I make popcorn all the time. Several times per week. It is a delicious snack that takes less than 5 minutes to make from start to finish. It is inexpensive, healthy and the ingredients are in my pantry whenever I need them. I know I am biased, but stovetop popcorn is so easy and delicious, why why why would anyone choose microwave popcorn? Maybe it seems hard? Or bland? Or maybe the “lite” popcorn has us convinced that regular popcorn is naughty? Well, stovetop popcorn is none of those things and it is dead easy. Here are our go to tips for making stove top popcorn that will turn you forever from the chemical-scented imposter.
First, coconut oil makes great popcorn. The movie industry knew this decades ago (but then it got complicated). But coconut oil that we buy at grocery stores isn’t the same as the commercial hydrogenated oil that got a bad rap 20 years ago. Virgin coconut oil is a versatile and healthy(-ish) oil with a high enough smoke point and a slightly sweet, rich flavor. Right away this is an improvement over popping with vegetable or canola oil.
Second, top liberally with nutritional yeast. Awful name, but so delicious. These light flakes taste nutty and cheesy and umami. If you have tried it before, you know what I am talking about. If not, go to your nearest health food store and grab some. Nutritional yeast is often used in vegan cooking and it isn’t as weird as it sounds. This harmless yeast is a close relation to yeast used to bake bread, but it is pastuerized (heated to de-activate the yeast) and dried into flakes that can be used in soups and sauces or as a seasoning. It is usually fortified with vitamin B and is high in protein and glutamic acid (nature’s version of MSG). Basically, this is a healthier version of Cheetos powder and it is a good thing.
Third, make the topping stick. I whizz the nutritional yeast and a little sea salt in my spice grinder (which is actually a coffee grinder) to a fine powder that sticks to the popcorn without butter or oil or water. This trick is a kitchen gem. Even if I don’t persuade you to start eating dried fungus flakes, experiment with other seasonings. Simply grinding the salt to a fine texture will make it stick to the popcorn, and also allows you to add seasonings like garlic granules, curry powder, sesame seeds, chili or even sugar. Add 1/2 of the topping as soon as the popcorn is done and let it sit in the pan covered for a couple of minutes to let the steam settle. Toss into a bowl and top with the rest of the topping.
Right, here’s the method for the popcorn:.
Heat 3 tablespoons (45g) coconut oil in a large pan over high heat. Add 1 cup of popcorn, toss or stir to coat and distribute across the bottom, cover the pan and wait for the kernels to begin popping. Shake the pan periodically (every 10-20 seconds) to sift unpopped kernels back down to the heat and the make sure the popped ones don’t burn. Once popping slows down to every few seconds, turn heat off. Add 1 teaspoon of salt (or 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast) to the pan, give a shake and allow it to sit momentarily with the lid to capture some steam and moisture. Toss popcorn in a large bowl with additional seasoning to taste. Serve as-is or divide into servings. Keeps well in an airtight container and makes great lunch box snacks.
*A note on pans: I use a 5 1/2 quart aluminum pot for making popcorn. If your pot is smaller, start with 1/2 cup popcorn and 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Most instruction say to use a “heavy-bottomed pot”, but I find that to be unhelpful. You want a pan that distributes heat well so you don’t get hot spots, but don’t pull out a cast iron pan or anything like that. It is too hard to shake and too slow to cool down if your popcorn does start to burn.