Air Popped Popcorn vs. Microwave Popcorn: Which Is Better For You?

Tina Ruggiero

Popcorn is a staple ingredient in our snack cupboard — and, according to research into the popcorn industry, it seems most people agree as over 60% of popcorn is consumed at home. We’re not surprised either. Whether it’s microwaved, store-bought, or air-popped, popcorn is a delicious and easy snack you can enjoy at home.

Microwave popcorn is the most common type of popcorn people consumed at home. It’s an easy snacking option thanks to being relatively inexpensive, coming pre-seasoned in an array of flavors, and cooking in a matter of minutes. However, it is often full of unhealthy additives.

How to use Microwave Popcorn Popper

For a healthier yet still delicious alternative, you may want to consider air-popped popcorn. This popcorn is still easy to make and has the same great taste as microwave popcorn but comes with the added bonus of being more nutritious. Plus, you get to control the flavors.

So, which is better for you? Air-popped popcorn or microwave popcorn? Stay tuned as we explore the ins and outs of each of these popcorn types.

What Is Air Popped Popcorn?

Air-popped popcorn is a healthy snack that’s full of flavor. You can make great-tasting air-popped popcorn at home. Enjoy the same great flavor as movie theater or microwave popcorn but with fewer additives, sugars, or processed ingredients. The preparation process will be slightly different from your usual homemade microwave popcorn. Air-popped popcorn is made using an air popcorn machine — though, with the right equipment, you might be able to make it in the microwave too. Using an air popper, hot air circulates around the popcorn poppers. As the heat rises, the high heat will make the kernels pop.

Air-popped Popcorn

Air popcorn poppers aren’t a new kitchen gadget either. Air popcorn machines are commonly found in movie theaters, carnivals, and entertainment events. So, you’ll be able to tap into that nostalgic feeling of movie or carnival popcorn whenever you make air-popped popcorn at home. Because air popcorn poppers use high heat to pop the kernels, the popcorn is much less likely to burn or overcook.

Get your air popcorn machine at the ready and join the growing community of air popper lovers!

Is Air-Popped Popcorn Healthier Than Microwave Popcorn?

One of our favorite things about air-popped popcorn is that it’s a healthy snack — especially when compared to movie theater popcorn and microwave popcorn. 

Most microwave popcorn uses oil to pop the kernels. With air-popped popcorn, you don’t need any oil. But you can always add oil later in the seasoning stage — if you want to add oil, we recommend using olive oil for a healthier snack.

All in all, if you are looking for a healthy popcorn snack, air-popped is the way to go. The popcorn kernels themselves are whole grain which helps contribute to your daily whole grain and fiber goals. You can get creative with seasoning your air-popped popcorn. The healthiest way to enjoy air-popped popcorn is to lightly season it with sea salt and melted butter (or olive oil, your choice) — a delicious, healthy treat for your next movie night!

How To Make Air-Popped Popcorn

Air-popped popcorn is a versatile treat that can be made in a few different ways. You can use a dedicated air popper or you can even use some kitchen appliances you already own to achieve the same great-tasting result.

Whichever air-popping method you use, you can create healthy homemade popcorn with ease. As well as using a dedicated air popper, we also love making air-popped popcorn on the stovetop, in the microwave, or more recently, in the air fryer!

How to use an air-popper

When making homemade air-popped popcorn, it’s crucial to use the right measurements and cook times. Luckily for you, we’ll be sharing the exact measurements and cooking times you need whether you use an air popper or not.

Using An Air Popper

Before making popcorn in an air popper, check the instructions. Most air poppers come with dedicated instructions for how to use that specific popcorn machine. With that said, most air-popped popcorn machines follow a similar model so there won’t be too much variation between them.

One thing to be aware of is that your popcorn will grow as it pops. Add too many kernels to the machine and you may end up with an overflowing air popper and popcorn all over your kitchen! This can easily be avoided by limiting the number of unpopped kernels you put in the air popper. A general rule of thumb is to use 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels to produce 9 cups of popcorn.

Air-popper

Once you’ve added your kernels, power up the machine and place a large bowl underneath the release spout. The popcorn pops on its own as it reaches temperature. When it’s finished popping, all you have to do is season and enjoy!

Without Using An Air Popper

Not having an air popper doesn’t mean you have to stick with microwave or bagged popcorn. You can still easily make delicious air-popped popcorn at home with kitchen appliances you already own.

To make air-popped popcorn in the microwave, simply put your popcorn kernels in a paper bag. Make sure you fold over the top to trap the steam in — this will help the kernels pop. Put the paper bag in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The actual time will depend on how many kernels you are popping and the wattage of your microwave. We recommend listening to the pops — if popping slows down to 2–3 seconds between pops, it’s time to take the popcorn out. You can also use a silicone microwave popcorn maker to make the process easier. Microwave air-popped popcorn has a delicious crunchy texture.

Microwave Popcorn Popper

Another way to make air-popped popcorn is in an air fryer. Preheat the air fryer to 400°F and line the bottom of the basket with aluminum foil to help keep the kernels contained while popping. Next, place 1⁄2 cup of popcorn kernels in a single layer and cook for 8–10 minutes. Listen to the sound of the popcorn popping and turn the air fryer off when the kernels stop popping to avoid over-popping. Air fryer popcorn is light and crispy.

Finally, you can also make stovetop popcorn, though this method does require oil. Using a nonstick pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil with 2 popcorn kernels (don’t worry, we’ll add more later). Use either coconut oil or olive oil for a healthier option. Cover the pot until you hear the kernels pop then add the rest of the unpopped kernels to the pot. It should take about 2–3 minutes in total for the rest of the kernels to pop.

How To Season Air-Popped Popcorn

Air-popped popcorn is a healthy snack thanks to being low-fat and gluten-free. Plus, it lasts a long time if you store it in an airtight container. Unseasoned air-popped popcorn makes a great non-GMO option too. 

If you are partial to a bit of seasoning then air-popped popcorn offers endless options of flavor. One of our favorite ways to season air-popped popcorn is by adding a light sprinkle of sea salt and olive oil. This seasoning combo will keep your popcorn fairly healthy while still being delicious tasting.

Another classic seasoning combo is to mix in some melted butter and salt. However, this is a slightly less healthy option due to the butter. If you want a more unique seasoning option, try adding a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. Those with a sweet tooth can also experiment with cinnamon and honey or vanilla extract. The world is your oyster when it comes to seasoning air-popped popcorn so have some fun! 

How Long Can I Store Air-Popped Popcorn

The great thing about air-popped popcorn is that it is long-lasting. If you accidentally make too much popcorn you can simply save it for another day. Air-popped popcorn can be kept fresh for up to a week when stored in an airtight container.

To help extend the storage life of your air-popped popcorn, be sure to keep it at room temperature. Your air-popped popcorn will last longer if it is unseasoned — so be sure to only season the serving size you need. You can always season stored popcorn when you’re ready to eat. If your popcorn goes stale during storage, crisp it up in the oven for a few minutes to easily revive it.

Check Out More Popcorn Tips & Tricks On Our Blog

Air-popped popcorn can be a healthy alternative to microwave popcorn. You get greater control over exactly what ingredients go into making your popcorn meaning you can make it as healthy (or unhealthy) as you desire.

Learn how to make healthy and delicious popcorn.

There are plenty of ways you can make delicious air-popped popcorn at home, whether you have a popcorn machine or not. The ability to use an air popper or other kitchen appliances makes air-popped popcorn an accessible snack that you can enjoy whenever you’re feeling peckish. It’s time to swap the bagged microwave popcorn for an air-popped alternative! 

For more popcorn tips and tricks, make sure you check out our blog where we have a hub of inspiring and informative content to fuel your snacking needs.

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