There is a trick to making the BEST Ninja Foodi Popcorn and I'm going to share it with you! You can use this technique to make everything from buttery movie-style popcorn to kettle corn, AND you won't burn the butter or the sugar!
Jeff and I love popcorn! I think it's his favorite snack of all time... well, maybe peanuts, but popcorn is a close second. In fact, I bet it's his #1 favorite, but he doesn't want to make it.
We never have the microwave kind around because of all the added stuff in there. Yes, it tastes great, but, too many weird sounding ingredients for me.
I have made popcorn a lot in the Ninja Foodi and it's always good, but just a little bland. I like a buttery popcorn and pouring butter over popped kernels just isn't the same as popping the kernels while the butter infuses itself. I was on a mission. How to make a buttery, movie-style popcorn in the Ninja Foodi. Oh... and kettle corn.
My not-so-secret popcorn favorite is kettle corn. I just LOVE it! That hint of sweet with the salty is the perfect snack for me, but I always burned the sugar when trying to make it in the Ninja Foodi.
It was frustrating, but I was determined to figure out a solution, and I did!
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This little trick or technique works perfectly every single time AND, the best part, you can use it to make any style of popcorn you want! The sky is the limit with popcorn flavors, and I'm going to show you how!
What is Kettle Corn?
Just in case you have never heard of kettle corn, it's popcorn that is slightly sweet and just a tad salty. It really is the perfect combination of flavors!
It got its name from being made in a cast iron kettle, but now we can enjoy this treat made easily in the Ninja Foodi or the Instant Pot. Of course, you can also make it in a big pot on the stove and use the same technique as I do in this recipe!
Kettle corn is typically sweetened with a light colored sugar, like a plain white sugar, but you can switch that up if you want!
What Sugar is Best for Kettle Corn?
While white sugar is the most common type of sugar used, but, there isn't really a best sugar for kettle corn. You can use any kind you like.
White sugar imparts a subtle sweetness where brown sugar would give it more of a caramel flavor.
You can probably even use honey, although I have not tried this.
Can I use a Sugar Substitute when making Kettle Corn?
I don't see why not! Just mix your favorite sugar substitute with the butter and get to popping!
I haven't tried this, so be sure to let me know how it works for you!
Do I Need any Special Equipment to Make Ninja Foodi Popcorn?
Not really, but a few things will come in handy and make life a lot easier!
It is much easier to make popcorn in the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot if you have a different lid besides the pressure lid. The pressure lid is a bit cumbersome to sneak a stir from time to time, but it can be done!
If you want to use the pressure lid, I would just set it on top and not lock it in place. Popcorn can go from perfect to burnt in seconds and you don't want to be fooling with that lid.
It is also very helpful to be able to stir the popping kernels a couple of times during the popping process. This helps to get the most kernels popped and prevents burning.
While you can use a glass lid (I've done that several times), it can be tricky to get your scraper or wooden spoon into the pot to stir without having popcorn popping out at you.
My favorite cover to use is the large Silicone Cover that comes in the set of 5 that I purchased. It fits perfectly and is flexible enough to slip a scraper or spoon underneath.
You can find the covers here: Silicone Covers
These covers are great for covering all size pans while cooking in the Ninja Foodi, and I use them all the time!
I also use a Silicone Scraper from Pampered Chef that I absolutely love. It's the perfect size for stirring and slips right under the silicone cover.
You can find the Scraper I use here: Mix 'N Scraper
Other than that, the only other thing I use is foil.
Can I use Something Besides Aluminum Foil?
I'm not sure! I haven't tried this method with anything but aluminum foil.
You might be able to use parchment paper, but it will get wet and I'm not so sure how it will work.
If you try it, please let me know how it works! Or if you come up with another idea, I would love to include it in this post! Email me or make a comment below.
What Other Flavors of Ninja Foodi Popcorn Can I Make?
That is the beauty of this technique... you can make any kind of popcorn you want! Here are some ideas.
Movie Theatre Butter Popcorn: Use 4-8 Tbsp of salted butter that is room temp and spread it in the foil after you poke your holes.
Maryland Style Popcorn: Add 1/2-1 tsp of Old Bay to the butter and mix it up, then spread the butter on the foil after you poke your holes.
Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn: Oh yes! I'm trying this next! I would use 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon for every Tbsp of sugar. For a sweet tasting popcorn, I would use 2 Tbsp of sugar and mix up the sugar, cinnamon and butter. For this style, it might be easier to use a hand mixer to blend the butter and cinnamon together or melt the butter first and then chill it after the sugar and cinnamon is mixed in.
Buffalo Style Popcorn: Mix in your favorite hot sauce with the butter, just don't use too much or your popcorn might be soggy. I think I'd try ½ Tbsp of hot sauce to 4 Tbsp of butter.
Caramel Popcorn: Making caramel popcorn is a slightly different technique and I have a delicious recipe for making it right in the Ninja Foodi.
This list of flavor combinations goes on and on and on. Get creative and experiment! Be sure to comment with the flavor you love the most!
Changes I Made from The YouTube Video
Recipes are always evolving and I try to improve on mine as I learn new and better ways to make something.
Ninja Foodi Popcorn is one example where the recipe doesn't exactly match the video. Not to worry, though; if you follow the video you will have delicious popcorn.
The change I made is to call for room temp butter instead of cold butter. I did this because I found that not all the butter melted and infused into the popcorn during the popping time.
That is really no big deal because you can sprinkle the rest on after the popping stops, but, hopefully, using room temp butter will avoid having excess left in the foil packet.
What if I Wanted to Skip the Butter?
That is perfectly fine and if you don't want to use butter or any other sugar, liquid or semi solid ingredient, you won't need the foil packet.
Simply add in the seasonings you want to use when you add in the popcorn and stir. Follow the rest of the instructions.
If you wanted to use sugar, but not the butter, I would make a sugar paste of sorts. Mix some sugar in warm water until it is the consistency of paste. As it heats up, it should drip through the holes in the foil.
I haven't tried this, so let me know how it works if you do!
Can I Double this Recipe?
Yes, I've made up to 1 cup of unpopped kernels at once without any problem.
I have not tried the foil method with a full cup, though, but it should work the same. You might want to use cold butter instead of room temp if you are using a full cup of popcorn since the popping time will be a bit longer.
Can I make Ninja Foodi Popcorn Without Oil?
Yep! The heat from the pan will pop kernels. No oil needed. I make plain popcorn for my chickens all the time.
Keep in mind that seasonings will not stick to the popcorn unless oil is used.
If you wanted to add a little seasoning after the fact, you can spritz with oil and sprinkle on your seasoning.
How to Make Ninja Foodi Popcorn
Whether you want to make a flavored popcorn or plain popcorn, there are a few things I found that really helps prevent scorching or having a lot of unpopped kernels.
Managing the heat is the number 1 thing. I have found that decreasing your temp from high to medium low when the popcorn is rapidly popping is key to not burning it.
However, if you reduce the heat too soon, you will end up with unpopped kernels. There isn't a specific timing I can give you, the best thing to do is go by ear. When you hear rapid popping for about 3-5 seconds, turn down the heat.
Stirring a couple of times during the popping process also makes a ton of difference and reduces the amount of unpopped kernels. I usually stir once before the popping becomes rapid and then again when I turn down the heat.
The first thing you want to do is get your butter and foil packet ready.
These instructions are pretty much the same no matter what flavor popcorn you are making if you are using butter. Skip the compounding step if only using butter and no seasonings.
Mix the seasoning (or sugar) with the butter. You can do this by hand with a spreader and a piece of parchment or a bowl, or you can beat the mixture with a hand blender.
Measure and make your foil packet. The sheet I used is about 12" x 9" or so. No need to be exact, just make sure it extends 1-2" beyond the lip of the inner pot on both sides so you can secure it.
If you prefer a short video on how to make the foil pouch, see below. The full video can be found here: How to make Kettle Corn or Movie Theatre Style Popcorn in the Ninja Foodi
Tuck each end under the lip of the inner pot and poke a lot of holes in the foil. These are holes that the butter will drip out of, so evenly separate them, and don't make them too big or too much butter will drip out too quickly.
I used the pointed end of my cake tester, but anything with a sharp, thin point will work.
Then spread the butter mixture over the bottom of the foil packet. You can also cube it up if that is easier.
Now to make the popcorn! Put 3 Tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the inner pot and add 1 unpopped corn kernel. I used canola oil, but you can use any oil you like. Turn the Ninja Foodi on high sear/sauté and cover with glass lid or silicone cover.
When you hear the kernel pop, remove the lid and add in the remaining kernels and the salt. Stir to combine. Place the closed foil packet across the inner pot and secure the ends under the lip of the inner pot.
In a few minutes you will start to hear the kernels start to pop. I usually give them a stir right as they begin to pop. This is why I love the silicone cover, I can slip my scraper right under the lid and stir without removing the entire lid.
Stay close by and when the popping becomes very fast for about 3-5 seconds, lower the heat to medium/low.
I also stir once I lower the heat.
Once the popping slows to one pop every couple of seconds, I turn off the heat and let it finish popping.
Remove the cover and if there is any butter left in the foil pouch, I sprinkle it over the popcorn and stir.
Pour into a bowl and Enjoy!
Ninja Foodi Popcorn
- 3 Tbsp oil whatever kind you like
- ½ cup popcorn kernels
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 Tbsp butter salted and room temp
- Measure out a piece of foil that is 4" larger than the diameter of the inner pot and wide enough to be able to fold into a pouch. Tuck the ends under the lip of the inner pot and make multiple holes with a thin sharp object. I used the pointy end of my cake tester. You don't want the holes too big or the butter will just pour out in places.
- Add the 3 Tbsp of oil to the inner pot and 1 unpopped corn kernel. Turn the Ninja Foodi on High Sear/Sauté and cover with a silicone or glass lid.
- While you are waiting for the one kernel to pop, cut or spread your butter on the foil.
- When you hear the kernel pop, add in the remaining unpopped kernels and the salt. Stir to combine.
- Close up the foil packet and secure by tucking under the lip of the inner pot. Cover with silicone cover or glass lid. Leave the sear/sauté on high until to begin to hear the kernels rapidly popping (less than 1 second between pops), turn the heat down to medium/low. Insert a spatula or wooden spoon and stir the bottom to move the kernels around.
- Once the popping has slowed down to about 1 pop every few seconds, turn the Ninja Foodi off and stir again. If there is any butter left in the foil, shake it over the popcorn and stir.
- Serve and enjoy!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.