Making your own microwave popcorn couldn’t be easier


Put this down as reason #10,844 why I love the Internets.

Reason #10,843, in case you were wondering, is this phenomenal Skoda ad, where we see a life-size car, complete with engine, headlights, and bucket seats, constructed entirely of cake (and it’s totally real). Reason #10,842 is Jenn’s lovely post, Wild Surmise about why women blog and why it is a beautiful and important thing to do. Reason #10,841 is full episodes of Jon Stewart. Reason #10,840 is that guy who dances all over the world.

And reason #1, by the way, is Etsy.

But back to #10,844. While searching for directions for felting wool — Merrie and I will try our hand at making mittens this winter — I stumbled across directions on Instructables for making microwave popcorn. From scratch.

Making microwave popcorn! Whoa! No carcinogenic PFOA packaging! No lung-damaging diacetyl! No $4/box price tag! No need to depend upon the anachronistic glasses and bowtie of Orville Redenbacher (may he rest in peace, and may they stop raising him from the dead, no, please stop, really) ever again.

You can make your own microwave popcorn. Who knew?

Well, apparently many people did, actually. Perhaps you, too. My boyfriend, Mark Bittman, knew about it back in May, even though he inexplicably failed to come to my kitchen to prepare any for me (honey? what’s up with that?). Treehugger knew about it almost a full year before my beau did. Get Rich Slowly was reporting on it all the way back in 2006. Wanna’ know something? I’ll bet people knew long before that, too. Perhaps the folks at ConAgra even knew that it wasn’t necessary to buy their product to get microwave popcorn in 2 minutes flat. Perhaps they knew and they just never told us.

I did not know. Now I do.

It’s so simple. So simple, and so fast, that one wonders why anyone would buy microwave popcorn, ever. All you need is regular ol’ popcorn — the kind that you can buy in bulk for a mere buck per pound, or thereabouts — a brown paper bag, some oil, and salt. Four ingredients, and only two of them (the bag and the popcorn) are actually necessary:


Here’s what you do:

Pour a quarter-cup dried popcorn in a brown paper bag.

Add a sprinkling of salt and about a teaspoon of oil if you wish – you can do this now, or after it’s popped. After trying this a few times, I’ll report that I’ve come to prefer adding these ingredients after it’s poppped, because the bag doesn’t get quite this greasy then:


Fold over the top of the bag several times (no need to staple or tape), and place face-down microwave. Cook on high for about 1.5 to two minutes, until there are about two seconds between each pop (we have a pretty powerful microwave, and this takes almost exactly a minute and a half).

As it cooks, the bag will start to rise:


Until it’s all puffed up, just like the store-bought kinds:


If you didn’t add the oil and salt before, you can do it now, and just shake the bag, so it all mixes around. Serve to hungry urchins:


(I feel obliged to report here that some folks recommend that kids don’t eat popcorn until they’re older than Charlotte. That feels extreme to me, although we stay with her and try to push the one-at-a-time approach.)

Then shout it to the rooftops: at last, Orville can finally rest in peace. For we need him no longer. We can make microwave pop corn on our own now. For a fraction of what we’d be paying ConAgra.

Farewell, dear Orville,
To your glasses, bowtie, grin.
I’ll pop my own. Rest.

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29 Responses to “Making your own microwave popcorn couldn’t be easier”

  1. 1 jaime November 20, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    I know it’s not as healthy as olive or canola oil, but adding a tablespoon of butter flavored crisco in it’s place tastes AMAZING!

  2. 2 Anna November 20, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Yup, no need for expensive, nasty-tasting and microwave popcorn (which always smelled like dirty socks to me and forever reminds me of a former job where nearly everyone ate microwave popcorn for their afternoon “fix” and nauseated those of us who didn’t eat it, but were subjected to the permeating and lingering fumes).

    But I never seem to have any appropriate paper bags for microwaving popcorn. But IMO, homemade microwave popcorn on its own is a bit dry and bland and cries out for flavor and butter (I didn’t know one could add anything but popcorn to the bag). There are also little ears of pretty red corn one can pop on the ear in a bag in the microwave. There’s a farm in my county that sells it, though it’s too far of a drive to go just for popcorn.

    So when my son has a sleepover, I pop popcorn in a covered pan on the stove with coconut oil (yup, the naturally saturated healthy oil that the crazy CSPI made such a fuss about, forcing movie theaters to switch to transfat veggie oil), then I toss it with melted butter (and sometime seasoned, finely grated parmesan cheese for real finger-lickin’ goodness).

    There’s something about all the noise from shaking the pan across the burner that reminds me of my mom making popcorn when I was a kid (but of course, back then I wished she was making miraculous Jiffy Pop like all my friends had). Then we all ate popcorn while watching The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie together. One time the popcorn went every direction after cheering for Nellie Olsen’s fall in the creek.

    Homemade popcorn, the stuff of good family memories. Cheap, but priceless.

  3. 3 Meredith November 20, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    There are many things I could live without. Popcorn is NOT one of them. I love it so.

    We make our popcorn like this at home when we don’t need ginormous portions or I’m too lazy to wash the big pot. It is delicious (and good for you, too!)

  4. 4 Emily November 20, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Seriously? In the microwave at home? Without all the gross chemicals? You just made my day. Maybe even my week. Thank you. :)

  5. 5 TWBernard November 20, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    We would totally try this but for the fact we don’t actually have a microwave.

    Like Anna, above, I do most of my popcorn popping via the covered pot stovetop method (although I may have to take a tip from Anna and replace the canola oil I typically use with coconut oil just to taste the difference) while The Lovely Wife swears by her hot air popper.

    Either way, the additional investment of labor and time isn’t substantially greater than what you get from the microwave.

  6. 6 Robin November 20, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    This is just as cool as the directions we found for making a secret ink printer out of old and neglected ink jet printers. (the secret, replace ink with lemon juice!) The nine year old LOVED that plan! I must get myself some popcorn and pop it in the superman paper bags sitting around in the drawer. Thank you for this brilliant idea!

  7. 7 Todd Smith November 20, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Wow! Who’d a thunk it? There’s actually nothing special in that bag of microwave popcorn they try to sell. Very cool! Thanks

  8. 8 Greg November 20, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    I suspect that one of your readers was at the co-op this morning. She was slightly miffed when she asked where the popcorn was and they sent her to pre-bagged stuff. Fortunately she found the bulk popcorn a few aisles over.

    Call me sentimental, but I’ll take the magical tin of Jiffy-pop and a campfire over the microwave any day.

  9. 9 cleanerplateclub November 20, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Greg, I’m totally with you on the campfire popcorn. I just haven’t mastered building a campfire in the living room yet… And I apologize if it was one of my readers that was miffed (Everyone: be nice at the co-op!)

    Robin: I see the invisible ink trick at an upcoming Nancy Drew mystery event…

    TWBernard, master of the online acceptance speech: it’s funny, we have an air popper, too. We use it. But I am MORE likely to do this. Why is that? Oh, that’s right. Because I’m the laziest person ever.

    I’m glad that some of you already knew this trick. But selfishly I’m also glad that some of you didn’t. I hate to be the last one at a party!

  10. 10 Kirsten November 21, 2008 at 12:15 am

    That TWBernard is a clever guy. (Or rather, his Lovely Wife is. Clever. Yes.) Last week I wrote that I love all my kitchen gadgets. This week I’d like to mention that it includes my hot air popper, which I paid 25 cents for 10+ years ago at a garage sale far far away. What a great purchase that was.

    …..Maybe I need popcorn for dinner tonight. Hmmmm. With grated parmesan cheese, for sure.

  11. 11 JessTrev November 21, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Love the brown bag trick. You can also just use a bowl with a plate on top. No disposing of bag that way….

  12. 13 Fairly Odd Mother November 21, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    This is awesome! Now, if only I had a microwave. . .

  13. 14 Rhia November 21, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    I was going to post about this – been thinking it all week! You have many more readers than I, but I might just still.

  14. 15 jenniwd November 22, 2008 at 2:32 am

    I never knew that virtuous unfried popcorn could be made without a microwave gizmo thingie or bulky, hard to store air popper…never knew they are unnecessary! Thanks.

  15. 16 Laury Epstein November 23, 2008 at 1:13 am

    As for me, a few glugs of truffle oil on freshly poppped popcorn is a sneak peak at heaven.

  16. 17 Greg November 23, 2008 at 1:41 am

    As for me, a few glugs of truffle oil on freshly poppped popcorn is a sneak peak at heaven.

    Pure genius! Seriously!

  17. 18 Christine November 23, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I’m so absolutely trying this very soon! Thank you.

  18. 19 Zip N Tizzy November 24, 2008 at 4:17 am

    We like it with olive oil, nutritional yeast and parmesan cheese.
    Then it can also be excused as a meal if the kids will eat nothing else ;)

  19. 20 mojavi at Simple Things November 24, 2008 at 7:30 am

    wow! I will never buy microwave popcorn again. Also I love my old popcorn popper machine! you can make as much as you want air popped.

  20. 21 missysoupy November 25, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Nuh.Uh. Why was I convinced that those space-age bags held the secret to popping perfection? This was simple AND tasty. And made the perfect amount for an afternoon snack for my girls. Thanks!

  21. 22 Sarah @ Mum In Bloom September 20, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    I can’t believe I found a way to make this! Thank you so much! I’m linking your post right now on my blog. Genious!

  22. 23 Photo' yo November 19, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    hi good way and it’s easy i will do it

    Thank you

  23. 24 damaris November 24, 2009 at 6:21 am

    this is genius. I will have to try this tomorrow with my sone. question, do you think any paper bag would work of just the brown bag kind?

    • 25 Ali B. November 24, 2009 at 1:19 pm

      Hi Damaris – I think most paper bags would work; my only caution would be to make sure that it doesn’t have any kind of plastic or wax lining. Good luck!

  24. 26 Carrot January 17, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Just tried this method and it is indeed more delicious than the traditional!

  25. 27 Camilo April 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Hi. Beautiful photo.

    It is possible use it in a book cover?

    Thank you.

    C. Umana.

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