not open up in the middle of microwaving. Microwave the popcorn for 2-3 minutes, or until the popping becomes inconsistent. 

Stovetop method

Add the oil to a large non-stick pot along with 3 or 4 kernels. Place it over medium heat, covered, and wait for the kernels to pop. This shows if the oil is hot enough to cook. 

Next, remove the pot from the heat and add the rest of the kernels into it. Cover the pot, give it a good shake, and let it sit for 60 seconds. 

Now, place the pot back over the stove over medium heat and let the kernels pop. Once the popping becomes inconsistent, remove the popcorn off the heat and immediately remove the lid. Transfer into a bowl and enjoy immediately. 

Air popper method

The easiest way to enjoy air popped popcorn is via an at-home popcorn maker. Simply follow the machine’s instructions and you’ll be done! 

how to air pop popcorn

Can I make popcorn in the air fryer?

Another option to make popcorn is to pop it in the air fryer. Just see how easy it is to do.

How many calories in popcorn? 

Air popped popcorn, with no added sugar or oil, has just 20 calories per cup.

Popcorn seasoning and flavor ideas

  • Butter– Place the popcorn into a ziplock bag and drizzle melted butter and salt over it. Give the bag a good shake, then transfer into a serving bowl.
  • Caramel– Make a simple caramel and cover the popcorn with it. Bake it in the oven, stirring regularly, until golden and crispy.
  • Nacho cheese– Add nacho seasoning from the packet (available in the spice aisle) or add cheddar seasoning with smoked paprika, garlic salt, and onion.
  • Salt and vinegar– Whisk together melted butter with vinegar. Add popcorn to a large mixing bowl and slowly drizzle the vinegar mix over it, stirring regularly. Sprinkle with salt before serving.
  • Kettle corn– Add popcorn to a bag then drizzle melted butter throughout. Give it a shake, then add salt and sugar and shake once more.

Storing and freezing instructions

  • To store: Leftover popcorn can be stored in an airtight container or ziplock bag for up to one week.
  • To freeze: Do not freeze popcorn, as it will become soft and soggy.
air pop popcorn

More healthy snacks to try

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make air popped popcorn less dry?

The best way to ensure air popped popcorn isn’t dry is to add some oil or melted butter to the freshly cooked popcorn. Once you’ve done that, add your seasonings and you’ll be licking your fingers!

How do you make air popped popcorn taste like a movie?

Movie theatre popcorn is perfectly buttery and salty. The best way to achieve this flavor is to douse your fresh popcorn with 1/4 cup (or more!) of melted butter and mix it through. Once you’ve done that, transfer the popcorn into a ziplock bag and shake it vigorously with salt.

What is the healthiest popcorn?

Homemade popcorn is the healthiest way to enjoy popcorn. However, brands like Skinny Pop and Pop Secret both have calorie reduced microwave popcorn, including 100 calorie bags.

air popped popcorn

Air Popped Popcorn (3 Ways!)

5 from 25 votes
Learn how to make air popped popcorn three ways- Stovetop, paper bag, and air popper! No oil and no butter needed, it's a healthy snack ready in less than 5 minutes!
Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 1 minute
Cook: 2 minutes
Total: 3 minutes


  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels

For the stovetop method

  • 2 tablespoons oil


Stovetop method

  • Add the oil to a large saucepan and add two kernels to it, cover it, and place it over medium heat. Let the oil heat up for 1-2 minutes, or until the kernels have popped. Once they have popped, remove the saucepan off the heat.
  • Add the remaining kernels and shake the saucepan so the kernels distribute evenly. Add the lid back on and place it back over medium heat. Let the kernels pop and once the popping is less consistent, remove the saucepan off the heat and transfer the freshly popped popcorn into a bowl.

Microwave method

  • Add the popcorn kernels to a brown paper bag. Carefully fold the top twice, to ensure it does not open up during the popping process.
  • Place the bag in the microwave and microwave for 2-3 minutes, or until the popping becomes inconsistent. Remove the bag from the microwave and let it sit for 30 seconds, for any extra kernels to pop. Transfer it into a bowl and season.

Air popper method

  • Add kernels to the air popper and cook as per instructions.


Nutritional information refers to the microwave and air popper methods. Using the stovetop version will add an extra 50 calories per serving. 
TO STORE: Leftover popcorn can be stored in an airtight container or ziplock bag for up to one week.
FLAVOR IDEAS: See the body of the post for some fun flavors to try. 


Serving: 1servingCalories: 77kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 56mgFiber: 3gCalcium: 1mgIron: 1mgNET CARBS: 12g
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Author: Arman Liew
Tried this recipe?Give us a shout at @thebigmansworld or tag #thebigmansworld!

Arman Liew

I’m a two time cookbook author, photographer, and writer, and passionate about creating easy and healthier recipes. I believe you don’t need to be experienced in the kitchen to make good food using simple ingredients that most importantly, taste delicious.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I love popcorn and my favorite was sweet kettle corn. As a diabetic, I can no longer buy it. I make popcorn using the microwave method, then drizzle a little butter on it, salt it, and use a sugar substitute, I use the recipe from joyfilledeats. Then shake and enjoy. I love your recipes. If some have sugar I find I can easily adapt them. I have used several and always look foward to what is next. Thanks for that.