If you’ve never tried air fryer popcorn before, you are in for a treat!
The roasted flavor is reminiscent of movie theater popcorn, but without all of the excess oil.
Since air fryers don’t require oil, you can make this recipe as low fat as you choose.
If you cook popcorn on the stove, you do need some oil to keep it from burning.
A standalone hot air popper is also a great choice for high popcorn consumption families since you can pop a lot all at once.
However, using an air fryer yields a delightful roasted flavor that you just don’t get with a traditional hot air popper.
Many people have concerns about the health implications of microwave popcorn, so air frying can be a safer option when it comes to the ingredients you use.
Another nice benefit of air frying your popcorn is that almost all the kernels pop, which isn’t always the case with other cooking methods.
I anticipate using the air fryer any time I want just one or two bowls of popcorn, and using a hot air popper when I want to make a full batch.
Using my trick below, air frying requires less cleanup than the hot air popper, which is a huge plus!
Many people think of popcorn as a healthy snack primarily in contrast to other competing snacks like potato chips.
However, popcorn is a whole grain that contains fiber and antioxidants. You can read more nutritional info here (from WebMD).
Air fryer popcorn – a note on safety
I confess, I almost didn’t make this recipe.
Many people talked about the delicious roasted flavor, and I do love popcorn.
However, the way most people were making air fried popcorn – covering the basket with aluminum foil and pouring the unpopped kernels in – carries a level of risk.
While of course most cooking bears some level of risk, the heating elements and fans in air fryers aren’t covered.
That means that if an unpopped kernel of corn shot up into the fan or heating element, which is quite possible, the air fryer could short, causing a fire hazard (not to mention ruining an expensive piece of equipment).
Even if this didn’t happen, I’d have to scrub the almost inevitable burned pieces of popcorn off the heating elements before using the air fryer again.
I almost gave up on my idea of making popcorn in the air fryer.
However, I love popcorn, so I started thinking of possible solutions.
Then, a quick Google search revealed that self-contained rotating mesh baskets exist – ones that fit in air fryers!
While they seem to be intended for rotisserie chicken, you can also use them for roasting chiles or nuts, dehydrating fruit, and of course, popping popcorn!
This basket solves the safety dilemma, and opens the door to future recipes.
I did not get the skewer that many people buy with it, so mine does not currently rotate, but for popcorn that is just fine.
Tips and Info for Best Results
I did not preheat the air fryer first. This makes it harder for you to burn any popcorn.
When I cooked 1/4 cup all at once, I took the basket out after 8 minutes and 20 seconds. It had started popping around the 5 minute mark. The basket was mostly full of perfectly cooked popcorn.
Once I allowed it to cool enough to handle and put all the popped corn in a bowl, I put the remaining unpopped kernels back in the air fryer.
It wasn’t preheated per se since I left the door open, but it was still pretty warm.
For round two, the kernels started popping around the 4 minute mark, and then cooked really fast.
Avoid letting popped corn sit roasting in the air fryer for more than about 2 minutes or so on a second round/preheated air fryer, as it can go from pleasantly roasted to almost burned very quickly.
Not all the kernels will pop at the same time, so while I only took out the popped corn once in the middle of cooking, you may wish to stop it every 2-3 minutes to take it out, depending on how much of a roasted flavor you want.
Air Fryer Popcorn Ingredients
Before you begin, you will need:
- 2 Tbsp unpopped popcorn kernels (for one serving/batch – use 1/4 cup for two bowls and two rounds of air frying)
- Cooking spray (optional – I used olive oil spray)
- Salt (optional)
- Any additional seasonings of your choice
Tools and Equipment
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- An air fryer
- A rotating mesh basket (this is the one I bought)
How to Safely Make Air Fryer Popcorn
- To begin, make sure your air fryer is set to the air fry feature and set to 400°.
- After that, measure out your popcorn kernels and pour them into your mesh basket.
- If desired, spritz the unpopped kernels with cooking spray over the sink or somewhere easy to clean up (recommended for better flavor).
- Close the mesh basket, place it in the air fryer, and cook for approximately 8.5 minutes.
- Once the popcorn sounds done (see notes above), use potholders to carefully remove the mesh basket from the air fryer and place it on a cutting board or somewhere to cool – the metal will be hot!
- After a couple minutes have passed, you can safely retrieve your popcorn! Add any addition toppings desired, and enjoy!
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Suggestions for Toppings
I only spritzed cooking oil on the unpopped kernels, and that was quite tasty, much more so than plain air popped popcorn.
However, for more flavor, you could spritz more cooking oil on the popcorn once it’s done and sprinkle some salt.
Here are some ideas for more flavorful popcorn, many of which you can simply melt in the microwave while your corn is popping:
- Melted butter and salt (or oil of your choice – coconut oil might add great flavor)
- Try flavored finishing salt like truffle salt, or herb blends like Mrs. Dash
- Melted white chocolate and sprinkles
- Melted chocolate (with or without add-ins like peanut butter, marshmallows, or instant coffee)
- Nutritional yeast flakes (try some with liquid aminos for a savory vegan combo)
- Finely grated cheese
- Caramel drizzle
Related Air Fryer Recipes
Korean sweet potato fries (The full recipe with four potatoes I recommend baking in the oven, but you’ll see the variation that if you are only making 1-2 potatoes, an air fryer is more efficient, as it is for many single serve meals.)
- 2 Tbsp unpopped popcorn kernels
- Cooking spray
1. To begin, make sure your air fryer is set to the air fry feature and set to 400°.
2. After that, measure out your popcorn kernels and pour them into your rotating mesh basket.
3. If desired, spritz the unpopped kernels with cooking spray over the sink or somewhere easy to clean up (recommended for better flavor).
4. Close the mesh basket, place it in the air fryer, and cook for approximately 8.5 minutes.
5. Once the popcorn sounds done (see notes above), use potholders to carefully remove the mesh basket from the air fryer and place it on a cutting board or somewhere to cool - the metal will be hot!
6. After a couple minutes have passed, you can safely retrieve your popcorn! Add any addition toppings desired, and enjoy!
Pop corn in a rotating mesh basket for safety. Putting kernels loose in an air fryer can be a fire hazard.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 8Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 8mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g