We Tried 7 Brands of Microwave Popcorn So You Don’t Have To
A hunt for the best buttery, movie theater-style popcorn.
Among snacks, popcorn is near perfect. It’s cheap, salty, buttery, and only takes a few minutes in the microwave to make. The one downside—kernels getting stuck between your teeth—is easily worth the chance to enjoy a bag while enjoying a movie from the comfort of your couch. But given popcorn’s status as a universally enjoyed treat, it should come as no surprise that there are a plethora of options facing kernel lovers at the grocery store. Shoppers who are looking for the filling snack food can quickly become overwhelmed by the number of brands vying for the title of best-tasting popcorn. And picking the wrong variety can mean ending up with bland, barely flavored popped kernels.
To help you find the best accompaniment for you next movie night in, we tried seven brands of popcorn, all of which are available at your local grocery store or online. We went with classic movie theater butter flavor to keep the test consistent. Here are our rankings, from best to worst.
Pop Secret Premium Popcorn in Movie Theater Butter ($6.19 for 6 bags)
The only thing worse than under-seasoned popcorn is movie theater style kernels without enough butter flavor. Thankfully, Pop Secret manages to avoid both of these sins. Despite containing less sodium than some of the other brands we tested, Pop Secret managed to have the most butter flavor and the best salt taste straight out of the bag. The butter is slightly cheesy tasting, but that taste somehow makes the snack even more satisfying. Despite ample butter, Pop Secret also manages to keep its snack from becoming greasy. Although these bags of popcorn are a bit pricier than some of our options, we definitely think they’re worth the splurge.
Jolly Time’s butter variety tastes similar to Pop Secret, but with less salt taste and slightly more grease. Surprisingly, it has a higher sodium content than Pop Secret’s as well. Still, as far as taste and value goes, it’s pretty comparable to our top pick, and definitely worth a try if you’re a fan of heavy butter flavor.
Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn in Movie Theater Butter ($8.49 for 12 bags)
Of all the brands we tried, Orville Redenbacher’s tasted the most like homemade. You could believe that someone had poured freshly melted butter over the popcorn, especially given the amount of grease that the snack left on our hands. Still, we didn’t mind keeping some napkins on hand while snacking on this popcorn. And the best part is that, pricewise, it’s comparable to generic varieties. The value pack comes in at about $0.70 per bag — not bad for a name brand.
Other brands we tried, such as Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop, may have advertised their low calorie count, but Organics and Act II both managed to come in at 25 calories per cup—10 less than most of the brands we tried. So if you’re watching your calorie intake, you might as well reach for Act II or Organics, rather than choosing a more expensive diet brand. Plus, both had decent salt and butter flavor without containing an overwhelming amount of sodium.
Not Our Favorites
Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop Popcorn in Real Butter ($5.39 for 4 bags) and Signature Select Microwave Popcorn in Extra Butter ($2.19 for 3 bags)
If you love plain-tasting popcorn, then you’ll love these brands. There’s no butter taste. No detectable salt. Just unmitigated corn flavor, and nothing else. Maybe Angie’s and Safeway’s generic would be good choices for sad movies, since the lack of flavor could only deepen any sorrow caused by the story on screen. But for our money, there’s better showtime snack options available.