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How To Make Healthier Popcorn

Updated on July 13, 2014
relache profile image

Raye gardens organically, harvests rainwater, strives to eat locally, and honors the gods from her home in the Pacific Northwest.

Trying for a Healthier Treat

One of my favorite things is going to the movies and eating popcorn. Sadly, movie popcorn is dreadfully unhealthy. Check out the report below that tells how eating a medium bucket of popcorn is like several fast-food burgers with a dozen extra pats of butter added.... eeeeewwww! And then think about those large buckets of popcorn that they give free refills on. It's no wonder Americans are one of the most-overweight cultures on the planet.

Then there's microwave popcorn. I don't know which will give you cancer first: the plastic linings of the bags, or the fake, chemical butter they put on it. Really, as quick and easy as it is, it's unhealthy too.

I'm not ready to give up popcorn entirely, but I am ready to start eating less of it, and to put forth the effort to start making it myself and making it more healthy. Here's what I've learned about how to make healthy popcorn. Enjoy!

The Lowest-Calorie Popcorn Option

The lowest-calorie option for making popcorn is to use an air popper. It's the only cooking process that doesn't add calories to the popcorn. If you compare oil-popped and air-popped popcorn, you'll definitely notice a big difference in the flavor, but there's also a massive reduction in the calories involved if you skip using any oils.

Melted butter is just another phrase for "flavored oil" and "added calories" so if you feel you can't skip that either, use as little as you can stand. If you'd like to add some flavor to your popcorn but would like something less greasy, here are some suggestions:

  • grated Parmesan cheese - use fresh grated, not the scary chemical version that comes in a green can. It has more flavor anyway.
  • salt - try some of the natural salts as they will have more flavor to them than regular, commercial table salt. Smoked salt is also worth a taste test.
  • garlic powder - sprinkle a little bit and toss well before tasting. if you think you need more, go slowly.
  • paprika
  • turmeric
  • brewer's yeast or nutritional yeast

Adding these sorts of flavor sprinkles does have one side effect, and it's messy hands. My best advice for that is to give eating your popcorn with a spoon or chopsticks. I happen to like the chopstick version because it makes me eat my popcorn a lot more slowly.

Stovetop Popping Tips

A lot of people really do love the taste of stove-top-popped popcorn. Here are a few tips to help keep the calories down and the healthiness up:

Olive oil - You'll get less calories if you swap out the butter and use a cooking oil for making popcorn. A lot of people recommend canola oil, but it contains acids which cause joint inflammation. Organic olive oil (non-virgin) is best for the high heat cooking that you do when you make popcorn.

Use a steel popper - You want to avoid aluminum as it comes with its own toxicities. Steel is more durable and is a non-toxic cooking material.

AVOID - The absolute worst oil to use is coconut oil. It's 90% saturated fat. If you want a comparison, lard is only 40% saturated fat and almost nobody cooks with that anymore.

How do you Pop and Flavor your Popcorn?

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    • profile image

      nicki 3 years ago

      Olive oil should never be heated. Use raw coconut oil or beef tallow. And real butter, preferably from raw milk, is great. The reason you don't want to use it is because it will burn at the l those temperatures. But utter is actually really good for you so pour it on after your popcorn is popped. And raw salt is an amazing source of minerals.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 3 years ago from East Coast

      I have tried Parmesan and even a bit of powdered cayenne at times but my favorite is simple. Olive oil and salt. I will have to try the smoked salt that you suggest, I have never heard of this before and it sounds interesting.

    • insp profile image

      insp 5 years ago


    • talfonso profile image

      talfonso 5 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      I for one haven't tried air-popped popcorn with brewer's yeast before, but all your ideas sound really good. I'm trying to lose weight, and I would like to try one of those ideas out!

    • profile image

      CC 5 years ago

      I'm such a popcorn lover, I don't know how I can get around not putting butter. I will have to try the garlic and vinegar suggestions. I'm done with the unhealthy microwave popcorn bags. Thanks for the info.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I'm definitely a believer in homemade popcorn and am especially partial to popcorn topped with grated fresh parmesan. Thank you! Voted up and shared.

    • cityalice profile image

      cityalice 5 years ago

      Thanks for the tips. Stove top popped popcorn sounds so good right now.

    • profile image

      Kaeruzawa 6 years ago

      Try this: I soak some garlic in olive oil, and then lightly drizzle on the air popped corn. Not only does it taste great by itself, keeping the benefits of the olive oil without over heating it, but any additional seasonings, from salt and spice to parmesian adhear much better.

    • profile image

      roni 6 years ago

      It's not the microwave popcorn that's bad for you; it's all the additives in those bags you buy. I have a microwave popcorn bowl that I got from a thrift shop years ago; it has a grooved design on the bottom. I just buy a bag of regular popcorn, pop it, and I can add whatever I want. I've seen tons of these on Amazon, probably your local Wal-Mart has them. If you are trying to save money, this is a way cheaper way to go. And I think you can just use a regular paper bag; just don't know how to keep it together.

    • profile image

      nerissa 6 years ago


    • maxravi profile image

      Ravi Singh 6 years ago from India

      I learnt some new way to make popcorn today.. thanks :)

    • cowtowngirl77 profile image

      cowtowngirl77 6 years ago

      This sounds like a good recipe, I will try it.

    • talfonso profile image

      talfonso 6 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      This Hub really makes me want to invest in an air popper! I occasionally eat popcorn anyway.

    • profile image

      Mike 7 years ago

      Don't use GMO corn or GMO Canola.

    • loves2cook profile image

      loves2cook 7 years ago from Portland, OR

      I had no idea about the dangers of microwaved popcorn -- thanks for the info!

      I've been a "heart-stopper" popcorn lover for years. I remember in college, my sister and I would ask for extra butter slathered in the middle of the popcorn bucket, then more butter still on top. Ah, the days of a high metabolism...

      I'll have to look into garlic & onion powders for sure. They give me a ton of flavor in other dishes but I've yet to try them on popcorn. Thanks!

    • inbo5599 profile image

      Lisa 7 years ago from Michigan

      Wow . . . thank you!

    • QHuman profile image

      QHuman 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I LOVE popcorn so healthy versions are always good.

    • dobo700 profile image

      dobo700 7 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for the great hub! I have to go eat now.

    • eatlikenoone profile image

      eatlikenoone 7 years ago from Saline, MI

      I make my own microwave popcorn. I put about 1/3 cup of kernels into a standard brown paper lunch bag. I hold the bag over twice and stick it in the microwave. I don't even add any oil. I only have problems with kernels sticking if I am using a low powered microwave that takes longer.

    • profile image

      culligan92 7 years ago

      I won't touch that microwave popcorn!

    • alertswiftreview profile image

      alertswiftreview 7 years ago from USA

      I like your huge because i love popcorn

    • relache profile image

      Raye 7 years ago from Seattle, WA

      As stated above, coconut oil is 90% saturated fat. Great for frying, bad for actual ingestion.

    • profile image

      gabyloves popcorn 7 years ago

      I do not know why there is all this hate on coconut oil in popcorn threads, Cocounut oil is a good fat like olive oil and much healthier than vegetable oils, unike olive oil however coconut oil is one of the very few oils that can stand high heat without introducing free radicals that cause every disease ever (toxic). Going natural is always better I go with unrefined coconut oil, the fat is good google it! also I find ghee a better and healthier form of butter.

    • MisCook profile image

      MisCook 7 years ago

      I was shocked after reading that microwave popcorns can cause because I am fond eating them while watching DVDs. And I even share it with the little ones. Now I have to get rid of those. Thanks you so much for this information. Really informative hub.

    • profile image

      Carolina Juarez 7 years ago

      For the movies, I always make popcorn in my old fashioned air popper, put a little butter, allow to cool a bit, put into a freezer quart plastic bag (will not use in future to save planet for grandchildren, will use cloth bags as soon as I make 'em)for each person. Then I put them into a large cloth shoulder bag and sneak into the movies. How dare them tell me I have to buy their expensive unhealthy stuff! Meemaw

    • Loren's Gem profile image

      Loren's Gem 7 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

      My little boy just love popcorns and he's having them for snacks everyday. It's not just a healthy snack for kids but for adults as well. Thanks for sharing this popcorn info! :-)

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 8 years ago from Manhattan

      What about popping it in your own bag in the microwave?

    • Part-time Writer profile image

      Part-time Writer 8 years ago from Way Up North (USA)

      I enjoy eating popcorn, but have fallen to the pitfalls of making microwave popcorn. It is easier and less cleanup, but didn't know how unhealthy it was. I guess I'll move back to the stove top. I plan to try some of your flavor ideas in the future. Thanks for the ideas.

    • Meghan Fitz profile image

      Meghan Fitz 8 years ago from Texas

      Yum!! I love to experiment with popcorn toppings. I like Tabasco, parmesan cheese and a combination of dill and balsamic vinegar!

    • profile image

      Cindy 8 years ago

      I like to add bulk yeast to my popcorn. It adds a taste that is out of this world

    • samsoft profile image

      samsoft 8 years ago from NIGERIA

      hey, i love it and i will try it out

    • relache profile image

      Raye 8 years ago from Seattle, WA

      pddm67, that's a great question! Corn is NOT a vegetable. The plant (maize) is a form of grass and the part humans eat, the kernels, is the seed. It is a cereal or grain.

    • pddm67 profile image

      pddm67 8 years ago from Queens, New York

      Great hub! We have an air popper and the kids love watching it as it pops the kernels. They don't even miss the butter which is fine by me.

      Am I wrong to condsider it a vegetable? I mean it IS just corn and it IS fresh popped w/no crap added. Vegetable right? Just thought I'd ask :-) Rock on!

    • GiftedGrandma profile image

      GiftedGrandma 8 years ago from USA

      Great hub...very popcorn..couldn't eat it for eat it occasionally but air pop it. Can take or leave dressing it :O)

    • HubCrafter profile image

      HubCrafter 8 years ago from Arizona

      Dear relache:

      My wife and I want to thank you for this marvelous, well-documented expose of the hidden dangers and pratfalls awaiting unsuspecting consumers of popcorn (and hydrogenated oils).

      I may never go to the movies again.

      Which is fine. The money I save means I can afford health insurance.

      Now, I just have to leverage those savings from coverage of ONE neutered cat to TWO older, slightly used HUMANS.

      Again, thank you for standing up, stepping out, and turning the other cheek. I can't sit very long either. So it's nice to know that someone else shares my own struggle against gravity and outer peace.

      Well, that's the doorbell. We're having a Tupperware party and teflon pans should sell like hotcakes today.


    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Nice article. My family is big into popcorn. Though I have to be in the mood for it.

    • Jersey Jess profile image

      Jersey Jess 8 years ago from USA

      Great idea for a Hub, great advice also! I'll have to try this, thanks!

    • christinecook profile image

      christinecook 8 years ago

      thank you,i had no idea popcorn was so toxic.

    • Curious Jen profile image

      Curious Jen 8 years ago from Canada/Nicaragua

      I eat a ton of popcorn. I used to go to the movies just to eat popcorn! I know the evils and I'm trying to break the habit. I make loads of popcorn at home with canola oil so I feel a bit better about that.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Hubby loves popcorn I better warn him :)

    • lakeerieartists profile image

      Paula Atwell 8 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Hi Relache, this is a really fun hub and timely, as I know my family, and many others will be spending the New Year's eve and day watching movies and eating popcorn.

      We have been using an old air popper to pop our own popcorn for a very long time and recently had to replace it because we had used it so much that the top had broken and no longer kept in the hot air.

      We air pop the corn then add a little fresh melted butter to it. There is just something about the crunch of freshly popped corn. :)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for all your good advice. I enjoyed learning about it. I have knew about coconat oil is bad.

    • dusanotes profile image

      dusanotes 8 years ago from Windermere, FL

      Relache, my wife and I have tried to stay away from popcorn for years. it is empty callories - too much fat and yes, if you cook it in an aluminum pan it's toxic. Steel IS the only way to go. Thanks for that great Hub. Don White