Stovetop Popcorn

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Stovetop popcorn can be perfect every time! Fresh popcorn kernels, good popping oil, the right technique plus special seasonings, and you’re off to a great bowl of popcorn!

Big bowl of popcorn on the counter
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Most everyone loves a good popcorn night (or in the case of my sister, a good stovetop popcorn dinner…), and there’s nothing better than the flavor and aroma of a great big bowl popped to perfection. And . . . there’s nothing more disappointing than a batch that fails us! Homemade popcorn can be a healthy snack that is excellent every time following a few simple tips.

Ingredients for stovetop popcorn on the counter

Ingredients

Oil. My favorite oil for popcorn is extra virgin olive oil. The flavor is so light and delicious that you don’t even need to butter the popcorn (but of course you can!). 

Popcorn kernels. Freshness matters when it comes to popcorn kernels, so if your popcorn has been on the shelf for a while, buy some fresh for lighter, crisp results. 

Salt. This is one instance where large granules do not cut it. Use standard table salt or fine ground sea salt so that it disburses evenly over all of the popcorn and sticks to the kernels.

Seasonings. Here, the popcorn is your blank slate! Try topping with Za’atar, the spice blend of wild thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. SO so good on popcorn, especially together with the olive oil. I’m a huge fan (of course!) of the Lebanese Za’atar in my shop.

Popcorn kernels in oil in a steel pot on the stove
A towel rests on top of a big pot to shake it for stovetop popcorn

How to Make Stovetop Popcorn 

The only equipment you need is a big pot with a lid. My recipe works well in a 6 quart pot. I use a heavy stainless steel pot.

For perfect stovetop popcorn:

Step 1. In a large pot (6 quart dutch oven), heat the oil in the bottom of the pan over medium heat.

Step 2. Add the kernels to the pot and put the lid on the pot over medium high heat.

Step 3. As soon as a few kernels begin to pop, reduce the heat to medium so as not to overheat the hot oil and burn the popcorn. Shake the pan frequently until the popping sounds have nearly stopped. Use hot pads or a towel to hold the handles. Even if those aren’t hot, the steam that escapes the pot is very hot and it’s best to protect hands. Occasionally let a little bit of the steam out by lifting the lid slightly (without allowing the popping kernels to escape!). Listen for fast popping and if that doesn’t happen, turn the heat up again to medium-high for a minute or two, then back to medium.

Step 4. Pour the popcorn into a large bowl and immediately sprinkle za’atar and salt to taste over the popcorn. Toss and serve immediately. 

Best Stovetop Popcorn

There are so many different kinds of popcorn to choose from, a huge section in your grocery store! My popcorn favorite is organic Jolly Time popcorn, which is a yellow kernel that pops up fluffy and crisp. White kernels can be challenging to find, but do they make for fluffy popcorn. You can try to find them at specialty markets. Yellow kernels are the most common and can be found at your local grocery store. Freshness is key.

Some of the Best Popcorn Seasoning

This is my favorite part of making your own popcorn: playing with the toppings. Add the toppings to the hot popcorn after it’s fully popped. 

A little olive oil or melted butter will help the seasoning stick to the popcorn. And the butter gives it that finger-licking-good movie theater popcorn experience. Try a blend of a little butter combine with olive oil.

Spices. Za’atar is my go-to, but there are so many great ways to season. Try Aleppo pepper for some heat, sumac for tang, Lawry’s season salt  are fantastic! 

Cheese. Dry cheese is best, so go for grated (not shredded) parmesan cheese. Alternatively, add nutritional yeast as your topping for a vegan cheesy flavor.

Truffle. Decadent! Truffle mushroom flavors are divine with popcorn. Finish with truffle salt or add just a touch of truffle oil to your cooking oil. 

For a dessert popcorn, try a sprinkle of brown sugar or cinnamon sugar. Mini chocolate chips are excellent in popcorn! Add them after popping while the popcorn is warm.

Open jar of za'atar spice on a marble counter

Popcorn-Making Tips

Avoid high heat. Beware of high temperatures with the cooking oil; it can easily get too hot and will lead to burnt popcorn. Keep the stove on medium-high heat.

Keep the pan moving. Once you start hearing the kernels pop, gently shake the pan all the way until the kernels popping slow way down. This helps to prevent burning. 

Get the pan off the burner. Remove the pan from the heat quickly after the popping slows down, again to avoid burning it. 

Don’t overfill the pan. For best results, use only enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer; 3/4 cup covers the base of a 6-quart pot. If doubling the recipe, pop the rest of the kernels as a second batch rather than overfilling the first time. If you try to do the whole batch at once, many of the kernels will remain unpopped and the popcorn will bust out of the pan and spill over.

More Fun Snacking Ideas

Use your popcorn as an ingredient for a mix. Add to a variety of nuts, seeds, pretzels, or chocolate, and you’ve got a great nibble to serve at your next get together, movie night, or gameday. If you’re making a sweet mix, a dash of vanilla extract, along with melted butter and sugar or cinnamon.

Try adding popcorn to my Olive Oil Chex Mix with 7 Spice.

Make your own caramel corn with my favorite, old fashioned, nostalgic recipe.

Big bowl of popcorn on the counter

FAQs

How do you pop popcorn on top of the stove?

Heat some oil, add the kernels, put the lid on the pot and shake the pot while the kernels pop. Season with salt, melted butter, olive oil, and/or spices or other flavorings.

What is the best oil for stovetop popcorn?

My favorite is extra-virgin olive oil, especially a fruity variety, because of the nutritional value and flavor. Other good options for popping popcorn are avocado oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, and vegetable oil.

Is it best to cook popcorn in butter on the stove?

Popcorn pops best in oil rather than melted butter because the butter can burn at the higher temps needed to pop the popcorn. Drizzle melted butter over the popcorn for that buttery flavor.

What is the best pan for stovetop popcorn?

A pan with a lid is key for popping, because the lid keeps the popcorn in the pot while it pops! It also keeps the steam in and helps the popcorn reach the needed temperature to pop. A stainless steel dutch oven with a lid is best to evenly distribute the heat. Many pots like the Whirley Pop are aluminum and include a turning handle with the lid to keep the kernels moving.

Why is microwave popcorn unhealthy?

Microwave popcorn is the least healthy variety of popcorn because of the chemicals in the packaging, artificial flavors in the popcorn, and use of highly saturated fats like palm oil. 

More Easy Snacks

For a sweet treat that is also healthy and simple, try Warm Almond Stuffed Dates with Lime Zest

Make a great batch of my Best Homemade Hummus Recipe and serve with pita chips and veggies.

Another delicious way to add spice to your snack life is with my recipe for Olive Oil Chex Mix with 7 Spice. Can’t stop eating this one!!

Olive Oil Popcorn with Za'atar
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5 from 1 vote

Stovetop Popcorn Recipe

Stovetop popcorn can be perfect every time! Fresh popcorn kernels, good popping oil, the right technique and seasonings and you're off to a great bowl of popcorn.
Servings: 12 cups

Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons oil, such as extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons za'atar
  • fine sea salt or table salt, to taste
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Instructions 

  • In a large pot (6 quart dutch oven), heat the oil in the bottom of the pan over medium heat.
  • Add the kernels to the pot and put the lid on the pot over medium high heat.
  • As soon as a few kernels begin to pop, reduce the heat to medium so as not to overheat the hot oil and burn the popcorn. Shake the pan frequently until the popping sounds have nearly stopped. Use hot pads or a towel to hold the handles. Even if those aren't hot, the steam that escapes the pot is very hot and it's best to protect hands. Occasionally let a little bit of the steam out by lifting the lid slightly (without allowing the popping kernels to escape!). Listen for fast popping and if that doesn't happen, turn the heat up again to medium-high for a minute or two, then back to medium.
  • Pour the popcorn into a large bowl and immediately sprinkle za’atar and salt to taste over the popcorn. Toss and serve immediately. 

Notes

Popcorn-Making Tips

Avoid high heat. Beware of high temperatures with the cooking oil; it can easily get too hot and will lead to burnt popcorn. Keep the stove between medium (to start) and medium-high heat, then back to medium heat. Listen for fast popping and if that doesn’t happen, turn the heat up again to medium-high for a minute or two, then back to medium.
Keep the pan moving. Once you start hearing the kernels pop, gently shake the pan all the way until the kernels popping slow way down. This helps to prevent burning. 
Get the pan off the burner. Remove the pan from the heat quickly after the popping slows down, again to avoid burning it. 
Don’t overfill the pan. For best results, use only enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer; 3/4 cup covers the base of a 6-quart pot. If doubling the recipe, pop the rest of the kernels as a second batch rather than overfilling the first time. If you try to do the whole batch at once, many of the kernels will remain unpopped and the popcorn will bust out of the pan and spill over.

Nutrition

Calories: 72kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 36mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 38IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Maureen Abood
Servings: 12 cups
Calories: 72
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16 Comments

  1. Kathleen says:

    Could you kindly go over the temperatures again? Medium, Medium high? Which, please? It’s unclear between steps 2 and 3, and also in the comments. Thanks!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Thanks Kathleen! Adjusted for clarity. The heat starts medium, then up to medium high, then back to medium. Listen for rapid popping and if that doesn’t happen, turn the heat back up a bit for a minute or so.

  2. Steve Niskanen says:

    I’m going to try this. I’ve never had za’atar but it sounds intriguing. And I LOVE popcorn!

  3. T says:

    I did this and then drizzled saffron-infused simply syrup on it. Best thing I ever did.

  4. Gina Harlow says:

    Maureen,
    I’m so happy I discovered your site. Popcorn memories and love of za’atar! We have a wonderful Lebanese market in Austin and it’s like a field trip for me. Just discovering all the delicious new flavors.

  5. Honey @HoneyUncharted says:

    Cant wait to try this! im the biggest fan of lebanese food 🙂

  6. Donna Myers says:

    Maureen, have you ever made Lokum? I would be interested in your recipe.

  7. Patti Markho says:

    Maureen your gift of writing and cooking come together in the most beautiful way. You never cease to amaze me. xoxoxo

  8. Alyssa says:

    Oh my goodness, I am so obsessed with za’atar and have been looking for ways to eat more of it. I LOVE this idea!

  9. Diane Nassir (my maternal grandmother was an Abowd from Ammun, Leb.) says:

    Looks and sounds yummy–and love your sweet and touching remembrances of Mother, childhood, siblings!

  10. Nancy Tanasy says:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful idea. I’m going to try it, I always have za’atar and look for new ways to use it.

  11. Kristin says:

    This is brilliant. My mind is spinning. Popcorn is my drug. Go market this now! I’m going to try my hand, but I use a whilrly pop & my new house has an electric stove, which I cannot figure out how to control the heat. I’m not sure I can keep it from burning. So, see – if you sold this, it would make it so much easier for me to get my hands on it!

  12. Celine says:

    YES!! I LOVE the redesign of your website. As always, a feast for my eyes and my brain! It’s easy to navigate through and since I always want to know exactly how you created something, the section on techniques is wonderful! Looking forward to having your cookbook in my kitchen. Bravo!

  13. Marci Duryea says:

    I am definitely trying that recipe sometime. And if you have never tried garlic-infused olive oil to pop your popcorn, that is delicious too.

  14. Patricia Malcolm says:

    My “popcorn memories” are of my mom cooking up a large batch of popcorn in her copper bottom pan with lid……and going to either the Algeir Drive-In or the Wayne Drive-In…….five kids piled in the back of a big old 1950’s Buick, and my dad singing all of the way there. Such happy times!
    Also, my favorite Christmas gift ever was a mini popcorn stove with a little pot to pop corn with…..spent endless hours popping away and sharing with my dad.
    I still share his love of popcorn and think of him whenever I’m eating it!

  15. Rina says:

    Looks absolutely DELISH!!!! Can’t wait to make!