I’ve been wanting an air fryer for years, and I finally got a Ninja Air Fryer last Christmas. I’ve been playing around with all kinds of different foods and recipes. I’ve made potatoes, French fries, chicken, brussels sprouts, etc. I even made a grilled cheese sandwich in the air fryer! So, of course when I heard you could pop popcorn in an air fryer, I just had to try it.
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What is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is basically a small convection oven that fits on your countertop. It was introduced in 2010 by Philips Electronics Company.
An air fryer cooks food quickly with little to no oil. The heating element is in the top of the air fryer. It heats the air, and the fan circulates the hot air around the food in the air fryer basket. This creates crispy, “fried” foods without the need for oil.
With an air fryer, you no longer have to preheat your oven! That’s a huge time saver and is especially nice on a hot day. It also cooks your food much quicker than an oven.
Can You Make Popcorn In An Air Fryer?
Yes, you can make popcorn in an air fryer, but there can be issues. Popcorn kernels get stuck in the heating element and start to burn. Also, all kernels may not pop the first time, so you may have to redo the process one or two more times.
Technically, yes, you can make popcorn in an air fryer. But should you? That’s another question.
An air fryer is supposed to make cooking things quicker and easier. Popcorn isn’t that difficult to make in the first place, so I thought this would be a breeze.
It’s actually much more difficult to make popcorn in an air fryer than using other methods (stovetop, air popper). There are a lot of additional steps and things you need to pay attention to that you don’t need to do with the other methods. Things like preheating, basket shaking, removing stuck and burnt pieces from the heating element. This is one instance where the air fryer makes life more difficult.
Can You Pop Popcorn in an Air Fryer Without Oil?
Yes, you can pop popcorn in the air fryer without using any oil. One of the best things about the air fryer is its ability to cook food without oil, and popcorn is no exception.
How To Make Popcorn in An Air Fryer
Before trying to pop popcorn in the Ninja air fryer, I did some research. I read blogs, watched YouTube videos, and watched TikToks. I found the general technique to be the same across most sources with a little variation on temperature and time. But other than that, it’s pretty basic. Here’s the air fryer popcorn recipe I used.
Air Fryer Popcorn Recipe
- Line the air fryer basket with aluminum foil. Crimp the sides of the aluminum foil to create a little bowl.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400°F for 5 minutes.
- Measure out ¼ cup popcorn kernels and lightly coat them with coconut oil.
- Put popcorn kernels in a single layer into the foil-lined air fryer basket.
- Put the basket back into the air fryer.
- Set the timer for 8 minutes.
- Shake the basket every 2-3 minutes.
- Once the popping has slowed, remove the basket and pour popcorn into a large bowl.
Here's What Happened When I Popped Popcorn in a Ninja Air Fryer
First, I lined the air fryer basket with aluminum foil. I left a small gap between the aluminum foil and the side of the basket for air to circulate. I crimped the sides of the aluminum foil to create a little bowl.
I preheated the air fryer at 400°F for 5 minutes. Measured out ¼ cup popcorn kernels and lightly coated them with coconut oil.
I pulled the basket out of the air fryer and I put the popcorn kernels into the lined air fryer basket making sure that they were in a single layer so they weren’t on top of each other and had plenty of room. I put the basket back into the air fryer and set the timer for 8 minutes.
The popcorn started to pop after about a minute. Shortly after the popping began, I heard a zapping and sizzling noise. Then another. And another. I’ve never heard that sound coming from my air fryer, so I was a little concerned. Then I started to notice a burning smell. Ok, that’s definitely not good! So around 3 minutes in I couldn’t stand it anymore and I pulled out the basket.
Here’s what it looked like.
As you can see, popcorn kernels got under the aluminum foil. When the kernels popped, they pushed the foil up, and the other kernels flew around the basket and under the foil.
I was a little afraid to look at the heating element inside the fryer. Popcorn had gotten stuck in the heating element and was burning. Not good!
I contemplated trying it again to see if I could make it work, but then decided against it. I didn’t want to risk ruining my beloved air fryer.
So, although I wasn’t successful at making popcorn in the air fryer, others seem to have had success. If you really want to make popcorn in the air fryer, give it a try and see what you think.
Now, I still love my Ninja air fryer and I use it for so many different types of foods. But as for popcorn, I’ll stick with my tried-and-true methods – my perfect stovetop popcorn recipe and air-popped.
I’d like to hear if any of you had any success making popcorn in the air fryer, and if so, what tips or techniques did you use? Let me know in the comments!