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Sweet Poppin’ Corn

Up until a few weeks ago, I thought popcorn was a mysterious, magical substance that could only be made in a microwavable bag or a Very Special Popcorn Popper like this:

Maybe you knew that wasn’t true. Maybe you knew it could be made easily, cheaply and chemical-free on your stove using a standard pot. Maybe you also knew that the song “Put me in, coach” is about baseball and not about asking for the cheap seats on the airplane. In all those cases, you’d definitely be smarter than me.

But a few weeks ago it rocked my world to learn I could be making my own popcorn in any flavor I could DREAM of, right here in my kitchen sans popcorn popper. So I’m going to show you how I do it, and if you knew about this trick your whole life, and this post turns out completely lame, it’s probably your fault.


But let’s hope for the best.

Okay, first – the background. Did you know microwave popcorn releases toxic fumes when you cook it which can give you something called “popcorn lung?” It’s a life-threatening disease that impacts your breathing but does not, in fact, make you hock up giant hairballs of popcorn, like my imagination predicted when I first heard the term.

Still, I don’t want any of that. Just say no to microwave popcorn.

I actually stopped eating popcorn altogether when I heard about the research, because we’re not “super fancy” and do not own our very own “popcorn popper.” I thought chemical-free popcorn was for the elites. You know, the kind of people who own popcorn poppers. It’s not. It’s for you and me.

Here’s how you do it. Get some popcorn kernels, olive oil and salt (optional*).

*Salt is not really optional. You should definitely COAT your popcorn in salt. Trust me on this one.

And pull together your seasonings. Let your imagination run wild! My favorites are salt, cheese, salt, cajun seasoning, salt and salt.

Now dump some kernels in a pot. Seriously, any pot that has a lid. I’m in the process of switching my non-stick pots and pans to enameled cast iron to limit our chemical exposure. Here’s my pretty new enameled cast iron skillet:

With some kernels in it. Just “some.” However many you want.

Then pour some olive oil in there. I probably didn’t use enough, but you want it to just cover the bottom of the pot. There are no exact measurements happening here, friends.

Then dump all your seasonings on it. BE GENEROUS. Life is short. Cheese…

Cajun seasoning and salt…

Pop the lid on and turn it on high.

Now’s the fun part! It doesn’t take very long to get poppin’, but it’s pretty delightful when it does. Stay nearby for this part – don’t go start painting a room or running to the mall or anything. It’s like I always say*:

If the popcorn’s a-poppin’, don’t go a-shoppin’

*I have never said that.

When the popping slows down a little, pick up your pot and kind of wave it over the burner for a sec, til the popping is almost finished. THEN open the lid and smell that delicious chemical-free magic you just created! YUM.

If you’re lucky, a few more kernels will pop while you’re pouring it from the pot to your bowl, sending a happy popcorn explosion into your kitchen. This is a GIANT WIN. Be thankful.

Enjoy! I think the spicy cajun seasoning plus a little pinot noir makes a happy little nighttime snack.
How to make popcorn on the stove -- avoid chemicals and add fun flavors!

Okay, so did you guys know you could do this? If so, what else are you keeping me in the dark on, guys? What are your favorite healthy, easy snacks?

**PS – this is my second-ever attempt at a food-related post. You can check out the first here.

Let's connect


  1. I love real popcorn! We’ve been Enlightened about its Wonder for several years now. (Sorry you were excluded from that club for so long….) We have not, however, attempted new seasonings like you–strictly kettle corn and regular so far. Rick likes anything coated in cheese so maybe we’ll have to try that next. 🙂

  2. You were definitely not alone in your popcorn abyss. I had no idea you could even buy popcorn kernels until I saw them at the store, completely by chance, the other day. I asked my husband where they kept the microwave bags. For reals.

    I can’t wait to try this! Anything this easy is definitely right up my alley!! 🙂

    P.S. Cheese & Salt & Ranch Dressing Seasoning. And salt. salt. Forget the popcorn. Just give me the salt.

  3. I hate butter on my popcorn, so this is how I’ve always made my popcorn. The stuff in the bag always grossed me out.

    My favorite is Crystal Hot Sauce on plain, salted popcorn. I’m impressed with how little you made. Even though I’ve made it like this for years and know how popcorn grows, I still always make too much (it’s fun to see the popcorn raise the lid though)

    Added bonus- it’s pennies on the dollar compared to that crap bag stuff!

  4. Popcorn Lung?!! Say it aint so. Scary.
    I am not a big popcorn person but my hubby goes nuts for the stuff. I remember my parents making popcorn this way when I was little but you totally brought it back home. I’m already thinking about the gourmet batch I’m gonna whip up for him on our next movie night.

  5. I never heard of popcorn lung, eeeeek!

    I grew up making popcorn this way! But I always put salt on the popcorn after they were popped… This is neat, I can just salt everything before they pops? That sounds like it would taste better – I’m gonna try this soon!

  6. Can I just tell you how much you were cracking me up with this post? I didn’t know about microwaved popcorn until I was…oh….maybe in high school? My dad always made it like this and to this day I can’t STAND the microwaved stuff. Especially after a little fiasco when I set the stuff on fire (whoops!)..

  7. Mmmmm I love popcorn! I grew up with one of those air poppers, and when we got married we were given a “Whirley Pop” — which is a cranking-stovetop-pan that came with a great recipe book!

    • …Making you one of the “elites!” 🙂 Haha. Seriously, those things are like $17. I don’t know why they seem so out of reach.

  8. We’ve been micro popcorn free for about two years…we have a whirli-pop thing that you pour canola oil in and this little arm spins the kernels around while they pop. I’ll never go back to that microwave nastiness.

  9. Absolutely! Although I have never put seasoning on the pre-popped kernels…going to have to try that one! By the way – I have metal frying pans, but somethings it’s just key to have a non stick for things like eggs. There are many ceramic coated frying pans out there that are non-stick but also not tfal. enjoy your popcorn (and make sure to buy some floss… :))

  10. You need to discuss this with Aunt Peggy. She’s been testing the best stove-top popcorn for years. Last I asked, she was saying peanut oil and specifically the Orville Redenbacker kernels were the best (you’ve got those, good job!).

    Now you’re making me hungry… 😉

    • Funny – she and uncle mike are the ones who taught me how to do this! I was so excited to learn. When they were here, we had a movie/popcorn night. So fun 🙂

  11. You know I have been toying with this lately! I love throwing in powdered sugar and a pinch of salt after the oil is hot – kettle corn lovers live here! Where did you get you pot? We have been toying with the ideas of new pots. I wish someone had told us about the reasons to not get nonstick before we got that really expensive calphalon set as a wedding gift…

  12. Yummy! My girls will totally love this 🙂

    Can’t wait to see how the Roomspiration party goes on your scheduled date 🙂

  13. That was the best post about popcorn I have ever read! (Probably the only, also, but still the best.)

  14. I love real popcorn too and I agree with you on the salt…the more the better!

  15. My dad use to make popcorn this way when we were kids. It was a Friday night ritual. Of course I grew up and forgot all about that until I read this post. He never, however, experimented with different seasonings. I have got to try making it this way myself! Especially with a bit of powdered sugar like a previous commenter mentioned.

  16. Lol! Kelly you are so funny, the popcorn lung picture is killing me. Hubby just caught my typo, almost had poopcorn not popcorn. Anyways, we’ve been making popcorn on the stove for about a year now and love it! We also have this bowl from Target that you can microwave the kernels in and they pop up and it doesn’t use oil. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  17. This post was cracking me up AND very informative 🙂 I had NO idea either that you could just use an old pot!! Thanks for the tip!

  18. Ok, I may just have to try this. Sounds delicious! I think I’ll go sweet… maybe a little cinnamon & sugar or honey! Yuuum

  19. We made the switch to “real ” popcorn about a year ago and never looked back! Thanks for showing how easy and healthy it really is!

  20. I bet I haven’t made popcorm like that in 30 years. It sounds really good and I am wishing I had some corn for popping right now.

  21. I have always made popcorn like this. Sorry didn’t know it was such a secret. You should have called me. 🙂
    Here is one of my new favorites. First you should not use olive oil. It was not meant to burn at that temperature.
    I have been using coconut oil. Can’t really taste it. Also I have put sugar in it before it pops. Kettle corn! Make sure to shake often. Be a little generous with the sugar. Put salt on after popping.
    Really nummy. Yes, I said “nummy”.
    Also, the best salt is “popcorn salt”. Can be found in grocery stores but you can make it youself. Just put salt in a blender and give it a whirl. I put it into a shaker. It’s like a fine salt and find that I don’t need a lot.

  22. Seriously, I am 59 and cannot believe that anyone really, truly didn’t know how to pop corn on a stove top. I need to check with my 25 and 28 year old to make sure that they have similarly missed this bit of cookery. wow

  23. Somehow I stumbled across your blog, loved the latest post and I am now, believe it or not, working my way through ALL your archives. I am in awe of your brilliance and now feel I can give something back by sharing a secret trick that my grandfather passed down to me and which will further improve your popcorn recipe.

    And here it is…

    Cover the bottom with oil (as you have described) and then, add about a 1/3 t-spoon of water before turning the heat on and putting the lid on. The reason that we do this is that the water quickly evaporates as the oil gets hot and creates a little bit of steam which the kernels absorb and it makes the popcorn a little bit moist which means that all the flavours stick so much better.

    This is the secret to world-class popcorn.

    Now… back to my stalking 🙂

  24. Just had to mention the other benefit to stove popped corn – the heavenly smell! Only thing better is freshly baked bread!

  25. Well Im very late to the party here but we like to use coconut oil instead of olive oil to make our popcorn. I love the taste!

  26. Definitely invest in a whirley pop or similar popper, so much easier to use. Also, I use coconut oil too. It gives it great flavor. And popcorn salt is a must. My family has always made popcorn on the stove and we can never get enough. I remember my dad making for dinner some nights, we would eat it with apples for a balanced dinner! 🙂

  27. This post was totally corny…I like that!

  28. amanda journey says:

    I have always made popcorn like this or in an air popper. The trick you just taught me was to put the seasonings on BEFORE you pop. They stick so much better that way! Can’t believe it never occurred to me…
    We have done cajun seasoning, jerk seasoning, Old Bay (We’re Marylanders), garlic salt and parm cheese… All with salt and salt 😉 Next on the list is a little sugar for kettle corn flavor.

    • This post is really cracking me up!!!! As an older folk, I didn’t know this was a secret! So funny!!!

  29. I see you mentioned having a enameled cast iron skillet….so is this a healthier pan for cooking? It is nonstick too? Thx!

  30. Jenilee Miller says:

    I have been purchasing Orville Redenbacher (sp?) popcorn oil at Wal-Mart that comes in a 16 oz bottle. Recently went to Sam’s Club where I found a GALLON of Act II Buttery Popping Oil and a box of Mighty Pop Popcorn Salt; located in “Concession” aisle where you can find boxes of chocolate bars and candy. I will be making my popcorn with these items from now on! Tastes just like Movie Theater Popcorn! Guess who will be sneaking in popcorn to the movies from now on!!!! I use a 2 qt saucepan with a clear lid. Pour buttery popping oil in bottom of saucepan, no need to cover entire bottom of pan, oil is THICK and it will melt as it gets hot. To the oil, add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels and 1/8 teaspoon of popcorn salt. As popcorn is cooking, be swishing the pot over the flame with your hand so the popcorn kernels are swishing around in the oil. With a clear lid, you can see when the popcorn begins to pop. This oil likes to splatter out of the pan, even with a lid on! Might need to wear long sleeve shirt and protective goggles, just in case! Still be swishing the pan over the flame as the popcorn pops. The 1/4 cup kernels will fill up the 2 qt saucepan all the way to the lid when popped. ENJOY!

  31. I live in Indiana where Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn is made, sadly popcorn lung is very real. I have a few tips for tastier stove top popcorn. First, don’t use olive oil. It has a low scorch temp and will end up making the popcorn taste funky. Use a corn or veggie oil. A good one. Second, put your oil into your pot (1/4 cup for a family sized bowl of popped corn) along with 2-3 kernels and cover the pot. Flame up to medium high and wait to hear those pop. Once they do, the oil is at the right temp so add your corn and seasonings. Shake the covered pot to mix it all well and a few times while popping to keep from burning. Enjoy.

    My fav seasonings:: flavacol (it’s what they put on popcorn at the movies–sold at GFS). Onion powder, garlic powder, paprika~ kinda makes it taste like o-ki-doke hot stuff. And if I want salt, I crush it into a fine powder before adding it. No salt hot spots

    Welcome to my world of awesome popcorn! Great article!

  32. Oh and salt and sugar for kettle corn like taste but dang it’s messy.

    Btw when I make popcorn I use a 4 or 6 qt pot. We love our popcorn here lol.

    I would watch using some of the popcorn oils, the steam from them is what causes popcorn lung.

  33. Not only did I learn how to make awesome popcorn, but the whole post left me on the edge of my seat! Great job!

  34. This is the blend of spices I throw on my popcorn. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.
    Sesame seeds, salt, black pepper, minced garlic, lemon peel, minced green onion and rosehips

  35. I feel kind of like I am being pranked with this post. Uh – really? You didn’t know that you can pop popcorn on stove? It must be my age! So – having popped popcorn on the stove my whole life, I have a couple of pointers. I agree with the folks above that advise not using olive oil. I like coconut oil as well, but if you want to go for a really buttery taste, use ghee. It won’t burn like butter, but it sure will taste like it, and it won’t be greasy like when you pour melted butter on it afterward. I would advise a much more lightweight pot than the one you show here. This is mostly because you don’t “wave it” over the stove gently when it is almost done. You shake it vigorously multiple times during the bulk of the active popping. You do this to get the unpopped kernels to the bottom of the pan where there is heat and keep the popped kernels away from the bottom, where they will burn. A much lighter pan will be much easier on your arm – although you have to be careful that it is heating evenly, so don’t go for a super cheap pan. Other hints to prevent burning – more oil is better and don’t go above a medium high heat. You know the popcorn is done when you have about 2 seconds between pops. If you let it go until all the popping stops, you run the risk of burning. And, please for the love of all that is holy, use a powdered salt. It makes all the difference in the world. I don’t use store bought popcorn salt because it usually has a bunch of flavorings and other crap in it. I buy a powdered pink himalayan salt from SaltWorks online. I really am laughing to myself that so many people had no idea that you could actually cook popcorn. Now – you all know that you can also put popcorn kernels in a paper bag and pop it in the microwave without all the chemicals and without any oil, right???


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  2. […] How to Make Popcorn on the Stove without a Popcorn Popper – I actually stopped eating popcorn altogether when I heard about the research, because we’re not “super fancy” and do not own our very own “popcorn popper.” […]

  3. […] How to Make Popcorn on the Stove without a Popcorn Popper – I actually stopped eating popcorn altogether when I heard about the research, because we’re not “super fancy” and do not own our very own “popcorn popper.” […]

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