I love popcorn, and I still love Instant Pot popcorn 🙂 After writing the entry about making Instant Pot popcorn, I had been contacted by several people regarding other oils, successes, failures, and everything in between. It got my wheels a-turning, and I set out on an adventure! Cue The Great Popcorn Experiment! This journey uses 8 oils – almond, avocado, canola, unrefined coconut, grapeseed, extra virgin olive, peanut, and vegetable, Wegman’s unsalted butter, Wegman’s yellow popcorn kernels, and of course my Instant Pot and a glass lid (any glass lid that fits would work – Instant Pot also offers their own glass lid). Just a short disclaimer about the oils I chose to use. This test does not factor in any form of nutritional value, nor do I recommend any specific oil for individuals. I have a personal preference for taste, and it is up to each person to choose what works for them. This was to try to gather information about why some people have better success with some oils than others.
For reference, I am at 386′ above sea level for elevation according to this website 🙂 Some people have mentioned that altitude may impact Instant Pot results. I am not an expert on this, and cannot provide any further information on this. I was curious how each oil would handle the “pressure” (see what I did there? 🙂 ). This is the most lengthy of our posts so far, so here is a spreadsheet that compares everything – kind of a popcorn at a glance if you will 🙂
Keep reading for more in depth information 🙂
Disclosure: Please note that most of the links included are affiliate links. There is no additional cost if you decide to make a purchase – we will simply earn a small commission that supports our time with Sisters Under Pressure 🙂
Each oil was tested in the same manner – with the exact same procedure, same amounts, and with a ten minute time limit. This may not be right for each oil, but I wanted to eliminate as many variables as possible. Each test began with a clean insert – I have two of them, so while one was cooking, I would wash the other so it would be ready for the next batch. Here are the basic steps I followed for each oil:
Let’s start with the results, from biggest yield to smallest.
This is by far my favorite way to make Instant Pot popcorn, and has been the way that I have been making it all along. I like the crunch and the overall slightly sweet taste – a very very faint coconut taste (my husband strongly dislikes coconut and loves this popcorn). I ended up accidentally doing 2 batches with the Nutiva coconut oil – this was the second. For the first coconut oil batch, I had just finished with the vegetable oil experiment, and forgot to swap it for the clean insert. Having the vegetable oil leftover coating seemed to affect it because the yield was very very low. I had no pop of the single kernels at all, and only had about 2 cups of popped corn at the end. I then swapped for the clean pot, and had great results – the ones I expected to have. Coconut oil has a fairly low smoke point – 350° F. The Instant Pot sauté “more” setting is listed at 338° F, so the pot temperature may come close to that smoke point (a smoke point is the temperature an oil will begin breaking down and may begin to burn and smoke -more information about smoke points here). It has also been brought to my attention that some coconut oils are labeled with a lower smoke point. If it is any lower than 338° F, the results will not be the same and is is possible that the coconut oil will burn.
The popcorn that popped the second most was the canola oil. I don’t usually cook with canola oil, and to be honest I don’t know much about it. The bottle I used was Wegman’s brand. The yield of this popcorn was almost near what I had with the coconut oil at 9 cups for half a cup of kernels. It tastes rather delightful – kind of that ‘expected’ taste that popcorn should have. It reminded me the most of “movie theater” popcorn. Add a little butter and salt, and I think it would definitely be the closest to it!
I happened to have this oil in my arsenal, and decided to give it a go. I have never cooked with it, and only have it on hand to make serums and other non-edible things (yeah, I’m a weirdo 🙂 ). As I’m sampling the popcorn – eating it right now in between types to give an accurate description – I went from “Eh” to “Ok” to “Alright” to “This is tasty.” Maybe almond oil is an acquired taste? The popcorn is light and crunchy, and definitely has some kind of almondy flavor to it, but seems slightly bitter at the same time.
This is another oil I don’t cook with often. It is usually only used in baked goods in my house, and sometimes not even that – I’ll use applesauce instead. That being said, I still had to try it for the popcorn. The yield wasn’t bad, but I am not a fan of the taste. It doesn’t seem as light as the previous ones, and has a weird taste to me. It isn’t burned at all, but almost gives me that impression, and it just tastes heavy.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This popcorn was also one of my favorites – I just wish the yield was better. It is probably the lightest of the entire experiment – fluffy, crunchy, and just a hint of flavor. I have heard of people having mixed results with this oil, but in this experiment enough ended up popping to share (or to not share).
Peanut oil. Oh peanut oil. I wanted to love you – I call my nephew peanut – but I just can’t. The single kernels didn’t pop, so the half cup of kernels went in at the 6 minute mark. The first kernel popped at 7:42 and I called it a fail at the 10 minute mark. As you can see, not many kernels popped. I tasted it and the taste was just “blechy” for lack of a better word. You know, that sound when a toddler dislikes something and goes, “BLECHHHH!” It was that. It is quite possible the popped popcorn took on more of the oil flavoring since so many kernels were left unpopped in the leftover oil. I personally wouldn’t use this oil again due to the results and the taste.
I love grapeseed oil so much! This is another oil I don’t use much for cooking, but more for personal serums and things like that. The yield was not great, and like the peanut oil I called it at the 10 minute mark. This was another taste I didn’t enjoy, but again, like the peanut oil, it is possible that the popped popcorn soaked up some of the grapeseed and butter, resulting in a very undesirable taste. Based on all of this information, I would not personally use grapeseed oil again.
Poor avocado oil. This picture just makes my heart sad. Avocado oil and popcorn didn’t get along well in The Great Popcorn Experiment. I have heard feedback from people that they have blended this oil with coconut oil, or other oils, but I can’t attest to that (but if you experiment with it, definitely let us know!!!). I love avocado oil, and wish it had turned out better.
The oils definitely make a difference. Coconut oil may have a lower smoke point depending on the brand it seems, and I have had many readers with varying results. There are other factors – kernels, butter type, amount of butter, amount of oil, temperature setting, and altitude, that may all impact the results. I think there is definitely room for a Great Popcorn Experiment 2.1!! 🙂
If you made it this far, thank you for sticking around 🙂 This was fun and shows that different oils do yield different results. For now, this was a great place to start, and I hope it helps all of our popcorn loving friends 🙂 Let us know if you have any questions, or if you decide to hold your own Great Popcorn Experiment 🙂