If you’re craving homemade popcorn but don’t have any oil, you’re not entirely out of luck. Most of the time, you’ll be able to use the butter you have on hand to both cook and flavor your popcorn. However, there might be some preparation involved, and if you aren’t using the proper butter, you may not get the results you want. 

Here’s how to make popcorn with butter instead of oil:

  1. Add 2 tbsp (30 mL) of clarified butter to a large pot.
  2. Toss in a few test kernels and cover with a lid.
  3. Add the rest of the kernels after the test kernels pop.
  4. Occasionally move and vent the pot until popping stops.

In the rest of the article, we’ll go into more detail about clarified butter and how you can use it to prepare your own popcorn. 

Do You Have To Use Clarified Butter To Pop Popcorn?

You have to use clarified butter as an oil substitute to pop popcorn due to the heat requirements for popping kernels. Regular butter contains water and solids that will burn before the kernels pop. Start by making clarified butter, then simply follow your regular cooking process.

Once you have your clarified butter, you’re ready to start making the popcorn, and the process is essentially the same as it would be with oil.

1. Add 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of Clarified Butter to a Large Pot

After measuring out your kernels and finding an appropriately sized cooking pot, add enough clarified butter to coat the bottom of your pot once melted–you may need more than 2 tbsp (30 mL) depending on the size of your pot and how much popcorn you’re making. 

2. Toss in a Few Test Kernels and Cover With a Lid

As the clarified butter begins to warm, place a few popcorn kernels in to act as a temperature gauge. Also, be sure to place a lid on top of your pot. This helps to heat the butter a bit faster and protects you from being splashed with hot butter when the test kernels pop.

3. Add the Rest of the Kernels After the Test Kernels Pop

When the first few kernels pop, that’s how you know the pan is hot enough, and from there, you can add the rest of your popcorn. Swirl all of the kernels around in the butter to coat them and cover the pot while you wait for the rest of the kernels to pop. 

4. Occasionally Move and Vent the Pot Until Popping Stops

It’s important to occasionally shake the pot to allow for ventilation and help unpopped kernels sink to the bottom of the pot so they can pop. Once the popcorn is finished popping, you can remove the pan from the heat. From there, you can add all of the toppings that you want. 

What Is Clarified Butter?

Clarified butter can be purchased at the store, however, it’s quite simple to prepare yourself at home. Making clarified butter doesn’t require you to follow a recipe or add ingredients to existing butter. Instead, you’ll be removing ingredients–in this case, the water and milk solids. 

Clarified butter is butterfat that’s been separated from the milk solids and water in butter. This is achieved through a simple, low-heat cooking process. Pure butterfat has a higher smoke point than butter, making it great for high-heat cooking, such as popping popcorn. 

Typically, stovetop popcorn pops at around 350°F (176°C), but regular butter has a smoke point, or burning point, of around 300°F (149°C), meaning it will begin to burn long before the popcorn kernels pop. Most oils, on the other hand, burn between 350°F and 450°F (177°C and 232°C). 

Clarified butter, which no longer contains milk solids, will have a smoke point of around 482°F (250°C), making it suitable for popping popcorn. 

How Do You Make Clarified Butter?

Separating the ingredients of butter might sound difficult, but it’s a process that mostly occurs naturally. All you really need to do is heat the butter for about 10 to 15 minutes. 

Here’s how to make clarified butter:

  1. Put solid butter in a pot and heat on the stove.
  2. Melt butter on low heat without stirring.
  3. Skim foam off top as butter simmers.
  4. Remove from heat when foam stops forming.
  5. Pour yellow liquid into the jar, leaving behind solids.
  6. Use cheesecloth or mesh strainer to catch remaining solids.

As the butter cooks, most of the water should boil off, and the milk solids will sink to the bottom of the pan, leaving you with pure butterfat.  The cheesecloth also helps as you pour the liquid into a jar to catch any solids.

You won’t need much of your new butter to cook popcorn, and you’ll be able to store all of the leftovers in the refrigerator for several weeks. Additionally, popcorn is just one of the many food items that utilizes clarified butter, and you’ll be able to find plenty of other uses for it.

Do You Need To Add Butter To Flavor Popcorn Popped In Butter?

If you’ve cooked your popcorn using butter instead of oil, you might be wondering if you still need to butter your popcorn after it is cooked. 

You do need to add butter to flavor your popcorn even after it was popped in butter. to your liking after it is all cooked. Only a small amount of butter is used to make popcorn, and even less carries over to the final product. As a result, additional butter is needed to flavor to your liking.

With that being said, you might be able to achieve a more buttery popcorn by cooking the popcorn in a larger amount of butter. By melting more butter and swirling the kernels around more often, you may be able to coat more of the popcorn for an extra-buttery taste. 

You could also use the clarified butter that you’ve made to butter your popcorn afterward, and if it’s still in a melted state, this might be the easiest route. However, clarifying butter does remove some of the flavor, so your popcorn may not taste exactly how you like it unless you use regular butter.

Can You Use Clarified Butter To Make Kettle Corn?

When you add sugar to your pan of hot oil, you create a glaze that coats the popcorn as it pops, and at the end, you have kettle corn. 

You can use clarified butter to make kettle corn. As you would with oil, add sugar to your clarified butter as it heats in the pan. Once combined, you will add the kernels and move the popcorn around in the glaze as it pops. 


Cooking popcorn with butter instead of oil is certainly doable, but it’s going to require a little more preparation. Unless you are able to purchase clarified butter from the store, you’ll need to make your own by melting the butter and separating the milk solids and water from the butterfat. 

Since the smoke point of clarified butter is higher than regular butter, you’re able to use it to pop popcorn, and the process for doing so is exactly the same as with oil.

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