Popcorn Calculator

Created by Gabriela Diaz
Reviewed by Hanna Pamuła, PhD candidate and Steven Wooding
Last updated: Oct 03, 2022

Maybe you’re planning a game party or a movie night, and of course, you’re thinking about serving popcorn, but you’re not sure how much you should prepare 🤔 Well, you just popped into the right place because Omni’s popcorn calculator will tell you how much 🍿!

Buttery and salty, caramel-coated, or simply air-popped, it doesn’t matter the flavor; it has become one of the most popular movie snacks since the Great Depression. Keep reading to learn more about popcorn history as a movie snack, why does popcorn pop, why some don´t, and popcorn nutrition facts.

At Omni, we have other tools which could be a perfect fit for a movie night! With the pizza party calculator, you can know how many pizzas to order 🍕 and with the smartphone projector calculator, you can DIY your own projector at home with a magnifying glass 🎞 – give them a try!

How to use the popcorn calculator

To use the popcorn calculator, specify the number of people you want to feed, select the portion size per person that you'd like, and the calculator will indicate the total quantity of kernels needed. You can also enter a custom number of cups of popped popcorn per person that you'd like.

For the standard portion size, the popcorn calculator uses the typical popcorn serving size of 2 cups per person or a 1 oz of popcorn, which equals around 1 tablespoon of kernels. And we say around because you've might notice that usually, some popcorn doesn't pop or are half popped. But don't worry, we got you covered; this calculator takes this into account 😉

Keep in mind that if you're aiming for movie theaters popcorn's serving sizes, you'll need to prepare more than 2 cups per person since their portions are bigger:

  • Small movie theater popcorn serving size is usually about 8 to 11 cups;
  • Medium around 12 to 15 cups; and
  • Large is between 16 to 20 cups of popped popcorn.

You can check our cooking measurement converter to learn more about cooking conversions for different ingredients!

💡 The calculator also works the other way around. You can enter the volume of kernels, and it'll show you how many people this serves.

If you're wondering how many calories are in popcorn, in the Calories per serving section, you can learn about the calories per 1 serving of popcorn for different flavors or cooking methods.

Why is popcorn the go-to movie snack? – Popcorn history

Today when we think of movies, we typically think of popcorn. For most of us, this seems like the perfect combo. But not so long ago, this food was not even considered as a snack. Let's take a brief look into the popcorn history.

From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, popcorn was consumed as a breakfast food, which combined with fresh milk, turned out to be a high in fiber and highly nutritious food, with 1.2 g of fiber per cup of popcorn and around 150 mg of calcium per half cup of milk… Have you tried this? 😮

In the 1890s, the steam-powered popcorn machine was invented, and in time it was installed into street carts that could be easily found in fairs, circuses, and parks but not yet in the movie theaters. It wasn't until the 1930s that popcorn and movies began their nexus. During the Great Depression, this match represented an affordable way of entertainment as well as an opportunity for cinemas, farmers, and street vendors to survive those years. Sold at 5 to 10 cents per bag (a reasonable price for consumers) while cart owners could buy bulk kernels for $10 that could last for years. By the 1940s, there was no turning back. Popcorn had become one of the preferred movie snacks in the world 🍿

💡 Movie theater popcorn was initially sold by street vendors outside the theaters but eventually offered inside when owners realized it was profitable.

Why does popcorn pop?

Aside from its taste, how they pop is another captivating quality of this snack, the other half of the show! So, why does popcorn pop? The main reason is due to the amount of moisture (water) inside the kernel that, when heated, turns into steam and generates pressure inside the grain.

Each kernel is composed of:

  • The hull or pericarp, which is the outer and transparent layer of the kernel, allows keeping the moisture.
  • Inside the hull is the endosperm, which contains around 14% water and soft and hard starch.
  • And finally, the innermost layer, the germ.

While the steam is pressurizing the hull, its heat gelatinizes the starch in the endosperm. When the pressure is too high (135 psi), the hull breaks and the pressurized steam escapes. The gelatin cools down and solidifies into a white puff that is around 40 times its original size!

Why are some popcorn not popping?

Have you been there? You're about to finish your bag or bowl of popcorn but what is left is mostly hard kernels or half-popped popcorns and no more puffiness. Why didn't some popcorn pop? Well, here are the most common reasons:

  • Dried kernel – If there is not enough water inside the grain, there won't be the required steam pressure to break the hull. That is why it's recommended to store them in a cool area inside a sealed jar, not in hot places nor in the fridge, since the dry air can dry the kernels.
  • Cracked outer layer (hull) – This can relate to the previous reason since a crack can mean that it's easier to lose moisture. But it also means that even if initially there is enough moisture, the steam will escape through the crack and the pressure won't rise enough.
  • Cooking method and heating rate – Popcorn kernels should be heated with oil/butter or hot air. If heated too fast, the steam will break the hull before all the starch can gelatinize, and on the other hand, if heated too slowly, the moisture can escape from the tip of the kernel, and it won't pressurize.

Is popcorn a healthy snack?

Looking for healthy snack options? Filled with fiber, antioxidants, and B-vitamins, popcorn could be your answer, and given its versatility, it can satisfy either a savory or sweet craving. In a 2 cup serving of air-popped popcorn you’ll get around:

  • 62 calories;
  • 12.5 grams of carbohydrates, of which 2.4 grams are of fiber;
  • 2 grams of protein; and
  • 0.7 grams of fat.

Seems like if you’re looking for low-calorie snacks, air-popped popcorn could be a great choice!

Would you like to learn about the importance and benefits of fiber in our diet? With our fiber calculator, you can learn this and calculate your recommended daily fiber intake.

Bear in mind that depending on how you prepare them and the toppings you add, changes its nutritional values. Here are the popcorn nutrition facts per 1 cup for different flavors:

Flavor

Calories

Fat (g)

Sodium (mg)

Air-popped popcorn (unsalted)

31

0.4

0.6

Oil-popped popcorn (unsalted)

40

2.2

0.6

Microwave popcorn (butter flavor)

43

3.0

75

Microwave popcorn (cheddar flavor)

42

3.1

78

Movie theater popcorn (butter flavor)

58

3.1

105

Movie theater popcorn (caramel-coated)

131

3.1

7

💡 For a more balanced and satiating snack, consider combining your portion of popcorn with some source of protein and healthy fats like nuts, cheese, olives, or avocado 🥑

Gabriela Diaz
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