Air Popped Popcorn


5 from 27 votes
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Learn how to make air popped popcorn on the stovetop OR microwave. There’s no popcorn maker, no oil, and no butter needed. It’s the perfect healthy snack!

Craving more popcorn recipes? Try my Christmas popcorn, air fryer popcorn, protein popcorn, and kettle corn next. 

air popped popcorn.

I’ve had popcorn as a meal more times than I care to admit. There’s just something so satisfying about freshly popped popcorn, especially when it’s this easy to make. 

What does it mean when popcorn is air-popped?

Air pop popcorn refers to the process of using raw corn kernels. It can be done in three ways: an air popper (also known as a popcorn machine), microwave popcorn (in a brown paper bag), or on the stovetop.

Table of Contents
  1. Why I love this recipe
  2. Ingredients needed
  3. How to air pop popcorn
  4. How to air pop in the microwave
  5. Arman’s recipe tips
  6. Storage instructions
  7. Frequently Asked Questions
  8. More savory snack recipes to try
  9. Air Popped Popcorn (Recipe Card)

Why I love this recipe

  • It’s a healthy snack. Popcorn is high in fiber and low in calories, and you only need oil if you make it on the stovetop. 
  • It’s fast to make. Especially if you make it in the microwave, and clean-up is virtually nonexistent. 
  • It’s easy to customize. It’s essentially a blank canvas you can flavor any way you like, and I’ll give you plenty of ideas later on.  
  • So much cheaper than store-bought. Pre-packaged and flavored microwave popcorn can cost up to ten times as much as a package of popcorn kernels.

Ingredients needed

  • Popcorn kernels. Look for these in the potato chip or baking aisle. 
  • Seasonings. I’m a ‘purist’ and like my popcorn with melted butter, but feel free to use whatever spices you like!
  • Oil. Only if you use the stovetop method. Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, or vegetable oil are all great options.

How to air pop popcorn

I’ve included step-by-step photos below to make this recipe easy to follow at home. For the full printable recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Step 1- Heat the pan. Add oil to a pot over medium heat. Add two corn kernels, put the lid on, and place the pan over medium heat. Let the pan heat for 1-2 minutes or until the kernels pop. Once they pop, remove the pan from the heat. 

Step 2- Pop the corn. Add remaining kernels and shake the pan so they distribute evenly. Put the lid on and return to the heat. Let the kernels pop. Once the popping is less consistent, remove the pan from the heat, transfer it to a bowl, and season.

how to air pop popcorn.

How to air pop in the microwave

If you’d rather make your popcorn in the microwave, here’s how it’s done:

Step 1- Prepare popcorn. Add the kernels to a brown paper bag. Fold the top twice. 

Step 2- Microwave. Microwave the bag for 2-3 minutes or until the popping becomes less consistent. Remove the bag from the microwave and let sit for 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and season. 

Arman’s recipe tips

  • Use a good-quality, heavy-bottomed pop. Thin pots don’t distribute the heat as evenly, which can cause some of the kernels to burn. 
  • Be patient. It might take a few minutes for the first kernels to start popping, but you don’t want to crank up the heat.  
  • Avoid crowding the pot with too many corn kernels. Otherwise, the lid can pop right off. I’m speaking from experience!
  • Once they start popping, gently prop the lid open so you don’t steam the popcorn and cause it to lose its crispiness.
  • Don’t add flavorings to the kernels before popping. It can affect their ability to pop.


As mentioned earlier, air popped popcorn is like a blank canvas, so here are some fun flavor ideas to try:

  • Butter. Place the popcorn in a ziplock bag and drizzle melted butter and salt. Give the bag a good shake, then transfer to a serving bowl.
  • Caramel. Make a simple caramel sauce 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.
  • Parmesan. Add grated parmesan cheese.

Storage instructions

To store: Leftover popcorn can be stored in an airtight container or ziplock bag for up to one week.

air popped popcorn in a bowl.

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 movie theater popcorn?

Movie theater popcorn is extra 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.

Calories in air-popped popcorn?

There are just 20 calories in a cup of air-popped popcorn.

More savory snack recipes to try

air popped popcorn

Air Popped Popcorn

5 from 27 votes
Learn how to make air popped popcorn on the stovetop OR microwave. There’s no popcorn maker, no oil, and no butter needed. It’s the perfect healthy snack!
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.


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!

Originally published March 2022, updated and republished June 2024

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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5 from 27 votes (24 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    hi there
    the popcorn serving calories per cup, is that a cup off kernals or a cup of finished plain popped corn?

  2. 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.