How to Make Popcorn on the Stovetop
Nothing beats freshly popped popcorn, and making this healthy snack yourself is much cheaper than buying the pre-bagged stuff! Here’s my step-by-step guide for how to make perfect popcorn on the stovetop using a large pot.
But for snacking, nothing beats actual homemade popcorn, and we also love the whole ritual behind making it. It’s so fun to listen to it pop on the stove.
Why I Love This Stovetop Method
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 brands of microwave popcorn 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. It’s also cheaper than anything you’d get at movie theaters.
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 as you want too. Let’s get into the process for perfect stovetop popcorn!
Step by Step Overview:
Preheat a big heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven that has a lid over medium high heat, then spread a teaspoon of high heat cooking fat on the bottom with a spatula.
What Kind of Oil to Use
Ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, or any other oil with a high smoke point will work.
The best oil in my opinion is either coconut oil or ghee.
Do not use extra virgin olive oil, which is prone to burning.
For best results, we are intentionally using a small amount of fat here, just enough to coat the bottom of the pot. Otherwise the hot oil will pool around the sides and the popcorn kernels will have a hard time rolling around (and they’ll burn).
Add a quarter cup of popcorn kernels, put the lid on, and start shaking!
What kind of kernels to use
White kernels and yellow kernels will work equally well here, though I tend to prefer yellow.
You may also use heirloom varieties like blue corn.
Shake the pan for a few minutes, venting it slightly, until all the corn kernels pop.
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!
Melt some butter, either in the microwave or in a separate saucepan set over medium heat, then pour the melted butter into the pan:
And also shake on some fine salt:
I prefer these two basic ingredients, but add any other flavorings you wish, like cinnamon and brown sugar for a sweet fresh popcorn, or savory cheese powder, nutritional yeast, and spices like cayenne pepper. You can also buy popcorn seasoning.
Put the lid back on to shake everything up, and distribute the butter and sea salt evenly.
Pour your homemade stovetop popcorn into a large bowl, then you’re ready for movie night!
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. I do not recommend going above medium-high heat. Be patient.
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.
If you think you’re going to have any remaining popcorn, it’s best to skip adding the butter. Once you add butter, the kernels will get soggy and can’t really be saved.
How to Make Popcorn on the Stove
- 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!
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.