How to make microwave popcorn in minutes—without having to run to the store or ingest any nasty preservatives, fake butter, or artificial anything. Perfect for Netflix binges!
When you can’t get your hands on packaged microwave popcorn, here’s how to make your own microwave popcorn with nothing but a handful of popcorn kernels and a brown paper bag. No running to the store. No artificial colors. No fake butter. No nasty preservatives. And no ridiculous price tag. Just perfectly popped popcorn that’s actually healthy for you. Not to mention perfect for your next Netflix binge.–Renee Schettler Rossi
How to Make Microwave Popcorn
- Unused brown paper lunch bag
- 3 tablespoons popcorn kernels
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
- Sea salt
- Place the popcorn kernels in the paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over two or three times.
- Place the bag in the microwave so it’s standing up. Microwave the bag on high until the popping slows to a few seconds between pops, which can take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 minutes, depending on your microwave and your popcorn.
☞TESTER TIP: Do not wait for the popping to stop before your remove it from the oven. Trust us. By then all your popcorn will be burnt.
- Remove the bag from the microwave.
- If using butter, melt it in a small bowl in the microwave on medium power for 30 seconds. If the butter isn't completely melted, give it a quick stir.
- Carefully open the bag and pour the butter or olive oil over the popcorn. Add the salt, close the bag, and shake. Don't forget napkins aplenty. WARNING: If you decide to make a second (or third or fourth) batch of microwave popcorn, use a new brown paper bag for each batch. DO NOT, under any circumstances, reuse a bag that has already been in the microwave. Also, DO NOT pour the unpopped kernels from a prior batch in with the fresh kernels for a later batch in the hopes that they will pop because they won't.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I’m so excited for this new technique! Popping popcorn using a microwave and an ordinary paper brown bag really works. This recipe is simple, and you’ll have delicious healthy popcorn in less than 5 minutes.
I didn’t believe just folding over the top of the bag twice would really hold together, but it did. I was amazed to actually hear popcorn start popping within seconds. My popcorn took 2 minutes and 10 seconds, but next time I’ll go for 2 minutes flat, as my popcorn almost burned.
When I melted the butter and added it to the bag, it mixed nicely but a little butter soaked into the bag, so I would serve the popcorn in another container. I used salted butter, and next time I make this, I’ll use less salt. Just salt to taste.
I made this 2 more times and thought I would experiment with the bag laying down, similar to store-bought microwave pop instructions, and it only popped 1 tablespoon out of the 3. So I tried it again standing up. Please note, the bag must be standing up to get the best results.
What a great idea! The most difficult part of the recipe for me was finding paper lunch bags. They’re not reading available here, and I had to place a request on our local email list. I consider myself to be somewhat of a popcorn expert, as it’s my favorite snack of all time. I once even had a popcorn tasting party where I made and served every brand of popcorn available, popping it all the same way, and seven friends and I tasted and rated all the brands.
One thing I liked about making the popcorn this way is that it was quick, easy, clean, and just the right amount for one person. The only drawback is if you’re popping corn for a number of people, though each person gets their own bag. Hands-on time was less than 3 minutes. Total time about 6 minutes. I keep my popcorn in the freezer (makes it pop larger), and I wasn’t sure if 3 minutes would be enough time, so I set the microwave for 5 minutes and watched closely. It started popping at 1 minute and finished at 3 minutes. Amazingly, I got 4 1/2 cups popped corn.
I also added slightly more butter and salt, but that may be a matter of taste or because my yield was so much larger than the recipe stated. This is a great recipe and one I’ll use in the future as soon as I can find a supply of paper lunch bags!
So easy, fast, and cheap, I had to give this “recipe” a Tester’s Choice. You can buy popcorn kernels in bins at some stores for very little money or buy the jarred kernels. Either way, it’s cheaper and healthier than buying the microwaveable popcorn in boxes and faster and less messy than popping your own in a pot.
The directions were right on: it took 2 1/2 minutes in the microwave for 3 tablespoons popcorn, producing 1 1/2 cups perfectly popped kernels. I stopped the microwave when the popping slowed way down. If you try to pop all the kernels, some will overcook and have a bitter “burnt” taste. This is the perfect recipe for a quick, delicious, and healthy snack.
At first I was going to say that this would be a great recipe (can it really be called a recipe?) for someone who doesn’t have a kitchen, like a college kid in a dorm room or someone traveling and staying in a motel. However, after making this 5 or 6 times over the past week, it might just be the method for everyone.
I tried this with different types of popcorn kernels. White, yellow, and multicolored. The multicolored kernels are very pretty, but the finished popcorn doesn’t have those shades of blue. All the popcorn comes out looking the same, so there’s no need to spend extra money on that. The first time I made this, I was concerned that it wasn’t working and was ready stop the microwave when I heard the kernels begin to pop. At the 2 minute and 30 second mark, there were still many unpopped kernels in the bag. At the 3 minute mark, many of the kernels had gotten too dark or burned. What worked the best for me was 2 minutes and 45 seconds. However, everyone’s microwave is different, and people will probably need to experiment.
My butter wasn’t melted after cooking at 30 seconds on medium power. In my microwave, I need to cook the butter on full power for 30 seconds.
WARNING: When we had a lot of kernels left unpopped, someone who shall remain nameless wondered what it would be like if we put the bag back in the microwave and tried to cook the rest of the kernels. I can tell you what happens and save you a lot of aggravation. The bag becomes engulfed in flames. A wild, wild fire. Don’t do it. Just make another batch of popcorn and enjoy.
I love this simple method of making popcorn! Who needs that pre-packaged popcorn from the store? With this recipe, you get freshly popped popcorn in the same amount of time, and you know exactly what’s in it.
In my microwave, it took 1 minute and 45 seconds and I only had about 1 teaspoon unpopped kernels. I used about 1/2 teaspoon salt for my taste. Also, my yield was 8 cups popcorn—way more than what the recipe states.
I will never go back to buying commercial microwave popcorn. In just about 5 minutes, I can have hot, fresh popcorn topped with real butter and salt. Who can ask for anything more?
My yield was about 4 1/2 cups popped kernels, which was perfect for 1 serving. My microwave (1000 watts) took 2 1/2 minutes to pop the popcorn. Watch this like a hawk—I had to stop the microwave before the popping slowed down because I was starting to smell burned popcorn. A few of the popped kernels were a little dark in the middle. I had about 1 tablespoon unpopped popcorn in the bottom of the bag.
My popcorn was several months old—a fresher supply might leave fewer unpopped kernels. Next time, I’ll put the popcorn in a bowl and drizzle it with the butter, as some of the butter soaked into the bag. I don’t want to waste a drop of butter! I started with 1/8 teaspoon salt, and that was enough for me. I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on part of the popcorn, and it was sublime.
This recipe was simple, easy, and very customizable.
I tried a few types of popcorn kernels and a variety of salts and butters. The best results came from Pop Secret Jumbo Popcorn Kernels. They popped up large and very similar to the typical popcorn kernel that comes to mind when you think of a bowl of popcorn. I also tried traditional white popcorn kernels, and they just didn’t have the substance that the Jumbo Pop did.
For friends who are still sticking with their New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier, this was a dynamite recipe for them to determine how much butter or salt they put on their popcorn. I got a variety of salts (popcorn salt, white Cheddar, ranch), which were a big hit. I used traditional butter for my first batch. I switched out the butter for some Italian seasoning in a later batch, which changed the popcorn game for us.
A hearty snack without all the calories. Overall, I highly recommend this recipe!
This recipe was so easy, and the results were fantastic! After my first bag, I promised myself that I would never go back to traditional microwave popcorn ever again. When I first tried the recipe, all the kernels weren’t popped after 2 minutes, and some were burned in the middle. Once I removed the singed popcorn, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the burned taste didn’t linger nor did it affect the rest.
The result was soft and delicious popcorn that I was able to eat after a root canal surgery. I tried the recipe again, using only 2 tablespoons popcorn kernels at 1 minute, 30 seconds and included the butter as I popped the kernels. The results were far better with no burned popcorn. I will definitely keep trying this recipe.
This is such an easy method for the Type-A cook who wants good, fresh popcorn. It’s so simple that it’s a no-brainer for a single serving (or to share if you’re nice). The exact timing may vary depending on the freshness of your corn and the power of your microwave—mine (GE 1200 watts) did best at 2 1/2 minutes. If I went to 3 minutes (trying to get closer to 100% popped kernels), it tended to scorch some. I preferred having a few unpopped kernels.
While butter and salt are fine, I also played with an herb blend. Now that I’m back in the habit of making popcorn as my treat, I will try using nutritional or Brewer’s yeast next as a nice source of vegan umami, and for Oscar night, I will drizzle a tiny bit of truffle oil on mine.
I also found that while regular square bottom lunch bags work best (they stand upright, allowing lots of popping space), other gusseted paper bags will work in a pinch. This popcorn is fresher and nicer than anything you would buy (at a theatre, for instance) and yields just the right amount to satisfy a craving with so little work. Yay for guiltless treats!
I swore off microwave popcorn a few years ago when an article about “popcorn lung” started to swirl around social media. Thanks to this ridiculously simple recipe and the fact that I have an abundance of paper lunch bags from a craft project, I’m back to microwaving popcorn!
I used Rancho Gordo’s Crimson Popping Corn (highly recommend!) and ended up making 4 cups popcorn, far more than what the recipe states. I’m not sure if that’s because of the type of popcorn I used or if the recipe is off. I have a 1300W microwave, and it took 1 minute and 30 seconds to cook nearly all the popcorn. I ended up with about 10 unpopped kernels.
The recipe has you fold over the top of the bag twice. Next time, I’ll probably fold the bag three times (smaller folds, maybe 1/2 inch) since my bag nearly opened up. The bag ended up falling over toward the end of cooking but that didn’t seem to cause any problems. Next time, I’ll also melt the butter right before I pop the popcorn. The popcorn takes such a short time to pop that the butter wouldn’t melt in that time. Pouring the butter over the popcorn when the popcorn has just come out of the microwave seems to help it spread over more kernels. I found the amount of salt to be a little too much, so I’d consider using less salt initially and adding more later.
I’ve made popcorn this way for a while, and my whole family enjoys it. I really appreciate that this method is quick, easy, and doesn’t require a lot of cleanup. Plus, it doesn’t have any strange ingredients or chemicals like many of the manufactured microwave popcorns at the market. I find that 2 minutes and 30 seconds is the most time I can have the popcorn in the microwave before it starts to burn. It leaves me with about 1 tablespoon unpopped kernels and this recipe yields 2 heaping cups.
When in need of a popcorn fix, this quick homemade microwave popcorn is hard to pass up. I was truly skeptical about this recipe. I thought there was no way it could work. I placed 3 tablespoons kernels in a bag and began the trial and error process with my microwave (1000 watts). My first batch popped but had a significant amount of burnt popcorn in it. Still hopeful, I tried again, this time for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
The popcorn was perfect! The kernels popped up light and fluffy. My yield was about 3 cups popcorn with 1 tablespoon unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag. I poured the butter into the bag, sprinkled the salt, and shook the bag. The popcorn was surprisingly good.
Popcorn at our house is a special occasion, mainly because we make a production out of it: pulling down the old-fashioned Whirley Pop, twirling it on the stovetop while melting butter and gathering seasonings, pouring it in the biggest bowl in the house, adorning it with toppings, and racing into the living room to binge on our latest TV show before the popcorn cools. I’ve never been fond of anything beyond the scent of packaged microwave popcorn; too canned, too processed.
Here, though, is a way to bring microwave popcorn to back into my life and to eliminate the production of popcorn night. I can still use my preferred seasonings: extra butter and salt for treat nights; coconut oil and nutritional yeast when feeling plant-based; bacon fat warmed with sage like the popcorn at our favorite brewery; or go big with truffle oil and grated Parmesan.
No Whirley Pop, no cleanup! Just listen to your microwave—we burned a batch while getting it right. When you can count to 5 between pops, it’s time! We had about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon unpopped kernels. I read the recipe incorrectly and didn’t melt the butter; I just tossed it in with the salt and shook, which worked fine, so I’ll probably repeat that. We prefer more butter and salt, but we generally eat popcorn in place of dinner so rich is not a problem! The bag’s outside did get a bit greasy, so I wasn’t about to cuddle up with it on the couch, but I loved shaking it up to disperse the seasoning.
Originally published April 18, 2020
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
OMG. My life will never be the same again. No more burned pots or fake butter—this recipe works perfectly. I just ran out to get more paper lunch bags!
All of my corn kernels popped after about 2 1/2 minutes in the microwave. One or two were slightly burned, so you do need to take the bag out promptly. Three tablespoons of corn popped up to nearly 4 cups—a single serving in my house. Just 5 minutes to popcorn nirvana.