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Ditch the microwave and unlock the flavor potential of stovetop popcorn! Here’s everything you need to know to make fluffy kernels bursting with buttery goodness.

Step by step instructions for how to make popcorn

Confession: Alex and I are popcorn fanatics. Our favorite way to end an evening is with a bowl of popcorn and an episode of whatever we are currently binging on Netflix.

Instead of popping for the microwaveable stuff, stovetop popcorn is the way to go for us! Sometimes it’s better to just go back to the way things used to be. This recipe uses no chemicals and less salt than the store-bought stuff, but tastes so much better.

Stovetop popcorn ingredients

The ingredients for homemade stovetop popcorn are super basic, though you can dress it up however you’d like. For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • Yellow popcorn kernels
  • Vegetable oil: You can also use coconut oil if you prefer.
  • Popcorn salt or finely ground salt: We make our own by grinding down kosher salt in a mortar and pestle until it’s light and powdery.

That’s it! In terms of equipment, you’ll also need a large saucepan with a lid. We’ve found it’s easiest to have a dedicated saucepan for the job, so we don’t have to worry about trying to keep it too clean. Ours has little drain holes in the lid that works perfectly for letting the steam out, which is crucial for making it fluffy.

How to Make Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

How to make stovetop popcorn: step by step

Making stovetop popcorn is surprisingly easy, and it’s done in less than 15 minutes. Here’s an overview of how to make popcorn (or jump to the full recipe):

  • Step 1: Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable or coconut oil in a tall pot. Add a few kernels to the oil. You’ll know the oil is hot enough to cook the rest of the popcorn once those few kernels pop. Then add in the rest of the kernels and the salt.
  • Step 2: Give the pot a little shake to evenly distribute the oil. Once the kernels begin popping, do make sure to stay by the stove. Tilt the lid to allow the steam to escape (unless your pot has ventilation holes in the top). If you trap the steam in the pot, your stovetop popcorn will turn out soft.
  • Step 3: Once the popping slows to a stop, remove the popcorn from the heat. Add toppings of your choice, and dig in!

What’s the best oil for popcorn?

When making stovetop popcorn, it’s important to use an oil with a high smoke point. For this recipe, we typically use canola or vegetable oil, since both have high smoke points. You can also use coconut oil if desired. Using 2 tablespoons of oil per ½ cup kernels, this popcorn won’t taste greasy!

How to Make Popcorn

Our favorite popcorn toppings

Here are a few of our favorite toppings for this stovetop popcorn:

  • Fine salt: Add a sprinkle of finely ground kosher salt if desired. We make our own by grinding down kosher salt in a mortar and pestle until it’s light and powdery. If desired, add a pinch of freshly ground black pepper for a savory snack.
  • Nutritional yeast: This cheesy vegan topping makes for tasty savory popcorn.
  • Herb butter: Make delicious herb popcorn.
  • Butter and cinnamon: Melted butter is a classic topping, but a dash of cinnamon takes it to the next level.
How to Make Popcorn

How to store popcorn

Stovetop popcorn is best enjoyed fresh, as leftovers go stale quite quickly. To store your homemade popcorn, seal it in a baggie or an air-tight container, then pop it into the freezer. It might sound a little strange, but freezing helps it to stay fresh for a long time. Because popcorn never fully freezes, you don’t have to worry about thawing it out.

We like to make a big batch of popcorn and store it unseasoned in the freezer for when a snack craving hits. Then, we let it sit on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes before eating it.

More healthy snack recipes

Outside of this stovetop popcorn, here are a few more of our favorite healthy snack recipes:

Dietary notes

This stovetop popcorn recipe is vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, vegetarian, and gluten-free.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of oil should I use for stovetop popcorn?

Coconut oil, canola oil, or peanut oil are all popular choices. Each offers a slightly different flavor profile, so experiment to find your favorite.

Do I need a special pan for popcorn?

A heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid is ideal.

Why are some of my kernels not popping?

There could be a few reasons: old kernels, not enough heat, or too much moisture. Use fresh kernels, ensure your oil is hot enough, and avoid overcrowding the pot.

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Stovetop Popcorn

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  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 1 minute
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 11 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


Ditch the microwave and unlock the flavor potential of stovetop popcorn! Here’s everything you need to know to make fluffy kernels bursting with buttery goodness.


  • ½ cup yellow popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¼ teaspoon popcorn salt (or crushed kosher salt)
  • 3 quart saucepan


  1. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 3 popcorn kernels to the saucepan. Cover and heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add a few shakes (around ⅛ teaspoon) popcorn salt to ½ cup popcorn kernels. The oil is ready when the 3 kernels in the pan pop. At this time, add the rest of the kernels with the salt, and cover again. Shake the pan to spread the kernels in a single layer.
  3. Let the popcorn pop for a few minutes, shaking the pan frequently. If steam starts to build up, lift the lid a bit to release it. As soon as the popping slows down, take the saucepan off of the heat and wait for all popping to finish. Enjoy!
  • Category: Snack
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Rob says:

    Try it with a sprinkle of cayenne in the oil before adding the corn. Yum!

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