Homemade Popcorn (“Be Very Alarmed”)

by cillefish

homemade popcornI haven’t been attempting much on the wild and crazy wannabe-gourmet side of things lately, though I’ve definitely been wanting to try this braided sweetbread with lemon-cream-cheese filling. What I have been doing: writing time-consuming stuff about gendered religious communications for medieval female ascetes (somehow I remember my writing in college involving so many fewer leaps of logic…)

Anyway, that leaves little time for out-of-the-box cooking stuff, so my most novel achievement recently is …homemade popcorn. No, really.

I’ve avoided the in-a-bag microwaved stuff for years, ever since one of my college roommates introduced me to the wonders of the for-real popcorn she used to make in one of the contraptions pictured at right.

popcorn makerI don’t have one of those and I don’t like burning stuff, or setting stuff on fire, or burning me, or creating difficult-to-remove residues on the bottoms of other people’s cookware. So I’ve been avoiding attempting it.

Newsflash: homemade popcorn is obscenely easy (and generally a lot better for you than the microwaved junk).

Homemade Popcorn

What you need:

  • 1 wide, medium or large, lidded stock pot
  • 2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil (olive oil is more healthful, but the flavor is different)
  • 1/2 c popping corn
  • 2 small potholders
  • 1/4 c – 1/2 c butter (1/2 to 1 stick) or vegan butter chopped up, sitting on its paper (I use 1/4 cup because I like real butter but don’t like things greasy. You can use vegetable oil if you want, but it doesn’t soak up quite as well)
  • Seasoning: I usually use 1/2 c Parmesan cheese, a pinch of Cayenne (red) pepper, & 1-2 tsp Italian seasoning (see below for other flavorings). I don’t add salt since the cheese has some saltiness to it.

To make it:

  1. In a small bowl, mix the Parm & seasoning; set aside near your stovetop.
  2. Heat the oil in the pot (unlidded) over high heat with one kernel in the oil. When the kernel pops, add in the rest of the corn, lid the pot, and using the FOLDED potholders to hold it, either (a) scoot it back and forth on the burners over medium-high heat (see video embedded below), or (b) hold the pot as close above the burner as you can get it (burner on high) and use a circular motion to toss the popcorn inside the pot as though you were a pro chef sautéeing veggies super-fast. Stop once or twice to open and check on it (and to release the steam – open the lid AWAY from you to avoid escaping steam and/or manic corn). Keep going until the popping slows down, maybe 4 minutes.
  3. Once you’ve popped almost all of the kernels and some of the middles are toast-colored, turn off the heat under the pot and dump the popped corn into a large-size bowl. Use a clean dishrag or paper towel to get the remainder bits out.
  4. Put the pot back onto the (turned-off) burner, dump in the butter to melt it, then pour the butter into the cheese-spices mix. Mix fast, pour over popcorn, and toss. Consume.

Movie on how to make homemade popcorn on the stove:

What NOT to do:

  • Use too little oil: popcorn will burn
  • Use too much popcorn: popcorn will burn
    (at maximum, use NO MORE THAN enough to create one layer of kernels on the bottom of your pot)
  • Fail to fold your potholders: potholders will burn (they’ll dangle into the burner flame)
  • Use old, dehydrated kernels that have wrinkles in them: these won’t pop. Reconstitute them by filling a lidded 1-quart jar 3/4 full of the old popcorn, adding 1 Tbsp of water, and shaking the thing every so often over 3 or 4 days, until the water re-absorbs.

Other Homemade Popcorn Seasonings & Flavors:

(some of these adapted from Vegan Wolf) — Use these flavors with the butter, instead of the Parm & seasoning:

  • Kettle corn: 1/3 c sugar and 3/4 tsp salt
  • Asian / Teriyaki popcorn: 1 tsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp sesame seeds (toast seeds slightly in the butter when you melt it)
  • Pizza popcorn: 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 2 Tbsp Parmesan or nutritional yeast
  • Taco popcorn: 1/2-1 package of taco seasoning, 2-4 tsp chives
  • Cajun popcorn: 1/4 tsp each thyme, pepper, garlic powder, and Tabasco sauce
    OR: 1/2 tsp each: cumin, garlic powder, dried basil, dried thyme, paprika; 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • BBQ popcorn: 1 tsp parsley, 1 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp each smoked salt & onion powder, 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • Cocoa popcorn: 2 Tbsp powdered chocolate, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • Ranch popcorn (source: Everything’s Coming Up Daffodils): a few tablespoons of Ranch Seasoning
    (to make seasoning, whirl these ingredients in a blender for a few seconds:
    • 1/3 c dry buttermilk
    • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp dried dill weed (not the seed!)
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp dried onion flakes
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper)
  • Fruity popcorn balls (not vegetarian): instead, combine 1/2 c butter, 1/4 c sugar, 3 Tbsp water 1 Tbsp corn syrup, and 1 (3oz) package fruit gelatin mix. Bring to a boil and boil 3-4 min until a dop of hot mixture in a cup of cold water forms a rigid ball. Toss with cooked popcorn, spread on a greased baking sheet and bake at 300°F / 150°C 5 min. Stir, bake 5 more min, then let it cool and either form it into balls or break it into clusters.
  • Other additions: nutritional yeast / brewer’s yeast, cinnamon, grated white / dark chocolate, honey, rough granulated sugar, grated cheddar cheese, maple syrup, salt & grenadine, etc. …

Eventually I’ll move on to homemade caramel corn:

Homemade Caramel Popcorn


  • 3 c sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda


  • pastry brush and small dish of water
  • 1 large saucepan
  • 1 whisk
  • 1 very large bowl, greased generously with vegetable oil
  • 2 spatulas sprayed with nonstick coating
  • 2 sheet trays, covered with parchment paper

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