Welcome back to Air Fryer Bro. Everyone loves popcorn, right? All that nutrition wrapped in a crunchy snack (with low calories to boot). Homemade popcorn makes this perfect snack even better!! But can you make popcorn in an air fryer? Let’s find out the best popcorn air fryer recipe (if there even is one!!).
The other day I was in the supermarket and I saw they had popping corn on offer (it was pretty cheap too!). It seemed like the perfect opportunity to answer this air fryer popcorn question! I had never tried it before and had good memories of making popcorn the traditional way (with some melted butter! Yum!). So what did I do? I bought the popping corn, of course! On with the experiment! Air fryer popcorn shall be made (hopefully!!).
Be aware that this article is not about finding the perfect air fryer popcorn recipe! The main purpose is to find out if you can make popcorn in your trusty air fryer 🙂 If you want Instagram worthy recipes with perfect seasoning, look elsewhere 🙂
Disclaimer: I am trying this with a Philips Turbostar air fryer. You may get different results depending on the air fryer you use.
What type of corn did I buy?
I managed to get some rather nice yellow popcorn kernels from the supermarket. Or I should say I was lucky enough that such nice popcorn kernels were on offer in the supermarket. It’s a wholegrain corn, so it is pretty much the healthiest version you can buy. If you care about chemicals potentially getting into your food, then you should buy certified organic corn. Although this type of corn isn’t in the so called dirty dozen 12 most sprayed crops out there.
I am no expert, but I don’t think the exact type of corn you use will have any effect on the actual cooking process. If you are an expert and I am wrong, please let me know 🙂 All I do know is that my sister is a vegan, and she loves these corn kernels as a healthy snack! Good enough for me!
At least the corn I bought was from a company called ‘Jolly Time’. Let’s hope they are right!! Let’s put them to the air fry test and see how ‘jolly’ we feel 🙂
What methods did I try to pop this corn in the air fryer?
The most important thing to remember is that most traditional bucket style air fryers still have exposed heating elements at the top of their cooking compartments. This means that as the corn pops, it could get stuck in the element and start to burn. Even without this potential fire hazard, I’m sure most people don’t want popcorn flying all over their air fryers! Whatever type they are! The whole idea of an air fryer is to blow hot air around it. This hot air will also cause the popcorn to literally fly around the inside of your unit 🙂
These are the methods I came up with to contain the popcorn:
The Cake Pan method!!
The Philips air fryer I have also came with a cake pan, so I decided this would be the best thing to put my popping corn into. My air fryer basket has holes in the bottom (well, it’s a mesh) and the raw kernels would simply fall through. Not ideal!
If you don’t have a cake pan, you could replace with a baking sheet, an air fryer proof pot, or even cover the bottom and sides of your air fryer basket with aluminum foil.
Then was the question of how to contain the popcorn inside. Luckily, the air fryer basket had a removable wire rack at the bottom. This was just fine enough so that the popcorn couldn’t get through, so it was perfect. I simply placed this rack over the cake pan with the corn inside. I have to say I was worried that the force of the popping might dislodge the rack, as it was just laying on the top!
I decided to set the air fryer to its highest possible setting of 200 degrees Celsius or 392 degrees Fahrenheit, as I was pretty sure that corn needs high heat to pop. I started off with four minutes, but quickly realized I had sorely underestimated the time it would take to pop the corn in the air fryer. After another four minutes, only a few kernels had popped. I ended up having to put it in for a total of almost 18 minutes to get most of the corn to pop. And even then, there was probably a fifth that hadn’t popped and was still in the bottom of the pan. Not impressed! The only real success was the fact that the rack hadn’t fallen off the cake pan during cooking. At least we had a small win!
After gobbling down some of these plain popcorn kernels, I discovered the actual popcorn tasted fine, but the amount of time used and the amount of unpopped popcorn was unacceptable to me. I decided to try another run with a little olive oil the second time (about 1 tbsp to be precise). I thought the oil might act as a catalyst to help the corn kernels pop faster. Did it work? Totally not, I ended up with pretty much the same result and cooking time as the first run! Unpopped kernels suck! Cooking good air fried popcorn was looking less likely by the second!!
The paper bag pouch method
I decided that another way to keep the corn kernels in one place would be to place them in a paper bag. So I put the same amount of kernels in my paper bag, folded the end over a few times and placed it in my air fryer. Any better? Would we still have so many unpopped kernels?
Unfortunately, not. Even after almost twenty minutes cook time of blasting away in the air fryer, only a few corn kernels had popped. And worryingly, the paper bag had been slightly singed by the air fryer’s heating element. Won’t be trying that experiment again in a hurry, let me tell you. And I thought this was going to be my saviour here!!
I have heard that some people use aluminum foil to wrap around their corn loosely to allow popping in an air fryer. However, if a thin paper bag isn’t working, I couldn’t see aluminum foil being any better. Even if you had perfectly cooked popcorn, it is still taking way too long.
Can you cook popcorn in the air fryer?
My main takeaway here is that it is physically possible to pop corn in an air fryer, but it just isn’t worth it. The amount of time needed is just way too long, and the efficiency of the popping seems lacking. I hate seeing so many wasted, un-popped kernels! So no, I won’t be trying to pop corn in my air fryer again.
Seems like it is back to microwave popcorn, stovetop popcorn or even the trusty air popper for me.
Just to back up my claim, I used the same popping corn and cooked it the traditional method with a little coconut oil in a frying pan. It only took about 5 minutes to pop almost all of the corn and end up with a tasty result. It just doesn’t make any sense to waste 15-20 minutes blasting away in an air fryer when you can do the same thing in five minutes with a frying pan. To me, it’s just a big waste of electricity!
I have to say I am disappointed as I had wrongly assumed an air fryer would be a good way to make popcorn! How wrong could I be!! The only way you might get better results is if you can find an air fryer that goes above 200 degrees. My Philips model tops out at this temperature, and I just don’t think it is hot enough to get a good result! What do you think?
If you have any of your own experiences (or ideal recipe) air frying popcorn, we would love to hear all about them. You can leave a comment and tell us your stories or advice below (munches on a large bowl of delicious popcorn :))
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you put microwavable popcorn in the air fryer?
With my paper bag experiment above, I would say no – don’t try to cook microwave popcorn in your air fryer. As most, if not all, follow the same method of cooking; using a bag to contain the kernels. At best, you will get poorly cooked popcorn. at worst you might get a burned or singed packet!