Little-known fact: I am a stovetop popcorn connoisseur. I’ve been making popcorn on the stove since my parents taught me in elementary school. Stovetop popcorn is infinitely better than microwave popcorn or air-popped popcorn. If you haven’t made it yet, you’ve been missing out!
I’m on a mission to make sure everyone knows how to make popcorn from scratch. Today, I’m sharing all of my popcorn-making tips so you can make perfect stovetop popcorn at home, too. All you need are popcorn kernels, a good pot with a lid, oil and salt. You can do it!
Of all the salty, crunchy, savory snacks out there, stovetop popcorn is one of the tastiest and cheapest snacks. I love that I can make it in under 10 minutes if I’m craving a snack, and easily adjust the amounts to yield a single serving or popcorn for a party.
The 10-minute buffer period is actually great, since it means I can’t reach into the pantry and mindlessly snack on popcorn. That’s why I don’t keep tortilla chips on hand—I eat them too fast.
How to Make Stovetop Popcorn
- Use a good, heavy-bottomed pot. Cheap pots don’t distribute heat evenly, and you can end up with hot spots that burn the popcorn.
- Don’t crank the heat up too high. It’s too easy to burn oil at temperature higher than medium heat, and if you catch even a whiff of smoke coming from the pot, your popcorn is going to taste burnt.
- Start with two popcorn kernels to gauge the temperature. Once those pop, your oil is hot enough. Add the remaining kernels and remove the pot from the heat for 1 minute. This primes the popcorn to pop without burning the oil.
- Tip the lid ever-so-slightly while the popcorn is popping. That way, the popcorn doesn’t steam itself in the pot and lose crispness. (See photo above.)
- If the popcorn starts overflowing the pot: Simply remove the lid and tip the excess popcorn into a bowl. Return the lid and return the popcorn to the heat until popping slows.
- Season with salt carefully. You can always add more, but you can’t take away too much.
Scroll down for my recipe!
Watch How to Make Popcorn
Cooking Oil Options
- Extra-virgin olive oil: You can absolutely make popcorn with olive oil, as long as you cook it over medium heat. Olive oil is my favorite oil to use and it’s the healthiest option.
- Coconut oil: Movie theaters cook popcorn in coconut oil and it is delicious. Opt for unrefined (virgin) coconut oil, which is more redeeming than the highly refined version used at theaters.
- Canola oil and other vegetable oils: I avoid canola oil since it’s usually highly processed. Avocado oil, grapeseed oil and safflower oil are good neutral options.
Recommended Popcorn Seasonings
- Black pepper and good olive oil: This variation is so good that it made it into my cookbook.
- Cinnamon honey butter: This popcorn is a little sticky, but irresistible. Whisk 2 tablespoons melted butter with 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
- Spice it up: Sprinkle with cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes or white pepper.
- Nutritional yeast: This is a healthy vegan alternative that offers butter flavor. Here’s how my friend Ali makes “nooch” popcorn.
- Melted butter!
Is popcorn healthy?
In the crunchy, salty snacks category, popcorn is definitely one of the healthier options. That is, if you make popcorn on the stove with a reasonable amount of high-quality oil and don’t douse it in butter or caramel afterward.
I make popcorn with extra-virgin olive oil and organic popcorn kernels, so I’d say my popcorn is as healthy as popcorn gets. Popcorn is a whole grain, and it offers some redeeming fiber. You can enjoy a big serving (2.5 cups) of popcorn for the same amount of calories as a handful of tortilla chips.
Movie theater popcorn and flavored microwave popcorn are another story. They’re typically made with highly refined oils and coated in artificial “butter flavor” chemicals and preservatives.
Even if you’re buying unflavored microwave popcorn, the bags themselves pose health concerns. They’re typically coated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is the same toxic substance that coats Teflon pans. PFOA’s stick around in the human body for long periods of time, and the EPA states that PFOA’s at sufficient levels can cause a host of health problems, including cancer.
Why make stovetop popcorn?
It’s super delicious and chemical-free. Granted, you could also make air-popped popcorn and it would be free of all the bad stuff, too, but it’s flavorless and dull. Snacks should taste good! Stovetop popcorn tastes way better with as little as one tablespoon of oil for eight servings.
If you want to drizzle butter to your stovetop popcorn (so tasty), go right ahead. Even one tablespoon of butter on those eight servings of popcorn adds a lot of real butter flavor. Do you know how much saturated fat is in a medium movie theater popcorn? An entire stick of butter’s worth.
Best Stovetop Popcorn
- Prep Time: 2 minute
- Cook Time: 8 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Snack
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
Learn how to make perfectly popped popcorn in under 10 minutes! You’ll never go back to microwave popcorn after you make this recipe. Recipe yields about 10 cups (about 4 servings).
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
- ½ cup popcorn kernels, divided
- Salt, to taste
- In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the oil and 2 popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and wait for the kernels to pop, which might take a few minutes. In the meantime, place a large serving bowl near the stove so it’s ready when you need it.
- Once the kernels pop, turn off the burner, remove the pot from the heat and pour in the remaining popcorn kernels. Cover the pot again, and give the pot a little shimmy to distribute the kernels evenly. Let the pot rest for 60 seconds to make sure the oil doesn’t get too hot before the kernels are ready to pop.
- Turn the heat back up to medium, put the pot back onto the burner and continue cooking the popcorn, carefully shimmying the pot occasionally to cook the kernels evenly. Once the kernels start popping, tip the lid just a touch to allow steam to escape (see photo).
- Continue cooking until the popping sound slows to about one pop per every few seconds. (If the popcorn tries to overflow the pot, just tip the upper portion of popcorn into your bowl and return it to the heat.)
- Remove the lid and dump the popcorn into your serving bowl. Sprinkle the popcorn with a couple pinches of salt, to taste, and any other topping you would like. Toss the popcorn and serve immediately, for best flavor and texture. The popcorn will taste good for several hours, though.
Where to buy popcorn kernels: Look for them near the microwave popcorn. I like to buy organic, which I find at Trader Joe’s or health stores.
▸ Nutrition Information
A word on safety
I burned some carpet in my house while making stovetop popcorn at age 10, and learned a valuable lesson to never leave hot oil on the stove unattended.
The risk here is entirely minimal. Don’t leave the kitchen, and remove the pot from the heat if you see any whiffs of smoke (which is unlikely). If the oil starts smoking at all, you’ll want to let start over. Let the oil cool before adding water to the pot to clean it.
If smoke ever starts billowing out of an oiled pot, whatever you do, do NOT remove the lid or add water. Turn off the stove, don’t touch or move the pot, and if it’s a small amount of oil (like for making popcorn), let it burn out on its own.
Here’s more information about grease fires. Teach your kids!
I’ve just made some popcorn following your tips and popped all of the kernels without burning any!
Hooray! Thank you for sharing, Jacob.
I’ve always been intimidated by making popcorn on the stove as we never did it growing up. I really appreciate your clear directions, and I’ve had great results.
Thank you for your review, Sarah!
That was fun. Thank you for the instructions.
You’re welcome, Jay!
We found your recipe awhile back, and it is our “go to” for popping corn!!! Perfect every time! We added White pepper tonight! Oh my!! Can’t even believe how excited I am about popping corn a bit of olive oil, sea salt and now black pepper! Yummy!!!!! Thank you for your tips!
Wonderful to hear, Barb! Thank you for sharing.
Tested. Works great! Easy snack and turns out better than microwaved.
First time I have seen every single kernel popped and unburned! That 60 sec pause is everything!
I made popcorn on the stove for the first time since I was in junior high. These instructions are PERFECT!! I only had 4 kernels that didn’t pop. I cut the recipe in half since my husband doesn’t like popcorn (I’m starting to think he may be an alien). This is now my go-to way for making it!
Thank you for sharing, Winnie!
This is sofa king good!! Delicious and easy!
Thanks! I usually get impatient or distracted and burn/underpop the popcorn…The clear precise recipe and glass topped pot make it super easy. Thank you
Would it be OK to use Peanut oil? Could there be any potential issues with that?
You can try it. I haven’t so I can’t say for sure.
0eanut oil is fantastic for frying, and it can be used. BUT it has a high smoking temp, meaning it can get hotter before it seems like it’s burning. It will make the kernals heat up faster and burn if you’re not careful about the heat source. Good luck and God bless.
In reading the recipe it says to divide the 1/2 cup popcorn in half and then doesn’t refer to what to do with the other half….do you add it later?
Hi Nina! You just need to reserve 2 kernels.
Turned out perfectly the first time!
Great to hear, Marsha!
Using large heavy bottom soup pot, 10 qt or 15 qt. Use just enough oil to ‘wet’ the bottom of the pot or better to have the kernels really wet with oil? Last time I tried the bigger pot I had way too many un-popped. I want to make a large quantity for a party. A few batches.
Hello! Just tried your method of making popcorn, and I have to say that it is delicious and really easy to do! I’ve been making it in a paper bag recently, but this is way more productive and delicious! My dogs love it, too! Thanks for sharing the how-to with simple directions. Gotto go now and eat my popcorn!
I’m happy you enjoyed it, Amy! I appreciate your review.
Kate, you are brilliant! Thank you!
WOW! Perfect recipe. I added chili powder and salt and my popcorn turned out so delicious. No burnt kernels and all of them popped! Thank you!!!
You’re welcome, Quiara!
I am dying to try this. How do you if your popcorn kernels are fresh? I have been buying in bulk, so there is no date.
Hi! I would think back to when you bough them. The test pop at the beginning should help. If it takes longer then suggested to pop, they may be older. Let me know if you try it!
Perfect recipe. I made mine in a carbon steel wok with Bob’s Red Mill yellow popcorn kernels and avocado oil with fantastic results – nearly all kernels popped and none burned. I seasoned it was truffled sea salt. Delicious.
Thank you for sharing, Sandy! I appreciate your review.
I found, and tried your technique a couple years ago, and I haven’t looked back once. This is the most foolproof way to make perfect stovetop popcorn. We use coconut oil, (the solidified white kind), and it gives the right flavor, and allows us to use less butter, keeping the popped corn crisp. And yes, the one minute rest time is important, DO NOT skip it. I have yet to find more than 3 kernels of un-popped corn out of the 1/2 cup I start with, just be sure to buy a good brand, and store it properly, and your results will be awesome.
Discovered this recipe and have never looked at another one since! It’s literally the best popcorn ever!
I’m delighted you think so, Sarah!
Great recipe, followed the instructions before and it turned out perfect popcorn ! Thanks !!
You’re welcome, Cheryl!
Perfect! Everyone was really impressed. The tip on going slow with the oil (olive) was excellent. We finished with luxurious Swiss butter and a few cranks of truffle salt…
Hey, that’s what the recipe and instruction did for me too! I had a couple of unpopped. I usually remove pot from stove early so it doesn’t burn, which leaves lots of unpopped. Not this time.. it was perfect. Thank you so much❤️
I made again 1/2 batch using olive oil. It came out better and quicker than the full batch. I topped with nutritional yeast, sea salt and dried rosemary- delicious. Cinnamon and dried coconut flakes is another great combo to your simple basic recipe.
Thank you for sharing your combinations, Luci! I appreciate your review.
Thank You for putting your method out there for me to find so I could perfect my popping. Great results and enjoyable popcorn.
You’re welcome, Simpson!
I so love and appreciate that your recipes are always reliable and thoughtful (and delicious, of course). I happened to do a generic Google search for perfect stovetop popcorn to check my own process after finally getting a formal stovetop popcorn maker to up-level my standard heavy pot technique… and then promptly burning the heck out of the first batch in an utterly disappointing venture wherein I burned it in the maker and then turned around and burned a second batch a bit less horribly in the standard pot. I was so happy to see your recipe pop up so I knew it was tried and true. The medium heat level changed everything (and apparently corrected an error I’ve been making for a decade). Much appreciated!
My husband and I just made a batch – perfect for a Saturday night movie together! Now to find (read that as “agree”) on a movie.
Yes, perfect for movie nights!
i buy cinema salt for my pop corn mix 1 teaspoon of that tastes awesome.
Great article! I went to olive oil for popcorn and haven’t gone back. It’s the only way.
But a small correction — 10 cups is one serving.
This is very good
Great to hear, Carmen! Thank you for your review.
This is the best popcorn recipe I’ve ever used! I am obsessed with it.
WONDERING HOW TO SAVE LEFTOVERS….KEEP IN POT WITH LID?…STORE IN TUPPERWARE OR OUT IN THE OPEN?
I JUST POPPED THEM (PERFECTLY) THANK YOU!
Hi, i tidied your recipe and my popcorn got a little burnt and it took almost like 45 minutes for the popcorn to be done… do you know what I can do the next time for a better result?
Hi Maren, I’m sorry to hear that. Was your popcorn on the older side?
I followed your recepie as is . Popcorn turned out excellent. Thank you
That’s great, Nisha! Thank you for your review.
This was the first time I’ve made stovetop popcorn. Super easy and it came out great!
I have always made popcorn on the stove but read this anyway and it is very good and informative. I did not know the trick about letting the kernels set for 60 seconds in the oil. Great thanks! One of my favorite ways to top it it is with a small drizzle of butter, fresh ground black pepper and sea salt and parmigiana cheese finely grated with a microplane. Truly delicious.
Damn…… just made it!!!! Perfect popcorn first time. It worked beter than I though it would. Thank you. All popped, none burnt.
Hooray! I’m happy you enjoyed it, Jamie.
This is the EASIEST and most DELICIOUS way to make popcorn on the stove. The recipe has the perfect ratio.
I’m glad you love this popcorn, Emily! Thank you for your review.
Turned out great. Have been looking for a good recipe for this. Thank you.
I’m happy you enjoyed it, Kate. Thank you for your review!
Hey, so I have been waiting for a long time and my popcorn has not popped yet any suggestions?
I Sophia, it sounds like your heat isn’t high enough or you may have old kernels. Did it eventually pop? Was the lid on?
Thank you. Excellent tips – the taking off the fire and 60 seconds let rest, best tip ever! I love your blog and have been following it for years, as a private chef. I’m just bad at commenting.
You’re welcome, Anneli! I appreciate your review.
Thank you for this recipe. Thinking of going into the business soon. You inspired me.
I have made popcorn on the stove top a handful of times. It’s always been meh. Microwave popcorn has always been my go-to. However, today, my toddler insisted we make popcorn with the kernels she found in the pantry. I followed this recipe and it was DELICIOUS! I am never making popcorn another way again. Thanks for tips and tricks!
This was my first time making stove top popcorn, and I didn’t have any burnt! This is as amazing!
Thank you for your amazing tips and recipe! You are the best!
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Pam! Thank you for your review.
Worked like a charm!
That’s great to hear, Samantha! I appreciate your review.
Thanks for the recipe for stove top popcorn. I am working in the Arctic, and have very few conveniences like the pop corn maker. So, I tried your recipe today, using the stove top method, and I have enjoyed my popcorn. You are so right–much better then anything else. Infact, I used a home made salad dressing instead of butter, and that made my treat really delicious!!
You’re welcome, Helene! I appreciate your review.
Th best recipe ever. I love it!!! Easy to follow and the result is delicious!
Hi there! I’ve made this popcorn twice on the stove. Both times the vast vast majority of the kernels only popped partially. One thing I did differently is that I left the top on and did not let the unpopped kernels sit for a minture before turning the heat back on. The kernels are new so that can’t be the reason. Once I used extra version olive oil and then avocado oil. Do you ever have this issue? Do you know why? How do I make sure the kernels are fluffy and fully popped?
Hi Rachel, I’m sorry to hear that. It may have not been warm enough. Did you do the kernel test as indicated to make sure the oil was hot enough in step 1? Even if you just bought your popcorn, it still may be older or if its not stored properly.
Another happy reviewer! I bought my husband some kernels and oil in hopes of saving a few $ on the many bags of pre-popped corn we buy at the store. These directions are clear and easy to follow and I’ve made it multiple times with success after never having made popcorn (from kernels) in my life. Thank you!!!
Super helpful! First time stovetop maker and it all came out wonderfully. The video was especially helpful. Thanks!
You’re welcome, James! Thank you for your review.
I always thought I didn’t need “instructions” to make popcorn; boy was I wrong! I made a batch an hour ago, was not happy with how it came out, so googled and found your site. In the name of science (haha!) I did a second batch according to your recipe, and the difference was night and day, you’ve made me into a popcorn addict!
Thank you, Kate!
I own a Whirly Pop pot but we moved into a house with an induction stove so it doesn’t work. My husband wanted popcorn so I found you. I used bacon grease as the fat and had heirloom popcorn in the pantry. It was easy and excellent!
Great to hear!
I like using a large wok
Thank you for this recipe. I just made it and it’s delicious. After it was done I melted a tablespoon of vegan butter to toss it with and sprinkled it with Trader Joe’s everything but the elote seasoning mix. It’s perfect!
You’re welcome, Veronica!
I’m glad you wrote this I always thought the oil had to almost cover the top of kernels but your way works just as well, thank you less calories. Just a tip I use avocado oil since it has a higher smoke point and it’s nutty and delicious.
Perfect! Was just looking for guidance on oil to kernel ratios when this popped up. Glad I saw it and appreciate the tips on warming the oil. Had very few unpopped kernels and no burnt pieces. Delicious!
Great to hear, SC!
I have been making stovetop popcorn for years and thought I figured it out – sometimes it burns, and sometimes it’s good. But, I tried your recipe and this is a game-changer. It turned out perfect! And if that’s not all, I looked at the sprinkling of pepper and thought, come on, that can’t be tasty, but I was wrong! I didn’t use butter, just salt and pepper and it was better than butter. Thank you! Now, excuse me while I pig out on my popcorn…
That’s great to hear, Don!
Worked out perfectly, Thank you so much!