Homemade Popcorn Is a Life Skill

Lentine Alexis
by Lentine Alexis
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Homemade Popcorn Is a Life Skill

A not-so-shocking truth: The best popcorn doesn’t come from a bag. Strange as it may seem, popping your own popcorn requires only the most basic of cooking skills — and we’re not talking about microwaving. The payoff of homemade popcorn is huge — it’s easy and ridiculously inexpensive to make.

Whether it’s for movies, the Oscars, a Netflix binge or a healthy snack, it’s time to make popcorn. Here are four basic tips and an easy recipe to get you started.



Your main tool will be a Dutch oven or a weighty stock pot. Grab a bottle of olive oil, jar of refined coconut oil or good old vegetable oil. Add 3 tablespoons to the pot (this is enough to pop 1/2 cup of kernels or to make about 8 cups of popped corn). It sounds like a lot of oil, but without it, steam won’t build up in the pot, and without the steam, there will be no popping of corn. (Also, the oil coats the popped kernels and gives the spices something to stick to.)



Place the pan over medium heat and pour in 1/2 cup popcorn kernels. These can be any variety — red, white, yellow, organic — it doesn’t matter. Stir them with a spoon or spatula to coat them with oil and continue stirring until they start to sizzle. Put the lid on the pan, increase the heat to halfway between medium and medium high.



You need to listen to what’s happening in that pot. Don’t walk out of the room or take a phone call for the next few minutes. It won’t take long and soon there will be popping. Once it starts, it’s so exciting. Lots of popping and bursting. Then it will slow a bit after a minute or two. Now is the time to pick up the pot and — holding the lid closed — give it a good shake up and down. This prevents the dreaded layer of unpopped kernels on the bottom. Let the popping continue, but if you see any tendrils of smoke escaping from under the lid, immediately lower heat to medium. When the popping subsides to a brief eruption every few seconds, turn off the heat. Set the lid askew so some steam can escape. After a minute of steam release, pour the popcorn onto a rimmed baking sheet, or your biggest, widest bowl. You’re ready to dress that ‘corn.



Immediately drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil all over the popcorn. You want to do this while the corn is still hot so it coats the popcorn. Toss thoroughly with the intention of coating all the popped kernels with oil.

Lastly, let’s talk about toppings. There are so many ways to add oomph to your popcorn. You can add spice mixes (like the cheesy-and-spicy-flavored mixture below, which tastes like healthy Doritos). Olive oil, or any other liquid oil plays well with spices and helps to keep them stuck to your kernels.

Try adding melted coconut butter, simple salt and pepper, Parmesan cheese, togarashi — really — the sky’s the limit.

Whatever you do don’t forget a little bit of sea salt and a big bowl to enjoy it out of.

Cheese-less Cheesy + Spicy Popcorn


  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 cups (64g) just-popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup (83g) kernels)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil


Finely grind the nutritional yeast, Aleppo pepper and salt in spice mill or with mortar and pestle.
Arrange popcorn on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil; toss to coat. Sprinkle with some of the nutritional yeast mixture and toss well to coat, adding more of the mixture, to taste.

Note: If you choose to make this spice mix, you’ll want to do so BEFORE you pop the corn so it’s ready to apply and stick to freshly popped-and-oiled kernels!

Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 2 cups

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 193; Total Fat: 14g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Monounsaturated Fat: 10g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 282mg; Carbohydrate: 13g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugar: 0g; Protein: 4g

About the Author

Lentine Alexis
Lentine Alexis
Lentine is a curious, classically trained chef and former pro athlete. She uses her bicycle, raw life and travel experiences and organic ingredients to inspire athletes and everyone to explore, connect and expand their human experiences through food. She previously worked as a Chef/Recipe Developer/Content Creator and Culinary Director at Skratch Labs – a sports nutrition company dedicated to making real food alternatives to modern “energy foods.” Today, she writes, cooks, speaks and shares ideas for nourishing sport and life with whole, simple, delicious foods.


10 responses to “Homemade Popcorn Is a Life Skill”

  1. Avatar Matt says:

    Love homemade popcorn. But this is way too much oil. First, I use about two tablespoons per half cup and it eorkw fine. Second, I use thin aluminum pan.. gets hot sioes qiock. Invest in a whirly pop. Then salt etc. Enjoy!!!

  2. Avatar sayitisntsoh says:

    Most crazy post ever! 2 minutes in the microwave and done. The. Best.

  3. Avatar Brandy says:

    I use a special microwave corn popping bowl. Takes about 3 minutes to pop 1/3 cup kernels without any oil. I then add any seasonings I desire.

  4. Avatar Peggy says:

    I use a Whirley pop…I got mine on Amazon but you can get it at bed bath and beyond! You can use any oil’s and or butter
    I’ve been making popcorn for over 40 years and I never found a way to do it without burning it. With the Whirley pop it never burns and it’s perfect every time. Bye-bye Dutch oven bye-bye tho i’ve been making popcorn for over 40 years and I never found a way to do it without burning it. With the Whirley pop it never burns and it’s perfect every time. Bye-bye Dutch oven bye-bye burnt popcorn

  5. Avatar michellelncook says:

    My Orville Redenbacher hot air popper is the way to go! No oil needed. Popcorn never burns. The only oil added is the butter at the end.

  6. Avatar Lori says:

    I use a brown paper bag (like the ones used for school lunches), no oil, and the microwave. Perfect! Best topping IMO is grated Parmesan cheese—the real stuff, not that weird stuff in the green can.

  7. Avatar Chris says:

    Been doing this for 5 years now. It’s amazing:
    Get an olive oil hand pump sprayer (you fill with your own olive oil – I use a Misto brand). Use the nutritional yeast, be generous here, with however much salt you like, start with a quarter teaspoon but you’ll probably need more. Put the salt and nutritional yeast in a coffee grinder and grind it as much as possible, the finer the better it sticks to the popcorn. Use an air popper to pop half a cup of popcorn. Put the popcorn in something with a lid. Spray with the olive oil, then sprinkle the dry ingredients, cover the popcorn and shake. Repeat this until all the dry ingredients are gone or you think it tastes good.

    If you like spicy popcorn or insanely spicy and don’t want to cough because of the dry ingredients:
    Essentially the same process as above, without the nutritional yeast, but for the olive oil get some dried peppers, I use ghost peppers, and crush them up a bit. Infuse the olive oil by putting it in a pan with the crushed peppers on *very low heat* for 30 minutes or so. I don’t use the olive oil Mister for this popcorn since the vaporized spicy oil will make you cough if you breath it in. Just get an olive oil drizzler or use a spoon to drizzle it. I still like to grind the salt to a powder with this recipe because it sticks better.

  8. Avatar JABreedl says:

    I’ve been doing it this way since college and gotten my wife to convert. One little trick that we have discovered is to crack the lid a few times during the popping to release any steam that has built up. This keeps the popcorn crispy.

  9. Avatar Joseph says:

    Here in Amish country where they grow popcorn, I came across a way to pop corn on a bag of local popcorn I have never seen elsewhere. It always results in complete ‘poppage’ as I call it. You add the oil and ONE kernel, turn the heat to medium. When that one kernel pops, remove it with a spoon. (No the oil doesn’t ‘spit’ up or anything in case you wondered). Pour in enough corn to cover the bottom of the pan. Replace the cover. When those kernels begin to pop, shut off the burner. Wait exactly one minute. Then turn on the heat again to medium and the popping will take off like mad. Often the lid will rise up because the kernels pop so thoroughly. It’s quite a sight. I use a clear lid on my copper bottom pan. Hope it helps someone who also enjoys good popcorn.

  10. Avatar colorowdy says:

    I grew up doing popcorn this way, we did not have a Popcorn machine like my friends had, but the popcorn was just as good. You have to crack the lid a bit after the popping starts up just to keep the popcorn from getting soggy from built up steam. No microwaves in the 60’s, not in my house anyway. Love popcorn make it All The Time. Terrible for your teeth, make sure to floss well afterwards.

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