Movie-theater popcorn is a staple when going out to the movies. But what if you want to enjoy a quality movie, paired with a buttery bowl of popcorn at home? In the past, you either had to warm up your favorite kettle or load up the popcorn machine. Now, microwave popcorn makes it easy to recreate a variety of enticing flavors at home. Different brands have varying levels of saltiness, buttery flavor, and texture, from savory or sweet to crunchy or fluffy. Chances are there is something for every type of preference, whether it be popcorn caked in movie theater butter or something more subtle tasting.
In this article, we research and review the best microwave popcorn brands to buy online or at the grocery store. There are many products on the market that provide convenience and ease, making it difficult to pick out the best option that delivers movie-theater quality popcorn without the ticket price. Not only are there multiple brands, but there are also many factors to consider, from pop times to popping quality, and of course, the overall taste. We tried 10 different types of popular popcorn brands to find the tastiest, crunchiest, best microwave popcorn to accompany you on your next movie night.
Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn, Movie Theater Butter. For a quality movie theater dupe, the Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter Popcorn is an excellent option. It combines the perfect balance between butter and salt, and does not have an overkill of artificial flavors. It’s crunchy, crisp, and delicious.
Orville Redenbacher’s Butter Microwave Popcorn, Classic. The Orville Redenbacher’s Classic Butter Microwave Popcorn is the best bang for your buck. With buttery flavors at an affordable price, it’s the best option if you’re on a budget. It is delivered in a pack of 36, helping you save when bought in bulk. Orville has been around for nearly 70 years and can be trusted when it comes to popcorn. With the added bonus of being sold at a great price point.
Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Microwave Popcorn Brands
1. Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn, Movie Theater Butter
Pop Secret is one of the most popular and best-selling microwavable popcorn brands on the market. Their movie theater butter popcorn has an authentic buttery flavory, steering clear of that overly-processed, artificial taste. It comes as close to an actual dairy churned product as possible. While the product does not taste like its drowning in butter, this type of movie theater butter popcorn does not hold back when it comes to flavor. It makes for a good balance between the two, with the light, airy texture paired with a buttery, crunchy kernel.
The texture is on the softer side and the kernels pop easily in the microwave. Each popped piece is big and fluffy, with no lack in crunch. The corn used is made from 100% while grain cornels, giving you peace of mind that it is responsibly sourced. This is a great option for savory-lovers, with the added spices of paprika and annatto.Be mindful that the packaging can be on the messier side. There have been accounts where the oil sometimes leaks out of the bag and into the microwave when being heated up. This means your hands could get somewhat greasy when eating this popcorn.
2. Orville Redenbacher's Butter Popcorn
You can’t go wrong with a bag of Orville Redenacher’s popcorn. This trusted brand has been around since 1952, consistently making quality, reliable popcorn. The company started out by hand selecting a small group of farmers to grow exclusive kernels. Today, Orville Redenacher continues to use family farmers to grow each and every kernel.
This microwavable popcorn is packed-full of gooey, buttery taste. There is also a good amount of salt in each bag. When first tasting the popcorn, it definitely has an moderate to strong butter taste, but that quickly subsides. If you prefer a good balance between butter and salt, the Orville Redenbacher’s classic butter microwave popcorn might be the one of you. Almost all of the kernels pop when microwaved, leaving very few left in the bag. The bag does get quite messy, with grease and butter spreading throughout the packaging. While this doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, it is something to consider before choosing this brand. However, it does prove just how buttery and flavorful the popcorn is.The popcorn is soft and moist when it hits your mouth, though it has a serious crunch as well. The kernels pop up into fluffy, crunchy, flavorful popcorn pieces. This classic butter popcorn is best when served alongside a sweet snack for an extra pop of flavor, hopping on the sweet, yet savory train.
3. Kirkland Signature Microwave Popcorn
This signature microwave popcorn by Kirkland will satisfy any cravings. If you’re looking for a product that doesn’t have an overly powerful buttery taste, this might be the right brand for you. It’s the perfect combination between salty and buttery, mimicking the lighter popcorn given at movie theaters. With a moderate amount of each additive, this snack avoids any extreme flavors.It has a crisp and munchy texture, although some may think it is too harsh and hard. While not bent on the side of stale, it is definitely on the crunchier side compared to other brands. However, the kernels do pop up nicely and have a fluffy consistency when fresh out of the microwave. This product can be exceedingly messy, similar to other brands. For the most part, the oil does leak out of the when being heated up in the microwave. This is a great option to buy in bulk, as it provides a great value and amount for the money.
4. Orville Redenbacher’s Skinnygirl Butter & Sea Salt Microwave Popcorn
The Skinnygirl Butter & Sea Salt Microwave Popcorn is a very unique product on the market. It steers away from the traditional popcorn seasonings, like classic salt, white cheddar cheese, and sweet kettle corn, and brings the luxurious ingredient of sea salt into the mix. This popcorn has a light buttery taste and a sprinkle of sea salt seasoning. It does not have an overpowering flavor whatsoever and has been stripped of that classic movie theater popcorn buttery glaze. If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, with just a hint of zest, this is a great pick.
This is also a good option if you are looking to be calorie-conscious. This low calorie snack also comes in mini bags to help with portion control. Even the packaging itself has a very aesthetically pleasing look to it. With a sustainably less amount of butter, once microwaved, the bag is not drenched an oily mixture, helping your microwave stay clean.On the downside, it does have trouble popping in the microwave and has a limited shelf life. For the kernels that do pop, the texture is not very crunchy and thus has a soft, doughy consistency. Other than that the taste and nutritional components are fantastic.
5. Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP Sea Salt Microwave Popcorn
Here is another great calorie-conscious product on the market and Skinnygirl’s main competitor. This popcorn also has a hint of sea salt, but without the added butter. It is a great snack if you’re looking for a savory product without any other added flavors. With that being said, the popcorn is not overly salty either. It’s a satisfying balance between flavor, saltiness, and calories. All the components work together, providing an airy texture, hints of an authentic corn kernel taste, and a dash of sea salt. The product does not taste artificial or bland at all.
The bag is even meant to be used as a bowl. Once out of the microwave, simply tear off the plastic top and you’ll have a bowl-shaped bag that is able to stand on its own. This allows to you ditch an additional plastic or glass bowl and avoid any extra dirty dishes. This pop-up bowl is great convenience-wise and also helps to get any extra steam out of the bag, which usually causes the popcorn to get soggy.You’ll also find this product is not too greasy; there is no added mess in the microwave. The packaging is made from high-quality material, which is how the brand is able to have the pop-up bowl included.
6. Act II Butter Lovers Microwave Popcorn
The Act II packaging looks like we time-traveled back to the ‘80s. This retro-vibe makes the brand unique, helping it stand out among the competitors. Once you dig into this popcorn, the taste lives up to the branding. Each piece is dusted off evenly, with a serious amount of flavor per bite. This simple to make microwave popcorn has the signature movie theater, rich buttery taste. Although, it does taste far from actual butter, with hints of artificial flavors coming through.Still, Act II is a reliable choice. It contains quality popcorn, with a strong oily taste for a quick and easy snack. The added salt builds on that flavor, creating a savory treat. The bag fills up nicely when in the microwave, with nearly every kernel gets popped. The consistency is more chewier than crispy. The bag does not overly greasy, compared to some of the other brands.
7. Jolly Time KettleMania, Sweet and Salty Gourmet Kettle Microwave Popcorn
If you find yourself constantly battling between the decision of a more savory snack versus a sugary treat, this could be the perfect pick for you. The Jolly Time KettleMaina microwave popcorn is the perfect combination of salty and sweet flavors. Usually hot kettle corn whipped up at county fairs and carnivals, but Jolly Time has created an almost identical product that can be made in the microwave and served at home.
The brand, Jolly Time, has been in business for over 4-generations, continuing to operate in Iowa for over 100 years. Overall, it is a reliable, trusted microwave popcorn company. Other than the kettle corn, they produce a variety of unique and creative flavors, including extra butter, cheddar cheese, spicy cheddar cheese, sea salt, marshmallow, and more.
The popped kernels tend to burn easily, so be careful when designating a microwave time. Additionally, almost all the kernels should pop, leaving very few unpopped at the bottom of the bag. When heated, the bag does not leak oils, like most of the buttery popcorns do. It’s a fairly clean and mess-free product.
8. Hawaiian Hurricane Microwave Popcorn
This gourmet Hawaiian popcorn is quite a twist on traditional popcorn flavors. It contains a blend of corn kernels, seasoned seaweed (otherwise known as nori), toasted sesame seeds, crunchy rice crackers with a light soy sauce glaze (otherwise known as mochi crunch), all coated with a buttery topping. Every bag is hand-packed and made in Hawaii.The Hawaiian Hurricane Popcorn was created back in 1991 at a popcorn pushcart in the Koolau Mountains of Kaneohe, Hawaii. Once word spread of this unique, yet delicious popcorn blend, people from all over the island traveled to the quiet Kaneohe town in search of the little popcorn pushcart. Overall, the idea blew up and become extremely popular among locals. Now it is sold in microwavable bags to people across the country, with the goal of providing gourmet snacks that reflect the multi-cultural tastes of Hawaii. You can have this one of a kind creation in the comfort of your own home.
9. Jolly Time Mallow Magic Marshmallow Flavor Microwave Popcorn
As mentioned earlier, Jolly Time has a wide variety of flavored popcorn. The Mallow Magic Marshmallow flavor being one of them. The combination of sugary marshmallow cream and salty popcorn make for a great sweet-salty combination. It’s a great alternative to kettle corn, with different pops of flavor while still remaining in a similar taste category. Real marshmallows are not melting on top of the popcorn as you may think. Instead, it has a synthetic marshmallow flavor. The velvety marshmallow topic makes for a sweet desert alternative.The product is extremely versatile and can be used for a variety of different recipes. For example, you can make gooey marshmallow popcorn balls as a fun, creative snack. To make this, melt butter and individual marshmallows in a saucepan. Then, pour this blend over the Jolly Time Mallow Magic Marshmallow Popcorn until it is well-coated. Shape the mixture into miniature, snack-sized balls and enjoy! There are so many innovative recipes that can be made with the sweet popcorn flavor and crunchy texture of this marshmallow microwave popcorn.
10. Double K Microwave Butter Popcorn
The Double K Microwave Butter Popcorn prides itself on getting the flavor as close to movie theater butter popcorn as possible. This brand grows premium corn kernels in the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills. The semi-arid climate (warm and sunny days paired with cool nights) helps to fertilize and drain the soil, leading to a popcorn that is light and fluffy. Double K uses only family farm operations who take pride in producing quality popcorn. The butter popcorn is most popular, with the classic, movie-style buttery flavor. It has large kernels and a quality crunch.We love this brand because they have a wide variety of flavors and levels of crunchiness available. Other than the classic butter flavor, there is “the natural”, “the picante” and “the kettle corn”. The natural flavor is more fluffy and tender in texture, with a light seasoning. The picante houses a creative blend of spices and seasonings, including garlic, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper. It’s a fantastic variation that makes for a spicy kick on the popcorn. The kettle corn is made with traditional mushroom kernels, similar to how the authentic kettle corn is made over the stove. Mushroom popcorn kernels are often used for a variety of confectionery popcorn.
Microwave Popcorn Versus Stovetop Popcorn
Unfortunately microwave popcorn has somewhat of a bad reputation. But the truth is this microwavable product does live up to the quality level of popcorn that is made on a stove or in a popcorn machine. You just have to find the right brand. The best microwave popcorn can to go head-to-head with anything else. A lot of it depends on the quality of the kernels and the amount of oil used, rather than the method used. When microwave popcorn contains a ton of artificial flavors, it may not compete with some of the other stuff. That’s why it’s most important to check the ingredient list. This will ensure you’re getting quality ingredients, making for a delicious bowl of popcorn.
Is Microwave Popcorn Healthy?
Popcorn without any toppings is low in calories and rich in dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A. Once other ingredients, like butter, salt, and oil is added the calories start to increase. If more ingredients like caramel, cheese, chocolate, or sugar is added, the snack is not as healthy. If you’re simply looking for a tasty snack, this is a great option. If you’re trying to be calorie-conscious, it’s best to check the nutritional facts before buying.
One cup of plain popcorn contains around 30 calories. Once everything else is added, that number may double or even triple. Options like Orville Redenbacher’s Skinnygirl Butter & Sea Salt Microwave Popcorn and Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP Sea Salt Microwave Popcorn are the healthier options on the market.
On the bright side, most companies use 100% whole grains. This means you’re getting the benefit of the entire kernel, containing a dense amount of nutrients. Whole grains have even been proven to reduce the risk of cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Additionally, many of the products reviewed above are made without any trans-fat or unsaturated fats. This means the product is less likely to increase cholesterol levels. Many of the products are also non-GMO, meaning they do not contain any toxic chemicals.
Does Microwave Popcorn Contain PFAOs?
PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, used to be added to microwave popcorn’s packaging. This is not true anymore. It was also added to things like candy bars, fast food meals, pizza box liners, and more. However, in 2007, popcorn manufacturers decided to remove this chemical from their packaging.
How To Make Microwave Popcorn
When you’re microwave popcorn is all done and ready, you want it to be a fluffy and delicious snack. Here are some steps to ensure this happens.
- Clean your microwave before use.
- Double check your microwave popcorn bag is not expired.
- Remove any plastic wraps before heating up.
- Do not use the predetermined “popcorn” button on your microwave. Always follow the instructions labeled on the bag.
- Do not increase time in the microwave, this can lead to burning.
- Shake the bag before placing in the microwave.
- Be careful removing the popcorn after it has heated up, the bag can get hot.
- Pour into your favorite bowl and enjoy!
White Versus Yellow Popcorn
White popcorn is soft and slightly crispy. The kernels pop smaller and they have a bit of a plainer taste, with a hint of sweetness. White popcorn is great for butter and other seasonings.
Yellow popcorn, on the other hand, is much more popular and widely used. Let’s put it this way, it’s what most movie theaters use. So, if you’re looking for the movie-theater buttery taste, you probably want to stick to yellow popcorn. It pops bigger when compared to white popcorn and has a stronger, sweeter, nuttier flavor. It has a fluffy consistency and paired perfectly with either butter or a sweet coating.
Does it Expire?
The popcorn itself will generally not expire, but the other ingredients in the bag will cause it to expire. The popcorn can also go stale, lasting around one to two weeks after opened. Always check to see if there is an expiration date on the box and stick to it. The last thing you want is stale, moldy popcorn.
Can You Put it in the freezer?
Popcorn is typically not stored in the freezer. Since it’s relatively affordable, it’s not something that should be hibernating in there. That being said, it can be done to ensure the product stays good for a couple of weeks.
Organic popcorn is good if you are looking for health-conscious options. Organic simply means the product is free from GMOs, artificial flavors, and preservatives. Even if the product is organic, it can still contain gluten, soy, milk, and other animal products.
Only 10% of the corn grown in the United States is not genetically modified. That’s why it’s important to find a trusted, reliable brand that sticks to non-GMO guidelines. If you want on organic product, read the fine print on the manufacturer’s packaging. It should have a certified organic check on it.