Last fall, microwave popcorn made Prevention magazine’s list of “7 Foods That Should Never Cross Your Lips.” The problem isn’t with the popcorn, though, it’s with the chemicals used in the bag lining – turns out it’s nasty stuff that can leech onto the kernels and into your your body. They are linked to infertility. Perhaps even carcinogenic. At any rate, I found myself making a choice between what’s healthy and what’s convenient, and healthy won out.

This could have been a problem – popcorn, apples, and cheese is a staple meal – but thankfully microwave popcorn has not been rendered obsolete in our house. I had coincidentally been paging through Mark Bittman’s book Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes and found a recipe for Brown-Bag Popcorn that is simple and tastes great. All you have to do is put a quarter-cup of popcorn in a brown lunch bag, optionally toss with a teaspoon or two of oil and a few shakes of salt, fold the top over a few times, and zap for 2-3 minutes. It’s less salty than the prepackaged microwave kind; it took us a couple of batches to adjust to the pure popcorn flavor. Even if you douse it with butter, it’s still better than all the artificial flavors and leaching chemicals you get with the packages. Make this often.

Kid Two loves it tossed with melted butter, paprika, and nutritional yeast.

Brown bag popcorn

Life in a Skillet
Mark Bittman's recipe for homemade microwave popcorn.
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Snack


  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • 1/4 cup unpopped popcorn
  • dash of salt optional
  • dash vegetable oil optional


  • Put the popcorn into a paper lunch bag.
  • Add a dash each of vegetable oil and salt. (optional)
  • Fold the top of the paper bag over 3-4 times.
  • Place in center of microwave and turn on high for 3 minutes.
  • Stand and monitor the popping sounds. When popping slows down, turn off the microwave and remove the popcorn.