To say that popcorn is a favorite snack in our house would be an enormous understatement. My husband enjoys a bowlful nearly every night as dessert. If our sons are nearby, it’s guaranteed that a second round of popping will follow.
My mother-in-law gave us a microwave air popper well over 10 years ago. It’s been used so hard that the initial white shiny coating is now dull and brown. Early on, I realized that it makes an excellent vegetable steamer, too, and often grab it to quickly steam broccoli.
So when my friends at Barlean’s (who I first met when I worked on this tasty project) asked if I’d like to create a popcorn recipe using their new butter flavored coconut oil and a pretty new Lekue popcorn maker, I thought for about a nanosecond.
And I had just the recipe. Jack and the boys adore this lightly sweet, slightly salty snack. It’s really easy to make—the only thing that must be monitored closely is the cook time. When cooked, sugar goes from caramelized to burned in seconds. Err on the side of under-popping, checking, and quickly adding a few extra seconds if needed, until you know precisely how long this takes in your microwave.
I used to make this healthier spin on kettle corn with a tablespoon each of butter and coconut oil. The butter flavored coconut oil streamlines the process and tastes delicious. Though I’ve been using the oil for this recipe a lot lately (the kettle corn keeps well for several days, and my boys love it in their school lunches), its buttery flavor makes plain old air-popped popcorn taste and smell like the movie theater version.
When finished, some of the cooked sugar mixture will remain in the bottom of the bowl along with some unpopped kernels. I immediately transfer the popped corn to another bowl so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom as the lingering sugar mixture hardens. Soaking the bowl in hot water right away will make it easy to clean, too.
In years past, I’ve used a combination of butter and coconut oil, but Barlean’s new butter-flavored coconut oil covers both bases. My husband, a MAJOR popcorn fan who loves butter but isn’t so fond of coconut, adores this stuff. Peanuts are purely optional, but I love the extra crunch and hint of saltiness. They make the snack a little more filling, too.
Yield: 6-7 cups popped corn
- 2 tablespoons butter flavored coconut oil (I use Barlean’s; may use 1 tablespoon each butter and extra virgin coconut oil)
- 2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup popcorn (make sure to level off measuring cup)
- Optional: 1/3 cup salted peanuts, or more to taste
Add the oil, brown sugar, and salt to a 2.5- to 3-quart microwave-proof bowl with a vented lid. Microwave just until the oil is melted, 20-30 seconds. Stir to combine well, and then add the popcorn kernels. Stir to coat each kernel with the mixture, and then spread the kernels evenly over the bottom of the bowl. Place the lid on the bowl, and microwave on high for approximately 3 minutes. As soon as there are 1-2 seconds between pops, stop cooking. Microwave times will vary and the sugar will burn quickly at the end so err on the side of under-popping until you know how long this will take in your microwave. (I’ve done this so many times that I know 2:55 is perfect in my microwave.)
Transfer the popped corn to a serving bowl and soak the popping bowl in hot water to make it easier to clean. (The excess sugar at the bottom will harden as it cools.) Stir in optional peanuts and enjoy. Leftover (lefotvers??) will keep for several days in an airtight container.
- If your microwave has a “popcorn” setting, I recommend against using it. It will likely overcook the sugar mixture and lead to burned kettle corn.
- Also, I was recently given a Lekue microwave popcorn maker to test. It has a suctioned lid that is not vented and, as a result, cooks much faster than its vented counterparts. In my microwave, this recipe takes 2 minutes and 15 seconds with that type of popper.
Lekue’s popcorn maker has a 10-cup capacity and a suction lid that is not vented like traditional microwave poppers. As a result, cooking times are quicker. It’s collapsible, making it easy to store, and the platinum silicone design makes it suitable for the microwave and dishwasher.