Microwave popcorn is a popular snack with our family. The smell of corn popping brings people running from all corners of the house, hoping for a “sample,” or maybe a little bit more. People in our family have been known to hide their stash of microwave popcorn in dresser drawers and closets, just to keep it out of other family members’ greedy hands.
Reading the ingredient list on a package of commercial microwave popcorn might send people running in the other direction, though. Most microwave popcorn contains the chemical preservative TBHQ, and the strong “buttery” taste and aroma of some microwave popcorn comes from chemical flavorings, such as Pentanedione.
A better alternative is to make your own microwave popcorn, so you control the ingredients. The cost is a lot lower than commercial microwave popcorn, and you can experiment with creative seasonings and flavor combinations. Another great thing about this recipe is that it’s lower in calories than most microwave popcorn – 30 calories per cup, compared to 64 calories per cup for “movie theater butter” microwave popcorn.
The basic directions for homemade microwave popcorn are simple. Begin by mixing 2 tablespoons of popcorn kernels with 1/2 teaspoon oil of your choice. I use canola oil, olive oil or melted coconut oil, depending on how I’m planning to flavor the popcorn. I’m brand loyal about a few things, and popcorn is one of them. I really like Orville Redenbacher. It’s a little bit more expensive, but it pops up lighter and fluffier than other brands. I know I sound like a commercial, but I really think it’s the best brand of popcorn.
The popcorn kernels go into a plain brown paper lunch bag. Fold the top of the bag over twice, then tear a little tab out of the folded bag and fold that over to keep it securely closed while it’s in the microwave.
Microwave the popcorn – with the bag standing up, not lying down – until the corn has almost stopped popping. The amount of time this takes will depend on the power of your microwave – for mine the magic number seems to be one minute and 40 seconds. Don’t overdo it. It’s better to have a few unpopped kernels than to have to throw away scorched popcorn.
After the corn is popped, pour it into a medium mixing bowl and add the flavorings. It works best to drizzle on half the butter or oil, sprinkle on half the seasonings, toss to mix, then repeat. Fine popcorn salt, which you can find in most grocery stores near the popcorn, clings to the kernels better than regular salt. Another thing I use to flavor my popcorn is a small spritzer filled with lemon juice. This is just little spray bottle from the cosmetics section of the drugstore.
Use your imagination when flavoring your popcorn. I’ve included six flavor suggestions in the recipe below: Classic Buttered, Cinnamon Toast, Basil Black Pepper, Cajun, Curry and Buffalo Style. This recipe can be vegetarian or vegan, depending on the flavorings used.
- 1/2 teaspoon canola oil, olive oil or melted coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons popcorn kernels
- 1/2 tablespoon melted butter or additional oil
- Fine popcorn salt
- Spices, seasonings and flavorings (see variations, below)
- Mix popcorn kernels in a small bowl with 1/2 teaspoon oil of your choice (see variations, below).
- Place popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag. Fold the top of the bag over twice. Tear a small tab in the fold, then fold the tab over to secure the top of the bag while in the microwave.
- Microwave the popcorn, with the bag standing up, until popping has almost stopped, about 1 minute and 40 seconds. Time will vary depending on the microwave’s power.
- Transfer popcorn to a medium mixing bowl. Drizzle with half of melted butter (or other oil, if using). Sprinkle with fine popcorn salt. Add half of additional seasonings, if desired. Toss to combine.
- Repeat with remaining butter or oil, popcorn salt and seasonings.