How Much Unpopped Popcorn Do I Need Per Cup Of Popped Corn?

How Much Unpopped Popcorn Do You Need for 1 to 3 Cups of Popcorn?

how much unpopped popcorn do you need for 1 to 3 cups of popcorn

Measuring out popcorn isn’t an exact science, as the unpopped kernels can be tough to handle, and there’s no guarantee that every corn will pop. Don’t worry though – you can get pretty close to getting it just right!

Here are some fundamental tips for measuring how much unpopped popcorn makes 3 cups or more.

  • Single cup (1 cup) of popcorn: try ½ tbsp or around 4 grams of corn kernels.
  • 1 tbsp or 7.5 grams of unpopped corn will result in roughly two cups of plain popcorn.
  • For three cups, use about 1½ tbsp or 11.5 grams of unpopped popcorn kernels.

The amount of unpopped popcorn that makes 3 cups might be surprisingly small, but popcorn servings can be considerable because of their low calories. and how much the kernels spread out when popping.

And eat up! Popcorn has plenty of health benefits when enjoyed in moderation as it’s a healthy snack full of fiber and other vitamins.

What Is the Average Serving of Popcorn per Person?​

The challenge here is what the phrase “average serving” means. It can be different due to each person’s serving size expectations from microwave popcorn bags or movie theater purchases.

  • Technically, an average serving could be around 2 cups of popped popcorn. For plain popcorn made at home with oil, you can expect about 140 calories per light serving.
  • However, microwave popcorn usually has around 10 to 12 cups, so if you’re used to splitting a bag, you might want to aim for 4-5 cups per person.
  • If you want a movie theater experience, a small popcorn is 8-10 cups, a medium 12-14 cups, and large 16-20 cups of popped popcorn.

Some of this is personal preference, health choices, and if you plan to serve popcorn alone or with other snacks.

How Much Popcorn Kernels Do You Need?

Listing out all the serving sizes in popped measurements can help you visualize the amount of popcorn you’re making. The following servings break down how much unpopped corn you’ll need.

1 Cup Serving Size Popped Popcorn:

For one cup of popcorn, measure ½ tbsp or roughly 4 grams of unpopped corn kernels

2 Cups Serving Size Popped Popcorn:

Make two cups of popped popcorn with 1 tbsp of kernels, or weigh 7.5 grams of unpopped corn.

3 Cups Serving Size Popped Popcorn:

Use 1½ tbsp or 11.5 grams of kernels should get you approximately 3 cups of popped kernels.

How Many Grams of Unpopped Popcorn Are There in a Cup?

Forutnately weight measurements are sometimes a bit easier and more accurate than cup measurements. For 1 cup of popped corn you’ll need about 4 grams of unpopped kernels.

Note: It’s usually better to slightly overmeasure with popcorn a bit because you might not pop a few. It definitely can also be affected by how good your popcorn maker is as I’ve learned the hard way.

How Do You Measure Unpopped Kernels?

how do you measure unpopped kernels

Measuring corn kernels can be a little tricky because they’re odd shapes and don’t lay flat like flour or other ingredients. Here are some steps to help with measuring kernels:

  • To use a cup measurement, choose a tablespoon or other tool. Spoon the kernels lightly into the cup until it’s slightly overfull.
  • Use your finger or another flat surface like a butterknife to level off the top, gently swiping across the cup’s entire top. Try not to pack down the unpopped kernels or dip them in. (Packing the kernels could cause the cup to hold more than a standard measure, and swiping out too many could result in the opposite.)
  • Alternatively, you can always weigh the corn kernels when trying to figure out how much unpopped popcorn makes three cups. A kitchen or digital scale works for this.
  • Place a bowl or pot on the scale and zero it out so it doesn’t count the vessel weight.
  • Finally, slowly pour in popcorn kernels until you reach the desired weight in grams or ounces.

How Many Calories Are in a Tablespoon of Unpopped Popcorn?

how many calories are in a tablespoon of unpopped popcorn

The exact calorie content of popcorn can change depending on the brand and type of kernel. If it’s popped in oil, and if you choose to add butter, seasonings, or other mix-ins you’ll need to account for that as well.

  • In general, for plain popcorn, one tablespoon of unpopped kernels makes about two cups. Two cups of plain, air-popped popcorn are around 60 calories.
  • On the other hand, two cups of oil-popped white corn kernels are closer to 110 calories.

Keep this in mind if you’re trying to keep the calories down, and choose alternative popping methods and flavorings that don’t rely on fats and salt.

How Much Unpopped Popcorn Is a serving?

how much unpopped popcorn is a serving

Popcorn servings can be subjective based on preference and prior experiences.

  • A standard serving size is around 2 cups of popped corn which would be about 1 tbsp (tablespoon) of unpopped kernels.
  • If your serving is how many unpopped popcorn kernels are in 3 cups of popcorn, you’d be looking at around 1½ tbsp.
  • Microwaveable popcorn usually makes 10-12 cups of cooked popcorn which would be 5 tbsps of corn kernels to make a 10-cup equivalent.
  • Usually, people split microwave popcorn bags in two by sharing, with each getting about 5 cups per person. To make this amount, aim for 2½ tbsp of unpopped corn.

How Much Popcorn Do I Need for Different Numbers of People?

how much popcorn do i need for different numbers of people

When planning an event, knowing the exact serving per person for their amount/serving container is extremely important.

  • If there are other snacks or a meal that will be eaten prior, stick to a light 2-cup popcorn serving per person.
  • However, if the popcorn is the main event, aim for 4 cups per person. To fill an actual movie theater small bag size, you’ll need at least 8 cups per person. In unpopped kernels, that’s 1 tbsp (for 2 cups), 2 tbsp (for 4 cups), and 4 tbsp (for 8 cups) each.
  • Multiply the preferred serving size by the number of guests and prepare to pop away. It can be helpful to add a few extra kernels to ensure you have enough if every corn kernel doesn’t pop.

Don’t forget seconds, by the way! If you’re anticipating people asking for more, I’d add an estimated extra 15% to 25% onto your initial estimate.

How Many Cups of Unpopped Popcorn Are in a Microwave Bag?

how many cups of unpopped popcorn are in a microwave bag

Microwave popcorn is a standard size many people are familiar with and comfortable with, so it’s a handy point of reference for popping corn at home, fortunately.

  • A microwaveable popcorn bag makes almost 10-12 cups of popcorn, about 5 to 6 tbsp of unpopped kernels before being popped.
  • The remaining unpopped kernels will vary from brand to brand, size to size, and also your microwave can make a huge difference! A good rough estimate is 1/2 tablespoon to as much as 2 1/2 tablespoons can be left unpopped in some cases.

In my experience, lower-power microwaves or those set to a non-maximum power setting are worse for popping microwaveable bags and just don’t do as well.

I’ve had significantly more unpopped kernels while slightly more powerful microwave ovens were not only faster but also left fewer remaining unused.

Modified 11/24/2023: Change author title line from to type based on Pagespeed Insights accessability note regarding h5 out of sequence.

About the author

Daniel loves to eat snacks - and finds unique kinds of candy, treats, and food in general a fun topic to share. When not writing or volunteering, you can usually find him in the kitchen cooking up some delicious treats. He's fascinated with classic treats because of how each one has a different story behind it which makes them unique. Read more »