Yes, you can make popcorn in your air fryer and with a little patience, this simple recipe will be your favorite go-to small batch popcorn recipe. Popcorn lovers are going to love popping popcorn in an air fryer! Super easy and a great way to make a flavorful healthy snack any time. We could all use a handy way to make popcorn without another kitchen tool like a popcorn popper, right? This simple and tasty snack is perfect for your date Netflix movie night in, or when you crave a crunchy light snack.
All air fryers use hot air similar to how an air popper does, making it a healthy easy snack. Although it’s best to use the air fryer for small batches to make popcorn, which is perfect for one or two people. Save the classic large batch for the stovetop method for the family. Making popcorn in your air fryer is easier than you think.
Why you’ll love making popcorn in an air fryer
Although there may be a lot of trial and air when you first make popcorn in an air fryer, once you master how to make it you’ll find that a quick small batch of popcorn is the perfect snack that is low in calories and quite nutritious!
- Classic stovetop traditional method recipe requires about 3 tablespoons of oil to pop the corn. In an air fryer you will use less oil, only 1 teaspoon, so this is a no fuss, no mess recipe!
- Delicious nutritious low calorie snack! One cup of popcorn is only about 50 calories, 3.6 grams of fiber, and 4 carbohydrates.
- No chemicals in air fryer popcorn. Did you know that some microwave popcorn is made with a chemical called diacetyl? Diacetyl is used to enhance the buttery flavor and smell in microwave popcorn packets. This chemical has been linked to lung disease called popcorn lung.
- Economical snack. Popcorn kernels are an inexpensive! A 32 ounce bag (4 cups) of unpopped kernels will be under $3. That’s a lot of popcorn.
What you need to make popcorn in an air fryer
Air fryer popcorn is a quick and easy, yet satisfying snack, and you only need a few ingredients and tools.
This is what you’ll need:
Air Fryer – I use a small compact air fryer like the DASH brand. Do NOT use the Instant Pot with the air fryer lid. I tried multiple times and it did not pop the popcorn. You may have a different brand, and with some trial and error you can make delicious popcorn. The instructions I share will work with most air fryers.
Plain Popcorn Kernels – Found in you grocery store usually in the snack aisle with cookies and chips. Most stores carry both white and yellow kernels.
Oil – You will want to use a little oil to lightly coat the kernels for the best tasting popcorn. I recommend using an oil with a high smoking point like avocado oil or safflower oil. Both of these can be cooked at a temperature above 400°F degrees without burning. Once the popcorn is popped you can use a cooking spray like olive oil or coconut oil. This is especially helpful for salt tor other flavors to stick to the popcorn if you aren’t flavoring the popcorn with real melted butter.
Aluminum Foil – If the air fryer brand that you use has a basket with large holes on the bottom for air flow, you will want to line your basket with aluminum foil to keep the popcorn in the basket.
How to make popcorn in your air fryer.
Making popcorn in your air fryer is an easy task that can give you the perfect crunch and homemade flavor is a small serving perfect for one person without using a microwave, for a healthier option.
Due to how rough popcorn can be on the air fryer I don’t suggest making many batches in a row to feed the whole family as any kernels that work their way into the heating element potentially getting stuck and creating a fire hazard. Your air fryer will need time when cooking other foods to work their way out if any kernels get lodged in the air fryer.
STEP 1: PREPARE AIR FRYER BASKET
Line the bottom basket of your air fryer with aluminum foil to stop kernels from falling down under the basket where they would heat to pop but just build up pressure where they would burn and possibly damage the basket of your air fryer.
STEP 2: COAT POPCORN KERNELS
In a small bowl or lunch size brown paper bag add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels and 1 teaspoon of oil. Mix the oil throughout the kernels ensuring all kernels are coated. Alternatively, secure the paper bag with a rubber band or secure with your hands and shake up the kernels coating with the oil.
STEP 3: ADD POPCORN KERNELS TO BASKET
Next, spread the popcorn kernels in a single layer evenly along the bottom of your foil lined air fryer basket.
STEP 4: AIR FRY POPCORN
Set your air fryer to 15 minutes and start the machine. This will give you enough time to cook the popcorn to perfection. Do not go over 15 minutes as this can lead to burning. When you remove your popcorn it will be like with any other method. Some kernels will be left unpopped.
Pay close attention when popping popcorn in an air fryer. If you notice that the fan has stopped working or if you get a BURN error message, then immediately turn off the air fryer. Popcorn may get lodged in the fan or heating element and this could potentially cause the fan to break.
Also, do not leave your air fryer unattended when popping popcorn. You need to listen for the popcorn to start popping. As soon as you don’t hear the kernels popping, then turn off the air fryer regardless of how much time is left on the timer.
Toppings to add to homemade popcorn
You can enjoy this with some melted butter or ghee with a sprinkle of salt or get creative with added flavor to your popped popcorn. Here are some of our favorite toppings:
- Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor or you can use a natural cheese and shred cheddar or parmesan cheese over the warm popcorn.
- Plain salt (I love Himalayan and kosher), and black pepper or garlic salt.
- Ranch Dressing Mix – use the dry mix to sprinkle over the popcorn.
- Cayenne pepper for a little spicy heat.
- Lemon and pepper seasoning mix. I know you have this stashed in your spice drawer somewhere!
- Onion powder. Sounds odd, but it’s a super easy way to add flavor. Tastes best when paired with salt.
- Italian Seasoning mix
- Taco Seasoning Mix
- Cinnamon and brown sugar mix: 1 teaspoon of brown sugar or golden sugar free substitute and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon,
- Pumpkin Pie Spice
- Chocolate drizzled popcorn is a fun way to enjoy popcorn. Drizzle melted milk, dark or white chocolate over a single layer of popcorn on a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Cool and let the chocolate harden before eating.
- Cocoa mix sprinkled on the popcorn is an easy alternative to the above.
Using aluminum foil in your air fryer
When making your air fryer popcorn you may have to make a quick adjustment to your air fryer. Most air fryers have a basket with holes that would allow the seeds to fall down and land under the basket. This would leave you with a disappointing mess rather than a tasty snack.
To combat this you can use a sheet of aluminum foil to line the bottom of your air fryer basket. Doing this creates a barrier that will keep your popcorn seeds safe and allow them to pop inside the basket where they belong.
Do you need to use oil when making popcorn in your air fryer?
Despite the name, air fryer, oil is a very important part of cooking with this handy kitchen device. To help your popcorn pop and have that perfect crunch without burning you will need to use some form of oil.
Most people simply dump some oil in with the popcorn-like they would on the stove but this is not necessary and is far from the best option. For the best popcorn in your air fryer, you want to coat the kernels with 1 teaspoon of oil that can withstand high temperature or generously coat with cooking spray. I use avocado oil, which is neutral tasting.
How much popcorn does a quarter cup of kernels make?
1/4 cup of kernels will make approximately 3-4 cups of popped popcorn.
Can you re-pop unpopped kernels?
Yes! If you notice that there are quite a few kernels left on the bottom of the basket, then lightly coat the kernels with oil a second time and pop again. However, most times I throw out the uppopped kernels and repop with fresh kernels.
More Air Fryer Recipes to try
- Air Fryer Beef Chimichanga – This is a healthier adaptation from the traditional deep fried burrito that is common in Mexican-American restaurants and homes.
- Air Fryer Zucchini Boats – Zucchini stuffed with hamburger seasoned with Italian spices, then topped with cheese. Healthy and delicious meal is ready in 20 minutes!
- Chicken Breasts Air Fried – Healthy air fryer skinless chicken breast with no breading is truly a healthy way to enjoy chicken.
How did this work for you? Let me know in the comments the brand of air fryer you used. Also, I’m looking for some different flavors to add to my popcorn. Let me know your favorite toppings!
- 1/4 cup of white or yellow popcorn kernels
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil or oil that can withstand high heat
- Salt, butter and other seasonings of your choice
- For air fryers with a basket with large air holes, line with aluminum foil securing by crimping the sides so the foil doesn't flail in the air fryer when on.
- In a small bowl add popcorn kernels and oil. Stir until popcorn kernels are well coated with the oil.
- Place kernels in the air fryer basket. Spread kernels in a single layer across the bottom of the air fryer.
- Turn temperature to 400°F degrees and timer to 15 minutes. After 5 minutes listen carefully for the kernels to pop. When the popping subsides turn off the air fryer.
- Enjoy with salt and melted butter or your favorite savory or sweet toppings.
See post for tips.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 155Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 367mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
Please note that the nutritional information provided are guidelines and may vary based on the brand of products used. For your specific nutritional goals use My Fitness Pal or Verywell Fit recipe calculators. All content within this site is not intended as medical diagnosis or treatment and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical expertise.
This recipe was first published May, 2014 and has since been updated with additional photos and step by step details, March 2022.
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