Recipe: How to Pop Popcorn in Water

UPDATE: I’ve moved on to a better, easier way to make popcorn! Place 1/2 cup of kernels in a brown paper lunch bag, fold over the top two or three times and put it in your microwave. Cook the kernels until the popping slows to around 1-2 seconds apart. How long it takes will depend on your microwave – mine is older and takes about 3 1/2 minutes. I set it for 4 minutes and keep a close eye on it. That’s it! Air popped corn that’s really good and no pot to clean. The olive oil spritz below tastes great; a 50/50 butter and olive mix is even better. If you’re a salter, I’d recommend using popcorn salt. It’s much finer than sea salt or table salt so it distributes more evenly without any super salty surprise bites.

ORIGINAL STORY: When we gave up chemicals in our food, the microwave popcorn bags went in the trash and we started popping corn on the stove the old-fashioned way. Then I got the America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook and, lo and behold, they had a recipe for popcorn popped in water, then tossed in olive oil. My first thought was “blech,” seeing as how I’ve always found the popcorn

made in air poppers to be horribly lacking in both flavor and texture, and butter is, well, come on, it’s butter for frak’s sake.

But happily I was wrong. You can pop corn in water and it’s toasty and crispy and delicious. And dangit if they weren’t right about the olive oil, too! I used my Misto oil sprayer to get a nice, even coat and sprinkled it with sea salt. Now, I will confess my 8 year-old wasn’t so hip on it so I make her batch with butter, but I think it’s fabulous and plan on sneaking a nice big bag into the theater the next time we go to the movies.

Makes 14 cups

1 tablespoon water

½ cup popcorn kernels

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the water and popcorn, cover and cook, shaking frequently until the first few kernels begin to pop. Be sure to keep the lid on tight and shake the pot vigorously to prevent scorching. Continue to cook, shaking vigorously until the popping has mostly stopped. Pour the popcorn immediately into a large bowl, toss or spray with the oil, toss in salt and pepper.

Note: I had to make two batches because I got impatient and didn’t trust that the kernels would start popping. I turned up the heat to “high” and burned the kernels. Lesson learned.


9 thoughts on “Recipe: How to Pop Popcorn in Water

  1. Heard about using water before. I have been using olive oil but think that the pot I’m using is not good because it takes too long to pop and scorches because of it. So, I want to try this to see what happens. Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re welcome! The pot will definitely make a difference. I had to try a couple of different ones before I found one that popped it just right. The scorching you’re experiencing could also be the olive oil that’s giving you trouble – it has a low “smoke point” and doesn’t handle the high heat needed to pop the corn. Try grapeseed or safflower next time. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  2. “scorching you’re experiencing could also be the olive oil that’s giving you trouble”
    ????? I thought you said add oil “AFTER” ?

  3. Hi j.m.,

    For my recipe, yes, you do pop the corn in water then the olive oil goes on afterwards. Butterfly Jewel meant that she’d been using olive oil to actually pop the corn in and that’s what scorched her pan. I suggested grapeseed or safflower oil if she wants to pop her corn in oil because it can handle the high heat. That said, though, you don’t need to pop corn in oil – water works just fine. Hope that helps!

  4. Pingback: Recipe: How to Make Popcorn in a Paper Bag – No Oil Required! | Eve's Garden of Eatin'

  5. Great recipe (the one about popping popcorn in water), thanks for that!
    Now I don´t need to buy a popcorn maker, microwave or have the hassle of spending time with preparing it in a pan with oil.

    I´ll just toss some kernels in my old. trusty, all-around hot water/tea/noodle soup-preparing water kettle, wait a few minutes and am ready to go.

    Perfect for someone like me, who likes quick, convenient food preparation!

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