What Are Popcorn Nugs?

Sophia Delphi May 09, 2022 - 7 min read
Fact Checked
Dumping out popcorn nugs from a glass jar in black backround

It’s true for cannabis connoisseurs and stoners alike: they love to rhapsodize about the top-shelf flower they’ve enjoyed. You’ll hear about loud weed, killer chronic, dank bud, and really dope.

But you never hear them talk about popcorn nugs (also known as popcorn buds).

That might be because “popcorn” is a measure of size, not necessarily quality.

But another reason could be that popcorn nugs have the somewhat unfair reputation of being the Shemp or Fredo of weed. They have the right heritage but don’t quite measure up to the level of their more-valuable brethren.

Here’s our unsolicited advice: don’t sleep on popcorn buds. They’re not only a great value, but they’re versatile and can provide a very satisfying buzz.

Let’s talk about this underappreciated type of cannabis.

Why Are They Called Popcorn Nugs?

It’s because of their size.

The largest grouping of buds on a cannabis plant is also the most valuable one. These tight collections of weed buds are known as colas (or full nugs), and they’re the big, beautiful marijuana flower found at the top of the plant. They receive maximum light exposure and lots of nutrients, allowing them to grow large and full of trichomes.

Mid-size buds grow below the colas. Underneath them, you’ll find the smaller, fluffier, and less-tightly bunched popcorn buds. And yes, their name comes from their size and appearance: each one looks somewhat like a popped kernel of corn.

Popcorn buds are most often found toward the bottom of the plant, close to the stem. Because they don’t get as much light down there, they’re less mature than the plant’s colas; that’s why they’re smaller.

(Some call these buds larf, but there’s a slight difference. Larf are the small buds that don’t even grow to popcorn size. They’re usually removed by growers well before harvest.)

You’ve probably heard (in another context) that size isn’t everything, so it’s important to look beyond the size of popcorn buds to ask a more important question.

Are they as good as the colas?

Popcorn Buds and Potency

There’s a good reason why many smokers think negatively of popcorn buds: they’re usually less potent.

For one thing, a lack of light while growing hampers their ability to produce trichomes full of cannabinoids and trichomes. And plants often produce popcorn buds because of other stressors like high temperatures or overwatering; that stress hampers their growth and trichome production.

It’s also a numbers game; fewer buds in a cluster means there are fewer buds that can get you high.

However, popcorn nugs contain the same THC, CBD, flavonoids, and other active components found in the rest of the plant. Potent Granddaddy Purple or Bruce Banner plants will produce powerful colas, mid-size buds, and popcorn buds. The latter are simply likely to be a little less potent, delivering a similar but mellower high.

So even though many supposed weed “experts” are only interested in the beautiful flower harvested from the top of a cannabis plant, popcorn nugs certainly aren’t trash. They’re nothing like schwag, weed mids, or even shake. If the plant’s colas are “grade A” weed, its popcorn buds are a solid “B,” sometimes even a B+ or A-.

That means there’s a lot you can do with them, and “smoking them” is at the top of the list.

How to Use Popcorn Nugs

Here’s what you probably shouldn’t do with popcorn buds: post social media photos of your new stash. You’ll be disappointed with the reaction to your undersized, underwhelming-looking weed.

Here’s what you can do with them: everything else.

Smoking Popcorn Nugs

Many people smoke popcorn nugs almost exclusively. Not only are they satisfying in just about every way, but they’re usually significantly less expensive.

Popcorn buds aren’t the type of gorgeous flower you might see displayed on the cover of High Times, so there’s less demand for them — and as you learned in high school, lower demand means lower prices. In short, they’re usually a bargain.

They’re also the best choice for medical marijuana patients in search of health benefits rather than a fast, mind-blowing high, and they’re ideal for those who want to ease into an enjoyable smoke sesh.

Another great way to use popcorn nugs is to smoke them in joints or blunts. Their smaller size makes them perfect for rolling without the need to grind or break up your weed.

Make Rosin

Popcorn buds are an excellent choice if you want to press weed to create rosin, a sticky concentrate often used for dabbing.

There are several ways to produce rosin from your buds. You can buy dedicated rosin presses, but the easiest way to start is by folding the nugs between a folded piece of parchment paper and then pressing the paper in a hair straightener set on low heat. After 5-10 seconds, rosin will be extracted from the weed.

Repeat the process several times, and then scrape the cooled rosin off of the parchment. It’s ready for dabbing.

You can also use popcorn nugs to make other concentrates like bubble hash or to produce alcohol-based tinctures. All are great uses for popcorn buds.

Make Edibles

Those who are about to make cannabutter or canna-oil for edibles often have second thoughts just before starting: “I’m using all of this beautiful weed just to make brownies?”

Popcorn nugs are the answer. They’ll produce outstanding edibles at a much lower cost, and because of their smaller size, they’re even easier to decarb than larger buds.

How to Choose Good Popcorn Nugs

The process of buying popcorn nugs is no different than it is for buying weed in general.

Don’t concentrate on their size; look for vivid and consistent colors and a nice, frosty covering of trichomes. Squeeze them gently to be sure that they spring back instead of crumbling. Smell the buds to be sure they have a strong, enticing aroma.

Remember, popcorn nugs are essentially just weed. Your senses will tell you if the buds are worth buying — and at a bargain price.

Popcorn Nugs: FAQ

Q: Can you buy popcorn nugs at dispensaries, or only from dealers?
A: Most dispensaries offer popcorn buds at a nice discount. After all, they don’t want to waste any part of the plant.

Q: I grow my own plants. Should I snip off the popcorn buds that emerge while the plants are still growing?
A: Many commercial cultivators try to do that, to force all of the plant’s energy and nutrients to reach the colas. However, it’s almost impossible to trim all of the small buds, and it’s inevitable that at least some popcorn nugs will develop on the plants.

Q: How do I decide between buying large buds or popcorn buds?
A: Everyone’s needs and desires are different. If you have plenty of money in your weed budget, gorgeous, large buds will probably be somewhat more enjoyable. If you’re almost tapped out for the month, popcorn buds are the way to go.