Man turns mint Popsmith popper; next to him are different oils

Best Oil for Popcorn: What Type of Oil to Use When Making Popcorn at Home

Upgrade your snacking game with homemade stovetop popcorn! Ditch the microwavable version and discover the perfect oil to enhance both taste and nutritional value. Explore our list featuring the 8 best oils for popping popcorn and find your favorite.

Cooking popcorn on stovetop is the best way to make popcorn — just imagine fresh, crunchy popcorn brimming with flavor you have total control over. Who could ever resist that?

Whether it’s for date night,movie night, or just as an afternoon snack, making stovetop popcorn will definitely take your snacking game to new heights. All you need are your trusty Popsmith Popperkernels, and the right oil. 

Choosing the proper oil is crucial since the types of oil you use can affect the way your popcorn tastes as well as its nutritional value. Don't worry, we'll help you explore your options for the best oil for popping popcorn (and steer you away from the ones to avoid).

Let’s get right into it:

8 Best Popcorn Oils

At your local grocery store, you'll see different kinds of oil. You can use almost all of them to make popcorn, but as you'll find out below, some oils are better than others:

1. Coconut Oil

opened coconuts, a bowl of coconut flakes, and a bottle of coconut oil on a white table

There's a reason we use coconut oil for our

Oh Sooo Buttery Popcorn and Classic Kettle Popcorn kits, and that's because it's the number one best oil for popping popcorn. 

With a 350°F smoke point, coconut oil heats up just enough to make crunchy popcorn. It’s rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), has 117 calories per tablespoon, and gives popcorn a rich depth of flavor that enhances any topping or seasoning you add.

Coconut oil is a great vegan substitute for butter and — surprise— is the reason why movie theater popcorn tastes so incredible.

FUN FACT: It’s normal for coconut oil to turn solid at room temperature or colder. Just add it to heat, and it will melt.

2. Canola Oil

Canola oil is a fantastic universal cooking oil and something that's likely already sitting in your pantry.

It might be the best popcorn oil for you if you're looking for an oil with a higher smoke point. Canola has a smoke point between 400-450°F, which is more than coconut oil.

But there are some downsides of using canola oil. For one, it can leave your popcorn with a weird taste. For another, it's highly processed, so you may want to steer clear if you want healthier popcorn.

3. Avocado Oil

two sliced avocado on a wooden chopping board

Next up on our list of the best oil for popcorn (and the most expensive of them all) is avocado oil. Thanks to its high price, this popcorn oil is often used to make gourmet popcorn. We won’t blame you if you want to save it for yourself as a treat!

Avocado oil has a slew of health benefits. It contains tons of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. And like coconut oil, it allows you to make buttery popcorn without actual butter. It’s creamy, salty, and flavorful — everything butter is, only not greasy.

4. Peanut Oil

While a little pricier than other oils, peanut oil is worth using if you want to give your popcorn a slightly nutty flavor. It also has a smoke point of 450°F so you won’t have to worry about it burning your kernels.

But if you have a bunch of people over, you may want to use a different kind of oil to be safe. They might have a nut allergy you don't know about. 

5. Olive Oil

a glass bottle with olive oil

You'll like olive oil if you're leaning toward a neutral oil that allows your popcorn's natural flavor to shine. 

Its mild flavor goes particularly well with seasonings like garlic powder and parmesan cheese.

Olive oil is rich in monosaturated fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E, which is a plus. And it’s also a staple in your kitchen, so you don’t need to worry about buying oil just for popcorn.

For best results, we recommend using virgin or extra virgin olive oil. These have a better smoke point.

6. Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is another neutral-tasting cooking oil that doesn’t overpower your popcorn. It will help pop kernels while keeping them soft and also a little crunchy.

But vegetable is super refined, so it's a point for contention for some folks. It's also not consistent in terms of ingredients.

Vegetable oil is super refined, though, so it’s a point of contention for some people. It also isn’t consistent when it comes to ingredients. It can blend anything from soybean to canola and other plant oils together depending on the brand you buy.

Because of these inconsistencies, the smoke point of your vegetable oil will also vary. But it won't hurt it to try it the next time you pop popcorn.

7. Sunflower Oil

a bottle of refined sunflower oil

Sunflower is an interesting oil choice for popcorn. It has a significantly high smoke point, not burning until well over 400°F. You definitely won’t have to worry about kernels burning with this oil!

Another advantage of this oil? Its high quantity of healthy fats and low cholesterol levels. It’s a good choice if you’re mindful of your health.

The biggest benefit of using sunflower oil to pop your kernels, though, is that it’s a neutral oil. It won’t affect your popcorn’s taste or texture.

8. Soybean Oil

If you’re looking for something affordable yet high-quality, soybean oil is probably the best popcorn oil that fits your criteria. It has a higher smoke point than coconut oil and vegetable oil, plus you won’t have a problem finding it in the groceries.

And because this oil is derived from whole soybeans, it’s a great source of antioxidants, vitamin E, and other minerals.

Best of all, it has a neutral flavor that will let your popcorn seasoning do all the talking.

3 Types of Oil to Avoid for Popping Popcorn

Now that you can name the best oil for popping popcorn, let’s talk about the ones you should stay away from: 

1. Butter

chunks of butter in a glass bowl

It’s not technically an oil, we know, but try not to use regular old butter when you’re making stovetop popcorn. It burns too quickly.

Clarified butter (aka ghee) is a safer option. This is butter minus the water and milk solids and it has a higher smoke point than the one in your fridge. 

2. Flaxseed Oil 

Flax oil makes a plain salad pop. Popcorn? Not so much, unless you drizzle some as a finishing touch. Flaxseed oil simply doesn’t have the smoke point to cook any dish. 225°F is too low. 

3. Wheat Germ Oil

Another oil that just can’t pop popcorn is wheat germ oil. It has the same smoke point as flaxseed oil and is really better as a salad or pasta dressing.  

How Much Oil to Use to Make the Perfect Popcorn

Popcorn kernels coated in oil inside an orange Popsmith Popper

The exact quantity of oil needed to make popcorn will vary depending on how much popcorn you want to pop.

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need about 2 tablespoons of oil to pop half a cup of kernels. Use this ratio to figure out how much oil you need.

You also want to consider the amount of oil you actually like on your popcorn. Some snackers prefer a small drizzle of oil while others want their popcorn greasier.

If you want to lower the cholesterol levels or saturated fat in your popcorn snack, then use less oil. You can always add more melted butter and seasonings to the popcorn after it has popped in the oil. Oil quantity is quite flexible.

What Type of Oil Do Movie Theaters Use to Pop Popcorn?

Person pours coconut oil into a Popsmith Popper

If you’re trying to replicate movie theater popcorn at home, then go for coconut oil. As we said earlier, it’s what a lot of movie theaters use instead of real butter and why we consider it the best oil for popcorn.

Coconut oil is naturally rich, and when you add some butter-flavored seasoning on top of that, the end result is that extra buttery taste you love so much. We know — it’s still hard to believe movie theater popcorn doesn’t actually have “real” butter.

Making Popcorn Without Using Any Oil

While popping popcorn kernels in oil is the common way to make popcorn at home, there’s still a way you can enjoy popcorn oil-free. 

The most common method of making popcorn without oil is using an air popper. It uses high heat to make the kernels pop. Air poppers can be expensive, but they’re worth it if you want the healthiest popcorn. You can still season your air-popped popcorn however you like. 

Get More Snack Inspiration with Popsmith 

Boxes of Oh Sooo Buttery and Classic Kettle Popcorn on a yellow background

We hope this helps you choose the best popcorn oil for your next culinary adventure. 

We personally like coconut oil best here at Popsmith because it enhances the popcorn’s taste. That’s why we use it for our popcorn kits. 

But of course, it’s up to you to choose any oil you want based on your personal preferences. Go experiment with various popcorn oils and see which one suits you most!  

Want more articles like this? Then check out our other blog posts! We talk about all things popcorn — from seasoning ideas to unique recipes and the distinctions between various types of kernels.

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