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How To Make Popcorn In An Air Fryer

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Is there anything you can’t make in an air fryer? From French fries, roast chicken, and crispy bacon to cakes, cookies, and donuts—the possibilities are endless!

Air fryers are an incredibly versatile kitchen appliance that you can also use to make wonderfully light and fluffy popcorn for your movie nights at home or just as a healthy snack.

So, how to make popcorn in an air fryer? Making air fryer popcorn is super easy and requires just a few basic tools and ingredients. The ideal temperature for air fryer popcorn is 400°F and the recommended cooking time is between 7-9 minutes, depending on the type of air fryer.

Read on for step-by-step instructions on how to make popcorn in an air fryer, along with some useful tips and tricks to make sure they come out perfectly fluffy every single time!

Can You Make Popcorn In An Air Fryer?

Yes, you can! You can simply switch on the air fryer and make some delicious popcorn for your post-dinner snack cravings or when you want to enjoy something while you watch a movie.

It is a complete game-changer and requires hardly 10 minutes from prepping to serving. Also, it is a much healthier option than microwave popcorn and it is much easier to cook the kernels.

Traditional methods for making popcorn, such as using the stovetop, require about 3 tablespoons of oil for the kernels to pop. In an air fryer, you can easily make do with just a teaspoon!

You can keep it super simple with some salt and butter, or be creative with the flavors and toppings.

In addition to that, you can keep the mess to a minimum by adding a layer of aluminum foil to the base of the air fryer (read below for safety tips on how to use aluminum foil in an air fryer).

What Do You Need To Make Popcorn In An Air Fryer?

Making popcorn in an air fryer is super simple and easy, requiring only a few basic tools and ingredients to make the yummiest and healthiest popcorn you’ve ever munched on.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Air Fryer

The first thing you’ll need to make popcorn in an air fryer is, well, an air fryer. There are several options to choose from and you may pick the best one depending on your usual cooking needs and habits.

Make sure to use an air fryer big enough to handle the popping. If you have a smaller air fryer, use fewer kernels at a time.

Read the user manual from the manufacturer for detailed instructions on how to use your specific air fryer model.

Plain Popcorn Kernels

For air fryer popcorn, you’ll need plain popcorn kernels that you can find in any supermarket or grocery store.

You can get white or yellow kernels, depending on your preference.


For the best-tasting popcorn, you will need a little bit of oil to coat the kernels. The oil helps the popcorn pop easily and gives it that perfect crunch without burning.

It is recommended to use an oil with a high smoking point, such as avocado oil or safflower oil, both of which can be heated above 400°F (the ideal temperature to cook popcorn) without burning.

You may also use a light spray of olive oil or coconut oil on the popped kernels to make the other flavors and seasonings stick to them.

Aluminum Foil

If your air fryer basket has large holes that the kernels can fall through, you may want to line it with a single layer of aluminum foil to prevent that from happening.

To make sure the air circulates properly, roll up the edges and place the foil only in the bottom of the air fryer basket and not in the bottom of the pan where oil and grease tend to fall.

To be extra safe, you can make a few small holes in the aluminum foil to ensure the right amount of air is flowing through.

Although it is safe to use aluminum foil in an air fryer, since there are so many different models of air fryers, it is best to read the user manual that came with your air fryer to be sure.

How To Make Popcorn In An Air Fryer

Making popcorn in an air fryer is super easy and a healthier alternative to microwave popcorn for a small serving for a single person.

Here are step-by-step instructions for you to follow:

1. Prepare The Air Fryer

Start by lining the base of the air fryer basket with aluminum foil to prevent the kernels from falling through the big holes

Make sure to leave around half an inch around the sides or roll up the edges for proper air circulation.

Next, preheat the air fryer to 400°F, which is the ideal temperature for making popcorn. Any lower than this and the kernels won’t pop.

2. Coat The Popcorn Kernels

Take ¼ cup of popcorn kernels and coat them with about 1 teaspoon of oil. You can use any oil of your choice. Just keep in mind that it should have a high smoking point of at least 400°F.

You can take a small bowl, add the popcorn kernels and oil, and mix them to make sure all the kernels are properly coated. You can mix them with a spoon or cover the bowl with a lid to shake the contents inside.

3. Add The Popcorn Kernels To The Air Fryer Basket

After the air fryer has preheated and the kernels have been coated in oil, spread them on the aluminum-lined air fryer basket.

Make sure to spread the kernels evenly and in a single layer, and prevent overcrowding.

If you have a small air fryer, reduce the amount of kernels you use at a time. Keep in mind that the kernels will pop and will need and take up much more space than what they started with.

4. Air Fry The Popcorn

Set the fryer to 15 minutes, making sure to listen carefully for the kernels to pop.

Depending on the type of air fryer, the popcorn should be ready in 7-9 minutes, which is the recommended time to cook the popcorn to perfection.

There is no exact time for air frying popcorn and you will often have to go with an estimate, as some air fryers are more powerful than others.

A good indicator of knowing when the popcorn is ready is to hear when the popping stops. The trick is to keep a close eye (and ear) on the popcorn and stop the timer when the kernels stop popping.

5. Add The Flavorings And Seasonings

Salt and butter are classic popcorn flavorings and there’s no doubt about that. For classic buttery popcorn, simply pour melted butter over the popcorn, toss to coat, and sprinkle it with some salt.

When it comes to seasoning popcorn, the sky is the limit and you can get super creative with various flavor combinations.

Some popular savory toppings include:

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Ranch dressing mix
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Lemon and pepper seasoning mix
  • Onion powder
  • Italian seasoning mix
  • Taco seasoning mix

Some great sweet toppings include:

  • Cinnamon and brown sugar
  • Melted milk, dark, or white chocolate
  • Caramel
  • Peanut butter
  • Maple syrup
  • Coconut flakes
  • Chocolate chips
  • Honey
  • Pumpkin pie spice

Tips For Making Popcorn In An Air Fryer

Making popcorn in an air fryer is easy and very straightforward. There are, however, a few tips to make sure you don’t burn them and they come out super fluffy and crunchy every time.

  • Never omit using oil since the popcorn kernels need it to start popping. Oil is an important ingredient to use to ensure a good success rate for air fryer popcorn.
  • Use an adequately-sized air fryer that has ample space to allow the kernels to pop. If your air fryer is small, reduce the number of kernels used.
  • Preheating is essential so that the air fryer is hot when the kernels go in. If not, you may end up with more burnt kernels than actual popcorn.
  • Regularly shake the air fryer basket to make sure the kernels at the bottom are getting cooked. Don’t open it too much or the popcorn will start coming out of it.
  • It is incredibly important to spread out the kernels in a single layer since overcrowding may cause them to not pop evenly.
  • Since it can be a bit difficult to get all the kernels to pop at the same time, it is best to work in small batches and remove the popped kernels every few minutes. Waiting for all the kernels to pop will cause the ones that popped early to burn.
  • To make the popcorn taste like movie theatre popcorn, you can use an ingredient called Flavacol, which is a butter-flavored salt that gives the popcorn an enhanced buttery flavor and signature yellow color, similar to those you get at the movies! You can buy it here on Amazon.

Is Air Fryer Popcorn Healthy?

Popcorn is one of the most popular snacks around the world, enjoyed the most at movie theatres and carnivals. At its best, it is a healthy snack that is low in calories and fats, virtually sodium-free, and a great source of dietary fiber.

However, the way that popcorn is made can have a huge impact on its nutritional value, with microwave popcorn sacrificing nutrition for flavor and convenience.

Microwave popcorn is not only high in calories and sodium, and lower in fiber, but it also often contains trans fats that promote unhealthy cholesterol.

Air fryer popcorn, on the other hand, is made from pure popcorn kernels that contain no chemicals or artificial flavors and make use of much less oil compared to other methods of making popcorn, such as on a stovetop.

The stovetop method uses a lot of oil to allow the kernels to pop, but it isn’t all bad news. If you choose the oil wisely, this method can provide a source of healthy fats that are helpful for brain health and energy. 

Avoid using corn, soybean, and sunflower oil, and instead go for options such as coconut, avocado, or grapeseed oil. They not only add flavor and nutrition to the kernels but also prevent them from burning as they pop.

Air Fried Vs Air Popped Popcorn

Air-popped popcorn is the type used at movie theatres and carnivals and is made using a special appliance called an air popper. 

Once very large and highly impractical for home use, air poppers are now available in small electric versions that can easily fit on your kitchen countertop.

Air poppers work by circulating hot air around the popcorn kernels which, when it gets hot enough, make the kernels pop, forcing them out of the popping bowl and into a dedicated storage area.

Air-popped popcorn requires no oil to cook and is one of the healthiest methods to make popcorn. Although movie theaters use the same method, their popcorn is far from healthy because of the added flavorings and seasonings.

This type of popcorn is easy to make and doesn’t burn as easily since the popcorns are no longer in contact with the heat after they pop.

There are several different types of electric air poppers available for home use that make it super easy to make popcorn without using any oil.

If you do not have access to an air popper, you can make air-popped popcorn in the microwave as well.

Simply add the kernels to a paper bag, fold the top of the bag to make sure the steam stays inside, and microwave it on high for about 2-3 minutes.

There is, of course, air fryer popcorn as well, which is another great way to make popcorn without the unnecessary amount of oil and other health risks. 

Both air fryer and air-popped popcorn are two of the healthiest methods to make popcorn and a great way to enjoy this delicious snack with zero guilt.

The trick, of course, is to eat everything in moderation and not go overboard with the servings just because it is a healthier option.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve discussed how to make popcorn in an air fryer, along with some tips and tricks to make sure they come out fluffy and delicious every time, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have!

Can you season the kernels before putting them in the air fryer?

It is not recommended to add the seasonings to your unpopped kernels before putting them in the air fryer since it may interfere with the cooking process.

It is best to add them once the kernels have popped and are out of the air fryer.

Can you put microwave popcorn in an air fryer?

No, you cannot. The reason for this is that microwave popcorn is designed to work best in a microwave and has ingredients added to it to give it flavor.

Opening the bag and putting the kernels in the air fryer will give unsatisfactory results, with burnt popcorn and many kernels left un-popped.

If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s a great video covering how to pop popcorn in an air fryer!

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