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How to Make Homemade Microwave Popcorn

You’re only a few minutes away from perfectly portioned popcorn.

Popcorn is the perfect snack. But there’s always an internal debate when it comes to making it: Do I take the easy way out and make microwave popcorn or make it fresh (the arguably superior way!) on the stove?

Microwave popcorn is easier and more convenient, but there’s a quintessential staleness to it that brings it down a notch. Homemade popcorn’s flavor is fresher, but it requires lugging out a big pot to make it (which then has to be cleaned). Especially when I'm just making it for myself, it can be hard to justify all that extra work. What if there was a popcorn-making method that combined the best of both worlds?

Notes From the Test Kitchen

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This method for Paper Bag Popcorn from our cookbook, Cooking for One, does just that. Not only does it produce the perfect single portion but it’s fresh, employs the microwave, and doesn’t dirty an extra dish for you to clean. Oh, and it only takes three minutes.

Just add kernels and a little oil to a brown paper lunch bag, fold over the top of the bag to seal it, and pop it in the microwave. It has all the convenience of microwaved popcorn with the homemade (never stale) taste you get from stovetop cooking.

The best part is that there are so many ways to customize the flavor. If you want to add a little sweetness to your popped popcorn, melt ½ teaspoon of packed brown sugar and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon with some butter and give it a stir after melting. You can also mix in some chocolate chips, peanuts, shredded coconut, and/or some M&Ms as well.

And if you want to make your popcorn even more savory? Add parmesan and black pepper to your butter before melting. Or even finish your popcorn with a drizzle of truffle oil.

With popcorn this good, you might never go back to the stovetop again.

Paper Bag Popcorn for One

Total time: 15 minutes

Microwaves vary in strength so rather than watching the clock, listen for the popping sounds: When they slow down, the popcorn is ready. This recipe works best in a microwave with a wattage of 900 or higher.

  • 2 tablespoons popcorn kernels
  • ¼ teaspoon oil
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt



  1.  Place popcorn kernels in clean brown paper lunch bag and drizzle with oil. Fold over top of bag three times to seal (do not tape or staple) and shake bag to coat kernels with oil. Place bag on its side in microwave, shaking kernels into even layer in bag. Microwave bag until popping slows to one or two pops at a time, about 3 minutes. Remove bag from microwave and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, microwave butter in medium bowl at 50 percent power until butter is melted, 30 to 60 seconds.
  3. Carefully open paper bag and pour popcorn into bowl with melted butter. Use rubber spatula to toss popcorn with butter, then sprinkle with salt. Serve.