Microwave Popcorn (Easy Recipe for How to Make Popcorn That’s Perfectly Quick, Healthy and Delicious!)

by Gretchen · May contain affiliate links

Published Updated August 20, 2021

~ After extensive testing, we’ve discovered what really works … and what doesn’t! We’ve got the tips and secrets to help you make super-fast microwave popcorn without any oil, butter, or extra appliances … using just a simple paper bag! ~

This Recipe Is:     Ready in 30 Minutes or Less    Vegan (and Vegetarian)    Gluten Free  

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

I know you’ve seen this on Pinterest … like 1,000 times.

Truthfully, that’s where I first came across it. It was the very first thing I ever pinned. Ever. Years and years ago.

I can’t even find that pin now (yes, I checked), but the idea is just brilliant, and I’ll never forget it. Perfectly air-popped popcorn … in the microwave.

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
Be careful when measuring, unless you like cleaning up lots of loose kernels! ’Nuff said.

And ya know what that means? It’s 100% totally fat free! No oil! No butter! Whoop! Whoop! (I’m doing the healthy food dance! I’m not too coordinated, so it’s not pretty, but I’m happy!)

Know what else?? I don’t need a special contraption for making this popcorn. One less appliance I need to keep on hand! I don’t have space to store something I don’t need to use all the time. I need every square inch in my kitchen for cute dishes, totally awesome cookbooks, and treats for the puppy.

But even if you’ve seen this … like 1,000 times … have you actually tried it? And have you sorted through all of the different versions and recipes to figure out how to get this to really and truly work perfectly, every time?

Not to worry – Shelley and I have done all of the testing for you! And we’ve put it all together in one easy recipe (ummmm … so easy that it literally has just one super-healthy, whole-grain, all-natural ingredient – popcorn!). So seriously easy that the only equipment you need is a paper bag and a microwave! The beauty of this is in the details … the little tricks that assure you great popcorn every time you make it!

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

So for those of you who are new to THK, lemme give you a little info on how things work around here.

Shelley and I are perfectionists. There. I said it. (I can’t speak for Shelley, but I feel better with that out there.)

With two perfectionists running the show, we make sure everything is tested, retested, and then tested a few more times … just to be sure it’ll work perfectly for you. (Remember the waffles? I may still have several batches in my freezer! And the pumpkin muffins? Those took about 12 batches between us to be THK-perfect!)

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
Here’s some of the popcorn that we tested … we even measured the leftover kernels!

So it should come as no surprise that when we were preparing to share this post, I spent hours one evening making bag, after bag, after bag of popcorn. And that’s after Shelley and I had both already been making popcorn this way for a long time (I’ve been using this method for years!) … and had both been randomly testing this for months.

But we still wanted to put the whole process through our normal battery of tests (and more tests!). (How many popcorn kernels are optimal? How many times should you fold the paper bag? Can you use more kernels and just cook the popcorn longer, or will it burn? And so on …)

I took lots of notes (something we always do!) and then packed it all up to take to her house the next day.

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
Just a few of our trials … 3 minutes = burnt-to-a-crisp. 1/2 cup of kernels = tons of unpopped popcorn. (Pssssst … Don’t eat the kernels. They’re hard on your teeth.)

I stood there and explained my trials and analysis to her (she just loves food-geek stuff!). And then, of course, we re-tested many of the parameters that day at her house, too, just to verify our results were still conclusive, using a second microwave that we already knew cooks food slightly differently.

We realized that all of this was truly valuable information … and something our readers would totally dig!

So without further ado … here’s what we learned!

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Use 1/3 cup kernels. It perfectly fills the bag when popped. Using 1/2 cup results in WAY too many unpopped kernels (what a waste!), and the bag can start to unfold in the microwave … and the popcorn can spill out (what a mess!). It doesn’t work to use 1/2 cup of kernels and simply microwave the popcorn longer – you just end up with a lot of burned kernels as well as a lot of unpopped ones! Yup – 1/3 cup is just the right compromise between lots of popcorn and unpopped kernels.

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Tightly fold the bag down twice, about 1 inch each time. This allows the bag to stay closed when cooking in the microwave, yet allows for plenty of space for all that air-popped popcorn goodness.

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Place the bag in the center of the microwave, folded side down. If you stand it up, it’s just going to fall down when it starts popping, and the bag may not rotate properly depending on how it falls (which means it may not get totally even heat). Placing the folded side down helps to keep the bag from unfolding as the kernels pop and fill the bag.

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

We found the perfect cook time is somewhere between 2 minutes and 2 minutes 30 seconds. We tested this at my house using my microwave, and at Shelley’s using hers. It’s important to note that the exact time will vary depending on each microwave (wattages, etc.), but you’ll easily figure out the precise, perfect time for yours. The key is to listen to the popping – just like Orville tells you – and when it slows to about 1-2 seconds between pops … you’ve gotta stop! Otherwise it’s bad. And burned. And reallllly smelly.

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

You’re still going to end up with a few unpopped kernels, and that’s ok. If you try to get to 100% popped kernels, you’ll end up with blackened popcorn. And it doesn’t taste good. And it may smoke up your kitchen. Just … trust me.

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
Some of the leftover kernels actually illustrate how a corn kernel becomes popcorn! The food geeks in us were super excited! (We love you, Alton Brown!!)

And there you have it! So easy, right?!?

We’ve been wanting to share this way to make popcorn pretty much since Day 1. That’s always been the plan. In fact, we loved this method so much that we even started working on some deliciously fabulous topping ideas! But we had to put those ideas on hold … we’re down a few popcorn taste testers at the moment. Between the two of us, we’ve got three kids in braces, with the fourth heading to the orthodontist next week (it’s seriously Orthodontics-R-Us here at THK!). And if you’ve ever had braces, then you know that popcorn is a big no-no. Like, huge.

It just wasn’t much fun making popcorn toppings when our sweet kiddos couldn’t try any.

But we love popcorn … and we know you love popcorn! Especially when it can be made super-healthy!!

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
That, my friends, is a real partially popped kernel. It’s a heart! And it’s so stinkin’ cute!

So, Shelley and I decided we just had to go for it, and share this quick and easy (one ingredient!) recipe with you now (with apologies to our kids)! After all, fall is seriously the perfect time to cozy up with some fresh-popped popcorn! Those chilly nights are just begging for a big ‘ol bag of air-popped deliciousness while you snuggle up and watch a movie with your family.

With our easy method, you’re all set to make amazing and healthy (oil-free and butter-free!) fresh-popped popcorn!

It’s clean tasting and yummilicious just as it is, but it’s also the perfect blank canvas for whatever toppings or flavors you want to add! Which is why you’ll want to be sure you stop back on Thursday … ’cause we’re gonna take your popcorn to the next delicious level (with the help of some of our fave bloggers … who likely don’t have taste-testers in braces!). You aren’t gonna want to miss it!

Perfect Microwave Popcorn Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Happy poppin’, friends!!

If You Love Quick, Healthy Snacks, Be Sure to Try:

Perfect Microwave Popcorn

Perfect Microwave Popcorn

Yield: 7 - 8 cups
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 4 minutes

Extensively tested! Quick, easy tips and secrets for how to make microwave popcorn ... perfect and healthy, without any oil, butter, or extra appliances!

  Ready in 30 Minutes or Less    Vegan (and Vegetarian)    Gluten Free  


  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 brown lunch bag


  1. Pour popcorn kernels into the brown bag.
  2. Tightly fold the top of the bag down twice. Each fold should be about 1 inch.
  3. Place the bag into the microwave, folded side down.
  4. Cook on 100% power for 2 - 2 1/2 minutes, depending on your microwave. Listen closely, and when the pops are 1 - 2 seconds apart, stop the microwave.
  5. Open the bag away from your face (the steam is hot).
  6. Serve with toppings or flavorings, if desired.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 7 servings Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 2Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 3mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.

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29 thoughts on “Microwave Popcorn (Easy Recipe for How to Make Popcorn That’s Perfectly Quick, Healthy and Delicious!)”

  1. I am so glad I found this recipe. We just tried it in a bowl. It turned out ok but I am anxious to get some paper bags and do it your way. It makes a lot more sense. I can’t wait to see the toppings you come up with. I

    • I can’t wait to hear how the paper bag method works for you! We make popcorn that way a lot – especially my daughter. My kids are both past the braces phase now, and we eat popcorn frequently. You’ve reminded me that I need to head back to the kitchen and create some fun topping recipes, now that my taste-testers don’t have braces to keep them from trying my concoctions! In the meantime, check out some of these ideas for Healthy Popcorn Recipes – lots of yummy and fun inspiration! 🙂 ~Shelley

  2. Me and my friends really like to make popcorn that has been given. Thank you very much, I hope this will be useful for all who want to make amazing popcorn

  3. You can keep the bag closed safely with one fold and a ‘plastic’ (no metal) paper clip. The fold sometimes fails otherwise. Also, if you use olive oil (not necessary, but more evenly distributes heat for more popped kernels), put a paper plate under the bag, to prevent oil residue on your turntable.
    Good Poppin’
    Still working on low cal, low sodium flavoring. Herbs best shot so far.

    • Good tip on a plastic paper clip – I’ll have to track some down! And I’ll be keen to hear if you come up with a terrific low cal, low sodium flavoring you love. I had such a great time tracking down the popcorn topping and flavoring ideas in our Healthy Popcorn Recipes post, but we eat SO much popcorn at our house (now that my kids have their braces off), that it’s always wonderful to have new inspiration! Plus, recipe testing for popcorn is so quick and easy!! 😉 Always fun! ~Shelley


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