Air Fryer Popcorn is one of our favourite quick & easy homemade snacks.
Looking for a healthy vegetarian snack to enjoy while watching a movie on the couch? Air Fryer Popcorn is more nutritious than it’s movie theatre counterpart as it contains no additives, flavourings or colours. You also have the ability to control the amount of fat and salt in each batch.
Our simple Air Fryer recipe features wholesome ingredients like popcorn kernels, vegetable oil and salt.
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History of Popcorn
Popcorn is a variety of corn kernel, which expands and puffs when heated.
A popcorn kernel’s hull contains the seed’s hard, starchy shell endosperm with 14–20% moisture, which turns to steam as the kernel is heated. Pressure from the steam continues to build until the hull ruptures, allowing the kernel to forcefully expand, from 20 to 50 times its original size, and then cool.
Culinary historians believe corn was originally domesticated 10,000 years ago in what is now Mexico. Archaeologists discovered that people have known about popcorn for thousands of years. In Mexico, for example, remnants of popcorn have been found that date circa 3600 BC. Fossil evidence from Peru suggests that corn was popped as early as 4700 BC.
Through the 19th century, popping of corn kernels was achieved by hand on stove tops. Kernels were sold on the East Coast of the United States under names such as Pearls or Nonpareil. The term popped corn first appeared in John Russell Bartlett’s 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms.
Charles Cretor of Chicago is often credited as the inventor of modern popcorn, thanks to his invention of the mobile popcorn cart in the 1880s.
In modern times, homemade popcorn became accessible for families as air poppers and microwave popcorn bags became mainstream.
Most recently, Air Fryer Popcorn has become the recipe rage with curious cooks seeking a fast and healthy way to make their favourite movie theatre snack at home.
My Family Loves Air Fryer Popcorn
My family is obsessed with homemade popcorn.
In the olden days back when Blockbuster was a thing (RIP) my family used to rent movies every weekend. My father is a known snack expert with a penchant for carbs, so he’d always make a big bowl for us to pass across the couch.
When dad was feeling lazy he’d buy a few bags of Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn. My mom always took issue with microwave popcorn as it had so many additives like colours, imitation butter flavours and an unnecessary amount of salt and fat.
My parents bought an air popcorn machine so they could control the ingredients in their favourite DIY snack. The problem was they just ended up adding a lot of melted butter and salt so I wouldn’t have described the dish as newly nutritious.
Wondering if you can cook popcorn in an air fryer? Yes, yes you can!
Air Fryer Popcorn is a modern day marvel for home cooks who have a movie theatre snacking habit. Air Fryers require less fat and cook food much quicker than microwave or stovetop popcorn.
Once your homemade Air Fryer Popcorn is finished popping, you can add additional toppings like melted butter, herbs & spices, shredded cheese or popcorn seasoning.
Best Air Fryers
An air fryer is a small countertop convection oven designed to simulate deep frying without submerging the food in oil. A fan circulates hot air at high speed, producing a crisp layer via browning reactions.
In 2010, Philips introduced the Airfryer brand of convection oven at a consumer electronics fair in Berlin. It used the patented Rapid Air technology, though the term air fryer is now used generically.
Early air fryers were barrel-shaped, though more recently, many have come to resemble toaster ovens and pressure cookers, offering additional functions like toasting, baking, dehydrating and rotisserie.
A decade after their launch, Air Fryers are now one of the trendiest kitchen appliance. They are particularly popular with gourmands living in condos or apartments in big cities like Toronto as they reduce the number of appliances taking up space in your kitchen.
- Hamilton Beach: I tested this recipe with a Hamilton Beach toaster oven-style air fryer. They are an excellent option for those looking for an affordable air fryer and I particularly like mine as it allowed me to replace my toaster, dehydrator and rotisserie. It’s also easier to spread food out and make it crispy by using a baking tray rather than a basket.
- Instant Vortex: This popular air fryer is brought to you by the inventors of the popular Instant Pot. It’s 6 quart capacity features an easy to clean tray that air frys, roasts and bakes.
- COSORI: This 5.8 quart air fryer is an 11-in-1 cooker featuring a nonstick basket and helpful shake reminder setting.
- Ninja: This premium brand is the perfect option for those looking to invest in a heavy duty stainless steel air fryer. The product has been designed to look similar to an Instant Pot, with the top of the air fryer flipping backwards so you can easily lower a basket filled with food.
- NuWave: This sleek digital air fryer features a traditional removable basket and reaches temperatures up to 390 F.
How To Make Homemade Air Fryer Popcorn
Our air fryer popcorn recipe is so easy to make you’ll have it ready to snack on for your next movie night in less than 10 minutes!
There are two methods to making air fryer popcorn, which depend on the style of air fryer you are using.
- Traditional Basket: air fryers with a removable basket are still the most common. In order to make Air Fryer popcorn in these machines you need to create a basket to hold the kernels by moulding aluminum foil into the shape of a plate. This ensures the corn kernels do not fall through the holes in the basket. The popcorn can get a bit messy using this method but clean up is easy once the device has cooled.
- Toaster Oven Tray: modern air fryers featuring a glass door and tray configuration make it easy to prepare air fryer popcorn at home. Toss the corn kernels in an aluminum steam pan and loosely cover with aluminum foil, creating a bulge in the centre to give the kernels space to pop and expand. This is a less messy method and you can always reuse the pan once cleaned.
Air Fryer Popcorn Cooking Tips
- Preheating your air fryer is essential as it needs to get hot so that once the corn kernels go in, they pop immediately.
- It is very important that you spread out the corn kernels into a single layer. Add so much popcorn that it crowds the space and it won’t evenly pop.
- It is unlikely all the kernels will pop at the same time. We suggest cooking in batches and removing the popped popcorn every few minutes. If you leave the basket or tray in the air fryer until all the kernels pop then the ones that popped first will burn.
- Air fryers vary dramatically from one brand or unit to the next. There’s definitely a lot of trial and error required to determine the best way to cook popcorn in your air fryer. If it’s your first time making popcorn in an air fryer be sure to stand in front of the appliance, ready to remove the basket or tray if you start to notice any smoking.
- It seems like there is a law of nature stipulating that you’re always going to end up with some unpopped kernels at the end of your cook time. You can increase your odds of popping every kernel by reducing the number of kernels you place in your basket or tray.
Air Fryer Popcorn Ingredients
Our simple air fryer popcorn recipe features just 3 ingredients.
We try to limit the ingredients cooking in the air fryer (especially if using a basket) as it will reduce the mess you have to clean up after. We suggest tossing the cooked air fryer popcorn in flavourings just before you’re ready to sit down and enjoy your homemade snack.
- Popcorn Kernels: purchase your favourite dried corn kernels like Orville Redenbacher.
- Vegetable Oil: we like using canola oil as it is affordable, flavourless and has a high smoking point. You can also use coconut oil, avocado oil or olive oil.
- Kosher Salt: we prefer using this flaky salt for its mouthfeel.
Air Fryer Popcorn Toppings
Once your air fryer popcorn has finished popping add it to a large mixing bowl or divide it into smaller bowls if you’re hosting a film or Netflix party for friends.
You can enjoy this simple air fryer popcorn recipe as is, or have fun by tossing in flavourful ingredients.
- Melted Butter: add a few tablespoons of butter to a dish and microwave until melted. Slowly pour over the popcorn and toss to give your snack a wholesome old school butter flavour.
- Parmesan & Black Pepper: toss the cooked popcorn with finely grated parmigiano reggiano and a few cracks of black pepper.
- Popcorn Seasoning: can be purchased online or at your grocery store and feature flavours like All Dressed, Sweet & Salty, White Cheddar, Dilly Pickle and Salt & Vinegar.
- Garlic Sriracha Popcorn: the perfect DIY topping for spicy food lovers.
- Ras El Hanout Chocolate Popcorn: a Middle Eastern flavoured snack drizzled with sweet chocolate.
- Peanut Butter Popcorn: finger-licking-good snack idea for nut lovers.
- Buffalo Popcorn: inspired by your favourite chicken wings.
- Birthday Cake Popcorn: perfect idea for a kids birthday party if movie watching is the big event.
- Chile Lime Tequila Popcorn: yummy snack idea for taco lovers.
- Kimchi Nori Popcorn: fans of Korean and Japanese food enjoy this savoury recipe featuring distinct kimchi flavour.
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Best Easy Air Fryer Popcorn Recipe
Homemade Air Fryer Popcorn
- Air Fryer
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- Aluminum Foil
- Aluminum Steam Pan
- 1/4 tsp Oil (canola, coconut, avocado, olive)
- 1/4 cup Popcorn Kernels
- 1/8 tsp Kosher Salt
- Preheat air fryer to 400 F.
- Toss popcorn kernels, oil and salt in a disposable aluminum steam pan. Cover the top with aluminum foil, ensuring the foil bulges in the centre to allow the kernels to pop.
- Place pan in the air fryer and cook for 4-5 minutes. Listen carefully to the popping and once they start to infrequently pop remove the tray to ensure the popcorn does not burn.
- Pick out popped popcorn and set aside in large mixing bowl. Return pan filled with unpopped kernels to air fryer, being sure to secure with tin foil again.
- Cook 3 minutes, then remove. Pick out popped popcorn and add to large bowl. Discard any remaining unpopped kernels.
- Toss and serve immediately.
- Feel free to add additional flavourings like melted butter, flavoured popcorn seasonings, grated parmesan cheese, dried chives, onion & garlic powder, chili powder or nutritional yeast.
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