How to Make Perfect Popcorn (With Step-by-Step Photos!)

As a kid, whenever my family went to the movies, my mother used to pop up a great big pot of popcorn and portion it into little brown paper bags for us. She would then smuggle it into the theater in a giant tote bag along with pouches of Capri Sun. Yes, we were THAT family. And although I remember being mortified at the time, I now know better. I thought she was just being cheap, and maybe she was (popcorn costs pennies to make at home), but she was also being health conscious. (We were also a soda- and sugary cereal-free house.) As an adult and now parent myself, I can respect that.

Homemade popcorn is cheaper and healthier--and it's infinitely tastier. It's also a lot of fun to make. You only need two ingredients (three if you count salt, but that's a topping). My daughter loves it when I pop corn on the stove. She runs to the kitchen to listen to the popping and gets super excited when it stops. It's adorable, I just don't tell her it's high in fiber.

Stovetop Popcorn Recipe

Serves 2 (or 1, if you love popcorn as much as I do!)

Prep time: 5 minutes

Total time: 5 minutes


2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 cup popcorn kernels, preferably organic

Fine sea salt, for serving

Step-by-step instructions:

Start by coating the bottom of a large saucepan or pot with an even layer of canola oil. I'm using a 3-quart saucepan, 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil. For a larger pot, you might need a couple more tablespoons. I like to use canola oil because it has a neutral flavor and withstands high heat well. While olive oil will work, I find that when it is heated at high temperatures it can become a bit bitter. (Good quality extra-virgin olive oil, however, makes a wonderful topping post popping.)


Add 3 or 4 popcorn kernels to the pot, cover, and heat over medium-high flame.


When the kernels have popped, add 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels to the pan, swirling to coat them in hot oil.


Cover the pot and wait for the corn to begin popping.


Once the corn begins to pop, carefully vent the lid slightly. This releases some of the steam and moisture inside the pot which can cause the popcorn to become soggy. You also will want to give the pan an occasional shake.


When the popping has slowed considerably (1 to 2 seconds between pops), remove the pot from the heat. Wait a few seconds before removing the lid--there will be some stragglers that keep on popping.


Transfer popcorn to a big bowl, sprinkle with a little sea salt and enjoy!

Sometimes I like to sprinkle mine with curry powder or grated parmesan cheese or a drizzle of good quality olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper. If I'm craving something sweet I'll toss popcorn with a little melted butter and cinnamon-sugar.

What are YOUR favorite popcorn toppings?

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