Can you make popcorn in an air fryer? You can but it's not the best idea

So long as you can put up with the small risk of your house burning to the ground this TikTok trend is a winner

Popcorn on red background
(Image credit: Getty)

Can you make popcorn in the air fryer? It turns out the answer is yes, and the results are tasty but T3 does not recommend you do so, since there is a slight fire risk. We like popcorn very much, but perhaps not enough to spin the dice on a kitchen small appliance fire. This air fried popcorn 'craze' started on TikTok, natch. Since TikTok has lied to me before, I wanted to give this hack a try in my own kitchen before giving it my seal of approval. I’ve tried many a TikTok trend in my air fryer, from air fried hard ‘boiled’ eggs to baking brownies, but I think this is the one that’s scared me the most so far. 

Sure, if you’ve got a microwave at your disposal you may not need to opt for this method, but if you’re like me and you simply don’t have the space for a microwave in your kitchen, you may have previously missed out on fulfilling your occasional urges for popcorn. But f this hack really works, it means you can simply whip out something from our best air fryers list, and return to the days of setting the timer and leaving your snack to heat up while you choose the Netflix movie you want to watch. 

As a top comment on the TikTok video points out, making popcorn in an air fryer has the potential to be a bit of a fire hazard. But with an extinguisher on-hand – and the hope that my landlord does not come across this article – I decided to put this hack to the test. I don't recommend you do the same. 

How to make popcorn in an air fryer

@imankhamissa (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - Imankhamissa (opens in new tab)

If a video by TikTok user @imankhamissa is to be believed, the trick to making air fryer popcorn is to not overfill the basket by using half a cup of kernels, and to leave your kernels to pop for seven minutes at 200°C, or 400°F. Then remove them from the basket and add whatever flavour you’d like. Sounds easy enough, right? 

The only problem is that the heating element in an air fryer sits directly above the basket, so adding popcorn loose to the cooking chamber means it can jump up and potentially burn if it hits the heating element. I went with the video’s advice and added half a cup of kernels to the basket, but if you’re working with a smaller air fryer capacity, I’d suggest you add less. To be honest, I suggest you just buy a bag of ready-made popcorn, and save yourself the stress.

Testing this TikTok hack

How to make air fryer popcorn

Popcorn mission accomplished?

(Image credit: Millie Fender)

I broke out my Philips Essential XL (opens in new tab) air fryer for this task. It's one of the best air fryers for those who want a larger cooking capacity. My regular Instant air fryer only has a 2-quart capacity, and I was worried that the popcorn would overfill the basket once it started popping. 

Because air fryers have a slatted insert that allows air to circulate around your food, I was worried that the kernels may slip through the grid of the air fryer and become trapped at the bottom of the basket. I was pleasantly surprised that this actually didn’t happen, but if your air fryer has larger gaps in the insert, it’s something I’d be wary of. 

As the TikTok suggested, I set the air fryer to 200 degrees. Unfortunately, it didn’t specify whether it meant Celcius or Fahrenheit, but because the voiceover had an American accent I made an educated guess opted for 200°F, which equates to 100°C. After five minutes I figured that my educated guess was wrong, and sure enough, a search through the comments revealed that I should’ve set the air fryer at twice the temperature. 

So, for round two, I set the air fryer to 200°C for 7 minutes, and after a few minutes I started to hear a few loud pops inside the air fryer basket. Because of my fire concerns, I stood by throughout the process, but apart from a small amount of smoke I didn’t have anything to worry about. The popping noise wasn’t too bad, and once it began to subside at around the five minute mark, I felt like it was probably close to being done. 

The finished result was actually really tasty, and the popcorn was pretty much indistinguishable from the microwave popcorn I’ve made in the past. If anything, I feel like there were fewer un-popped kernels from the air fryer. 

Should you make popcorn in the air fryer?

How to make air fryer popcorn

Voila!

(Image credit: Millie Fender)

Okay, this TikTok hack does work. I didn’t set fire to my kitchen, I didn’t have any mishaps, and I got a full bowl of popcorn at the end of the test. 

Would I recommend it? Well, I’m still not convinced that this is totally safe because of the risk of popcorn getting stuck in the heating element, so I don’t know if I can tell you to try it at home. You can actually make popcorn in a saucepan by tossing your kernels in some oil and keeping the lid closed throughout, and this is definitely the safer option even if it is a little more labour-intensive. 

However, if you do decide to give it a go, at your own risk, I’d advise to start with fewer kernels than you think you need, and to be on standby to make sure that nothing untoward happens.

Millie Fender
Small appliances expert

Millie is Small Appliance and Cooking Editor at T3's sister title Real Homes, which is a website about real homes that people really live in. Involved in journalism since she was 16, Millie previously worked at TopTenReviews, but jumped at the chance to take on a role that combined her love of cooking and her love of writing, joining the Homes Ecommerce team in 2021. She lives in London with her partner, and has to fit way too many air fryers and other small and not-so-small appliances into her relatively bijou kitchen space.