The Dirty Little Secret of Microwave Popcorn

January 10, 2011 2:41 pm

I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret of the microwave popcorn industry: It’s all a sham.

That’s right, I said it. Store-bought microwave popcorn is a lie.

Here’s the scoop: You don’t need to buy those expensive, high-fat, high-salt, individually-wrapped packets. You can just take plain popcorn kernels, toss ‘em in a paper bag, and pop them yourself in the microwave.  No oil or grease needed.  No reflective foil in the bottom of the bag needed.  No salt needed.

You’ll get wonderful, fresh popcorn, just like out of a hot-air popper, in about three minutes. It’s 95% less expensive, 99% less wasteful, and 100% better for your health (You do know that popcorn is a whole grain, right?  It’s a perfect snack for January Rules!).

The only downside is that a few less kernels will pop.  Big whoop, I say!

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

1. Add 1/4 cup Organic Corn Kernels to a brown paper bag.

Corn Kernels in a Bag

2. Fold the bag closed, and microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Just like the store-bought stuff, you need to stand there and listen to the popping. Once there’s about 2 seconds between pops, stop the microwave (else you’ll burn some of the kernels.)

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

3. Pour into a bowl, sprinkle on your favorite toppings, and enjoy! (And save that paper bag for next time.)

Freshly popped, fat-free microwave popcorn

Below are a few topping ideas.  I recommend using an Oil Mister — you’ll use very little oil that way, but still get the flavor of the oil (and it’ll be enough to help the toppings stick to the kernels).

- Olive Oil, Sea Salt, and freshly ground Pepper.

- Olive Oil and Nutritional Yeast.

- Truffle Oil, Sea Salt, freshly ground Pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese.

- Green Tabasco and Garlic Salt.

What’s your favorite popcorn topping? Share in the comments!

41 Comments on "The Dirty Little Secret of Microwave Popcorn"
  1. Comment left on:
    May 14, 2011 at 6:02 am
    Louise says:

    I just found your blog. I enjoy Smart Balance with a few shakes of Parmesan Cheese.

    • Comment left on:
      May 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm
      Andrew says:

      Hi Louise, and welcome! I had been using smart balance for a long time, but more recently have switched back to butter. My focus has been shifting to more “real” and unprocessed foods, even if they’re higher in saturated fats. The ingredients list on smart balance is pretty long…

      Will be very interesting to see how we look back on this conversation in 5, 10 or 20 years! :)

  2. Comment left on:
    September 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm
    April says:

    How many uses do you get out of a typical bag? Do you just use lunch bags? I currently use a stir crazy popper, but this could be fun for the kids on special occasions to have their own bag or when I don’t want to do clean up.

    My other question is what kind of olive oil mister do you use? I’ve been using the Misto, and it’s ok, but I don’t get that fine spray. If I’m spraying my bread pans I have to rub it in with my hand, which kind of defeats the purpose of using a sprayer.

    • Comment left on:
      September 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm
      Andrew says:

      Hi April,

      Lunch bags are perfect. We’ll use a bag about 10 or 15 times before it finally wears out.

      I also have a “Misto” sprayer. To be honest, I don’t love it either… if you find a better one, please let me know! :)

      • Comment left on:
        December 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm
        April says:

        I’m back because I found a better sprayer at Williams Sonoma.

        I got it last weekend and I really like it. I get a nice fine spray. The Misto is history.

        • Comment left on:
          December 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm
          Andrew says:

          Awesome – thanks for following up! I’ll have to check that one out. :)

  3. Comment left on:
    October 19, 2011 at 6:20 am
    liannallama says:

    Wow! what a great tip–thanks for the info. I always feel so guilty when I eat the packaged corn! Now I can save space in the cabinet too and I won’t have to buy an air popper to be healthier! I love to put chili powder on my corn or Tabasco sometimes.

  4. Comment left on:
    January 5, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    This worked so well, and I just read that microwave popcorn is full of really bad chemicals in the bag. Thanks! I melt a little home-made margarine, then add smoked paprika and smoked sea salt to it, pour it over, then toss. Mmmm.

    • Comment left on:
      January 6, 2012 at 6:30 am
      Andrew says:

      Yay! Yum! :)

  5. Comment left on:
    July 17, 2012 at 1:57 am
    ronald says:

    heres a an idea i have to further good tasting popcorn. in your microwave use the popcorn setting this will cookem all and not burn if you have popcorn next day and there all soft reheat them for 35 seconds in a smal bowl just a hand full it will be as fresh as the day you opned it/

  6. Comment left on:
    August 8, 2012 at 9:24 am
    Paula says:

    I usually make popcorn on the stove in a pot with oil and sugar (the sugar melts and I get super tasty caramel popcorn). But I don’t like to wash the pot…

    Do you know if I can put sugar in the bag with the microwave popcorn? I’ve been meaning to try it, but am kind of afraid! :)

    • Comment left on:
      August 8, 2012 at 9:25 am
      Andrew says:

      I’m guessing that would make quite a mess! Maybe double-bag it, just to be safe. :)

  7. Comment left on:
    October 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Holy Sh**. My life is forever changed! I never knew this. Wow, thank you!

    • Comment left on:
      October 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm
      Andrew says:

      Hahah! Best kitchen shortcut EVER, right? :)

    • Comment left on:
      October 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm
      Monique says:

      I agree!! Love this tip and made it tonight – tastes so much better than the microwave stuff.

  8. Comment left on:
    October 10, 2012 at 5:17 am
    Maggie says:

    Bragg’s Liquid Aminos–(natural soy sauce). I know this sounds weird, but it is delicious and Bragg’s comes in a spray bottle, which makes it really easy to spritz on! I have this snack almost every day! Yum!

  9. .
    October 12, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    [...] his post and you’ll never have the urge to buy store bought popcorn again. Basically, you can make [...]

  10. Comment left on:
    October 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm
    Summer Hansell says:

    Favorite topping this month: Virgin Coconut Oil (very coconutty!), turmeric and nutritional yeast….oh my, so so good….

  11. .
    August 19, 2013 at 2:02 am

    […] So talk to your teen. And if you can, get them to promise you that they will at least try some of these strategies. And if all else fails, you can just show them how to use that dorm microwave to make better microwave popcorn. […]

  12. Comment left on:
    August 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm
    Diane says:

    We pop ours using a little coconut oil in a Whirly pop style popper on the stove. Favorite toppings are still butter and salt. I will admit we use a half a stick of butter for a pretty good sized bowl of popcorn. One particular batch that stands out however, was the one my husband used a half stick of Kerrygold butter–which really equaled a whole stick of butter:-)

  13. Comment left on:
    October 5, 2013 at 7:24 pm
    Terry says:

    Tried it two times in a bag in micro now and the popcorn tastes burnt. Maybe I am using too large a bag? Anyhow, made it on stove with just e Pugh canola oil to make the kernels “shimmy” when shifting the pan over med high heat. Have to keep pan moving over heat or kernels will burn instead of popping!

    • Comment left on:
      October 6, 2013 at 8:31 am
      Andrew says:

      Hey Terry – To keep it from tasting burnt, just stop it from popping a little bit sooner. If it’s consistently 1- or 2-seconds between pops, it’s probably been in a little too long. Better to stop sooner (and have slightly fewer popped kernels) than to have it burn.

  14. Comment left on:
    November 3, 2013 at 11:51 am
    Linldalou says:

    Your recipe called for 1/4 cup kernels in a brown bag, but doesn’t say how big the bag needs to be. I bought some lunch bags, added 1/4 cup kernels and the bottom of the bag blew out! Hahaha…it was pretty funny but a little messy. Obviously too much popcorn for the size of the bag. so now I just make smaller batches. I also thought I had to add oil to the kernels first…but apparently not so that makes it easier and the bags reuseable.
    Favourite toppings are chili-garlic flax oil, Tabasco and nutritional yeast. Good to read other ideas here.

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