Do air fryers pop popcorn? Yes! Save money on a popcorn popper; you can make popcorn in an air fryer instead! This air fryer popcorn recipe could not be easier. In just a few short minutes, you'll have fluffy white kernels of popcorn that are waiting to be topped however you wish. Get tips and tricks for making the best popcorn in the air fryer right here!
Many years ago, we had a hot air popper for popcorn. Sometime over the past few years, the popper seems to have disappeared.
It's not a huge problem since it's easy enough to pop popcorn in the microwave or on the stovetop. Unfortunately, neither cooking method completely replicates air popped popcorn.
IMHO, the microwave makes popcorn that is less sturdy; it doesn't seem to hold up to the toppings as well. Stovetop popcorn has a lovely texture but does require some oil or fat to get popping. After adding popcorn toppings, making stovetop popcorn can involve quite a lot of added fat.
Popping your popcorn in the air fryer gives you the best of both worlds. You get a sturdy, crisp popcorn, similar to using the stovetop. However, you don't need to add oil during the cooking process. It's definitely a win!
The downside of using your air fryer for popcorn is that there is a risk that popped kernels could get stuck in the heating element. The pop corn kernels blow around as they pop.
It's fun to watch, but it also means that popcorn could end up in parts of the air fryer where you don't want it to go. No worries though, I'm going to provide my best tips for air frying popcorn later in the article. I want you to have popcorn making success too!
- What are the benefits of making popcorn in the air fryer?
- What You Need for Air Fryer Popcorn
- How to Make Air Fryer Popcorn
- Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- What are some other popcorn recipes?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- More Air Fryer Snack Recipes That You May Enjoy
- And now for the disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
What are the benefits of making popcorn in the air fryer?
Why make air fryer popcorn? Here are a few reasons:
- It's an inexpensive and fun family activity. Popcorn is a choking hazard for the youngest children, but older children can help pour the popcorn on the tray for this recipe. If you have an air fryer oven with a window, you can watch the popcorn kernels pop together. Why not make homemade butter to go with it?
- Using popcorn kernels means this is an air fryer popcorn with no oil. Bags of microwave popcorn typically have added oils and additives that you may not want. Plain popcorn kernels are the best popcorn option because you can top them however you wish!
- Popcorn is a whole grain and low calorie snack. As far as snack options go, popcorn is a great choice. Three tablespoons of popcorn kernels are approximately 130 calories and pop into about 6 cups of popcorn. Popcorn counts as a whole grain too!
What You Need for Air Fryer Popcorn
In the easiest iteration of this recipe, all you need is a little cooking oil spray, an air fryer and popcorn kernels. I'd also make sure you have your favorite popcorn toppings on hand.
I prefer my air fryer popcorn with butter and salt. Sometimes I weird my family out and throw some kelp granules on there too. Haha
You need plain popcorn kernels for this recipe. We're not using seasoned popcorn or the bags of microwave popcorn here. Seasonings of your choice can go on the popcorn after you're done popping.
You may need to modify this recipe based on the air fryer you use. My air fryer of choice is the 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven. Instead of an air fryer basket, it has two baking trays and a drip pan.
What you DON'T need to pop popcorn in the air fryer is aluminum foil. I tried covering the kernels with foil to prevent the popcorn from blowing around in the fryer. I was careful to cover the kernels loosely so I didn't completely block the air flow.
Unfortunately, the kernels did not pop at all with the foil covering. (Bummer!) If you want to make this air fryer popcorn recipe work, I'd definitely skip the foil.
How to Make Air Fryer Popcorn
I used the air fryer's drip pan for this recipe, not one of the baking racks with holes. We're using the drip pan because we don't want our popcorn kernels to fall through to the bottom of the air fryer.
Lightly mist the drip pan with cooking oil spray. Pour your popcorn kernels into the pan and spread them out in a single layer.
Take the baking trays out of your air fryer. Place the drip pan with the popcorn kernels in the lower rack position. (This is not the bottom of the air fryer where the drip pan usually goes.)
Air fry the popcorn kernels for approximately 10 minutes at 390 degrees Fahrenheit. If your air fryer has a window, you can watch the popcorn pop! (Or check out the recipe video below and watch my popcorn pop!)
While the popcorn is air frying, prepare your popcorn toppings. I dug the sea salt out of the cabinet and melted a little butter for mine.
Did too many of your popcorn kernels remain unpopped after the 10 minutes? You can take out the popped kernels, and air fry the unpopped kernels for a few minutes longer.
Once your popcorn is popped, pour it into a bowl. Drizzle with melted butter, sprinkle with salt, or add other toppings of your choosing. Time to dig in!
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 2 recipe (transition or weight maintenance). Popcorn is a high volume, low calorie, and delicious whole grain snack. The main issue with popcorn is that it is rarely eaten alone. The most popular popcorn toppings (e.g., butter, oil, sugar, or maple syrup) are very high in calories. It's pretty easy to get more calories from the popcorn toppings than from the actual popcorn.
If you're looking to create a low calorie popcorn snack, try misting the popcorn with a little cooking oil spray. Then sprinkle the popcorn with toppings that suit your taste. Here are a few of my favorite popcorn topping ideas:
- Nutritional yeast
- Pumpkin pie spice
- Curry powder
- Chili powder
- Parmesan cheese
The cooking oil spray will help the toppings to stick without adding a lot of added oil (or calories). For a higher energy popcorn, I love drizzling popcorn with peanut butter. It's pretty messy to eat, but it's so good!
What are some other popcorn recipes?
- Zahtar Popcorn (Easy Recipe!)
- How do you grow popcorn greens? (Yes, you can sprout popcorn kernels and grow them into edible microgreens! They're easy to grow and incredibly sweet.)
- Baked Popcorn Chicken Salad Bowl (Ok, ok. It's not technically popcorn but close enough!)
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you make popcorn fluffy and airy when making it at home?
At the moment, I'm quite partial to using the air fryer to make popcorn! Microwaves seem to make a delicate, airy popcorn. Experimenting with different cooking methods is the best way to find your preferred way of making popcorn at home.
I would also try a variety of popcorn brands. Some brands of popcorn pop up a little differently than others. I don't have a favorite popcorn brand at the moment, but you may find yours with some trial and error.
Is popcorn gluten free?
Yes, popcorn is a naturally gluten free food! As long as you choose popcorn toppings without gluten, popcorn is a gluten free snack.
Will popcorn make you fat?
The question, "Will [food name] make you fat?" is such a popular question. Here's the thing though, no individual food makes you fat.
It is eating an excess of calories that can lead to you putting on more body fat. Your overall dietary pattern matters most, not individual foods (especially if the foods are only enjoyed occasionally).
You could indulge in buttery popcorn occasionally, and if you are in a calorie deficit, you will likely lose weight. On the other hand, if you indulge in buttery popcorn and are regularly eating an excessive amount of calories, you will likely gain weight.
It may be easier to maintain a healthy weight following a nutrient-dense dietary pattern with sufficient protein. That doesn't mean that eating the less optimal food choices will necessarily lead to weight gain.
This air fryer popcorn provides a large volume of food for few calories. As long as you don't go overboard with the toppings, I'd consider this a healthy snack option. I enjoyed popcorn fairly regularly during my weight loss journey; it definitely did not "make me fat."
More Air Fryer Snack Recipes That You May Enjoy
Sometimes I want a sweet snack, while other times I want something savory. After you make my air fryer popcorn recipe, here are some other air fryer recipes for snacks:
- Air Fryer Maduros That are Cooked Like Tostones
- Air Fryer Jicama Fries with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce
- Breaded and "Fried" Air Fryer Mushrooms
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Air Fryer Popcorn
- 2 tablespoons popcorn kernels
- cooking oil spray of choice
- ½ tablespoon butter, melted
- salt, to taste (or other seasonings of choice)
- Lightly mist the drip pan of the air fryer oven with cooking oil spray. Pour the popcorn kernels into the pan and spread them out in a single layer.
- Take the baking tray(s) out of the air fryer. Place the drip pan in the lower rack position in your air fryer oven.
- Airfry the popcorn kernels for 10 minutes at 390°F. Keep an eye on it to make sure no popcorn ends up stuck in the heating element while it pops. Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop while the you're waiting.
- Pour the popcorn into a bowl. Drizzle with the melted butter and sprinkle with salt. Enjoy!
This is a level 2 recipe (transition or weight maintenance). Popcorn is a high volume, low calorie, and delicious whole grain snack. The main issue with popcorn is that it is rarely eaten alone. The most popular popcorn toppings (e.g., butter, oil, sugar, or maple syrup) are very high in calories. It's pretty easy to get more calories from the popcorn toppings than from the actual popcorn. If you're looking to create a low calorie popcorn snack, try misting the popcorn with a little cooking oil spray. Then sprinkle the popcorn with toppings that suit your taste. Here are a few of my favorite popcorn topping ideas:
- Nutritional yeast
- Pumpkin pie spice
- Curry powder
- Chili powder
- Parmesan cheese