How to Microwave Gourmet Popcorn in a Brown Paper Bag

Peeeeee-yew! I’m done with the stinky stench of microwave popcorn. Actually, I haven’t popped a single bag of that toxic smelling stuff in years since I hate the thought of being swindled by a stank bag of greasy kernels. That’s right people, I’m calling foul on microwave popcorn since it’s a reeking wallet rip off.

Doing the mathy math, microwave popcorn costs around $22.65 for 12 boxes with 3 packets per box (source Amazon) — that’s an eye-popping $3.53 per pound!

healthy snacks popcorn

Sure, you may think you’re paying all that delicious cash for a magic metal-lined bag that pops better kernels and cooks your corn more evenly. But think again. I can do the same popping magic trick with a cheapo plain brown paper bag. And at a tasty 50 cents per pound, plain popcorn kernels bought in bulk cost FAR less than that slimy packaged stuff.

Now let me pop the big question: have you ever recycled your leftover microwave popcorn bags? I cringe to think how much of this product graces our landfills, all in the name of snack food. But no fear, by switching your home movie snacking habit using this frugal trick, you can compost or recycle your used brown paper bags and create no waste. See How To Compost Without Raising a Stink for easy composting help.

Speaking of waist, do you know how many calories are contained in those popcorn flavor packets? What about the ingredients? Here’s the ingredient list from the Act II popcorn page on Amazon. Note: I couldn’t find this information on the company’s website.

Act II Popcorn Ingredients: Popcorn, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Annatto Color. Contains: Fish, Milk

Fish? Milk? In my popcorn? Um, no thanks. I’ll skip the hydrogenated oil, fish, and milk additives in my snacks by sticking to my frugalicious and homemade popcorn version. Here’s how to make Microwave Popcorn in a Brown Paper Bag:

Step One: Get a brown paper bag

This is ridiculously easy, internet people. Just head on over to your local grocery store and pickup a package of no name flat-bottomed brown paper lunch bags.

brown paper bag

I nabbed a package of 100 brown bags for around $2, on sale.

Step Two: Bag your popcorn

Add a 1/2 cup scoop of bulk popcorn kernels to your brown paper bag.

how to make popcorn

Fold the bag over twice. Don’t use staples to secure the bag — this might spark in your microwave.

popcorn recipe

This is so exciting. I’m popping with excitement.

Step Three: Pop in microwave

Stick the popcorn bag into your microwave. I set mine for 3 minutes on high.

microwave popcorn healthy snacks

gourmet popcorn recipe

Popping Tip: Stop the microwave when the popping slows to one to two pops per second. You don’t want to burn your tasty snack.

Step Four: Add gourmet topping

A pinch of salt with a dab of butter is the most popular way to eat popcorn.

gourmet popcorn

But why not get creative and try some sweet or savory flavors to mix up movie night?

Try these toppings for some gourmet popcorn fun:

  • Mexican: Add chili powder, hot sauce, and salt.
  • Kiss My Breath: Shake in onion powder and garlic powder — hold the kiss.
  • Cheese Please: Mix in Parmesan cheese with a little salt.
  • Sweet Tooth: A dash of cinnamon, a sprinkle of sugar, and a topper of honey. Now that’s money.
  • Classic: A shake of salt with a pat of butter.

popcorn

Squawkfox: How do YOU make popcorn? Got a favorite gourmet popcorn topping to share?

Your two cents:

  1. Rose June 24th, 2013

    I use the Presto Powerpop that uses the powercups. The reason I use this is because I like using olive oil or coconut oil and salt. You put the oil in first and I put in 1/4 tsp of salt and then 1/3 cup of popcorn. You can also not add anything and just pop and it’s just like air popped. I no longer use the cheap Walmart brand popcorn (lol) and stepped up and have been using Orville Redenbacher (for a few dollars more) and using a better brand does make a difference! Not just Orville but use brands more expensive than Walmart (c’mon).
    Lastly, instead of depending on my ears to listen to the popping rhythm, I downloaded an app called Perfect Pop. It was created primarily for Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn, but it works great for detecting the popcorn pops and helps avoid burning the popcorn.

  2. Gale July 1st, 2013

    My hubby always ate the microwave popcorn, but I used either my air popper and then the crazy popper. He didn’t want to wait for my popcorn … But he paid the ultimate price .. He developed esophageal cancer and died on me.

    The only difference in our diets were the popcorn, diet soda drinks and crappy chocolate bars.

  3. Goddesque July 26th, 2013

    I use a white paper lunch bag, lay it on its side in the microwave, and I use the tip of a steak knife to poke a few holes in the side of the bag once it’s all folded up. This lets steam escape and makes the popcorn much more crispy. Do buy high-quality popcorn for this (like Orville Redenbacher kernels) because a jar still lasts forever, and the fresh kernels pop so fast! A 1/2 cup of Orville’s in a paper bag pops in 2:10 in my microwave.

  4. Jess Garcia July 30th, 2013

    My mom taught me to use the pan instead of the microwave and my favorite thing to do when I have a sweet tooth is add coconut oil, some agave nectar or honey, cayenne pepper, himalayan pink salt (so much more subtle than regular table salt) , and cinnamon! Seriously, I highly recommend it. It is my go-to snack food to make when I have a lot of guests over.

  5. Ron Smyth August 7th, 2013

    I hope millions of people follow your advice! But how about the old fashioned way? I use a regular pot with a lid, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, turn the stove on high, and pop away! Shaking the pot while holding the lid in place makes it feel like you’re actually cooking! And of course after you dump the popcorn into a bowl (or better, separate bowls for everyone) you just let the pot cool down for a minute and it will melt the butter for you at no extra charge. But if you just drizzle olive oil on it along with the salt, you won’t notice the difference. The same applies to corn on the cob. Try it! BTW Gale, you’re hilarious. I’ll bet your late husband got a lot of laughs with you! It’s nice that you can have a sense of humour after losing him.

  6. paul October 11th, 2013

    You mean after all these years…it us/people this long to try and use just regular paper bag. I guess we were all afraid the bag would go up in flames.

    In the 80’s my grandmother used to just do it on a big pot on the stove. Not really that bib fan of pop corn bought a few boxes of microwave corn when came on sale at 1/2 price. but stopped buying even when it was on sale

    …the ingredients are really nasty….PLUS POSSIBLE CARCINOGENIC COATED BAGS…I later read about

  7. Bec November 12th, 2013

    melt some coconut oil and drizzle it on the popcorn with a pinch of salt – tastes like tropical popcorn heaven!

  8. Linda January 18th, 2014

    After popping spray with olive oil or canola oil, sprinkle with a little salt and parmesan cheese. I purchased a large plastic popcorn popper with a vented lid almost 20 years ago and have enjoyed the better taste and savings over bagged popcorn all these years.

  9. Wendy M February 25th, 2014

    Here’s a quick tip for everyone, you can buy cheap popcorn kernels and get great results if you store the unpopped kernels in the freezer!

  10. Chanel March 18th, 2014

    Franks red hot then ranch seasoning on top! Yum!!

  11. Tiffany April 6th, 2014

    Just made homemade fiddle faddle. Pop popcorn as directed place in a large bowl. Put a hand full of peanuts on top (I used honey roasted). In a pot melt one stick of butter and add 1 cup of light brown sugar. Keep on medium low heat. And stir until all sugar is melted. Add to popcorn peanut mixture and stir with rubber spatula Bcareful

  12. Mary June 21st, 2014

    I am struggling with this. Only half the popcorn pop in my bag.
    What am I doing wrong?

  13. Angela Greco July 25th, 2014

    My favorite toppings are Nutella, and peanut butter!!! I put a spoonful of nutella and another spoonful of peanut butter on a plate and nuke for only a few seconds until they both become smoother and more liquify. then dip the popcorn in either separately or together. Soooo yummy. I also like to make my popcorn like I make nachos. Cut up avocado and add salsa and some cheese. The salsa makes the popcorn a little mushy but i kinda like it that way Its really good too.

  14. Mark Braun October 4th, 2014

    We do this, too!

    Look for different popcorns at farmers markets and organics shows, too.

  15. Mary corbett October 22nd, 2014

    use dental floss and at least 3-4 day old popcorn for stringing for Christmas. Works the best. Fresh popcorn is too brittle and the dentalfloss strings nicely.Can also put cranberries between the popcorn. ( Just a tip from someone who has done this before)

  16. Eric Joanis November 1st, 2014

    Four years later, this is still a useful reference. Today, the kid wants his popcorn in the microwave instead of in a pan, so thanks, old friend, for keeping this classic online!

  17. Tanya November 25th, 2014

    You say you don’t want milk in your popcorn but then you add butter???

  18. Sarah January 19th, 2015

    I was sitting at the pharmacy waiting for my refill and read their healthy eating magazine. In back of it was how to make healthy popcorn in a brown paper bag. Well I tried it and its great! I put in alittle less than a half cup and fold it 3 times like the magazine said. I leave it in for 1:55 min. and it comes out not burnt. I can’t put salt or butter on it because of high BP and cholesterol. So I eat it plain or you can put garlic powder on it or cinnamin. Parmesean cheese is DELICIOUS on it but that is filled with salt and fat. What I like is that it doesn’t crumble in your hand like air popping machines do to the popcorn. Even plain from the bag it tastes good. Healthiest way to eat it. It it with salt or butter and I guarentee you that you will end up with high BP and cholesterol in your 50’s or 60’s!

  19. MarkBraun January 28th, 2015

    MANY years ago, I learned how to also cook bacon and eggs in a brown paper bag on both a car’s manifold and on a backyard grill, the bag absorbing the fat and allowing the egs to fry before the bag burned on a grill. Brown paper bags are excellent in that, they’re not something that will pollute once discarded.

    Regarding the bag o’popcorn, I regularly test food stuff for a couple of publications (and Amazon Vine). There is a popcorn salts and/or oil that theaters use, Kernel Season’s, that is a bit safer to use and buttery-tasting jut like a theater’s.

    I agree, butter is unbeatable, but in the morning when I do a glucose test, I don’t want to risk high numbers over old habits. What your tastebuds crave are the oils on the popcorn; start searching for an alternative.

    Glad so many of us know this brown bag cooking thing!

  20. Mike February 6th, 2015

    For all of you who have set fire to your popcorn in the microwave, if you’re cooking it much longer than 2 minutes, you’re asking for trouble. When I saw some people writing it caught fire after 3:30 minutes, I was astounded. You can bring a quart of soup from room temperature to a full boil in 3 minutes. When you can say ‘one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand’ between the popping noises, PRESS STOP!!! Your popcorn is done!

  21. Carol February 7th, 2015

    I tried this 1/2 cup was too much for my powerful microwave and ended up popping a hole in bottom of bag making popped carnival and kernels all over the inside of my microwave I immediately stopped it still has enough popped corn to enjoy going to use 1/4 cup next time and less time popcorn was good

  22. Allan Day May 26th, 2015

    If you want to secure the bag closed in your microwave try plastic paper clips. :))

  23. Andy Kuiper July 17th, 2015

    I could write a very authoritative article on how to consistently burn microwave popcorn – that’s for sure lol
    *I’m not giving up 😉

  24. John Eider October 26th, 2015

    Great idea, can’t wait to try it, but the hysterical comments freaking out over microwave popcorn was really over the top and made you look like a nut.

  25. MadJayhawk December 25th, 2015

    I have used the ultimate corn popper – the Whirly Popper for years but will give this idea a try.

    From long experience: do not go cheap on popcorn kernels. I use Orville Redenbacher.

    My father-in-law planted some Orville Redenbacher once, harvested it, and gave each one of his kids 5-10 lbs of the best popcorn we ever had. We froze it and use a little at a time. Good stuff.

  26. beansoupers December 27th, 2015

    The hard part is finding the brown paper bags if you want a bigger one than the lunch size. They are nearly impossible to get anymore. I usually make Puppy Chow at Christmas time, but the big brown paper bag is a very important part of that recipe because it helps to soak up any excess oils from the peanut butter, etc. I only use REAL peanut butter from the HFS (it’s just peanuts, ground up to a fine paste/butter, nothing else added).

    Any suggestions where one might find big brown paper bags? Maybe online somewhere, in bulk?

  27. beansoupers December 27th, 2015

    As a matter of fact, my Mom used to have a recipe for making caramel corn in a brown paper bag in the microwave and it was delicious. That was back when microwaves were a lot bigger than they are now, at least a lot bigger than the one I have.

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