How to Cook Popcorn in a Microwave in a Paper Bag

Like an Airpop, No Oil!

The quick and simple way to make popcorn in the microwave. All it takes is popcorn kernels, a paper sack but good news, NO oil. The family-size batch uses a big paper grocery bag, while a personal "snack attack" batch uses the small "brown bag" sacks we use to pack lunches. Weight Watchers, especially those who count purple points? This is how to airpop popcorn right in the microwave — without oil!

How to Cook Popcorn in a Microwave In a Paper Bag ♥, like an airpop, no oil!

Real Food, Fresh & Flexible. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real.


“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

That’s the famous line from the 1975 movie “Network”. No one should. No more. Just think.

Would you pay two to three times the price you needed to? Would you pay $300 for something you might have bought for $200 or even $100? What if a gas station charged $1.21 for a gallon of gas (those were the days, eh?) one week and $2.73 the next, wouldn’t you think, you know, that something was a little fishy?

You’d feel schnookered, right? Rooked? Cheated? Swindled? Deceived? Defrauded? And yes, there are starker, less tasteful ways to say this.

Welcome to the world of popcorn, the lively little kernels ubiquitous at movie theaters and basketball games and for lots of us, especially dieters, a healthy snack.

8% of Shelf Space

This is crazy! This is the popcorn section at my favorite grocery store. See how they hide the least expensive and most healthy popcorn on the bottom shelf? Instead, cook popcorn in the microwave in a paper bag, no oil required, just like an airpop. How to Cook Popcorn in the Microwave ♥

This is the popcorn section at my favorite grocery. Do you see how the least expensive popcorn is hidden and almost invisible on the bottom shelf at the right? All the rest? It's packages of microwave popcorn. What ARE we thinking?

This grocery allots an incomprehensible 8% of its popcorn shelfspace to inexpensive bags of popcorn and a whopping 92% of its shelfspace to far more expensive packages of microwave popcorn. And of course, the processed popcorn costs more, a lot more, 150 percent to 200 percent to 300 percent more.

I don't really blame the grocery or even the popcorn sellers.

I blame us. We've bought into the notion that "microwave popcorn" takes special popcorn and special packaging and special equipment just because it's there.

So how easy is it to pop popcorn in the microwave?

How to Cook Popcorn in a Microwave In a Paper Bag ♥, like an airpop, no oil!

WHAT YOU DON'T NEED You don't need a popcorn popper or even an air-pop popper that costs money and space. You don't need packaged popcorn.

ALL YOU DO DO NEED A popcorn snack attack (that's important). A grocery sack. A few popcorn kernels. Zappo-presto, You've Got Popcorn.

So now when the checker asks, "Paper or plastic?" I answer, "One paper bag, please." Or when I want just a handful or two of popcorn, I use a small paper sack, the kind we use to "brown bag" our lunch sandwiches to work. An entire package of brown bags? It cost $1.

And I make popcorn in the microwave in a paper bag, just kernels and a bag. No chemicals, no preservatives, no salt, no oil, no trans fats.

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore. Nobody should.

Is popcorn a "free" food for Weight Watchers? It depends.

THE SHORT ANSWER Plain, oil-free popcorn is free only for those who follow the purple point system. So cool, yes, for the purple plan people?!

About the Yes Answer.

In late 2019, Weight Watchers' introduced the myWW point system including the big news that for the first time, popcorn would be free!

But don't get too excited. The myWW program is actually a rainbow of three different point-calculations and the devil is in the detail.

About the "No" Answer.

Popcorn is not free and is not a zero-point food for those who follow either the green or the blue point systems.

A little history of Weight Watchers and popcorn may be useful.

Popcorn was not a "free" or "zero point" food in any of the Weight Watchers point-counting systems before late 2019. That seemed illogical, since corn itself was a "zero point" vegetable in several iterations of Weight Watchers point systems (again until 2019).

I suspect that the logic was and remains that popcorn is really a snack food, even if, LOL, I bet many of us have a time or two been known to eat popcorn for dinner. And heaven knows it's easy to mindlessly eat a huge bowl of popcorn, that just wouldn't happen with a huge bowl of corn or the cob!

And all popcorn isn't free.

And we definitely don't want to equate no-oil air-popped popcorn or my microwave-popped popcorn with movie popcorn! or my personal nemesis, the expensive and calorie-laden containers of microwave popcorn.

So while popcorn may be a free food on Weight Watchers' purple plan, it's not free on other plans. But it is a low-point food, especially when you make it in the microwave in a paper bag. Here's how!


How to Cook Popcorn in a Microwave In a Paper Bag ♥, like an airpop, no oil!


Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Time to table: 5 minutes
  • Popcorn
  • Salt, butter and seasonings, at your pleasure

POPCORN for the FAMILY Put a 1/2 cup popcorn kernels into a large paper grocery bag. Fold over the top tightly once or twice. Cook on high in the microwave until the popping starts to slow down, this is exactly 3 minutes in my microwave. Makes about nine cups popcorn, with virtually no old maids.

POPCORN for ONE Place 1 to 2 tablespoons popcorn kernels into a brown paper lunch bag. Fold over tightly once or twice. Cook on high in the microwave until the popping starts to slow down, in my microwave 2 minutes is too long, 1:50 is perfect. Makes 1-1/2 to 3 cups popcorn, with virtually no old maids.

    Current myWW Plans
  • 1-1/4 cups popcorn = green points 1 (use 2 teaspoons popcorn)
  • 1-1/4 cups popcorn = blue points 1 (use 2 teaspoons popcorn)
  • popcorn popped without oil = purple points 0 (just enjoy, it's "free")

  • Prior WW Plans
  • 1-1/4 cups popcorn = Freestyle 1 (use 2 teaspoons popcorn)
  • 1-1/4 cups popcorn = SmartPoints 1 (use 2 teaspoons popcorn)
  • 1-1/2 cups popcorn = PointsPlus 1 (use 1 tablespoon popcorn)
  • 2-1/4 cups popcorn = Old Points 1 (use 1-1/2 tablespoons popcorn)
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 30 Calories; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 0mg Sodium; 6g Carb; 1g Fiber; 0g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points .5 & PointsPlus 1 & SmartPoints 1 & Freestyle 1 & myWW green 1 & blue 1 & purple 0
ALANNA's TIPS The paper grocery bags can be re-used but do watch for signs that the bags are giving out. I’ve made up to four batches of microwave popcorn with a single large grocery bag, just two with a small lunch bag. Microwaves do vary in power so please-please-please, the first time you make popcorn in your own microwave, stay close to monitor the timing. Learn what works in your microwave. My microwave has a revolving plate, this might affect the timing. In addition, I did burn one when the large grocery bag unfurled enough to stop it from turning freely in the microwave. Watch for this! My sister swears by a teaspoon of butter for popcorn. I've been adding that small amount to the big family-size bag of popcorn, it does make a difference. More microwave action! This popcorn works really well if you’re hungry for Microwave Caramel Corn! You can even use the same bag!

How to Feed a Snack Attack

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Adanna2/02/2011

    I stopped eating microwave popcorn when the production people were getting sick from the "butter flavor" chemicals.

  2. Hmm, you know, sister Adanna, I haven't eaten microwave popcorn in years, I bet I stopped when you told me about the production people getting sick.

  3. Anonymous2/02/2011

    Alanna, my question is, do the paper bag companies use chemicals in the bag manufacturing process? That is my only concern. Pam

  4. Pam - Good question, one I'd not thought of. Ideas, anyone?

  5. You know I felt the same way once I learned how easy it is to make your own microwave popcorn, I felt cheated! I couldn't believe that I had bought that microwave popcorn before!

    I love making my own. I stopped eating microwave popcorn because I hated that waxy greasy taste you would get afterwards. Now I eat popcorn a lot more cause I can add whatever I want and it just tastes so much better!

    I'll never go back to buying microwave popcorn.
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. I actually JUST urdered a popcorn maker. I am trying this tonight!

  7. I LOVE this!!! Popcorn is my favorite food and I'm always scouring the bottoms shelves for the real deal. I love organic white. And a teaspoon of olive oil is great.

  8. It's me again. I did a google search to see if we should cook in the brown paper bags and this is what I found. I'm going to buy some cooking bags to try the popcorn. Pam

    Here's what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says about this practice:

    "Do not use brown paper bags from grocery or other stores for cooking. They are not sanitary, may cause a fire, and can emit toxic fumes. Intense heat may cause a bag to ignite, causing a fire in the oven... . The ink, glue, and recycled materials in paper bags can emit toxic fumes when they are exposed to heat. Instead, use purchased oven cooking bags."

  9. Anonymous2/12/2011

    We make our popcorn is a glass bowl with a glass lid. I use a large bowl with 1/4 cup kernels. It's delish.

  10. ChristinaBambina2/18/2011

    I've often read that it's unsafe to cook pies in paper grocery bags or to use the bags for any type of cooking or storage, because they aren't made for that and have chemicals in them. Also, some stores routinely spray their plastic and paper bags with bug spray so they don't get infested while they are stored in the warehouse.

    Also, don't fill a big plastic trash bag with popcorn or whatever to take to a family reunion or picnic (like I've heard of some people doing), because those also aren't designed for food storage and will leach chemicals into your food.

  11. Anonymous3/31/2011

    Hi, do you add the teasponnof butter before cooking?

  12. Good clarification, Anonymous, thank you. The butter and seasonings are added AFTER the popcorn is popped.

  13. Karen in Miami FL2/15/2020

    No bag needed (who knows what kind of clean that bag is?!!), just a pyrex bowl with a ceramic plate on top. I use a tsp of olive oil to 1/4 cup organic popcorn kernels. No butter needed IMO.

    1. I’ll try that, for sure, Karen! Thanks for chiming in!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna