The Dirty Little Secret of Microwave Popcorn

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 October Unprocessed!).

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.

– Butter, Grated Truffle, Sea Salt, freshly ground Pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese. (Too fancy?)

– Tabasco and Garlic Salt. (Kapow!)

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

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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January 11, 2011 9:51 am

This rocks. Thanks for the idea. I usually pop mine in a pot, but glad to hear how I can get the same effect via microwave.

January 10, 2011 7:21 pm

Oh my goodness. Brilliant! We’re not big microwave popcorn people because of all the salt, but this is a great way to avoid the sodium and have a healthy snack. Thank you for telling the dirty little secret!

January 10, 2011 7:19 pm

I used to do this, it worked great, until one day I put the popped popcorn back in the microwave to melt with butter. When I removed from the microwave, flames about a foot high ignited 🙂 What did I do? 1. Took a picture 2. spray with the sink sprayer 🙂

January 10, 2011 7:04 pm

Chipotle powder and Sea Salt

January 10, 2011 4:46 pm

Thanks for the idea, I just popped up a snack! I don’t have a paper bag on hand, so I used a lidded plastic container like Shari’s comment suggested (only loosely covered while cooking). It worked great!

January 10, 2011 4:25 pm

I need to do this…I have a bag of organic popcorn kernals in my cabinet and I keep finding myself grabbing the mini bags of microwave stuff instead because it is just more convenient. But I cringe every time because of the list of chemicals and nasty stuff in it. I just need to suck it up and either get some paper bags and try this in the microwave, or do it on the stove. I am willing to bake my own bread, make my own granola, cook my own chicken stock, but for some reason stovetop popcorn is one of those mental blocks for me!!

January 10, 2011 3:55 pm

Never tried microwave but we always do it on the stove in a pan with canola or coconut oil. Takes about 5 mins total. We top with sea salt and fresh Parmesan or melted butter. Will see if the microwave is any easier…thanks for the tip!

January 10, 2011 3:17 pm

I always burn popcorn when I do it this way (and rarely have small paper bags handy), but I know a lot of people who are successful with it. Instead, I found this simple and inexpensive bowl that pops even the store brand kernals really well, with no fanning-the-smoke-detector situations. It is a heavy duty plastic bowl with a lid, which is probably not great emissions-wise, but it’s easier than pulling out the old air popper and less frustrating for me that burning the bags! 🙂

As for toppings, my husband makes an amazing caramel topping, which is not really healthy in itself, but as it is made from scratch, it does meet the October Unprocessed criteria! 🙂

Mike Smart
January 10, 2011 3:10 pm

We do this all the time at home. You can make a kick-a__ kettle corn this way, too!

January 10, 2011 2:55 pm

I’ve been doing this for a while but do toss them in a little oil first. Dunno. think it helps the salt stick. I do find that I have a lot of unpopped ones and wonder about the quality of the corn I’m getting from the bulk bins.

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