What’s the Best Oil For Popcorn?

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There’s more than one way to cook popcorn.  You can use a microwave (click here for microwave popcorn poppers), cook it over the stove or use an air popper.  Some people even use a grill or a campfire to provide the necessary heat.  

But if you’re going for that classic movie popcorn style taste, there’s one thing you need to do no matter what kind of popcorn cooking method you choose: add in some kind of cooking oil.  

Top Popcorn Oil Comparison

Popcorn made with oil may have a few extra calories compared to popcorn made with hot air, but who cares?  Every once in while, it’s okay to indulge in your favorite kinds of snacks.  Salty, buttery popcorn made the traditional way brings back happy memories of fairs, carnivals and trips to the movie theater.

Click here to learn more about air poppers.

Oil Is Better Than Butter

Did you know that most movie theatre popcorn doesn’t contain any butter at all?  Most movie popcorn that you get at the theatre only contains cooking oil. If you want butter on top, you have to squirt it on yourself.

Popcorn vendors think that cooking oil is better than butter because butter weighs popcorn down, causing it to get mushy and soggy.  

If you’ve ever tried to make popcorn with butter yourself, you know how greasy it can get.  Oil is superior to butter because it keeps popcorn from drying out during the cooking process without weighing it down.

The 5 Best Oils For Popping Corn

There are many different types of cooking oil.  The question is: which ones can be used for making popcorn?  

The answer is simple: nearly all of them.  The type of oil you choose for your popcorn makes a difference when it comes to taste and nutrition.  Here are 5 of our favorite popcorn oils.

1.  Sunflower Oil

Like sunflower seeds?  If so, you might want to experiment with sunflower oil the next time you make popcorn.  Sunflower oil adds a very, very slight nutty flavor to your popcorn.  

Another thing that’s great about sunflower oil is that it has a preservative effect on food.  That’s why popcorn made with sunflower oil stays fresh longer, compared to some other types of oils.

What We Love:

  • Mild, nutty flavor.  The flavor is pleasant and not overpowering.
  • Preserves popcorn.  Popcorn lasts longer if you make it with sunflower oil.

What We Don’t Love:

  • Could be too light for some people.  If you’re used to heavy movie popcorn, you may be unsatisfied with the taste of the end product.

Peanut Oil

Some types of peanut oils are nearly tasteless, but others are quite strong.  If you like taste of peanuts, you’ll want to buy an unfiltered peanut oil for your popcorn.   But if you like your popcorn extra fluffy and you want to reduce your caloric intake, try a highly refined peanut oil instead.

If you buy peanut oil, you should also keep in mind the fact that many people are allergic to peanuts.  If you accidently give popcorn made with peanut oil to someone with a peanut allergy, you may wind up having to take an unexpected trip to the hospital.  Most highly refined peanut oils are safe, but some unrefined varieties can trigger a reaction.

What We Love:

  • Slight peanut flavor.  If you like mixing peanuts into your popcorn, you’ll like how popcorn turns out when you use popcorn oil.
  • There are many types of peanut oil to try.  Peanut oil comes in many different varieties.  If one type is too thick and overpowering, you can switch to a lighter oil.

What We Don’t Love:

  • It’s unsafe for people with peanut allergies.  Some types of peanut oil can trigger allergic reactions.

Coconut Oil

There’s a reason why movie popcorn is so delicious: it is made with coconut oil.  Even though it’s not so healthy, coconut oil is the go-to oil vendors use when selling popcorn to the public.  Coconut oil has lots of fat, but it’s not all bad.  Trace elements of several healthy vitamins and minerals can be found in it.

Even though coconut oil isn’t the healthiest type of oil you can use to cook popcorn, it does help you pop out a delicious final product.  That’s why if taste is your primary priority, coconut oil is the best kind of popcorn oil out there– bar none.

What We Love:

  • It tastes great.  Movie style coconut oil popcorn is rich, moist and pairs well with lots of salt.

What We Don’t Love:

  • It’s bad for you.  Coconut oil contains lots of fat and calories.

Canola Oil

Many popcorn vendors are starting to switch to canola oil.  Canola oil produces popcorn that tastes a lot like popcorn made with coconut oil.  The only difference is that canola oil contains far less calories.

The downside of canola oil is that it burns quickly.  Unless you like your popcorn black and crunchy, keep a close eye on your kettle and use a low heat setting if you use canola oil to make popcorn.  

What We Love:

  • It’s the low fat version of coconut oil.  You get movie quality popcorn without all the calories.

What We Don’t Love:

  • It burns up quickly.  Keep a close eye on your popper if you switch to canola.

Olive Oil

Here’s one big reason why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy: olive oil.  Many Mediterranean style dishes are prepared with this super healthy cooking oil.  Most people associate olive oil with salad dressing.  But you can use olive oil to cook popcorn, too.

If you’re going to try making popcorn with olive oil, go with the strong stuff.  Extra virgin olive oil has more flavor than light olive oil.  It’s also better for your health.

What We Love:

  • Tons of health benefits.  Olive oil is very good for your health.

What We Don’t Love:

  • Some people don’t like the distinct olive oil taste.  Some people say that olive oil popcorn tastes like a salad.

Where to Buy Popcorn Oil

Ordinary grocery stores sell most of the varieties of oil that you can use to make popcorn.  However, if you’d prefer to order popcorn oil in bulk online you have several different options to choose from.  

  • Snappy Popcorn.  Many popcorn vendors buy their oil from Snappy Popcorn.  If you have a question about popcorn, you can ring up their customer support line and ask.  They’ve been the business for 40 years, so they know what they’re talking about.  Snappy Popcorn’s popcorn oil section is quite extensive and covers all the oils professional vendors use to make popcorn.
  • Popcorn Popper.  Popcorn Popper is another midwestern popcorn company with a great reputation.  They offer all kinds of different popcorn oil variety packs.  Their premium popcorn oil starter set has all the classic oil flavors, plus a few exotic ones too.  Check it out if you’ve ever wondered what popcorn made with green tea oil might taste like.
  • Great Northern.  Popcorn machine maker Great Northern also makes popcorn oil.  If you want to get that movie theatre popcorn taste, check out their Great Northern Popcorn Company Theater Popping Kit.  It only contains one type oil, but it comes with a variety of different seasonings you can use to mix up the taste.
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