We Tried 9 Brands of Microwave Popcorn and This Is the Best

Microwave Popcorn Lineup

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Microwave Popcorn Lineup

Perfect Pops

As snack foods go, microwave popcorn is one of the better choices you can make. It’s filling, lower in calories than a candy bar or ice cream, and fairly inexpensive; one bag is good for two to three servings, depending on the brand you buy. But which brand of microwave popcorn is the best? There are literally dozens of varieties available, including kettle style, movie theater style, natural, flavored, and oh-so-many more. To settle the debate, or at least narrow down the choices, we selected nine kinds of butter-flavored microwave popcorn from top brands like Orville Redenbacher, PopSecret, and Act II, plus store brands from Walmart, Target, and more. 

Related: Snack Food Showdown: Trader Joe’s vs. Aldi

Orville Redenbacher Movie Theater Butter
Scott Nyerges

Orville Redenbacher’s Movie Theater Butter: Best Popcorn Overall

This brand strikes the best flavor balance between salt and butter without tasting artificial or overly seasoned, as were some other popcorn brands in our taste test. The kernels were crisp, fluffy, and aromatic, all of which we would expect from the top microwave popcorn brand, according to data analyzed by Statista.

Related: 50 Ways to Get Creative With Your Popcorn

Jolly Time Blast o’ Butter
Scott Nyerges

Jolly Time Blast O Butter: Best Popcorn Runner-Up

Much like Orville Redenbacher, we found Jolly Time’s microwave popcorn to be just about perfect. It’s a touch saltier, which some people preferred and others did not. Also, the kernels didn’t stay crisp once cooled.

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Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter
Scott Nyerges

Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter: Best Popcorn for Butter Lovers

Although all the brands in our test claim to be buttery, none of them can match the sheer richness of Pop Secret. It packed more butter flavor into the crisp corn kernels than our other samples, yet it never tasted oily or greasy (though it did leave our fingers pretty buttery once we were done with the tasting). 

Related: 40 Foods That Americans are Missing Out On

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Act II Butter Lovers
Scott Nyerges

Act II Butter Lovers: Best for Butter Lovers Runner-Up

We found the Act II sample lacked sufficient salt to contrast the artificial-tasting butter flavor. We were split over whether this was a good thing or not; those in the pro-butter camp were satisfied with Act II, while the less-is-more among us preferred Pop Secret. In general, an okay but not great microwave popcorn, in our opinion.

Related: The Best Drive-In Movie Theaters in America

Jolly Time Simply Popped Butter
Scott Nyerges

Jolly Time Simply Popped Butter: Best Light Popcorn

If you love microwave popcorn but prefer a light touch when it comes to butter, Jolly Time’s Simply Popped is for you. It’s noticeably less buttery to the taste (with just enough salt) than the other popcorns in our test, and the fluffy white kernels stayed crisp well after they’d cooled down. This is also one of just three microwave popcorns in our sample that use real butter (in addition to palm oil).

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Skinny Pop Butter
Scott Nyerges

Skinny Pop Butter: Best Light Popcorn Runner-Up

Skinny Pop was very similar in color, crispness, and flavor to the other “light” popcorn in our test, Jolly Time Simply Popped. The only difference we noticed was that the Skinny Pop kernels didn’t stay crisp for long after being popped, which is a disappointment.

Related: 20 Microwave Recipe Hacks You Need to Know

Market Pantry Extra Butter
Scott Nyerges

Market Pantry Extra Butter: Best Store-Brand Popcorn (Tie)

Target’s microwave popcorn isn’t nearly as tasty as our top picks. The butter flavoring has a slightly artificial taste that lingers on the tongue that we weren’t crazy about, but it was pleasantly salty. And we liked that the kernels stayed relatively crisp long after the popcorn had gone cold, which will be appreciated during those TV binge-watching sessions.

Related: 19 Store-Brand Products With Cult Followings From Costco, Walmart, and More

Great Value Extra Butter
Scott Nyerges

Great Value Extra Butter: Best Store-Brand Popcorn (Tie)

Buttery? You bet. So much so that the golden yellow flavoring saturated the bag and leaked out during the microwaving process. The Great Value popcorn edges out Target’s version on buttery flavor, but Walmart’s popcorn lacks that kick of salt to counter all that butter. Which one you’ll prefer may come down to how much butter flavor you crave.

Related: Walmart's Chocolate Chip Cookies Beat Top Brands in Taste Test

Hill Country Fare Theater Style
Scott Nyerges

Hill Country Fare Theater Style: Best Budget Popcorn

The fact is, microwave popcorn isn’t all that expensive. But if you’re really pinching pennies, you can save a few by buying the budget store brand at your local grocer. Hill Country Fare is the store brand of Texas-based grocer HEB, and their microwave popcorn was indeed the cheapest on our list by a few cents. Truth be told, it was also our least favorite microwave popcorn, lacking that spark of salt to balance the rather bland butter flavor (which, compared to brands like Act II, was decidedly less buttery overall, too). 

Related: Snack Food Showdown: Trader Joe’s vs. Aldi