Stovetop popcorn

· 2 servings

It’s possible to make incredible popcorn on the stovetop in 3 minutes. About the same amount of time as it takes to microwave. Here are all my popcorn secrets.

The rules of good popcorn

Avoid steam and moisture

  • Moisture causes popcorn to become soggy. You want your popcorn crispy, so avoid accidentally steaming it.
  • Allow steam to escape the pot using loose fitting lid, a colander, or a piece of foil with holes poked into it.
  • Do not top with melted butter, it contains too much water.

Use a pot with low heat retention

  • The kernels pop from being submerged in hot oil, only the oil needs to be hot.
  • Do not use a cast iron pot or Dutch oven, they take too long to heat up and retain too much heat which can make your popped popcorn burn.
  • I like to use a small copper sauce pot, but you can use any thin-walled pot. Ideally it should be roughly the size of the finished volume of popcorn.

Use a flavorful fat

  • Pop your kernels in a flavorful fat.
  • My favorite fats to use are ghee, olive oil, and toasted sesame oil, often a combination.
  • Ghee adds a buttery flavor, and is one of my favorite fats to cook with in general. Unrefined coconut oil is the fat used by most movie theaters. Toasted sesame oil adds a savory flavor but use it sparingly, in combination with other fats.

Salt the fat

  • Add salt directly to the unpopped kernels. That way the salt will be incorporated more evenly.
  • Your salt should be as fine as possible, you can make popcorn salt by grinding salt in a spice grinder until super fine.
  • If you want movie-style popcorn, use Flavacol which is the butter-flavored salt used by movie theaters. It’s artificially flavored, but very nostalgic.

Grind your toppings into a fine powder

  • The finer your toppings are, the more easily they will stick to your popcorn.
  • Use a cheap electric spice grinder to grind your toppings into a fine powder.

Find your favorite kernel variety

  • Personally I always come back to the medium white hulless kernels, but there are many to choose from and experiment with.


  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • ½ cup fat of choice, e.g. ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, or a mix
  • ½ tsp finely ground popcorn salt, or Flavacol
  • finely ground toppings, see below


  1. Heat a small thin-walled pot over high heat.
  2. Add fat and 3 kernels to the pot.
  3. Wait until 3 kernels pop.
  4. Add rest of kernels and salt to the pot.
  5. Stir the kernels into the melted fat, vigorously.
  6. Place loose fitting lid on top of your pot, or use a colander, or a piece of foil with holes poked in it.
  7. Wait until all kernels pop.
  8. Transfer to a bowl.
  9. Add more oil and toppings.



Extra-virgin olive oil or melted ghee can be great toppings on their own, or paired with powders.


Finely grind your toppings in a spice grinder. The finer the better.

For flavors I usually follow my instincts and raid my pantry to make powdered mixes based on what I am in the mood for. You can find lots of interesting spices and powders online that can be combined in a variety of ways. Make your favorite mixes in a batch and save them.

  • Umami mix — seaweed, bonito flakes, dried mushrooms, black peppercorns, white peppercorns, black garlic powder.
  • Sichuan mix — sichuan peppercorns, black pepper, cumin, garlic powder, ginger powder, onion powder.
  • Spicy cheese mix — white cheddar powder, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, lactic acid powder.
  • Za’atar mix — za’atar, garlic powder, onion powder.
  • Curry mix — white cheddar powder, curry powder.


  • MSG makes most of the topping mixes better. You can omit MSG, but concerns about it are vastly exaggerated.
  • A fun way to eat popcorn is with chopsticks.