The Popcorn Trick for the Best Microwave Popcorn

31 Reviews / 3.9 Average
Skip the store-bought bags of popcorn that are filled with artificial butter and sugar and make your own whole-grain popcorn in the microwave using this trick. All you'll need is a brown paper bag and kernels, and that's it!
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Popcorn in a red and white striped tub.

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.

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

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  1. I read that you should not microwave brown paper bags. Are you concerned at all about what leeches out onto the popcorn?

    1. I just saw similar question. The article I read indicated ” the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service
      (www.fsis.usda.gov) says never use brown paper bags in the microwave.

      Kathy Bernard, technical information specialist for the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, says it’s because they “don’t know what (the bags) are made of, what can cook out of them and many are made from recycling.”

    2. I knew a guy who used to work at P&G as a scientist. He said that you should never, ever eat anything that was microwaved on a paper plate, paper napkin, bag or paper towel. Highly toxic. Something about the chemicals/glue that hold the paper pulp together. I just use a hot air popper or do it on the stove.

  2. I just used this recipe last night when my husband asked me to make some. I much prefer this and it has just one thing to clean up.

  3. It’s so easy on the stove though :)
    Need: Stainless steel pot, metal colander, 2nd small sauce pan, wooden spoon, Popcorn (I like Azure’s organic multicolored) coconut oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan well) Butter & Organic garlic sea salt (ok flavor as you wish lol)

    Start butter melting on low-medium (tastes better than when melted in the microwave)
    Add coconut oil and a cup of popcorn kernals, set heat to just above medium and stir with wooden spoon until oil is melted
    Keep pan moving and cover with colander when the kernals start to pop.
    Keep pan moving… remove from heat when popping slows.
    Add to a big bowl, Poor on butter & shake, sprinkle on salt. Enjoy!

    tricks: store kernels with no moisture, don’t allow condensation when popping (that’s why I use the colander instead of the pot lid)

  4. How do you keep the popcorn from burning? Mine is done at just shy of 2 minutes, but I’m not sure if the power is set too high or if I need to go with a smaller amount.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Brian. Every microwave is a little different. Yours just might need less time. All of my kernels never pop. There are always some that don’t. ~Amy

  5. My tip to really increase the “healthy” factor of this snack: after adding the melted butter, skip the salt and sprinkle it with Nutritional Yeast! TONS of B-vitamins and a slightly ‘cheesy’ taste.

    I’m a 56 year old Grams to 7 Grandkids and find it refreshing that a new generation is embarking on the Real Food journey. My husband and I raised 2 kids on Real Food, either we grew it or got it through the Co-Op. Our parents (he came from a family of 8 kids and my parents put 3 kids through Catholic School on just my Dad’s income at a factory – I milked our cow before school each morning), plus Helen and Scott Nearing were our inspirations, the GRAS poster lived on our ‘fridge. I was making “Greek-style” yogurt to substitute for cream cheese and sour cream before I knew it had a name. We had a hand-crank grinder mounted on the wall for grinding down whole grains into delicious combos for hot cereal in the morning and a host of other things. My kids LOVED freaking out their friends at school with the stuff in their lunch boxes … miso soup, fried tempeh (they would tell their friends it was moldy soybeans). These same, now married kids, continue the Real Food way of eating and teaching it to the next generation (Seven Grandkids!) Thanks to the Food Network, we have 14 and 7 year old Grandsons, from different families, who desire to be a Chef, mostly because they want people to eat Real Food. All 7 of them know how to cook basic foods, make yogurt and like the taste of strange things like miso, feta, seaweed, tempeh, etc. and have rarely eaten cereal that comes out of a box from the grocery store. For those of you who are thinking that we are a bunch of “hippies” …. I suspect you think we are crazy-liberal, believe in only non-competitive sports and think Socialism is a good thing. You would be completely wrong. Most of us lean toward the Republican side, with a couple of Libertarians thrown in.

  6. You can use a glass bowl with a plate on top if you are wary of the paper bag. Make sure the plate is bigger than the bowl opening.

  7. Would love to see a response to Laura’s question above about the chemicals in paper bags. I just read something similar and now it’s got me paranoid to try this popcorn paper bag thing.

    Thanks.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Sara. If you are concerned about its safety, many readers have used a microwave safe bowl with a secure fitting plate on top for their microwave popping. I can’t find anything definitive outside of not using paper bags with ink printed on them. ~Amy

    1. Rita, same thing happened to me also…. maybe I will try the glass bowl with the lid next time so I can keep an eye on it while cooking!

  8. I’ve tried this a few times in the past, never seems to work for me! Maybe my microwave is the wrong wattage, or something

  9. I use a glass bowl with a microwave safe plate over the top. You aren’t even left with the paper bag to throw away. The way my youngest goes through popcorn, I can relax and let him enjoy himself.

  10. Angela Everett

    4 stars
    We make our own popcorn on the stove top for health and economical reasons. You can use coconut oil as a healthy alternative as well, fyi! It’s great!

  11. It worked! I just made this and I am thrilled! Not only is it healthier it’s the fraction of the cost! Thanks!

  12. My accupunturist told me that using the microwave changes the structure of food and that it’s not healthy for me, although I love the idea of no oil, I cook mine in a pan on the stove and use coconut oil.

  13. 5 stars
    We have an ancient air popper for our popcorn, which includes an optional spot to put butter on top, which drips over the popcorn as it flies out the chute and into the bowl. This really cuts down on the amount of butter each piece gets (a teaspoon of butter coats a whole lot of popcorn). It could also be used with another solid fat like chilled coconut oil, I suspect! We love our air popper and would never pop corn any other way, but if you don’t have one or don’t have the space for yet another kitchen gadget, this brown bag trick looks like the next best thing!

  14. So i am wondering, i gave up the microwave a while back. i have an air pop popcorn maker but it tends to overheat quickly. do you know of any way i could do this in the oven. or otherwise without oils?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Melissa. I make popcorn on the stove top all the time but have never tried doing so without oil and I have never heard of oven popped popcorn. :) Sorry I can’t be of more help. ~Amy

  15. 5 stars
    Lisa, I love your blog! I am just beginning to transition to all natural eating. I have been reading about canola oil and the need to stay away from it. Can you talk about this some, or point me in the right direction? How is canola oil different from vegetable, olive, peanut oil, etc. Is is all the same, all bad, whats the deal?

  16. It’s funny – I’ve seen this now twice in one day..I’ve been doing this since my mom taught me after buying her forts microwave – haha! My kids have only known this…My boyfriend bought me a mack daddy popcorn popper I don’t use, because it requires oil and I still have most of my 100 bag pack of recyclable paper bags to boot! :)

  17. 5 stars
    I’ve made this twice already and love it! I’ve tried popping popcorn on the stove and it works well enough. I just don’t like my kernels sitting in butter/oil. This version helps me control the amount of butter/oil to use. If it’s just me eating, I will use 1/8 cup of kernels because 1/4 cup is a lot for me :)

  18. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi there. Lisa uses 1/4 cup of kernels at a time. You can store popped popcorn in an airtight container. ~Amy

  19. I know you put popcorn in your kids lunches, I’m just curious how much you make at a time and if you have leftovers how do you store it? I would love to make this ahead for my kid’s lunches so I’m not popping every other night :-) Thanks!

  20. Another seasoning option is to give the popped corn a spritz or two of Bragg’s liquid aminos – has a nice salty taste that sticks to the corn. Or my favorite: herbed olive oil + salt + pepper!

  21. My mom bought me a Nordicware corn popper for Christmas last year; it’s been great! It’s BPA/melamine-free and made in the US, so I’m not concerned about putting the bowl in the microwave, and it’s reusable so you aren’t throwing away a bag every time you make popcorn.

  22. Microwaves are so bad for you! So, we bought a hot air popper. It doesn’t use any oils unless I melt some raw butter to drizzle on top. Then I sprinkle some sea salt on that. Yummy!

  23. we use a pyrex casserole bowl with a lid in the microwave for popcorn. never any trouble. faster than the stove and no waste.

  24. 5 stars
    I see there is a lot of discussion about whether or not this recipe is safe. Just make sure you buy your brown paper bag (lunch bags), labeled as being microwave-safe. Bags not meant for use in the microwave can catch on fire.

  25. 4 stars
    I just tried this and it worked beautifuly I normally buy organic microwave popcorn, but this is just as easy and way less expensive! Thanks :-)

  26. I’ve done this for years! I set my microwave for 2 min and if I don’t pull it out quickly enough the popcorn burns so for the newbies making this, the timing depends on what kind of equipment you have. This is a great quick way to add something crunchy in lieu of chips for the kids lunches!

  27. I used to to this, but one day while dumping the popcorn into a bowl I wondered, why not just pop it in the bowl? It took a little experimenting, but I found a bowl with a kind of parabolic curve worked best for me. I dump in 1/4 cup of kernels, pop a clean dry dish cloth on top to
    Keep the kernels from bouncing out (but everything still breathes) and pop on high for 2:11. (I know that’s a very specific time. It just happens to work for me.) The bowl does get hot, but I get great results and no paper bag gets wasted, either.

  28. Half of mine was burned before 2 minutes was over :(
    I’ve got one of those presto microwave poppers… but it does have some sort of cardboard in sert that you put at the bottom of the bowl… probably some kind of carcinogen too :(

    1. I have been doing this for years and when I got a new Microwave, I had issues with my popcorn burning also. When I flipped the bag on its side, it helped. Try that!

    1. Love your recipes, and loved this idea, but from what I understand, a brown paper bag should not be used in the microwave. It’s easy enough to make on the stove in a pot with a bit of coconut oil. Not sure if these are valid concerns or not, but just as an FYI.

      From the website http://www.freep.com/article/20121025/COL37/310250077/Susan-M-Selasky-Don-t-pop-corn-in-a-brown-paper-bag:

      “The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service ( http://www.fsis.usda.gov) says never use brown paper bags in the microwave.

      Kathy Bernard, technical information specialist for the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, says it’s because they “don’t know what (the bags) are made of, what can cook out of them and many are made from recycling.”

      The Popcorn Board supports the USDA stance. The board suggests that folks use a pan with a lid on the stove.”

      Also, from the website http://www.popcorn.org/AboutUs/IntheNews/tabid/74/Default.aspx:

      “Plain and/or recycled papers are often made from unknown materials that could catch fire, interfere with microwave cooking technology and lessen the performance and longevity of a microwave oven. Most importantly, these unknown materials most likely are not approved as food grade papers, and should not come in direct contact with food products.”

  29. 5 stars
    This is an old Weight Watchers tip that I have used for years. It’s yummy and not only whole grain but can satify that hunger pang. And best yet, you can keep the ingredients in your desk at the office for a quick wholesome snack to get through the afternoon (providing your office has a microwave).

    Note though: On step number 2, you might want to leave out that no staples are necessary, because you never should use a staple on something going into the microwave. It will cause a fire. Just a thought. :) Happy, healthy cooking!

  30. Using an air-popper is the way to go! They are very inexpensive to buy, and there is no oil needed. The result is great tasting, natural popcorn ready in seconds.

  31. I also use the glass bowl method and it saves the waste of a bag not to mention the chemicals that are in brown bags. I have a glass pyrex bowl that my plate sits on perfectly.. I dont even have to have it vented.. I do 1/4 cups of kernels for 2 mins, take the popped ones out, then for another 2 mins, or until it stops popping. I love it this way and there is no garbage to deal with. I didn’t have a lot of luck with the bag plus I have 5 kids so one bag was never enough!

  32. I just made this for the first time today. Try #1 was a complete fail! I wasn’t paying attention and set it the microwave for 3min 30 seconds. I opened up the bag and the popcorn was completely black. Try #2 I stated in the kitchen and listed to it stop popping. It came out fabulous!!! I added a little olive oil and salt and it was fabulous! Thanks for the recipe!!

  33. To avoid even having to use a bag, I’ve found I can also microwave kernels in a microwave-proof glass bowl with a plate set over the top, as long as there is a bit of venting space between the bowl and plate (my plate has a textured edge). No oil necessary, and when it’s done, it’s already in the bowl, ready for seasoning! My favorite new seasoning mix is brown sugar, sea salt, ginger, chili powder, and a dash of cayenne. I spray lightly with olive oil right after cooking, then sprinkle the seasoning on top.

  34. I love this and do it too. A quick (no pots, oil, etc) alternative to microwave popcorn full of crud, or other more fattening salty snacks.

    as for the microwave problem, its popcorn not broccoli. You aren’t eating it for the nutrients, little as they are. I am not pregnant, so not worrying about breast milk, the radio waves are not affecting my heart rate – and I don’t buy frozen dinners thank-you-very-much so compared to a lot of other more insidious dangers in our lives (like people texting while driving) microwaving a little popcorn will not kill you. And Brooke, did you even read the article you posted?

  35. 4 stars
    I don’t usually have the brown bags on hand but I definitely just pop some kernels on the stove in a heavy pot. I just use a little bit of oil and then top with a little salt when it’s done. Definitely better than the microwave stuff and so much tastier. and really a cheap way to have a salty “fun” snack!

  36. We pop the popcorn right on the stove with coconut oil. We love it and gobble it right up. My kids don’t even care for the butter and salt if I have used coconut oil. I also don’t use the specified amount of oil when popping on the stove. I use less because you really don’t need a lot of oil to pop popcorn.

  37. 1 star
    I love your blog but I just wanted to put out a warning that I tried this last night and the bag caught on fire after about 20 seconds and now my microwave is dead. :(

  38. Thank you. I love this idea. The majority of us still use microwaves. We are all on a journey to eating healthier and at differing levels of investigating. One step at a time and right now my step is not buying microwavable popcorn from the store and this alternative is much healthier. For that, I am thankful.

  39. I love the idea of it being healthier, but hating the microwave! I was actually shocked after reading through this blog that you use a microwave! Not trying to be a hater, just trying to suggest that you should look into it.

  40. My favorite way to pop popcorn is in a pan on the stove with a little bit of oil and whatever seasonings or flavorings sound good at the time. No fancy equipment needed. I’ve heard so many bad things about how using a microwave can add to the cancer cells and kill any nutrients in the food that I’ve stop using one.

  41. Microwaving food is not really healthy idea…. I cook pop corn(organic – Non GMO) in a pot….Works nicely for my family:-)

  42. it totally works although mine burned quickly so it took under 3 minutes for me… however, the part i could salvage was great!

  43. This worked fabulously well for me! I was considering buying a Whirly Pop but now I’ll just stick with this. Soooo easy and no oil needed. Love it. Thanks!

  44. This method didn’t really work for me. It was well over 4 minutes and only about half the kernels popped and the bag was burning. And I even have a pretty powerful microwave. I did, however, just pick up an air popper from Goodwill (for $9!!!) and it popped every kernel perfectly in a matter of minutes. No oil, no chemicals, no nuking!

  45. I used to make popcorn this way. But I heard that paper bags are often “not just paper.” They are not necessarily “food container grade.” They may have other things mixed in. There may be other adulterants, such very small bits of metal. That would explain why a bag might catch on fire in a microwave.

  46. Hi! I keep reading this over and over because it is SO easy but I was wondering if anyone else had ever had this problem. I used to make popcorn like this all the time, but one time I was using this method and the bag caught on fire and burned the inside of my microwave. (The microwave still worked amazingly enough but it had some nasty looking burn marks all over it.) Since no one else appears to have had this happen to them, I wonder if it was an odd thing about the paper sack or something… Any ideas? I would love to do it this way again, but have been scared off since that experience.

  47. I make popcorn like this all the time, based on what I learned when I first ran across this post as I began my real food journey (thanks for all the great information, by the way)! Today we put chocolate chips, cinnamon, and pink salt in the bag immediately after popping and then shook the bag up… messy but AMAZING! Even with a small handful of chocolate, it’s SO much healthier than whatever crap chemicals you get from a microwave bag of popcorn!

  48. 5 stars
    Faboo!! Used this to make the cinnamon popcorn. Who knew you didn’t need actual microwave popcorn or a huge kettle and stove?!! Worked great and NO unpopped kernels!! Score!!

  49. I just recently went to my local farmers market this past weekend and one of the stand had dried corn on the cob on display as popcorn! I asked them how it works and they said put the dried out corn on the cob in the bag put it in the microwave for about 2-3 mins and viola! homemade REAL DEAL popped-corn. It came out wonderfully and i was so amazed at how WHITE the popcorn was. it looked so clean and the kids ate it up

  50. How can you be sure that your brown paper bags are definitely clean and safe?

    Do you really know how and where they were manufactured and stored from the factory through various distributors and stores to your home?

    Because I know that bugs like to hide and lay their eggs in stacks of cardboard and brown paper bags, i’d assume there’s a good chance they’ve been sprayed or very close to some kind of pesticide that I don’t want on my popcorn.

    1. I figure the Chance of ickiness on my brown paper bags is way better then Definite chemicals in microwave popcorn bags. I always try to remember that nothing is 100%. What do I want most and what am I willing to sacrifice? I want what feels most safe and healthy for me and my family. And bugs’ eggs are added protein, right ;)

  51. Tried this, didn’t work so well for me. My microwave is very small and weak. My paper bag didn’t fit in it very well and that was probably my problem. Need a decent microwave to at least fit the bag so the popcorn is evenly heated and the popped kernels don’t burn before the rest can pop.

  52. The best way to make popcorn that we use too (I’ve been meaning to blog this, I should get around to that) is in coconut oil on the stove. It tastes like movie theater butter popcorn but it’s healthy, easy, delicious, and NO microwaving! :D

  53. This is a great idea and works every time, with or without oil. Note of caution — After popping in the bag, I poured my snack into a Tupperware bowl to eat. When finished, there were lots of un-popped kernels so I put the bowl in the microwave with a vented plate cover for a minute or two. The kernels popped great, but the heat of the kernels melted little pock marks in the bottom of my Tupperware bowl which is now ruined and not covered by the warranty. So, use the bag or glass bowl as indicated in the comments above and don’t use any plastic, even normally safe and strong Tupperware.

  54. 5 stars
    So excited that this worked. It only took about 2 minutes in my microwave, though, so definitely listen for the pops and not the time in the recipe.

  55. 5 stars
    Try using coconut oil and a Pyrex type bowl and a vented lid. Nothing to throw away and the flavor of the coconut oil is incredible! You can tell that movie theatre popcorn uses some sort of processed version of coconut oil when you taste this-has a natural buttery flavor and not heavy like olive oil. I melt the oil-about 1-2tbs to liquid (I use organic), cover bottom of bowl with white kernels stirring to make sure they’re all oiled (love the bob’s red mill), and salt liberally. Cover and microwave! I have boys so we make a large batch so takes about 4.5/5 mins. Love that my kids are getting a %100 whole grain organic snack cooked in organic oil that has major health benefits, adds awesome flavor and nothing to throw away! No more store bought for us, ever!!

    1. With the pyrex bowl, do you just use the lid that came with it? I think it would work, as long as it was loose instead of sealed. I love the idea of waste-free popcorn!

    2. I was intrigued by this idea with the coconut oil, so I tried it out. It was awesome tasty! I’m going to make some to take for a snack this week at work, and for the kids to eat this too. Yum. Thanks for sharing!!

  56. 5 stars
    used to do this all the time, but just got away from eating popcorn. Just used a paper bag bigger than a lunch bag, but not a full sized grocery bag. Put 1/2 cup kernals, on high for 2min 10seconds. Sprayed with EVOO and salt. yummy!!!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Tiffany. Pretty much any large grocery store and certainly any “whole food” type store will have organic popcorn. ~Amy

  57. I’m hungry for popcorn now! I do like the lighter-colored seeds because they have a nutty flavor. The more orange-colored seeds have a fluffier texture.

  58. 5 stars
    We use an air popper but I would imagine that the fires come from placing it on the metal grate and not on the glass rotator? It’s certainly worked for us at a hotel!

  59. Do any brands of popcorn kernels or coconut oil taste better than others? I’m ordering a whirly pop today. I keep hearing how great they are. Can’t wait to try it! We’re just starting our Real Food journey…baby steps for now and getting rid of microwave popcorn is a pretty easy switch :-)

  60. It takes the same amount of time to pop it on the stove without the treat of putting microwaves into your organic gmo free kernels. A tbsp of good EVOO or coconut oil which both are good for us in moderation and so is salt. We use Pink Himalayan Salt. Plus you are wasting bags.

  61. I never knew people would attempt popping popcorn in the microwave until I came to the US 15 years ago…I have a “mental” block against nuking things, and I was raised with my grandma always popping it on the stove for us, and for oil, and especially a good treat she would use home rendered lard- to this day I do the same and besides bringing great memories back it truly gives popcorn the most amazing taste ever!

  62. I’ve been making brown bag popcorn in the microwave for about 10 years. It’s a nice treat for me, but more importantly, it’s a lot of fun for my parrot LOL. I add cinnamon or ginger or tumeric or.. all kinds of seasons. And recently started adding a little bit of coconut oil. YUM!
    I’ve never started a fire in the microwave. You can’t leave the microwave unattended. As soon as it significantly slows down popping, stop the microwave. Once the popcorn starts burning, so does the bag. That’s when the fire happens.

  63. what about the old fashioned poppers, that dont use oil or anything to pop it? is it different some how? we have one of the the orville redinbockers poppers, the one you jus put in a few kernals, it gets hot, and out pops popcorn into your bowl (and some to the sides where your dog is eagerly awaiting the stray bites).

  64. On our movie date at home I do this and instead of using any oils I spray litley with that oil and sprinkle on a seasoning…….we are popcorn people. I know the canned spray oil is not good. I need to get an oil mister.

  65. I agree with all the coconut comments, delicious! And I sometimes sprinkle nutritional yeast (idea from Whole Foods) and it makes it even better!!