How to Make Movie Style Popcorn

by Zora Hughes ; Updated September 28, 2017

Movie theaters typically use many artificial ingredients to flavor their popcorn.

Popcorn image by Yvonne Bogdanski from

Items you will need

  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup white or yellow popcorn kernels
  • 3 tbsp. clarified butter
  • 1 tsp. powdered popcorn salt
  • Heavy saucepan
  • Large bowl

The greasy, buttery, salty taste of movie theater popcorn is what entices many into buying that expensive tub of popcorn, no matter what the cost. Popcorn made at home never tastes the same. Popping the corn in regular vegetable oil or pouring melted butter over it won’t do the trick. Most movie theater popcorn is made with many different artificial flavoring oils, making it difficult to duplicate at home, but according to Victoria Brett of the Associated Press, you can get results pretty close to movie theater style popcorn at home with the right technique and ingredients.

Selecting the Ingredients

Step 1

Use American yellow or white kernels. Store the kernels in an airtight container so that they retain their moisture. Corn kernels have about 13 percent moisture inside of them which is what boils and makes them explode when heated. Do not store the kernels in the refrigerator because that dries them out.

Step 2

Use coconut oil, which is used by a majority of movie theaters. You can find coconut oil in health food stores and, increasingly, in regular supermarkets.

Step 3

Use powdered salt. Table salt is too big for popcorn kernels, which is why it tends to pool at the bottom of the bowl. You can find popcorn salt next to the kernels in the grocery store, or you can put your regular table salt though a blender or coffee grinder.

Step 4

Clarify the butter. Melt regular butter in a pan over low heat until there is a layer of foam on top, a layer of butterfat in the middle and a layer of milk solids at the bottom. Skim the foam off the surface of the butter and pour the butterfat into another container, leaving the milky solids in the pan.

Making the Popcorn

Step 1

Melt the coconut oil over low heat in a heavy pot on the stove top

Step 2

Add the popcorn kernels, spreading them evenly over the bottom of the pan in a single layer.

Step 3

Cover the pot, but leave the lid ajar slightly. Turn the heat up to medium. Shake the pan back and forth gently on the burner, holding the lid as the kernels begin to pop. Do this for about three to four minutes.

Step 4

Remove the pot from the heat when the popcorn stops popping. Let it sit uncovered for a minute or so. Meanwhile heat the clarified butter in the microwave for a few seconds.

Step 5

Pour the popcorn into a large bowl. Drizzle the butter over it, tossing to make sure all the kernels are coated, then sprinkle with the popcorn salt. Serve the popcorn immediately.


  • You can purchase already clarified butter in ethnic stores that sell Indian ingredients, where it will be labeled “ghee.”

Photo Credits

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.