How to Make Movie Theater Popcorn at Home!

Retro Staff Comments

Mr. Dee-lish Popcorn Wall DecalAs Joe explained on National Popcorn Day, it is possible to get that movie theater popcorn taste right at home. It requires just four things:

  • A kettle style popping machine. You could also use a Whirley Pop. The popcorn needs to be stirred, and the bottom of the kettle scraped, during the popping process to prevent scorching.
  • Good popcorn kernels. I’ve Orville Redenbacher and Pop Secret and they both work fine.
  • Coconut popcorn popping oil. I use Paragon.
  • Flavacol.

The ingredients are fairly inexpensive. Expect to pay $15 to $20 for a gallon of oil, and $5 to $7 per carton of Flavacol. But you could get well over 100 4 oz to 6 oz batches from the oil, and much more from the Flavacol.

Everyone’s “recipe” varies, primarily due to desired taste, but here’s mine for our 4 oz kettle:

1/2 cup kernels

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon Flavacol

The key is to get the kettle hot before adding anything. If you have a kettle machine, let it heat up for about five minutes, then turn it off while you add the oil first, then the kernels and seasoning. Turn the machine back on and wait for that awesome smell!

A few notes and tips about this method:

  • Coconut oil has a low melting point—about 76 degrees. That means in cooler environments, it’s a solid. This is just fine and you can add the “solid” oil to a hot kettle like you would if it were in liquid form.
  • Be sure to read the capability of the popper. If it says 4 oz, that means it can take 4 oz of unpopped kernels. The kettle may look like it can take more, but there needs to be plenty of room for stirrer to work and the popcorn to pop and then release.
  • If you plan to make several batches, do them one after another, with little wait time. Otherwise whatever might be left at the bottom of the kettle will start to burn and this will change the flavor of the next batch.
  • No, you don’t need to use soap and water to clean the kettle. I use a damp sponge and a dry cloth. Letting the kettle “season” will just produce more awesome popcorn.
  • If you don’t have  a machine with a heat lamp, you can keep that popcorn warm right in the oven. Unfortunately, not all ovens have a low setting of 140 degrees, so just turn it on the lowest it goes then turn it off and wait a few minutes. You don’t want to “cook” the popcorn.
  • To store your movie theater popcorn for the next day, use a mason jar or a plastic container with an air tight lid. You can also use plastic bread bags, but only for about a day.
Street Vendor 4oz Vintage Style Popcorn Maker

A commercial quality machine is an investment, but it’s so worth it. It does all the work to produce a fantastic batch every time.

If you’re an avid popcorn eater, you may want to pre-measure kernels and seasoning to save time. I actually store the kernels with the Flavacol in individual containers so all I need to do is pop off the lid and dump it in. It makes it easy when I need to pop several batches in a row.

Did I mention that real machines have a perforated bottom so all the unpopped kernels fall into a drawer? Yeah, another great bonus.

And there you have it! Movie theater taste for so-not the cost. In fact, it’s cheaper than brand name microwave popcorn (which, by the way, you can actually make yourself using a paper bag!).


Have any tips on making this scrumptious treat at home? Chime in below with your tricks.




Last updated: Mar 12, 2014
Filed under: Deliciously Retro, Recipes, Retro Food and Recipes Tagged with: movies, Popcorn, recipes