Perfect Wok Popcorn

Perfect wok popcorn is a technique that makes some of best popcorn we’ve ever had. All you need is a wok, some oil, and popcorn kernels. And these instructions on how to pop popcorn on the stove.

A person holding a wok for making wok popcorn in front of their face.

This recipe instructs you in the art of making perfect wok popcorn. Yet there may still be a little learning curve, a sort of dance, that eventually comes to happen in front of your stove to ensure that your popcorn pops properly. Like learning to jigger the heat ever so slightly so the popcorn neither scorches nor too many seconds elapse between when you hear nary a pop. Knowing to crack the lid just a touch rather than forcing it tightly sealed to ensure the steam can escape—and to ensure that you escape soggy popcorn. Even—and this is the tricky part—respecting the fact that popcorn requires a minute or two of rest, uncovered, after being pulled from the heat to ensure the puffy corn turns from tough to tender. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. Actually, perfect is overrated. But this comes close to it.–Renee Schettler

☞ Contents

Perfect Wok Popcorn

A person holding a wok for making wok popcorn in front of their face.
Making popcorn in a wok is my secret to perfect popcorn everytime. The freshly popped kernels climb up the sides of the wok and away from the heat of the pan's bottom, making them harder to burn. Quick and easy.

Prep 2 mins
Cook 3 mins
Total 5 mins
6 to 12 cups
34 kcal
5 / 2 votes
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  • A 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or other large pot with a lid


  • 2 tablespoons peanut, vegetable, or coconut oil
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • Coarse salt to taste


  • Pour the oil and just a few popcorn kernels into a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok (or other large pot), cover, and place over medium heat until 1 or 2 kernels begin to pop, about 1 1/2 minutes.

    TESTER TIP: To minimize cleanup, first wrap the inside of the wok's lid in aluminum foil. Otherwise the inside surface of the lid will be spattered with oil, making yet another thing for you to clean.

  • Working quickly, open the lid just enough to pour in the remaining popcorn. Immediately cover the wok and reduce the heat to medium-low. If you do not hear constant popping, increase the heat to medium. Shake the wok constantly back and forth on the burner until the kernels stop popping, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Immediately dump the popcorn into a bowl and season with salt to taste.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 34kcal (2%)Carbohydrates: 7g (2%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 0.4g (1%)Saturated Fat: 0.1g (1%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 25mg (1%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 0.1gCalcium: 0.5mgIron: 0.3mg (2%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is good popcorn! I don’t have a flat bottom wok so I used my round bottom wok and wok ring since I have a gas stove. My wok ring is tall so it took a little longer for each step in this recipe. It took 2 1/2 minutes for my test kernels to pop. When I added a 1/2 cup of new kernels, it took about 30 seconds for them to start to pop. I left my heat on medium until the popping started and then turned the heat down to medium low. My popcorn popped for about 4 1/2 minutes. But what came out was delicious: light, crisp, and perfectly done.

Originally published January 18, 2011


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. I have used a cast iron wok to pop corn for years. One of the reasons I use a wok is because I do not have to shake it. The heavier kernels fall into the hot oil as the lighter popped corn sits on top. I just turn off the heat while there is still a few seconds between pops. This way makes perfect popcorn and I rarely have unpopped kernels..

  2. 5 stars
    This IS the Perfect Popcorn recipe! Now after two flawless attempts I deem this method a complete success: perfectly popped popcorn, no burned pieces, and very few to no left over kernels! I will admit, I was skeptical when trying this recipe. I thought for sure the heat of the wok would burn the popcorn, but this method is better than any other method I have previously tired (microwave, large flat bottomed pot, air popper). I used a piece of 18 inch long heavy duty foil and I laid it flush to the edges of the wok lid and folded the excess over the top edges of the lid, so in essence it made a flat surface for the popcorn to bounce off of. The 18 inch foil length helped create a nice seal and fit perfectly on the lid of my wok. While the foil did make clean up a breeze, I also do think the foil served a purpose of keeping the steam closer to the kernels and allowing the popping to be done quickly, in about 1 1/2 minutes once the popping began. Once finished, I wiped out the wok with a dry paper towel since the popping seemed to season my wok effortlessly in the popping process, a win, win!

    1. Dawn, it seems like you have this down cold! (Or should I say “hot?”) Grace Young, one of my very favorite cookbook authors, really does hit it out of the park with this recipe. So glad you like it.

  3. Popcorn made in a wok? That’s clever! Thanks for the popcorn post – oh how I LOVE the little organic, non-GMO popping corn which is so petite, purple, with that old-world nutty flavor. Then when popped, little jewels are dressed with a bit of coconut oil, olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, a crank or 4 of cracked pepper, and a couple of dashes of powdered garlic, or lemon pepper. Your choice – but either way? What bliss. 🙂

    1. You’re very welcome, Jana. And I know that bliss well. I mean, I know my version of your popcorn bliss well, which is teensy organic, non-GMO kernels that pop up hull-less and white as white can be with a slightly sweet, delicate flavor, dressed only with the olive oil they were popped in and some crushed coarse sea salt. Ah…there may be popcorn for breakfast at this rate!

  4. My kids think I make the best popcorn. I pop it in ghee and add powdered salt. I like mine popped in olive oil with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a healthy sprinkle of Tabasco sauce. I eat if for lunch once a week or so.

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