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Learning how to make stovetop popcorn is so easy and fun! Stovetop popcorn is one of the cheapest munchable snacks that everybody loves and you can make it for your next movie night at home with just popcorn kernels, a good pot with a lid, oil, and salt!

When it comes to easy snacks, some of our other favorites are Puppy Chow (aka Chex Mix Muddy Buddies), Easy Refried Bean Dip, and a Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball.

A large glass bowl filled with popcorn and scattered popcorn below

There is something nostalgic and special about popcorn that I think fills many of us with memories.

For me, it’s the memory of eating fresh, hot popcorn at the family table with a homemade orange julius for family game night. For others maybe it’s stringing popcorn onto a garland to decorate a tree (does anybody do that anymore?) or using it to make popcorn balls.

My kids love sitting up with a big bowl of freshly popped stovetop popcorn and munching on it while we play games or watch a movie or just sit around the kitchen table and talk about how their days went at school before heading off to gymnastics or piano or ice skating lessons.

My parents always made air-popped popcorn when I was growing up. But since I always feel like I don’t have space in my kitchen for a popcorn popper anyway and Paul and I didn’t happen to get one when we got married, I just learned how to make popcorn the old-fashioned way on the stovetop. Turns out it was a good thing, because I actually like stovetop popcorn best!

I personally prefer stovetop popcorn to other options because I think it tastes significantly better than air-popped popcorn or microwave popcorn. But I know a lot of people like it because they pay more attention to the chemicals and other things that are involved in microwave popcorn.

Plus, it’s way more fun to make stovetop popcorn anyway, especially if you happen to have a large pot with a glass lid so you can see all the action happening as the popcorn kernels begin to explode!

An image of a big bowl of stovetop popcorn.

This is how to make stovetop popcorn in under than 10 minutes. It’s not exactly science, but these tips for making stovetop popcorn will help you achieve perfect results every time! Eat it just as it is, add some popcorn seasonings at the end, or use it to make homemade caramel corn for a special treat!

How to Make Stovetop Popcorn

  1. Use a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid.  The key to making stovetop popcorn is even heat distribution and a good quality pot is important so the popcorn doesn’t burn on a hot spot that cheap pots are notorious for. Nobody likes the smell or taste of burnt popcorn.
  2. Stick with medium heat.  Not only are you likely to burn the oil if the heat is too high, but it’s more difficult to get all the kernels to pop evenly and you will end up with more duds known as “old maids”.
  3. Choose a good oil.  I prefer using olive oil or coconut oil which both give a good flavor so that I don’t even think the popcorn needs butter at the end, just a little salt. But you can also use a good neutral oil like avocado oil or grapeseed oil.
  4. Use the two kernel temperature test.  Start by dropping just two popcorn kernels in the oil and waiting for them to pop. Once they do, you know your oil is hot enough and you are ready to pop the rest of the popcorn.
  5. Prime the kernels for popping by letting them come up to temp off the heat for 1 minute.  Add the remaining popcorn kernels and give the pot a shake to evenly coat the kernels in the hot oil, then let them sit off the heat for 1 minute. The extra minute off the heat ensures even popping without burning your oil. Then set the pot back over medium heat and cover with the lid, giving the pot an occasional shimmy or a shake every now and then until the popcorn begins to pop.
  6. Tilt the lid slightly to release steam.  Once the popcorn starts to pop, tilt the lid just enough to allow the steam to vent so the popped popcorn doesn’t steam itself.
  7. Listen for the popping to slow until there are 2-3 seconds lulls between pops.  Then transfer the popped stovetop popcorn to a bowl, discarding any old maids.
  8. Season with salt to taste.  Just be careful to not add too much too fast.
An image of a large heavy bottom pot with oil and a 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels for making stovetop popcorn.
An image of unpopped popcorn kernels in a measuring cup for making popcorn on the stovetop.
An image of popcorn kernels and hot olive oil in a pan for making stovetop popcorn.
An image of a big bowl of popcorn made on the stovetop with just butter and salt for popcorn seasonings.

Some of the Best Popcorn Seasonings

  • Melted butter:  Is there anything more classic than buttery popcorn?
  • Olive oil and salt:  Drizzle a little olive oil over the hot stovetop popcorn, tossing to coat evenly, and season with salt. You can even add some cracked black pepper for a bolder flavor with a little bit of a bite.
  • Kettle corn:  This one is trickier to do on the stovetop but you add about ¼ cup sugar at the same time as the kernels, then sprinkle with salt after the popcorn has popped and spread the kernels on a baking sheet to dry and cool a bit before eating. Just watch the pot carefully so the sugar doesn’t burn.
  • Cinnamon honey:  Whisk 2 tablespoons of melted butter with 1 tablespoon of honey and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, then drizzle over the popped popcorn, tossing to coat evenly.
  • Chili brown sugar:  Mix 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder with 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar in a bowl, then sprinkle it over freshly popped hot popcorn drizzled with a little melted butter or olive oil.
  • Ranch seasoning:  Make your own or just use part of a package of the powdered ranch dressing mix you can get at the store.

For even more homemade popcorn seasoning ideas, check out these posts from Live Eat Learn and Neighborfood Blog.

More Fun Snacking Ideas

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A large glass bowl filled with popcorn and scattered popcorn below
Yield: 4 people

How to Make Stovetop Popcorn

Learning how to make stovetop popcorn is so easy and fun!  Stovetop popcorn is one of the cheapest munchable snacks that everybody loves and you can make it for your next movie night at home with just popcorn kernels, a good pot with a lid, oil, and salt!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Heat the oil and 2 of the popcorn kernels in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan with a lid over medium heat until the kernels pop, about 3 minutes.  
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and discard the two pieces of popped popcorn.  Pour the remaining popcorn kernels into the pan ans give it a shake to coat the kernels in the hot oil.  Cover the pot and let it sit for 60 seconds off the heat while the kernels warm up without burning the oil.  
  3. Place the pot back over medium heat, and cook the popcorn, giving the pot an occasional shimmy to cook the kernels evenly and ensure there are no hot spots. Once the kernels start to pop, tilt the lid slightly to let steam escape.
  4. Continue to cook the popcorn over medium heat until the popping sounds slow down to one pop every 2-3 seconds.  If the popcorn starts to overflow the pot, just tip some of it into a bowl and keep cooking until the popping slows.
  5. Remove the lid and dump the popcorn into a large serving bowl.  Sprinkle with a salt, to taste, or drizzle with 2 tablespoons of additional olive oil or melted butter first and other popcorn seasonings, if desired.  Toss the popcorn to distribute salt and other seasonings evenly, then serve popcorn immediately.

Nutrition Information:



Amount Per Serving: Calories: 138Saturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gProtein: 2g