The Popcorn Trick for the Best Microwave Popcorn

When I first heard about microwaving popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag I could not imagine that something so simple would really work. A blog reader actually shared this suggestion with me, and it took me a while to work up enough courage to try it out.

I am so glad I finally did because approximately 3 minutes and 15 seconds later I had fresh, fluffy, whole-grain popcorn that hadn’t been touched by a drop of oil, salt, sugar, or any other additives (like diacetyl – an artificial butter flavoring!). And after lightly seasoning it myself with a tad of oil and salt it was delicious!

I will never waste my money on those store-bought microwave bags ever again after giving this popcorn recipe a try.

Popcorn from 100 Days of Real Food

The Popcorn Trick

You’ll need a brown paper bag + kernels, and that’s it!
3.9 from 31 votes
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 3 mins
Total Time: 8 mins
Print Recipe
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Pour the kernels into the brown paper bag.
  • Tightly fold over the top three or four times. No tape or staples are necessary.
  • Put it in the microwave and start it on high heat for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
  • Listen for the popping to slow down to 3 or 4 seconds apart at which point you will take it out of the microwave. This usually happens for me around the 3 minute and 15 second mark.
  • Pour popcorn into a bowl and drizzle with melted butter or spritz with olive oil (or coconut oil) and then sprinkle with salt. If you don’t use oil or butter the salt won’t stick.Other topping ideas: cinnamon, cayenne pepper, freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Notes

IMPORTANT – Microwave ovens vary so you must be attentive and stop immediately when the popping slows down. Overcooking can cause a fire. Some readers have suggested using a Pyrex bowl with a plate on top as an alternative to using a bag to avoid this risk.
Nutrition Facts
Nutrition Facts
The Popcorn Trick
Amount Per Serving
Calories 38 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 1mg0%
Potassium 28mg1%
Carbohydrates 8g3%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 1g2%
Iron 0.3mg2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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322 thoughts on “The Popcorn Trick for the Best Microwave Popcorn”

  1. 5 stars
    We used to do this when I was a kid before microwave popcorn was a thing. I forgot how well this works.

  2. 1 star
    Well! I didn’t have any lunch bags so I used a take out food bag and it caught fire. Oops. So now the question is, do I buy paper lunch bags to try this, use Pyrex dish covered with a plate or give it up. Sigh!

    1. 5 stars
      Just to follow up on my first attempt at making popcorn in a lunch bag. I have done it several times (since I first tried it with a used bag) and it works great. It is my go to snack as I can control the butter and salt.

  3. 5 stars
    I’ve used this method for years with great success. one key is to make sure your popcorn isn’t old. As it sits in our cupboards, it loses the moisture that causes it to POP when exposed to heat. That may be the reason some people are having issues with it burning.

    It also depends on your microwave. some are higher powered than others. I’ve been very successful on different machines using the Popcorn button (for the ones that have it. Other wise on a high wattage mic I would do a lower power setting. and you have to listen to it closely. when not using the Popcorn button I will set mine for 4 minutes and then listen CAREFULLY for a lapse of 2 seconds without a Pop then I stop it and get it out. I have very little issue with burning, using this method. But you cannot walk away or be distracted for even a second.

    If you don’t like the method and still want healthy without cooking in oil, get an air popper :) They work great! They may take a bit longer, but I’ve never had any issues with them (other than being loud LOL).

  4. I have burned mine so bad it almost caught fire doing it this way. I like the comment that someone uses a pyrex bowl with a plate on top. I just gave my biggest one away because it is heavy and awkward, now I wish I’d have kept it. I have a “whirly pop” that I use, i like it a lot, it’s just kind of hard to clean. Guess an old fashioned pan is my best bet!

  5. 1 star
    I have concerns about the food’s nutritional value being diminished by the microwave cooking process. I have done some research and the opinions are mixed.

    My favorite example is microwaved water does not sustain a plant… And yes, I have tried this myself – with a control plant. That’s scary to me!

    What is your take on this?

  6. I love this idea, BUT…..my popcorn burned! I used 1/4 cup of popcorn kernals and pulled it out after about 2 minutes. BURNT POPCORN! It popped really fast but definitely couldn’t eat it. Is there another trick?

  7. We just pop our corn in a pyrex bowl with a microwave safe plate on top, tilted a bit to let the steam out. Works great! Add butter and salt after if you want.

  8. 1 star
    This method doesn’t work for me, leaves too many unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag. For our family of 6, we need at least 3 bags and each subsequent bag has more unpopped kernels than the last.

    I bought the stainless steele stovetop popper and use organic cococnut oil, non-GMO popcorn, grass-fed butter and unrefined sea salt. The stuff gives me a headache, but the $2/8ct box of off brand store bought variety doesn’t bother me.

    Would love to know what gives.

  9. I have had a Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper for years and love it! It was around $10 at Walmart (at least 10 years ago). It’s healthier and environmentally friendlier ;)

  10. The glue in brown paper bags is TOXIC, not a good thing in a microwave…
    Buy an air popper, much more fun to watch and healthier too.

  11. 4 stars
    I have been looking for something like this for a long while. And I have been wanting my children to eat healthy, as heart disease runs in my family and so does obesity. I want to try to make the right choices but I have no idea how to start. Thanks for the info.

  12. Microwaves destroy nutrients of food and pose a health hazzard just having them plugged in. I’m surprised to hear a real food blogger owning one!

  13. 5 stars
    I was surprised at how GOOD this popcorn tastes! I can never eat popcorn out of a box again. And now, when my husband and I go to the movies, I actually ask for popcorn without butter and bring my own! (Although I do wonder if movie theaters add extra flavoring to their popcorn besides butter…?) I have been using organic popcorn kernels, real butter from grass-fed cows, and a brown paper lunch bag. However, I like Tangela’s suggestion and may invest in a glass “popper.”

  14. I use the exact popper shown in Tangela’s post. It’s made of lab glass and works perfectly. And since you can see the popcorn pipping, you have much less waste from unpopped kernels. Highly recommend it. I got mine at our local Sur LA Table.

  15. I really like this idea but also wondering: isn’t it unsafe to put paper bags in the microwave? (unsanitary, may catch fire, release toxic fumes from the glue)… Aren’t there specific bags you can purchase for the microwave and do you think this trick would still work with them?

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Becca. Lisa uses regular paper lunch bags and has not had any issues. If you find bags that are specifically designed for microwave usage, let us know.

      1. My new microwave states in the instruction manual not to use paper bags in it. I’m not sure why, but I thought I would mention it.

    2. 3 stars
      I just tried to jury rig a custom paper bag from a shopping bag. It literally lit itself on fire. If you use any thick heavily folded paper, make sure to watch it.

  16. 5 stars
    Perfect! I love popcorn, but I always had the microwave kind. That’s what I had growing up. Living on my own, I thought that the bags that you microwave were a better choice because a big air popper would take up too much space in my apartment. I just tried this idea tonight, and it is fantastic. Thank you!

  17. I wouldn’t buy microwave popcorn due to all the chemicals in them anyhow. Using a hot air popper is just as easy and no chemicals or oils are used

  18. If your not a microwave user-pop the popcorn in coconut oil (stovetop). Sprinkle with sea salt-clean, delicious, whole grain snack! Kids love it!

  19. In order for the paper bag popcorn to pop, the kernels must be fresh! If you use old popcorn kernels, most don’t pop and the others usually burn. It’s the moisture inside the kernel that causes it to burst open when it’s heated, making popcorn. We eat popcorn all the time, using this method. My favorite thing to dress it with is a good lime olive oil and sea salt. The taste reminds me of fruit loops. Delicious!!

  20. I haven’t bought microwave popcorn in almost a year but am still trying to figure out the best homemade method.

    I’ve tried the brown paper bag w/o success. The popcorn burns even before all the kernels pop and popping sounds slow. Not sure if our microwave is too strong (higher watts).I’ve also tried on stovetop but the popcorn gets tough (probably from the condensation)….will definitely try the colander method.

    Love 100 Days of Real Food! Thanks for the all the encouragement and allowing a “lean in” approach.

  21. 4 stars
    I’m sure somebody already mentioned this, but we use a glass bowl covered with a plate. My nine year old is a big popcorn eater. He has known how to make his own using this method for a while.

  22. I have made popcorn like this since I was a kid. My parents couldn’t afford microwave popcorn so we improvised and its wayyyyyy better than the microwave kind. My kids make it this way too!

  23. Our family stopped using a microwave two years ago and do not miss it. It takes seconds to cook organic popcorn on the stove. The microwave radiates and removes all nutrients from food. I love your site but this one I will have to pass on sorry.

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