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How to Make Homemade Microwave Popcorn in Three Easy Steps

Updated on March 16, 2016

Why Make Homemade Microwave Popcorn?

Commercially prepared microwave popcorn packets are loaded with artificial dyes, flavors, and unhealthy fats. In addition to the unhealthy artificial ingredients, microwave popcorn can be very expensive: our local grocery store was selling a box of generic popcorn (12 packets) for $18. This breaks down to a cost of $1.50 per bag of popcorn.

In contrast, homemade microwaved popcorn costs pennies on the dollar and is made from all natural, healthy ingredients. Our local grocery store sells a canister of popcorn kernels for about $4. This jar holds about 4 cups of kernels, which means you can make about 16 bags of homemade microwaved popcorn from the jar. This breaks down to a cost of $0.25 per bag of popcorn - this is approximately 17% of the cost of the commercial variety.

Natural popcorn is full of fiber (it is a whole grain) and the homemade version is popped in a small amount of olive oil and salt. You can control the ingredients added to the popcorn, and may eliminate the salt if desired. Additional toppings can be added once the popcorn is popped, which allows for any number of creative popcorn toppings.

Artificial Ingredients... Yum?

Microwave popcorn contains preservatives, in addition to chemicals for flavoring and color. Many brands of popcorn contain the chemical diacetyl, which can cause bronchiolitis obliterans, a devastating respiratory disease.
Microwave popcorn contains preservatives, in addition to chemicals for flavoring and color. Many brands of popcorn contain the chemical diacetyl, which can cause bronchiolitis obliterans, a devastating respiratory disease. | Source

Popcorn Lung

When the first reports of bronchiolitis obliterans came out, it was believed that only factory workers exposed to high levels of diacetyl were affected. Unfortunately, people exposed to far less diacetyl began displaying respiratory symptoms. Wayne Watson developed "Popcorn Lung" after consuming 2 bags of microwaved popcorn per day. The take home lesson? Never buy commercial, microwave popcorn products containing diacetyl. No food product is worth a permanent lung disease!

3 Ingredients for DIY Microwave Popcorn

Salt, olive oil, and popcorn kernels are the only ingredients required to make homemade microwave popcorn.
Salt, olive oil, and popcorn kernels are the only ingredients required to make homemade microwave popcorn. | Source

Commercial Microwave Popcorn Ingredients

Commercially prepared microwave popcorn often contains a chemical called diacetyl, which produces a buttery flavor. This chemical is toxic, and has caused a condition commonly known as "popcorn lung" among factory workers who prepare microwave popcorn packets. The disease is officially known as bronchiolitis obliterans, an irreversible and life threatening lung disease. Scar tissue obstructs the bronchioles, and literally obliterates the tiny airways in the lungs.

While many popcorn manufacturers are beginning to remove diacetyl from their product, some manufacturers persist with the use of the toxic chemical. Consumers should check their microwave popcorn to ensure diacetyl is not listed in the ingredients.

Even when diacetyl is not used in the manufacture of microwave popcorn, artificial colors and preservatives are often used.

We have always tried to buy the healthiest microwave popcorn, inspecting the ingredient list carefully. How healthy is this brand? The microwave popcorn bag on the right contains "natural flavors" (the ingredient list does not specify the source of the natural flavor), palm oil, TBHQ, and a natural color (annatto).

TBHQ, or tert-butylhydroquinone, is an anti-oxidant used as a preservative. It is a derivative of phenol, and the FDA limits the concentration of this chemical in food. The upper allowable limit of TBHQ is 0.02% - higher concentrations have been shown to cause stomach cancer in laboratory animals. This chemical can be avoided entirely by eating fresh, natural foods. Homemade microwave popcorn does not contain any TBHQ.

Palm oil is high in saturated fats. It also has a reddish color, which lends a hint of color to products. Olive oil, however, consists of monounsaturated fat and may actually reduce the incidence of heart disease. In this case, homemade microwaved popcorn is the clear-cut winner. Use heart-healthy olive-oil and skip the saturated fats in the palm oil!

Annatto is a natural color, derived from the seeds of the achiote tree. The color is added to make the microwaved product more appealing, as it has a bright yellow color. The homemade version does not have any added color, as added color is entirely unnecessary for popcorn.


Homemade Microwave Popcorn!

A delicious, versatile, and healthy treat!
A delicious, versatile, and healthy treat! | Source

Popcorn Toppings

You can add a variety of popcorn toppings to enrich the flavor of your homemade snack.

  • Add melted butter and 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt to the popped corn for a garlic popcorn treat.
  • Add 1 tablespoon sugar during the popping process to obtain kettle corn.
  • 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese may be added for a delicious, cheesy treat!

A topping that will please any lover of salty, sweet popcorn is a batch of Peanut Butter Popcorn. For this recipe, bring 1 cup of corn syrup and 1 cup of sugar to a boil on the stove. Boil for 1 minute, then add 1 cup of peanut butter to the mixture. Stir until the peanut butter is melted, then pour the peanut butter mix over the popcorn in a shallow baking pan. Bake the popcorn at 300°F for approximately 10 minutes.

Favorite Popcorn Topping: A Poll

What is your favorite type of popcorn?

See results

Comments

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    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      4 years ago from Western New York

      It really works quite well, Hazel! No chemicals, and much cheaper than the store-bought variety. We do this quite frequently at home!

    • hazelbrown profile image

      hazelbrown 

      4 years ago from Central PA

      Wow, this is awesome! I never buy microwave popcorn... too many icky ingredients like you pointed out. I just use the stovetop... never knew you could do it in a paper bag! I assumed it was impossible or else EVERYONE would be doing it... so great! Thanks!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      4 years ago from Western New York

      Truthfornow, I love doing this at home. It is a great money-saver. I don't often use the olive oil anymore, just use the popcorn in the bag and add any toppings after it is done. The kids like melted butter and salt. This is a great, easy way to make popcorn for use in candy popcorn balls, too!

      Hezekiah, I am glad you found the video useful!

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 

      4 years ago from Japan

      Well presented video there, thanks for posting.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 

      4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I do this at home. It is way cheaper and better for you than buying microwave popcorn at the grocery store. The paper towel is a good idea. I have some loose kernels all around my microwave.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      It works really well, Paul! I would definitely listen to the popcorn while it is in the microwave - our default popcorn setting was a little too long. You may have to do a test batch or two to get the timing right (nobody likes burned popcorn)! The perfect timing on our microwave is 1 minute 55 seconds - we love it for movie night!

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 

      6 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      That's awesome. I'm going to give this a shot. I usually make it on the stove, but this looks much easier.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, donnaisabella! It is definitely doable - so easy, and it saves a LOT of money (at least, it saves a lot of money for us because my boys LOVE popcorn and this is so much cheaper than buying the pre-packaged microwaved popcorn in the stores)!

    • donnaisabella profile image

      Donaisabella 

      6 years ago from Fort Myers

      Wow! That looks doable. I have a bag of popcorn kernels that should end up in the microwave soon. Thanks for sharing.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      It's really easy, randomcreative. You can also just skip the salt - regular salt doesn't seem to stick to the kernels as they pop very well. If you want salty, buttery popcorn, melt the butter and add salt/butter AFTER popping it. I know people have had success without using olive oil, too - you can just throw 1/4 cup popcorn into the bag, nuke it, and...voila! Instant cheap snack.

      You might have to toy with the microwave time, though - every microwave is different. If the popcorn comes out burned, reduce the time a bit until you get the perfect time for your particular microwave. It is better to have a few "old maid" kernels than to have burned popcorn!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Awesome video tutorial! Cost is the biggest factor for not purchasing pre-made microwave popcorn. I will definitely bookmark this to try sometime.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      I love cheese popcorn, too - it makes a such a great snack! It is healthier than fried potato chips, too - you get the benefit of eating whole grains in addition to satisfying that afternoon hunger pang. Thanks for the comment, Rob!

    • rob_allen profile image

      rob_allen 

      6 years ago from MNL, PH

      popping home made pop corn is so fun. When I was a kid I was so fascinated with how these corn kernels turn into yummy pop corn snack! BTW, when it comes to toppings I love parmesan cheese! I guess the combination of cheese and popcorn is simply amazing! :)

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      We really love homemade popcorn, too - it tastes so much better than the chemical-laden microwave varieties! We make our popcorn in the microwave (as I show in the video) and then add toppings to the popcorn once it is done. If nothing is added to the popcorn, it tastes like plain, air-popped popcorn.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 

      6 years ago from Yorkshire

      hi

      I love home made popcorn, so much so we bought an appliance to do the job, so much easier than the pan. No e numbers, no additives, no salt, just flavour.

      good luck

      Tony

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