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How to Make Microwave Popcorn Without a Bag (And No Oil!)


Natasha is a writer, artisan, and recent graduate with a Master of the Arts in Teaching who also loves to forage for food.

Make popcorn in the microwave without having store-bought microwave popcorn.

Make popcorn in the microwave without having store-bought microwave popcorn.

Microwave Popcorn

In the past few years, news articles have popped up about how dangerous microwave popcorn can be. Forget cracking your tooth on an unpopped kernel—evidentially, habitually breathing in the steam fresh out of a popped bag can lead to a serious lung condition called "popcorn lung" and, according to the FDA, microwave popcorn contains likely carcinogens. If you haven't seen any of these news stories, you can read up on sites like News Max Health.

I'm not a health professional or a scientist, but I do know that microwave popcorn, whatever else it may be, is way more expensive than popping it yourself. For the same price, you can usually buy about six bags of microwave popcorn or nearly two pounds of plain popcorn kernels. If you don't have a hot air popper and don't feel like popping it on the stove, you might be tempted to reach for the convenient bags, anyway. The good news is you can actually make your own microwave popcorn from the plain kernels using items you probably already have at home.

Make Your Own Microwave Popcorn

Microwave popcorn is, in my opinion, better than stovetop popcorn because it doesn't need any oil or fat. You can always add your own melted butter (real butter, not that chemical nonsense they put in the microwave bags!), salt, sugar, ranch powder, or whatever else you'd like, but you're in control of the situation.

What You Need

  • 1 medium microwave-safe bowl
  • 1 microwave-safe plate that will cover the bowl
  • 1/4 cup plain popcorn kernels

That's really it, but you might want a towel or oven mitts to remove the bowl from the microwave without burning yourself.

All you need for DIY microwave popcorn

All you need for DIY microwave popcorn


  1. Pour about 1/4 cup of kernels into the microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Cover the bowl with the plate. It doesn't matter if it isn't an exact fit or if there is a small gap under the plate—a gap actually lets steam escape and is helpful.
  3. Place in the microwave and cook on full power. The exact amount of time needed will depend on your microwave and the bowl/plate you are using, but it will take longer than a bag of popcorn. With the pictured bowl and plate, it takes me about 5 minutes to pop 1/4 cup of kernels. I've had it take over 7 minutes when I used a heavier bowl and plate. My advice is to put it on 5 minutes and then add time, as needed, if it's still popping.
  4. Once the popping has slowed, turn off the microwave and carefully remove the bowl. It will be hot, so you may want to use oven mitts or a towel. Watch out for hot steam when you remove the plate, too!
  5. Top with melted butter, your favorite seasonings, or just serve plain!
Step 1: Pour 1/4 cup of kernels into the bowl.

Step 1: Pour 1/4 cup of kernels into the bowl.

Step 2: Cover the bowl with the plate.

Step 2: Cover the bowl with the plate.

Popped popcorn. Be careful about steam when you remove the plate!

Popped popcorn. Be careful about steam when you remove the plate!

From kernels to popcorn.

From kernels to popcorn.

Tips for Making Microwave Popcorn

Here are a few things I've learned about making microwave popcorn:

  • Don't try to cover the bowl with a paper towel. The popping corn will easily push past the paper towel and leave you with a microwave full of popcorn!
  • Make sure your dishes are truly microwave safe, not "microwave friendly." We broke a dinner plate making popcorn because it was intended for a quick reheat, not cooking! I highly recommend going with truly microwave safe items like an Anchor glass bowl and a simple Corelle plate.

The first time I made popcorn like this I wondered why I hadn't figured it out years ago! It's so much easier than dealing with the stove, doesn't require a specialized machine like a hot air popper, and doesn't use paper bags like the usual microwave method. It's simple, fast, and doesn't involve oil. In short, it's the perfect way to make a quick snack!

I love to eat my popcorn plain, but my husband enjoys adding butter. What's your favorite popcorn topping?


QueenKeen on May 08, 2020:

I grew up popping popcorn on top of the stove but also learned how easy it is to put 2 TBSP of kernels in a brown paper lunch bag and microwave for 2 minutes. I also bought a large rectangular microwavable container with a steam vent lid from Dollar Tree and it worked out fine. The trick is to pop a little at a time, don't let it burn, and let the container cool down before popping 2 or more bowls in succession.

Ron Olden on March 15, 2020:

'False Info'. .... This article doesn't mention 'Obliterative Bronchiolitis'. The term 'popcorn lung' sometimes refers to the disorder, but it's not a medical term.

Microwave popcorn however HAS been linked to 'popcorn lung'. Diacetyl, a chemical used to give microwave popcorn its' buttery flavour and aroma, is linked to severe and irreversible lung damage when inhaled.

Popcorn lung makes the small airways in the lungs (bronchioles) become scarred and narrowed to the point where they can’t let in enough air. The disease causes shortness of breath, wheezing, and other symptoms similar to those of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

More that twenty years ago the risk for popcorn lung was mainly among workers in microwave popcorn plants or other manufacturing plants who breathed in large amounts of diacetyl for long periods of time.

Hundreds of workers were diagnosed with this disease, and many died.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health studied the effects of diacetyl exposure at six microwave popcorn plants. The researchers found a link between long-term exposure and lung damage but wasn’t considered a significant risk to consumers of microwave popcorn.

One Colorado man reportedly developed the condition after eating two bags of microwave popcorn a day for 10 years. So it's reasonable to suspect that children inhaling it at home throughout their childhood has risks.

In 2007, major popcorn manufacturers removed diacetyl from their products. But that's not to say it's not still present in bags that readers of this articles or other sources relying on it can get in their own countries.

In any case the article also says that according to the FDA, microwave popcorn contains likely carcinogens. Which is factually correct.

Some scientists say that there's a possible link between microwave popcorn and cancer from chemicals called perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) that are in the bags. PFCs resist grease, making them ideal for preventing oil from seeping through popcorn bags.

As a result of research, food manufacturers voluntarily stopped using PFOA in their product bags in 2011. Five years later, the FDA went even further, banning the use of three other PFCs in food packaging. That means the popcorn you buy today shouldn’t contain these chemicals.

But again, that might not be the case elsewhere, and since the FDA’s review, dozens of new packaging chemicals have been introduced of which little is known about the safety of these chemicals.

Even if it isn't a detailed scientific analysis, this article is RIGHT to mention the possible health hazards of microwave popcorn. But the article is more illuminating on the subject than is your comment, and removing things that alert people into investigating further and arriving at our own judgement, is a TERRIBLE idea.

Living in ignorance is not a virtue.

The main thrust of the article anyway is to reveal what a waste of money microwave popcorn is when it can be easier to do it with loose corn and eat it out of the bowl you've popped it in.

False Info. on February 24, 2020:

This gives out false information on Obliterative Bronchiolitis and the reference to it should be removed.

Tery Peta from Bulgaria on January 22, 2020:

I am now very motivated to try this popcorn method myself. Thank you for sharing, this looks like a great idea.

NoPopcorn on July 06, 2019:

My popcorn BURNT.

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on June 17, 2019:

Now I miss popcorn. I have not done them in the microwave. I will surely make them when I have bought popcorn kernels. Thanks for the idea of microwaving popcorn without oil.

Joyce on June 12, 2019:

I'm following the keto plan of eating about 85%--my doctor said not to go 100%, for many reasons--so will add a miniscule amount of coconut oil to pop my next batch. SO glad you posted this as I hadn't thought of how super easy it is to make popcorn this way. I have no stove nor cooktop where I live, but I like popcorn a lot, and hated relying on chemical-laden commercially-made microwave popcorn.

Christian Writings on February 24, 2019:

sounds healthy! will definitely try this :)

Mat on December 19, 2018:

Didn't like the chewy taste of cooking popcorn in a pot with oil, this technique has solved the problem. Yummy crispy popcorn, and because the bowl is hot after cooking butter shavings melt evenly with a few tosses. Awesome 10/10!

Shivani on February 25, 2018:


Carmen on June 05, 2017:

Oh you are THE BEST!!! I have wondered several times how to make popcorn without oil. Now we have a great new way to do so.

I was thinking my largest corningware dish should work perfectly. Thanks for the great tip

carol morris on June 23, 2016:

Great idea, we're always looking for healthier ways to make popcorn.

Ann810 from Sunny Cali on March 20, 2016:

I will definitely will try his bag-less popcorn in microwave. It's cool to know there's no oil needed. Thanks for the cool idea.

Wayne from Gainesville , Florida on April 17, 2015:

I like the fact that you can make your own without butter or salt, plain popcorn is a healthy treat

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on January 17, 2015:

Thanks so much!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on January 17, 2015:

The paper bag trick is a classic so many people don't know about! Weirdly, I have kind of a difficult time finding lunch bags where I live. Hawaii is beautiful, but sometimes our shopping choices are a little limited!

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on January 16, 2015:

Resurrecting to get it back t the top of the pile. Have a great weekend.

And the weekend and football championships is a great time for popcorn of any variety.

Carole on January 16, 2015:

I have been making it in brown paper lunch bags in the microwave for years. It takes 2 1/2 minutes and then I drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Absolutely the best treat ever and guilt free for me.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on October 10, 2014:

I guess you'd have to ask him. =)

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on October 09, 2014:

How can it be that this "simple" but simply great Hub doesn't have a comment yet from breakfastpop?

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on March 20, 2014:

I'm so glad you found it helpful! Our microwave died about a month ago and we just got a new one this week. I look forward to having popcorn again!

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on March 16, 2014:

Popcorn is a great diet snack, and this article is very useful. I am gonna make use of this article, and share it, too.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on January 18, 2014:

I recently read about eliminating all oil from cooking since it's bad for our arteries. So I stopped making popcorn. I didn't know there was a way to make it without oil. Thanks to your article I now have a solution that is "heart friendly." I always focus on health, so I'm going to try this. Thanks for writing about it.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on January 16, 2014:

It always seems like such a shame to use a bag for 3 minutes and then toss it! I'm glad you stopped by and hope you get the chance to enjoy popcorn soon.

Christy Kirwan from San Francisco on January 16, 2014:

This is an awesome, healthier alternative to the oil popping that I usually do, and I don't even have to feel bad about wasting paper bags! Love it. :)

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on January 13, 2014:

It's so much easier than the stovetop! I hope you have the chance to try it soon.

Dianna Mendez on January 13, 2014:

Popcorn is our favorite snack when watching movies at home. We use the stove top but this idea may be a new adventure for us soon.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on January 12, 2014:

Tirelesstraveler - I hope you enjoy when you get the chance to try this super easy way to make popcorn!

Heidithorne - Thanks so much for sharing! I appreciate it. =)

Randomcreative - I didn't realize it, either, until pretty recently. We had popcorn, no bags, and no desire to clean up the pot we would have needed and decided to try something new. It really worked out well!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 12, 2014:

Wow, I'm blown away! I had no idea that it was so easy to make popcorn in the microwave without a bag. I am dying to give this a try now. Thanks for sharing!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on January 11, 2014:

I didn't even know you could do this! Great and healthy snack idea. Voted up & shared!

Judy Specht from California on January 11, 2014:

We have a bubble hot oil popper. It is wonderful when you have little kids around. I was craving popcorn the other day, but cleaning the popper was more work than I had energy. Three cheers for "The no mess microwave method". Have to share this one.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on January 11, 2014:

Emilybee and Flourishanyway - it definitely is one of those things that makes you wonder why you never tried it before!

Angela - Yes, the oil (or butter!) is tasty, but not so healthy!

Starstream - When I want it sweet, I melt butter on the stove and then whisk in light brown sugar. I just pour it over the top of the popcorn!

Dreamer at heart from Northern California on January 11, 2014:

Great plan. I will go to my favorite thrift store and look for a corelle plate. Do you have any suggestions for a sweet flavored popcorn recipe?

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 11, 2014:

Who knew? So simple we're probably all wondering why we didn't try this years ago. Pinning this!

Angela Kane from Las Vegas, Nevada on January 10, 2014:

Great and useful hub. I usually make popcorn on the stove with a lot of oil and even though it may taste good, it's more healthy without any oil.

emilybee on January 10, 2014:

I never knew you could do this. Gotta try this. So easy and 5 minutes isn't long to wait :)

Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on January 10, 2014:

Here, here!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on January 10, 2014:

Thanks, everyone!

Crystal - Yes, it is so much cheaper!

ChitrangadaSharan - One of the reasons I don't like the stove popcorn is all the oil. This is so much healthier!

Kidscrafts - Thanks for stopping by and I hope you get to try this method soon!

suzettenaples - Ugh, that stuff is so gross! I've discovered a lot of it leaves your mouth feeling all funny and slimy, too. That can't be good!

Janetwrites - I hope you get to try it. It's so much better for you without all those chemicals! Some people even call homemade, plain popcorn a 'super food.'

VVanNess - No kidding. It's amazing how many extra ingredients are in so many products from the store. I guess some of them are necessary if you want things to have a long shelf life, but I'd rather not eat them.

Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on January 10, 2014:

With all of the chemicals and preservatives we are putting into our bodies by buying and eating pre-made food products at the store, it's nice to know that we can still have some of our favorites in a light and healthy way!

Thank you for the wonderful recipe! Voted up!

Janet Giessl from Georgia country on January 10, 2014:

This is a really great idea. Store-bought microwave popcorn is indeed a healthy risk. I should really try out your version. Thank you for sharing this.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on January 10, 2014:

Thanks for sharing this with us. I have never thought or tried to do this. Your instructions are simple to follow. I actually prefer to pop my own popcorn on the stove - I think it tastes better and I agree with you the nasty stuff put in the bags of microwave popcorn can gag me. LOL! I will be trying this!

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on January 10, 2014:

Great idea, easy to follow instructions :-) I don't have a machine and I like to have popcorn not greasy!

Thank you for sharing!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 09, 2014:

Very nice idea, more because it is oil free. I do make it but had no idea, it can be done without oil.

Thanks for this, voted up and shared!

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on January 09, 2014:

I love popcorn but always buy the bagged variety. Thanks for sharing this. I'm sure buying the kernals are much cheaper. Sharing and pinning this one.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on January 09, 2014:

RTalloni - I also think a lot of folks who have heard about it think it's just a bunch of hype and/or simply don't care. Humans tend to be pretty good at ignoring risks in order to do things they want to do! Hot air poppers are cool, but kind of a bother sometimes. There's something really classic about them, though!

Billybuc - It's so easy! I hope you have the chance to give it a try sometime. Thanks for stopping by. =)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 09, 2014:

We eat a lot of popcorn but have never tried this...thanks for the tip young lady.

RTalloni on January 09, 2014:

Oh ho ho! And we didn't think of this before because…? I like to use a hot air popper with coconut oil, but I don't like pulling out the popper and cleaning up the stuff and such. I would've thought that everyone was by now aware of the concerns re store bought microwave popcorn. This just goes to show that recycling information is not always a bad thing, especially if it's wrapped in a solution for a problem. Looking forward to trying this soon!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on January 09, 2014:

Global-Chica - Thanks so much! It's the rainy season, but the weather really cooperated today. =)

Glimmer Twi Fan - Yeah, it's pretty unnerving, really! I have very fond memories of using a popper with my grandmother, but I don't own one now.

Claudia Mitchell on January 09, 2014:

This is awesome. We no longer buy microwave popcorn after all the info about it came out some time ago. We have a microwave popper, but this is a great way to do it. Thanks for a really useful hub.

Anna from New York, NY on January 09, 2014:

Awesome, I don't know why I hadn't thought of that. BTW, I absolutely LOVE your graphics!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on January 09, 2014:

Wow - it's been so long since I had time to write a hub I'd forgotten how exciting it is to see comments pop up!

NornsMercy - I hope you do try it and love your fresh popcorn!

Rebecca - Ahaha. I know! I love microwave popcorn and have eaten a whole lot of it in the past. Eek!

Bdegiulio - Yeah, it's pretty frightening, really. Apparently there are all sorts of potentially hazardous chemicals in the popcorn flavorings and bag!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on January 09, 2014:

Great idea. I was not aware of al the issues with microwave popcorn but this is good to know. Thanks for sharing.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on January 09, 2014:

Very clever! I have been hearing the bad scoop on microwave popcorn, too. Now they tell us. Thanks for this awesome tip. Shared!

Chace from Charlotte, NC on January 09, 2014:

Thanks for this. I'm gonna try it this weekend! :D