How to Make Stove Top Popcorn

In last week’s recap I mentioned how I picked up a big bag of popcorn because it’s my favorite salty/crunchy snack and it’s super inexpensive. There was a lot of feedback about not knowing how to make stove top popcorn, so I just HAD to do a tutorial. You see, you just don’t know what life is until you’ve had popcorn cooked the old-fashioned way, on the stove top. Microwave just doesn’t even compare.

Not only does stove top popcorn trump microwave in the flavor and aroma categories (IMHO), but it’s almost as fast to make, you can make any quantity you want, and you can flavor it with just about anything you want! What’s not to love?

My favorite go-to seasoning is Tony Cachere’s, but I also love plain salt and freshly cracked pepper. A little sprinkle of grated Parmesan is great, and since someone recently gifted me some white truffle oil, I’ve been addicted to using that as a popcorn topper. I’ve also been known to use popcorn as a vehicle for sriracha when I’m having an intense sriracha craving. Oh, and butter. OMG butter. I don’t indulge in melted butter on my popcorn often (because there’s already a light coating of oil), but when I do… YES.

Share your favorite popcorn topping with me (and the rest of us) in the comments below!

Stove Top Popcorn -

The recipe below is for one person (because I’m usually making it just for myself), but it can easily be scaled up to feed a crowd. Just make sure to use a large enough pot and enough oil to coat the kernels. Not using enough oil tends to stunt their explosion and cause small dense popped corn. Also, make sure your kernels are fresh. Old or stale kernels don’t pop quite as well. So, make sure to store your kernels in an air-tight container after opening or if purchased from a bulk bin.

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4.15 from 47 votes

How to Make Stove Top Popcorn

Making popcorn on the stove top is fast, inexpensive, and far more flavorful than the microwave. 
Total Cost: $0.09 recipe / $0.09 serving
Author: Beth - Budget Bytes
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 5 mins
Servings: 1 (2-3 cups)


  • 1 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil ($0.02)
  • 2 Tbsp popcorn kernels ($0.07)


  • Add the oil and one kernel to a small sauce pot. Place the lid on top and turn the heat onto medium-high. Wait for the kernel to pop.
  • Once the kernel has popped, add the rest of the kernels, replace the lid, and give the pot a swirl to coat the kernels in the hot oil. Wait for the kernels to begin to pop. You can swirl again to redistribute the hot oil, if needed.
  • Once the kernels begin to pop rapidly, crack the lid a little bit to allow excess steam to escape. Make sure it's only open a little to keep the pot hot enough to continue popping the corn.
  • When the popping slows to a few seconds between pops, turn off the heat. Wait a few extra seconds for the last few pops, then remove the lid and season the popcorn. Enjoy!

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.
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Stove Top Popcorn -

Step by Step Photos

One Kernel

For one serving of popcorn, add 1 Tbsp of canola or vegetable oil to a small sauce pot along with one kernel of popcorn. Place the lid on top and turn the heat onto medium-high.

Popped Kernel

Wait for that one kernel to pop (1-2 minutes). This is your tester kernel that is used to tell you when the oil is hot enough to add the rest. Why not add them all in the beginning? You’ll get larger, fluffier popped corn if they undergo a rapid temperature change, which happens when they are added to oil that is already piping hot.

Add More Kernels

Add 2 Tbsp kernels, put the lid back on the pot, and give it a swirl to coat the kernels in the hot oil.

Wait for Popping

Wait for the kernels to begin to pop (1-2 minutes). You can give the pot another swirl to redistribute the hot oil, if desired.

Crack the Lid

Once they begin to pop rapidly, crack the lid just a little to let excess steam out. This is a personal preference of mine because I find that when I don’t crack the lid, the steam released by the kernels collects on the lid and then drips down onto the popcorn, making the top layer a little wet. Crack it just enough to let steam out, but not enough to let all the heat out (or they won’t pop as well).

Finished Popping

Once the popping slows to a few seconds between pops (just like with using a microwave), turn the heat off. Wait a couple seconds to make sure there aren’t any last minute pops, then remove the lid. Season with salt or whatever your heart desires!

Stove Top Popcorn Bowl -

That whole process only took about five minutes and you’ve got hot, fresh, fluffy popcorn with AMAZING smell and flavor. And it’s insanely cheap.