How to pop oil-free popcorn without an air popper

Updated April 17, 2017

How healthy popcorn is all depends on how you prepare and serve it. For example, popping corn on the stove requires oil, and microwave popcorn is usually loaded with fake butter. For this reason, many people choose oil-free methods. This usually requires an air popper, but there are other ways to make oil-free popcorn. Best of all, it's easy to make oil-free popcorn that's healthy and flavourful.

Place 1/2 cup popcorn kernels in a microwave-safe bowl, preferably a glass or stoneware bowl. Plastic bowls can become damaged due to the hot kernels bouncing against the side of the bowl. Also, make sure the bowl is large enough to contain the expanding kernels. A 3-quart bowl is perfect because it is large enough to keep the kernels in place without needing to be covered.

Microwave for 4 to 5 minutes or until fully popped. As with any popcorn prepared in the microwave, you need to stay close by. Each microwave has a different power level, which means that some microwaves will complete this process in 4 minutes, while others may take more time. As soon as the popping starts to slow down, remove the popcorn immediately to prevent burning.

Spread popcorn in an even layer on the baking tray. While plain popcorn is delicious, it's more satisfying to add a bit of flavour. Spreading the popcorn in an even layer ensures that every piece will get covered in flavour.

Coat with butter- or olive-oil-flavoured cooking spray. Cooking spray is low in calories but still adds great flavour. Butter-flavoured cooking sprays are great for sweet applications, while olive oil works best with herbs and cayenne pepper. Remember that cooking spray isn't free of calories, so use it sparingly.

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or your favourite seasonings immediately and toss. This ensures that the seasonings stick to the popcorn and are distributed evenly. Some of the best seasonings include chives and cayenne pepper, but if you want something sweet, flavoured sugars are also delicious.


One cup of air popped popcorn has around 30 calories. Tongs make it easy to toss the popcorn. You can use a sugar substitute in place of sugar.


Never leave the microwave unattended. Burnt popcorn smell can take weeks to remove.

Things You'll Need

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • Microwave-safe bowl
  • Baking tray
  • Butter- or olive-oil-flavoured cooking spray
  • Cinnamon sugar
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About the Author

Amy Brantley has been a writer since 2006, contributing to numerous online publications. She specializes in business, finance, food, decorating and pets.