Best Microwave Popcorn

Based on our experiments with the top microwave popcorn brands, the best microwave popcorn, and our #1 pick, is Act II’s Movie Theater Popcorn, winning thanks to overall taste and reliability. Specifically, Act II’s popcorn reliably pops the same bag after bag, stays tasty even while cooling, and offers multiple options for serving sizes when you’re buying. If you want the theater experience without the crowds or tickets, Act II’s popcorn is the perfect pick for your next movie night.

Best Microwave Popcorn 2019

Act II Movie Theater Butter PopcornJolly Time Crispy'n WhitePop Secret Movie Theater
Rank#1 - Editor's Choice/Best Microwavable Popcorn#2 Pick - Best Healthy Microwave Popcorn#3 Pick - Best Butter Microwave Popcorn
Amazon Rating4.5stars-new4.5stars-new4.5stars-new
Calories (1 Tbsp. unpopped)150120150
Calories from Fat702580
Price$0.23 per ounce$0.35 per ounce$0.43 per ounce
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How We Choose the Best Microwave Popcorn

It sounds pretty obvious, but we put the popcorn through its paces and then see what happens! Basically, we look at several different stages:

  • Ingredients: When first picking popcorn, we take a look at the ingredients and nutrition information.
  • Cooking: How well does the popcorn cook? Does it tend to pop smoothly and easily, or is the heating uneven and prone to burning or undercooking? Are the instructions clear and concise? Not everyone has a smart oven to cook for them.
  • Cooling and Buttering: It’s important that popcorn cools easily and shakes well in the bag afterward if necessary – we don’t like to see any messes or uneven flavor, and we really don’t like burnt fingertips.
  • Taste: And of course, last but not least, there’s the taste. Taste and mouth-feel are both important, as good popcorn should feel fresh and “fluffy” in the mouth, and shouldn’t be soaked with grease. The taste should be as close to real buttered popcorn as possible, and shouldn’t change much even when the popcorn gets cold.

Why You Should Buy Microwave Popcorn

Today’s microwave popcorn uses more sophisticated ingredients and combinations of palm oil/corn oil to create healthier or more realistic flavors. If you’ve tried microwave popcorn in the past and been a little disappointed, you should definitely give these newer versions a try. We’ve found a lot of variance in texture and flavor between brands and product lines – you may have just not found the right kind to try. These choices are an excellent place to start. And last, but most certainly not least, it’s the least laborious way to make popcorn, though it’s arguably not the healthiest.

Read More: Microwave Reviews for 2019

#1 Pick Act II Movie Theater Butter Popcorn – Editor’s Choice/Best Microwavable Popcorn

Act II Movie Popcorn
Act II’s popcorn experience is one of the most movie-like.

Price: $0.23 per ounce | Calories: 150 (2 Tbsp. Unpopped, 4-5 Cups Popped) | Calories from Fat: 70

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Act II’s popcorn impressed with its authentic taste and variety of purchase options.

Act II designs its popcorn for quick microwaving (dependably three minutes for most bags and medium-power microwaves) and taste, and in this case both features come through with winning style. If you want popcorn that’s as close to real movie popcorn as you can get, here’s where to start. We also appreciated the many buying options, from microwavable buckets to little snack bags. However, the butter flavor can be a little heavy on this one, so we suggest dumping the popcorn in a bowl rather than dealing with a greasy bag.

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#2 Pick Jolly Time Crispy’n White – Best Healthy Microwave Popcorn

Jolly Time Popcorn
Jolly Time’s popcorn is low calorie AND tastes great.

Price: $0.35 per ounce | Calories: 120 (2 Tbsp. Unpopped, 4-5 Cups Popped) | Calories from Fat: 25

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: With lower fat and calorie counts, this fluffy popcorn shouldn’t taste this good.

Okay, maybe that delicious movie theater taste isn’t what you had in mind. Maybe your idea of the perfect microwavable popcorn is something different – a more simple style of popcorn that focuses more on the corn flavor and quality…and less on everything else. We found Jolly Time to be sweet and delicious, and thankfully didn’t have that acrid popcorn odor that so many other microwavable bags have. Whether you’re watching calories or just like a non-buttered version, this popcorn does the job right.

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#3 Pick Pop Secret Movie Theater – Best Butter Microwave Popcorn

Pop Secret Movie Theater Popcorn
Pop Secret is a little richer than the others, but if you like strong flavor this is where to turn.

Price: $0.43 per ounce | Calories (2 Tbsp. Unpopped, 4-5 Cups Popped): 150 | Calories from Fat: 80

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Looking for a richer option? Check out Pop Secret’s easy and delicious movie popcorn.

Maybe you’re on the other side of the spectrum  though, and you just want to enjoy some of the richest popcorn out there. More butter? Bring it on – let’s make things tasty. Pop Secret, with the highest calorie and fat content out of our choices, does a remarkable job of bringing that rich flavor without making its popcorn too stale, gross or greasy. Just be ready to clean up afterward!

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Microwave Popcorn Features to Look For

  • Fresh Feel: One of the problems we frequently encountered when testing popcorns was that the combination of the butter flavor and the corn quickly grew stale in many cases, creating an uncomfortable, chewy sensation that only grew worse as the popcorn cooled. Not great! The best tasting microwave popcorn managed to keep its fresh, crisp feeling even with butter products added. The less stale the taste, the better!
  • Oils Used: The ingredients really do matter. Of course, microwavable popcorn doesn’t use real butter (even theater popcorn doesn’t actually use real butter), but it’s still a good idea to look at the label. The best butter microwave popcorn provides is typically a mix of palm oil and corn oil. Then most brands add in a little salt, some natural/artificial flavors, and some preservatives. Look for popcorn that focuses on a few, simple ingredients. We found that those that included a bit of corn oil tasted more authentic.
  • Sizes: Microwavable popcorn bags come in several different sizes, and many brands offer additional options like snack sizes and extra-large options, too. Generally speaking, it’s important to pick the size that you’re most familiar with, and double-check to make sure that you’re getting the right size for your plans. This can also be an easy way to control  the amount of calories you’re eating in a single sitting.
  • Easy Cooking Times: Wondering which microwave popcorn pops the best? We’ve all tried to microwave bags of popcorn before, only to have them blacken and smoke even though we’re sure we got the times right. It happens! The best microwave popcorn maker will have settings and one-touch features that make your job easier. The best microwavable popcorn, meanwhile, will resist easy scorching and burning, reliably giving you a low number of unpopped kernels without any overcooking. The microwave and popcorn need to work together on this, but it’s still an important feature to consider.
  • Health Features: “Healthy” and “Great taste” aren’t always incompatible with modern popcorn! Don’t be afraid to buy popcorn based on health options. That includes low amounts of saturated fat, low or no butter flavoring, low amounts of sodium, low amounts of total fat, and so on. However, if you’re taking a look at healthy features, we suggest you go right to the label to find the best healthy microwave popcorn. The claims and ad-speak on the front of the box don’t always translate to real changes in the ingredients.

Read More: Top 5 Best LED TVs for 2019

Mistakes To Avoid

  • Mixing Up Popped and Unpopped: Most popcorn bags give you two sets of nutritional information – one for about two tablespoons of unpopped kernels, and one for around a cup of popped corn. Don’t get these two mixed up! The nutrition information is very, very different, since the kernel information is typically for 4 to 5 full cups of popcorn. If you’re looking at the labels, make sure you read them correctly. Another important note: Look to see if the butter flavoring is included in the nutrition information, or if it’s counted as an extra option.
  • Buying Solely Based on Ingredients/Nutrition: The best microwave popcorn has a mysterious equation, one which depends on ingredients, how the popcorn is produced, what sort of microwave and settings you have. If you only choose popcorn based on ingredients, then you may be missing out on products that actually taste better to you. Remember that with all things remaining equal, the nutritional value of microwave popcorn is about the same no matter which brand you choose.
  • Ignoring the Instructions: We know that you have that tempting popcorn button right there on your microwave, but even if you have the best microwave popcorn popper around, you should still read the instructions. Generally, the makers of microwave popcorn know what they’re doing. If they have any specific information about how long to microwave, what settings to use, or anything else – then pay attention. Try it their way first, then start customizing.

What Else You Should Know

It’s never fun when you have a bag of popcorn rip or explode. If you need help cleaning up the grease in your microwave, then we’ve got tips on how to clean a microwave the easy way. If you want something that can handle much more than popcorn, think about an iChef Oven or a similar type of smaller automatic oven that can handle anything.

On the other hand, if you’re really tired of your work microwave smelling like popcorn all the time, you can find USB microwaves to plug in at your desk and heat your coffee too!

Tyler Lacoma

When he isn't enjoying the beautiful Northwest outdoors, you can find Tyler on business and tech sites, writing about the latest news, analyzing trends, and generally making the Internet a more interesting place.

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