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How to Pop Popcorn Without a Popper

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Learn How to Pop Popcorn Without a Popper and get perfect results every time. Making popcorn on the stove is easy, fast, and produces delicious popcorn.A bowl of stove top popcorn, butter, salt, and a measuring cup with unpopped kernels.

Years ago I gave up on meal planning for Friday nights. Working full-time, commuting, and all the other crap that goes along with being a parent to a young kid meant that I was exhausted by the end of the week. I once joked that all I wanted to do on Fridays was eat popcorn, let my kid watch a movie and zone out on the couch.

And then one day I realized I’m an adult and could do whatever the hell I wanted. And thus, Popcorn Dinner & Movie Nights became our weekly Friday family tradition. I do believe we’re on year seven of this in our house, and I know countless other families who have implemented it as well.

I have an air popper now that was a gift, but for years I made popcorn on the stovetop. It’s so much easier than you think and the flavor it produces is absolutely delicious!

How to Pop Popcorn Without a Popper on the Stovetop – Step by Step

  1. Take a large saucepan, and let it get hot over a medium-high heat. Add coconut oil and three popcorn kernels.three popcorn kernels in a pan with coconut oil
  2. When the three kernels start to pop, add the rest of the kernels and quickly place a lid on top. Offset the lid a bit to allow some heat to escape. If you don’t have a lid, top with a piece of foil and lightly pinch it around the rim. Quickly cut three slits in the foil. foil over a pot to make popcorn on the stovetop
  3. Give the pan an occasional shake to keep the kernels from burning.  Once the popping starts, stay close to the stove to monitor. Take the pan off of the burner when the popping slows down a lot. Let sit for a minute or so, and then carefully peel back the foil or remove the lid to reveal perfectly popped corn. stove top popcorn in a pot

Awesome Toppings For Popcorn

  • Butter and salt. This one is most popular for obvious reasons. It’s super yummy!
  • Cinnamon and sugar.
  • Nutritional yeast, aka nooch. Nutritional yeast tastes like white cheddar and is packed with tons of vitamins and other healthy crap. More on the benefits of nutritional yeast in this post on White Cheddar Pumpkin Seeds.
  • Mix sriracha with butter. OMG so yummy!
  • Top with grated parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and parsley.

Every Friday I serve popcorn with fruit, some veggie sticks and hummus, and sliced cheese to convince myself that this is a perfectly acceptable meal.

Because it is!

What is your favorite way to eat popcorn?

Making this recipe or others?

Post a photo on my Facebook page, share it on Instagram, or save it to Pinterest with the tag #sustainablecooks. I can't wait to see your take on it!

stove top popcorn in a blue bowl
Print
5 from 2 votes
How to Pop Popcorn Without a Popper
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
 
Learn How to Pop Popcorn Without a Popper and get perfect results every time. Making popcorn on the stove is easy, fast, and produces delicious popcorn.
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: How to Pop Popcorn Without a Popper
Servings: 2
Calories: 143 kcal
Instructions
  1. Take a large saucepan, and let it get hot over a medium-high heat. Add coconut oil and three popcorn kernels.

  2. When the three kernels start to pop, add the rest of the kernels and quickly place a lid on top. Offset the lid a bit to allow some heat to escape. If you don't have a lid, top with a piece of foil and lightly pinch it around the rim. Quickly cut three slits in the foil.

  3. Give the pan an occasional shake to keep the kernels from burning. Once the popping starts, stay close to the stove to monitor. Take the pan off of the burner when the popping slows down a lot. Let sit for a minute or so, and then carefully peel back the foil or remove the lid to reveal perfectly popped corn.

Recipe Notes

Top with your favorite popcorn flavors - butter and salt, nutritional yeast, cinnamon and sugar, etc.

If you have sensitivities to coconut, replace with another high-heat oil like avocado.

Nutrition Facts
How to Pop Popcorn Without a Popper
Amount Per Serving
Calories 143
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

This post was originally published in May 2012. It has been updated based on reader feedback, the recipe was made printable, and new photos were added.

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45 comments on “How to Pop Popcorn Without a Popper”

  1. This is how I make my popcorn because I have family members with multiple food allergies. If I want to make microwave popcorn I put some kernels in a paper lunch bag fold over the top a couple of times & microwave for a few minutes. Works great for us!

  2. I use a wok, it always seems to do a great job.

  3. I just use my pot lid, and I let the oil heat up a little first and pour the butter and salt right into the oil, that way it coats all the kernels as they pop! I add my kernels, and give it a few shakes as they pop. No need to waste foil! 🙂 Ive been getting creative with my toppings/flavors, I just add it right to the oil and then dump in the kernals. I can do 1 cup of kernals for a regular soup or spaghetti sized pot.

    • We wrap my homemade bread in foil for the freezer. When we take a loaf out of the oven, we set the foil aside to reuse for lining pans, popcorn, etc.

      I’ve tried the salt right in the pot, but not the butter yet. I’ll give it a shot!

  4. We used to make ours like that. My mom gifted us a huge pot that worked great. A few weeks ago I picked up a bowl that you dump kernels into and microwave. We’ve been using that nearly every other day. I loooove purple popcorn, and bags of it stay yummy in my purse for an on the go snack for a few days.

    • I’ve never had purple popcorn before! Where do you get the kernels?

    • We get ours at the local bulk food store. It makes the brightest white puffs ever. They’re a little smaller than normal, and delicious completely plain. (I’m going to hell for that remark, I know.) 🙂 I have friends in Seattle. I can ask if they know where to find it up there.

    • Hmmm, I’ve never seen ours at the fancy pants bulk store about 45 minutes away. I’ll check Azure! Maybe Amazon?

    • Ha, it sounds like a wonderful breakfast!

      I can’t handle kettle corn, but I’ll take your word for it. In college, my sister and I had a roommate with an eating disorder who smoked a lot of weed. She would make “healthy” kettle corn and make popcorn at 2 am, spray it with cooking spray, and cover it in Equal. I can’t get past the taste of that to enjoy real kettle corn now.

    • I found some on Amazon, but it’s cheaper right from the supplier. />
      We paid $3 for enough to fill a quart canning jar, plus a cup or so left in the bag. I just prefer the purple because it seems to never go stale. We made stove top kettle corn with it yesterday. 1/4 cup of oil in the pot with two kernels. When they pop, add 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and about 1/2 cup kernels. Then just proceed as usual. Soooo good. Using brown sugar gives it a more caramel crunch.
      I may have eaten it for breakfast this morning. 😉

  5. OK, I must admit, I was all set to discount your idea. I mean, it’s cute enough, but the microwave stuff I buy isn’t bad – the ingredient list is just “Popcorn, Canola Oil, Salt”. Just to be sure, I double-checked…. and for the first time, found the tiny print that says “Contains 2% or less of the following” followed by a predictable list of yuck and junk. I’ve been duped!

    Guess I’m putting “popcorn kernels” on the next shopping list LOL

  6. I kinda disagree about microwave popcorn. I hate the prepackaged stuff, but I found a microwavable popcorn bowl at Target this winter and I love it. It’s just a heavy plastic bowl with a vented lid, but you can use it with or without oil. And Target has awesome seasoning salts for popcorn, I’m addicted to the Salt & Vinegar seasoning. As for cleanup, I just wipe the few unpopped kernals out of the bowl and put it way. I only have a few unitaskers, but this is one I’ll keep.

    • I’ve never seen these bowls before. I’ll check them out next time I’m at target because I can’t picture how they’d work.

      And yes, when I was talking about microwave popcorn, I meant the prepackaged stuff.

    • I have one of those bowls and use it all the time. But you don’t need one of those bowls, any big bowl that goes in the microwave will work. I heat a cup of water for two minutes to preheat the micro then put the empty bowl in with a plate on top as a cover also for a minute. Then add 1/3 cup popcorn kernals and micro on 80% power for 1 minute and 100% power for 2.5 minutes. My microwave is super old (as in older than a co-worker of mine) so this “popcorn routine” probably only works for it and everybody else would have to find their own routine.
      Sometimes I wish I had snagged that steel pot (the one with the crank on top, you know?) at that yardsale I was at. It was a buck and I was … well I was thinking, that’ll just take more room in the cupboard (I only have one), so I passed on it and kind of regret it now.

  7. I need to try this!!! What kind of serving size of kernels do you use? 1 cup?

  8. Gotta love the ending. I do think it is a perfectly acceptable meal! I miss stove-top popped popcorn. Maybe I’ll look for a bag next time I’m at the store…

  9. I agree with the Alton Brown method. No pot to clean, just use a brown lunch bag. I make mine without oil and sprinkle olive oil and salt on it. Also, no need to staple the bag, just fold top over a few times. So easy!

    • I’ve found out the hard way that staples = mini microwave fire! ;-D

      I’ll give it a shot!

    • Absolutely! I’ve been making it in paper bags for a couple years now…sometimes it doesn’t quite pop as big as it does using other methods, but it’ super crunchy and you can reuse the bag + no cleanup of a pan. Sprinkle something tasty on top and your’e ready to go. If you have a big enough microwave, you can sometimes use the larger brown paper bags from the grocery store to make an extra large batch. Although I’d make sure the bag was pretty clean first…hate to have anything left from groceries in there before popping!

  10. It’s pricey, but I was gifted a stainless steel popcorn popper since our family is addicted to homemade kettlecorn (just add sugar in a 2:1 popcorn to sugar ratio before popping). That thing cleans like a dream!! Even the sticky bits of sugar fall right off with a light scrubbing. There are some crappy ones out there, though, so if you decide to add one to your wish list, go with the Lindy. 🙂

    • We had one that was a big pot with a crank…is that similar to what you’re talking about? Perhaps ours was just cheap, but it broke after only a year. Lame!

  11. I have an air popper that was $20 at the store. I prefer my popcorn as plain as you can get it and I’ve found nothing that works better than the air popper.

    Frugal isn’t about not spending money but about spending money wisely. That $20 has gone a long way so far.

    • I 100% agree with “Frugal isn’t about not spending money but about spending money wisely”! I will save and invest in quality and products that I love because they last and fit the need. Someone gave me crap last night in another post that I was buying “too expensive” essential oils. Well, I’ve had the same $8 bottle of peppermint essential oil for 4 years now!

      I can’t get on board with the plain popcorn though. ;-D If my hands are covered with butter by the end, it’s not a great batch of popcorn.

  12. We make it by putting a 1/4 cup, mixed with a tiny amount of oil into a paper lunch bag and into the microwave.
    Tada! Microwave popcorn without the yicky stuff.

  13. This is Alton Brown’s favorite way to make popcorn which he demonstrated on his Popcorn episode of “Good Eats”. I have used this method with an aluminum mixing bowl on the stove with great success. The benefit of the shape of the mixing bowl is it funnels the unpopped kernels down to the bottom of the bowl so you have less unpopped kernels at the end.

    • YES! Ever since we saw that episode we make it in my wok, covered with foil.
      Perfect every time!
      I put a little fresh ground pepper in with it. Just like this little old time gift shop that was at the Dayton airport in the early 90’s!

    • You have my intrigued with the wok!

  14. Microwave popcorn is nasty, not to mention ridiculously expensive compared to regular popcorn. I’ve made popcorn the “old fashioned” stovetop way forever. One day when grandkids & great-grandkids were visiting, decided to make a big batch of my famous caramel corn. When the kids saw me popping the corn in a pan on my stove, they were AMAZED. They had no idea it was POSSIBLE to make popcorn without a microwave! Made me sad.

  15. I use bacon drippings….it is to freaking die for!
    My God-daughter was 3 years old when I made popcorn on the stove top. “But Aunt Brenna, you can’t make popcorns like that…you need a miker-wave!!”. Her eyes just about popped out of her head!

    • Mmmmmm! How much do you use?

      Miker-wave! Adorable.

      • 2-3
        T and I try to get all the bits….I don’t strain my bacon drippings. I have yet to make it, but have considered putting a strip or two of crumbled bacon with my popcorn. It’s Friday, may have to try that tonight since the grandbabies are spending the night 🙂

      • Girl, you know how to have a wild and crazy Friday night! 🙂

  16. I have a couple different styles of pop corn popper but like you tend to reach for the biggest pot and lid for the best results. As for toppings salt and butter is yum but I am fond of butter, salt and maple syrup too, esp. this time of year. Sprinkle the salt then mix the maple syrup in the melted butter and drizzle your way to delicious sticky yummy-ness. Honey works to but not this time of year 🙂

  17. I do it in the microwave too! Used to do the stove method but felt like I was wasting foil and I had to wash a pot. In the microwave I just use a big glass bowl covered with an inside down plate. No oil, butter, nothing. Just 30-60 sec at a time until it’s finished popping. Instead of oil in the stockpot on the stove, I too used bacon grease. Maybe 2T. 

  18. DELISH! Especially with the nutritional yeast!!

  19. I’ve always used some kind of popper to make popcorn at home, but when I got married it was like starting from scratch in the kitchen. My son loves popcorn and this recipe works perfectly as long as you follow the instructions. Thank you for saving our movie nights!