23 Ways to Top Your Popcorn (for Under 150 Calories)


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  116 comments   :  824,340 Views

My favorite snack of late is air-popped popcorn. A whopping 3 cups of air-popped popcorn is a mighty filling whole-grain snack yet only has 92 calories, plus 19 g carbs, 3 g protein, and 4 g fiber. But have you ever eaten plain air-popped popcorn? It can be rather bland and dry. As the saying goes, the secret's in the sauce. For under 150 calories, you can flavor your popcorn in plenty of ways. Salty or sweet, spicy or savory--it's up to you.

Once you've popped your popcorn, it's time for the seasoning. To get your dry herbs, spices and other seasonings to stick, you'll need a little liquid, usually in the form of a fat. A little goes a long way, but you can even have butter on your popcorn without going over 150 calories!

Wondering how these varieties stack up against the tins of gourmet popcorn we're all bombarded with during the holidays? While these all have 150 calories or less, the cheese, buttered or caramel versions can have up to 300 calories in a little more than a cup, with 18 g fat!

Let's get popping!
Melt your fat and use a mister if possible for even spreading. Tip: Pour half your popcorn into a bowl, add half the fat, half the seasonings, then repeat for better distribution of ingredients.

Fat (1 teaspoon) Calories Fat (g)
Olive oil 20 2
Butter (salted)* 34 4
Truffle oil or other flavored oil 50 5
Coconut oil 39 5
* plus 27 mg sodium

I also use a spritz bottle of Bragg's liquid aminos in place of salt (0 cals, 55 mg sodium in 1/4 tsp) and fat sometimes.
Ready for some pumped-up popcorn toppings?

Sweet Popcorn Toppings

Chocolate: Sprinkle on hot popcorn 1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips (50 cals). You don't need any fat, but maybe a pinch of salt. Toss well, and grab napkins. This one is messy. You could also swap in other flavors of chips: peanut butter, butterscotch, mint-chocolate… the possibilities are endless (and messy)!

Mexican Chocolate: Sprinkle on a teaspoon of butter, then a few shakes of cinnamon a dash of cayenne and a teaspoon or so of unsweetened cocoa powder (20 cals).

Cinnamon-Sugar: 1 teaspoon unsalted butter (34 cals) or coconut oil (39 cals), 1 teaspoon sugar (16 cals; choose brown sugar for more flavor), cinnamon to taste (3 cals). Sprinkle the sugar on the buttered popcorn, then shake on the cinnamon. Other good combos: sugar and chai spices, sugar and pumpkin pie spice, powdered ginger and sugar, vanilla or lavender sugar.

Buttery Maple: Drizzle on 1 teaspoon salted butter (34 cals) and 1 teaspoon maple syrup (17 cals). Eat immediately because this will get soggy in places. For added flavor, sprinkle on ground rosemary or black pepper.

Savory Popcorn Toppings

The possibilities here stretch the length of the herbs and spices aisle at the supermarket. Start with your teaspoon of fat, then sprinkle on as many herbs and spices as you desire. They're virtually fat-free and incredibly low in calories.
If your herbs and spices are not powdered, use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle so they'll sprinkle on popcorn more easily.

Here are some suggestions (be sure to choose salt-free seasonings):
  • Italian seasonings (oregano, fennel, red pepper flakes, marjoram, and basil) with olive oil
  • Curry powder (red or yellow) with coconut oil
  • Lemon-pepper and butter
  • Garlic powder and butter or olive oil
  • Rosemary, thyme, and sage with olive oil
  • Jerk seasoning and coconut oil
  • Old Bay seasoning, dried lemon zest, and butter
  • Herbes de Provence and butter
  • Tarragon, dried mustard and butter
  • Smoked paprika and olive oil
  • Five spice powder and coconut oil

Salty Popcorn Toppings

Cheesy: Skip the oil and sprinkle on 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese (23 cals). You can use the fancy stuff, but the canned variety works really well on popcorn! For pizza popcorn, add dried oregano and red pepper flakes.

Cheezy: If you don't eat cheese, go for nutritional yeast. Sprinkle on two tablespoons of "nootch" (60 cals) atop popcorn drizzled with Bragg's (0 cals). Take this over the top with a sprinkle of smoked paprika (3 cals). BONUS: 2 T nutritional yeast has 8 g protein and 6 g fiber!

Gomashio: This Japanese condiment is perfect atop popcorn. A mix of sesame seeds, nori (seaweed) and salt, it adds texture and saltiness. Sprinkle on 1 tablespoon (30 cals) along with 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (20 cals).

Ranch: Start with a teaspoon of unsalted butter (34 cals), then sprinkle on one teaspoon ranch dressing mix (15 calories). This amount contains 405 mg sodium, so feel free to cut back.

Flavored Salt: Used sparingly, you can accommodate a bit of salt on your popcorn. In 1/4 teaspoon, you'll add 581 mg sodium to your day. Choose flavored salts for an extra boost of flavor. Sprinkle on after adding your fat of choice.

Spicy Popcorn Toppings

Buffalo: Mix equal parts hot sauce and butter, then sprinkle on your popcorn. This will make it a bit soggy and messy, but it's so good. Sprinkle on nutritional yeast (30 cals per tablespoon) for more flavor.

Chili-Spiced: If you don't want such a messy snack, reach for chili powder. (Try chipotle powder, which will add a bit of smoky flavor.) You can also use a teaspoon of taco seasoning, but choose salt-free varieties.

Fiery Wasabi: For a sinus-clearing snack, sprinkle on wasabi powder to taste (0 cals in 1/4 teaspoon) along with 1/4 teaspoon Bragg's or low-sodium soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (20 cals).

Here's a bonus recipe for all your sweet popcorn fans out there. Try Chef Meg's Caramel Popcorn, from The SparkPeople Cookbooknow in paperback!

Which kind of popcorn do you prefer? Salty or sweet? Savory or spicy? Do you have any other toppings suggestions?

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  • 116
    Yum, I fancy the fiery chocolate (chilli and cocoa) - I often make mine salty-sweet by using sea salt and a tsp of runny honey. - 9/22/2017   8:25:41 AM
    great ideas must try them - 9/9/2017   2:22:02 AM
  • 114
    I love popcorn so these ideas will come in handy - 8/29/2017   9:13:37 AM
  • 113
    My favorite topping is sweet and heat - hot sauce and a tsp of regular sugar - 8/23/2017   8:44:32 AM
  • 112
    I love popcorn. Great article. - 7/16/2017   3:56:48 PM
  • 111
    Some different ideas! Thanks! - 7/11/2017   8:24:55 PM
    love popcorn - 6/25/2017   3:58:36 PM
  • 109
    Great idea! - 6/24/2017   5:36:12 AM
    love popcorn - 6/22/2017   4:28:42 PM
    love popcorn - 6/22/2017   4:28:41 PM
    love it - 5/30/2017   6:49:08 PM
    love popcorn - 5/24/2017   5:48:45 PM
    love popcorn - 5/24/2017   5:48:45 PM
  • 103
    Thanks! - 4/30/2017   6:05:41 PM
  • 102
    Great article! - 4/15/2017   10:47:16 PM
  • MELTEA43
    I rubbed virgin unrefined coconut oil onto all the sides of a Tupperware container before adding freshly popped warm or hot popcorn and then lidded it and gave it a few shakes to coat the flesh of the popcorn and it gave an awesome lightly sweet flavor similar to kettle corn seasoning. - 4/7/2017   5:57:27 PM
    Sounds yummy! - 3/28/2017   10:44:52 AM
  • 99
    Great, I love popcorn - 3/23/2017   5:18:46 PM
  • 98
    I love popcorn! - 3/16/2017   10:06:03 PM
  • 97
    all better than theater - 2/1/2017   5:01:05 PM
    I love popcorn, but have to stick to air-popped. - 1/24/2017   8:33:28 PM
  • 95
    I do not do sweet or spicy popcorn, but the garlic would be great! - 1/24/2017   1:44:46 PM
  • NUTRI2015
    I grew up with heavily buttered/salted popcorn. I switched to dill and parmesan cheese (in the shaker). Done in a brown paper bag or a branded popcorn popper makes it even better. If I think I need extra flavor I will spritz the popcorn with organic garlic spray or butter-flavored spray. - 10/14/2016   10:54:51 PM
  • 93
    Does everyone know you can just pop your popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag in the microwave? Add the toppings later. Cheap, Easy and Healthy! - 10/14/2016   1:56:29 PM
  • 92
    I use Benson's Table Tasty, its a salt substitute with seasoning flavor that goes amazing with popcorn! For those looking to nix the sodium I highly recommend it :) - 9/5/2016   9:21:49 PM
  • 91
    I'm asian so I sprinkle Nori Komi Furikake (it's a rice seasoning) on my popcorn - 30 calories per tablespoon, but you don't need that much. I'm also born and raised in Hawaii so I use li hing mui powder - sweet/salty taste to it. Yum! I really like kettlecorn but it's high calorie so these are two great alternatives for me :) - 6/2/2016   8:24:16 PM
  • 90
    For a zero calorie popcorn topping, I use butter flavored cooking spray and some salt. After a while, "real" buttered popcorn tastes way too heavy and greasy. - 9/21/2015   1:59:45 PM
  • 89
    I used to like the butter flavoured salt and I cannot find it anymore (WHY do they think we all want KETCHUP or dill pickle flavoured popcorn topping -EW!!). I know Wal Mart of all places carries a butter flavoured substitute. - 5/17/2015   8:59:32 PM
  • 88
    Does anyone know if there is an air popper that has an on/off button? I can't seem to find one, and the ones that don't turn off before being unplugged always seem to cause a spark by my outlet.
    - 5/11/2015   11:12:07 AM
  • 87
    On my last air-popped popcorn, I used garlic powder and Mexican spice seasoning from McCormick. Butter is my weakness on popcorn, so I added one teaspoon and counted it toward my fat calories. It was delicious. I take my own popcorn to the movies now! - 5/6/2015   12:58:35 AM
  • 86
    I love some of these ideas... I have tried the caramel popcorn recipe from the sparkpeople cookbook and it was great.... My favorite way to do popcorn is air popped with I can't believe its not butter spray and Jalapeno pepper juice and a few slices from the jar ... amazing! - 5/5/2015   8:49:51 PM
  • 85
    I like to dip. So I use Mustard, honey mustard, spicy mustard or a mustard ketchup mix. - 1/25/2015   11:20:49 AM
    popcorn is a weakness-I went with a bag of air popped to keep me out of trouble. I use a olive oil spray to help toppings stick.
    butter buds work for me, but not all can have them - 9/24/2014   10:16:11 PM
    I'm a little confused by their fat/oil list. All fat/oil is the same calorie-wise, if it is just fat/oil. Butter is slightly lower because it also contains water, and milk solids. I am well aware that the type of fat differs, but from a purely calorie stand point, there is no difference. - 9/5/2014   6:53:48 PM
  • X-MAN38
    There used to be a butter-flavoured salt on sale in supermarkets for flavouring popcorn, baked potatoes, etc. Is it still around? I look but cannot find it. I am writing from Toronto. Basically I am looking for a super-low calories way to get butter flavour. - 3/13/2014   9:29:53 AM
    Whoa, gonna try some of these toppings! Oh yea!!! - 1/19/2014   7:03:50 AM
    I love to eat popcorn. This is a great blog. - 1/19/2014   12:10:50 AM
    I love popcorn. A great way to change it up. - 12/20/2013   10:13:24 AM
    I love popcorn, I don't usually top with anything, I like it al naturel, but some of these ideas sound so good, I might try one or two... :-) - 12/16/2013   8:29:35 PM
  • 77
    Good ideas. I often do balsamic vinegar alone on it. And my favorite is equal parts of chili powder and cumin. Very nice. thanks. Oh, and PS, just spray it with cooking spray to make it kind of stick better than dry. - 11/30/2013   6:49:33 PM
  • 76
    Wish I had read this last night! Can't wait to try the Braggs!
    - 10/27/2013   11:37:29 AM
  • 75
    i love to add balsamic vinegar to my popcorn...also i made chickpea or cannelli bean humus as a dip...start cuisinart with clove of garlic, add beans and 1/4 plain yogurt....salt and pepper or crushed red pepper...yummy... - 10/27/2013   10:30:18 AM
  • 74
    great ideas, gotta try them asap - 10/14/2013   12:40:17 AM
  • 73
    I can't wait to try these! - 9/14/2013   6:16:07 PM
  • 72
    It sounds awesome. - 8/10/2013   1:34:00 PM
  • 71
    I love popcorn. Thanks for sharing all these toppings. - 7/12/2013   7:24:12 AM
  • 70
    I bought a spray bottle and filled it with white vinegar. I spritz the popcorn and add a tsp of butter and sea salt and it tastes like sea salt and vinegar chips. - 6/30/2013   8:13:07 AM
    I air pop every day at work. I sprinkle on cayenne and red peppers and really love the mushroom popcorn. What a delicious snack or something to nibble on! - 6/27/2013   12:43:46 PM
  • 68
    Yummy,love popcorn will try some of these this weekend - 6/14/2013   11:00:13 PM
    Lawry's garlic salt is yummy on popcorn. - 6/14/2013   12:59:32 PM

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