Why Is My Popcorn Not Popping In The Microwave? (And How To Fix It)

Using a microwave is a fast and convenient way to make popcorn. Although this appliance is very effective in making peng and buttery popcorn, sometimes, some or all the kernels just won’t pop.

Here are some common reasons why is your popcorn not popping in the microwave.

1. You Didn’t Read The Bag’s Instructions

microwave popcorn instructions

The first step to a perfect popcorn night is to read the instructions in the kernel package. It may seem unnecessary if you’re a seasoned popcorn expert, but it can make the difference.

Popcorn kernels come in different brands, in various shapes, sizes, and variations. Flavorings, packages, and distribution can create vast differences in cooking times and temperatures, so you’d do well in following instructions to a T. Keep in mind that manufacturers have already studied the best time it takes for their kernels to pop properly.

Here are the general instructions:

  1. Remove the paper bag from the plastic wrap.
  2. Place the bag in the center of the microwave, with the side that is indicated facing down.
  3. Microwave on medium-high: 500-800W for 3 minutes or on 800-1000W for about 2 minutes.
  4. Stop microwaving once the popping slows to about one pop every 3 seconds.
  5. Carefully open the bag, and watch out for the hot steam.

Warning! Should you see smoke or smell burning, stop microwaving straight away.

Related Post: How To Use Flavacol?

2. You’re Using The Microwave’s Popcorn Setting

microwave setting for popcorn

Don’t use default microwave popcorn settings! There is a reason why most popcorn bag instructions warn against using your microwave’s default popcorn setting—it can threaten your movie night.

It’s not because there’s something wrong with the setting, but because no two popcorn bags are the same, making the preset time too much or too little on certain occasions.

Even worse? Some microwaves do not have a humidity sensor, which means your popcorn can be stale or burn without it ever stopping.

In this case, it’s better to remain old-school and focus on your senses. Listen carefully to the number of kernels popping, as that can help you determine whether or not the settings you use are efficient.

Did You Know? The kernels left over unpoped are sometimes called Spinsters or Old Maids.

3. Your Microwave’s Wattage May Be Too Low

making popcorn in microwave

High enough wattage is an issue that is often overlooked.

According to my testing, popping corn kernels usually requires a high wattage. Anything under 500 watts is far too low, as it does not generate the heat needed to trigger the reaction that makes popcorn pop.

Make sure to check your microwave’s settings to verify its wattage before proceeding and adjust it to medium-high: 500-800W or high: 800-1000W.

Likewise, keep in mind that all microwaves are different, and some have quirks that may not appear in the specifications, so you’ll have to go through some trial and error to find what works right for you.

4. The Popcorn Kernels Are Stale

stale popcorn kernels that don't pop

If you’ve had your popcorn kernels sitting on your cupboard for years without proper storage, then odds are they won’t pop, even if they look pristine on the outside.

The reason behind this lies in the science of popcorn. You see, corn kernels have moisture content inside their hard shell. Once exposed to high enough temperatures, that moisture starts to evaporate and transform into steam that slowly seeks a way out of its prison. The outer shell will eventually burst open under the pressur, creating the poped flake we know and love.

However, lengthy storage and improper conditions can make the kernel stale as the inner moisture dries out. As such, the kernel cannot produce any steam when exposed to heat, which means there is no pop in that kernel.

To prevent this, make sure not to store popcorn kernels for too long and ensure their container is tightly closed until it’s time to pop them.

Best Microwave Popcorn

Not all kernels are created equal when it comes to popping and taste. Yes, the taste can be subjective, but as far as the popping rate goes, below are the list of some of the best microwave popcorn to get.

I recently tried out Black Jewell natural microwave popcorn below with no hulls that sometimes get stuck in your teeth, so they were lovely to snack on and easier to digest, and there were no unpopped kernels at all. Or maybe I just got lucky the first time.

Black Jewell Hulless Microwave Popcorn, Touch of Butter – Black Kernels that Pop White, Non-GMO, All Natural Snack with Protective Antioxidants, Whole Grain, Gluten Free, Gourmet, Vegan, Kosher, Chemical Free Bags, 10.5 oz (Pack of 6)


  1. Black Jewell Hulless Microwave Popcorn
  2. Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP Sea Salt Microwave Popcorn
  3. Orville Redenbacher’s Naturals Simply Salted
  4. Pop Weaver Extra Butter Microwave Popcorn
  5. Skinny Pop Sea Salt Popcorn
  6. Clancy’s Movie Theater Butter Microwave Popcorn
  7. Newman’s Own Butter Microwave Popcorn
  8. Act II Buttery Kettle Corn
  9. Jolly Time The Big Cheez Gourmet Cheddar Cheese Microwave Popcorn
  10. Quinn Snacks
  11. Pop Secret Light Butter Flavor Popcorn
  12. 365 Organic Microwave Popcorn
  13. Great Value Butter Flavored Microwave Popcorn
  14. Kirkland Signature Microwave Popcorn
  15. Butterkist

Related Post: How To Make Popcorn With Butter Instead Of Oil? (Easy Stovetop Version).

Frequently Asked Questions And Answers

bowl of popcorn in the microwave

How To Make Popcorn In The Microwave Without A Bag?

Take a large microwave-safe glass bowl and pour about a quarter cup of kernels into it. Then add 1-2 tablespoons of oil or melted butter and a pinch of salt to the kernels and stir to coat. Place the bowl in the microwave, cover with a paper towel and cook on high for 2-3 minutes till the popping has slowed to once every 3 seconds. Remove from the microwave and enjoy!

How Long To Pop Popcorn In Microwave?

One bag of microwave popcorn or ¼ of a cup (60g) of unpopped kernels takes about 3 minutes to pop on a medium 700 watts setting and 3 minutes on a high 1000 watts setting.

What is Unpopped Popcorn To Popped Conversion?

1/4 cup of unpoped kernels equals about 6 cups of popped popcorn. 1/3 cup of kernels equals about 9 cups, and 1/2 cup of kernels gives you approximately 14 cups of popped flakes.

How To Get All Popcorn Kernels To Pop?

Although there are always some studs that just won’t pop no matter what, the main reason for unpopped kernels is that they have gone too dry. To make all the kernels pop, soak them in water for about 20 minutes, then drain the water and pop as usual. The extra moisture helps produce bigger and fluffier flakes.

Or, you can also use this method. Put the kernel in a mansion jar. Add one tablespoon of water and give the jar a good shake. Place the lid back on and leave it overnight.

If you don’t like using the microwave, don’t worry; in this video below, I will show you how to make fluffy, buttery popcorn on the stovetop. Check it out now!

About Jen Evansy

Nutritionist, researcher, avid home cook, and writer interested in everything nutrition and food-related. Striving to inform, encourage, and inspire all the readers to make healthy and informed choices when it comes to cooking, food, diet, and nutrition.