Nothing beats freshly popped popcorn, and making it yourself is much cheaper than buying the pre-bagged stuff! Here’s my step-by-step guide for how to make popcorn on the stovetop flawlessly.

Stovetop Popcorn - Served in a Bowl on Wooden Board

We are a popcorn family, and well, just a corn family in general. We love corn every which way, and regularly enjoy this Cornbread Recipe, Creamed Corn, and even Corn Cookies.

But for snacking, nothing beats actual popcorn, and we also love the whole ritual behind making it. It’s so fun to listen to it pop on the stove.

Why Making Popcorn This Way Is So Great

Freshness is everything – I get that you can just buy a bag of premade popcorn from the store, like you would a bag of chips, but the bagged stuff can’t hold a candle to the freshness of  hot and crisp *just popped* popcorn. 

Bigger, fluffier pieces – I’ve noticed that bulk popcorn kernels yield bigger, fluffier pieces. It’s so much more fun to eat.

No preservatives or chemicals – There’s the option of buying sealed bags that you put in the microwave yourself, but so many of these are loaded with preservatives and chemicals, and I like to keep it pure with just a good quality butter and some salt. A lot of microwaveable popcorn has excessive amounts of salt!

Drastically cheaper – The store bought bags are so expensive! Making stovetop popcorn yourself with your own kernels is significantly cheaper.

How to Make Popcorn on the Stove - A tutorial with end product shown in glass bowl

While unitasker popcorn machines exist (affiliate), it is so easy to make popcorn in a pot right on the stovetop that this is arguably the best option for most people.

You can make as much or as little popcorn as you want too. Let’s get into the process!

How to Make It Step by Step:

Preheat a big pot that has a lid over medium high heat, then spread a teaspoon of ghee or other high heat cooking fat on the bottom with a spatula:

Spreading ghee in pot with purple spatula

You are intentionally using a really small amount of fat here, otherwise the fat will pool around the pan and the popcorn kernels will have a hard time rolling around (and they’ll burn).

Add some corn kernels, put the lid on, and start shaking!

Adding popcorn kernels to the stainless steel pan

Shake the pan for a few minutes, venting it slightly, until all the corn kernels pop. 

Shaking Pan on Cooktop

I can tell that the majority of the corn is popped when I can’t hear any more kernels popping for several seconds.

Now the popcorn is ready, and you can dress it up with whatever flavors you want!

Making Popcorn on the Stove in Stainless Steel Pot

I pour on some melted butter:

Pouring Butter Over the Freshly Popped Popcorn

And also shake on some fine salt:

Sprinkling Salt over Stovetop Popcorn Recipe

Put the lid back on to shake it all up and distribute the butter and salt evenly.

How to Cook Popcorn on the Stove - Shown in Glass Bowl

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars and Candied Pecans are a few more of my favorite snacks to munch on. Enjoy!

Recipe FAQ:

What do I do if the stovetop popcorn is taking a long time to pop?

If the popcorn kernels aren’t popping, it means the pan isn’t hot enough, and this will vary a lot depending on the pan you’re using and your stove. Something really thick and heavy like cast iron will take a lot longer to preheat.

When do you butter the stovetop popcorn?

I like to have the butter already melted and standing by, so I can immediately drizzle it on the popcorn, add salt, and shake it well to coat.

Did you enjoy the recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page.

Stovetop Popcorn in Glass Bowl

How to Make Popcorn on the Stove

Popcorn is easy to make on the stovetop, and buying kernels in bulk is cheap!

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  • 1 tsp ghee or other high-heat cooking fat
  • 1/4 cup unpopped corn kernels
  • 1 tbsp melted butter or more, if you want
  • a few shakes of salt to taste


  • Heat up a big pot with a lid over medium high heat for a few minutes, then use a spatula to spread around the ghee on the bottom of the pan.
  • Dump in the unpopped corn kernels and put a lid on the pot. Turn the heat down to medium.
  • Start shaking the pot forward and back, side to side, constantly moving the pot around the burner. If you don’t shake the pan continuously the popcorn kernels will burn.
  • After a few minutes, vent the pot slightly by moving the lid a bit to the side (but don’t let the majority of the hot air escape). Continue shaking, and the corn kernels should start popping either right away or in the next couple minutes.
  • Once the popping slows down and several seconds pass without any popping, remove the pot from the heat. Drizzle over the butter, then add a few shakes of salt over the top. Put the lid back on and shake again to distribute the butter. Enjoy!


Note about doubling/tripling: You can make as much popcorn as you want as long as the corn kernels are no thicker than a single layer on the bottom of the pan. They need room to roll around the hot pan and heat up.


Calories: 27kcal, Carbohydrates: 3g, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 4mg, Sodium: 13mg

Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.

Post updated March 2021. Originally published March 2013.