How to Make Popcorn on the Stove

Do you make popcorn on the stove? If not, you should try it! Popcorn made in a pot on the stove is the most delicious way to make popcorn. You don’t need special appliances, plus it is quick and easy.

popcorn in a bowl

If you want to make healthier popcorn, an air popper is the best option. Air popped popcorn is a healthy and low calorie popcorn. When you make popcorn on the stove, it uses oil, so this version is higher in fat and calories. Unfortunately, if you use less oil it is easier to burn the popcorn.

To make delicious stovetop popcorn, you will need a large pot. If you calculate the volume of the pot in advance, you can avoid having popcorn everywhere. Popcorn expands substantially when heated. The Calculate This website compares the volume of un-popped kernels to popped popcorn, and I think their calculations are pretty close. You can assume that popcorn will be about 30 times the volume of the un-popped kernels, so if you use 1 cup of kernels, you will get 30 cups of popcorn.

I use a pot that is about 9.5 inches in diameter and 6 inches deep, so according to Cooking Louisiana, the volume of this pot should be 381.5 cubic inches, or 26.4 cups. I tend to use a 1-cup size measuring cup, and I fill it not quite all the way with kernels. This amount of kernels, just over 3/4 of a cup, will fill my cooking pot right to the top with popcorn. That is enough for two large bowls of popcorn.

Adjust the amounts in this recipe as needed for your tastes and preferences, and how much popcorn you would like to make. This vegan popcorn recipe will make one big bowl of popcorn or two medium-sized bowls.

This quick video shows the steps for making stovetop popcorn.

Supplies Needed

  • Large pot. A stainless steel pot works well.
  • A mesh spatter guard / screen. You can also use a lid, but this can be dangerous because it causes the oil to get too hot and then makes fire as soon as you open the lid and expose the oil to oxygen. I have not had good success using a lid to make popcorn on the stove, so I do not recommend it.
  • A clean kitchen towel, made of cotton – NOT polyester or other synthetic fibres, which melt – to place over the spatter guard in the initial phases of popping the popcorn.
  • Oven mitts to protect your hands.

Popcorn Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup of popcorn kernels
  • 1.5 tsp canola oil (or more, to taste – use enough to cover the bottom of the pot)
  • 2 tsp melted coconut oil or margarine
  • 1/4 tsp of salt or to taste


Be careful when making popcorn. Preheating the pot can be surprisingly dangerous. Do not cover the pan completely with a lid unless you check it at least every 30 seconds. If you heat oil while covered with a lid, it can catch on fire and flash up in an explosion-like mass of flames when you open the lid. I know this from almost burning my eyelashes off when attempting to make popcorn years ago. Scary!

Using a spatter guard is safer than a lid, so use a mesh spatter guard if possible. At any point in the cooking process, popcorn in a pot could catch fire. Do not leave it unattended. If you have to walk away from the pot for any reason, set a timer for 1-2 minutes before you go. This will ensure that if you get distracted, you won’t forget the hot pot and have a fire.

Steps to Make Popcorn on the Stove

  • Preheat the pot on the stovetop over medium heat. While the pot is heating up, add the canola oil and 3 or 4 popcorn kernels. Place the spatter guard over the pan.
  • When the kernels pop, the pan is hot enough to add the rest of the kernels. Don’t wait for all 3 or 4 of them to pop. When one or two kernels have popped, the pot is hot enough and ready to go.
  • Add the popcorn kernels and shake the pot side to side a bit to swirl them around evenly in the canola oil. Be very careful not to splash any oil or burn yourself on the pot. Wearing oven mitts is recommended.
  • Place the spatter guard over the pot and cover the spatter guard with a cotton kitchen towel. Leave a space for steam to escape. The popcorn spatters oil when it first starts popping, and the towel will prevent any splashing oil from getting through the spatter guard. If you do not have a spatter guard, you can use a lid at this phase. Place the lid at an angle so there is an opening for steam to escape – do not cover the pot completely (see comments above about fire danger).
  • The kernels will begin to pop within about a minute. Periodically shake the pot while wearing oven mitts to protect your hands. This gets the un-popped kernels down to the bottom so they can pop.
  • Continue to heat at medium heat until the popping slows down. When the popping slows down, turn off the heat. Shake the pot a little more and return to the heating element for another few seconds, and then remove from heat.
  • Transfer the popcorn to bowls. If you want to make sure there are no un-popped kernels that can hurt your teeth, you can scoop the popcorn out of the pot with a spoon rather than pouring it into bowls.
  • Top with melted coconut oil or margarine by drizzling some over the popcorn, stirring or shaking the bowl, and then adding the rest. Sprinkle salt over the popcorn and it is ready to serve.

Healthier Alternative Popcorn Toppings

Since popcorn made on the stove already has oil added, you might want to reduce calories by avoiding oil in the popcorn toppings. The following options are healthier and lower calorie alternatives, and also work great on air-popped popcorn for a very low fat option. This toppings are also low in sodium. You can even eliminate salt entirely.

It is possible to season popcorn directly without using any sort of moisture, and this works best if you add the seasonings as quickly as possible after the popcorn finishes popping. The steam will help the seasonings to stick. Alternatively, you can use a sprayer to add a fine mist of lemon juice or vinegar. This adds flavour and is a great alternative to salt, and also allows seasonings to stick. Avoid dripping too much moisture on the popcorn because this would make it soggy.

Healthy Popcorn Seasoning Options

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Oregano
  • Dill
  • Chipotle chili powder
  • Paprika
  • Cumin

If you add all the seasonings to a blender to make them really fine, they will stick to the popcorn and coat it more effectively. About 1/4 teaspoon of each of the above spices works well for popcorn seasoning mix. You can even crush or blend salt into a fine powder so it sticks better to the popcorn instead of ending up with salt in the bottom of the bowl.

How to Make Popcorn on the Stove

It is quick and easy to make popcorn on the stove. This popcorn is delicious!
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: Vegan
Keyword: popcorn
Servings: 2 bowls


  • Large pot
  • Spatter guard
  • Oven mitts


  • 2/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1.5 tsp canola oil Or more, to taste.
  • 2 tsp margarine or coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt Or to taste.


  • Preheat the pot on the stovetop over medium heat. While the pot is heating up, add the canola oil and 3 or 4 popcorn kernels. Place the spatter guard over the pan.
  • Once the kernels pop, the pan is hot enough to add the rest of the kernels. Shake the pot to evenly coat the kernels with oil. Place the spatter guard over the top to prevent splashing oil and keep the popcorn in.
  • Shake the pot periodically (while wearing oven mitts) to bring un-popped kernels to the bottom of the pot.
  • Remove from heat when the popping slows. Add popcorn to bowls, top with melted margarine or coconut oil, sprinkle with salt, and serve.


Looking for something to go with the popcorn? Try a smoothie!