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

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/4/2013 12:00 PM   :  84 comments   :  333,892 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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Comments

  • 34
    Am a huge fan of air-popped popcorn. I have a sprayer/mister for oil that I use. Can't wait to try these flavoring options! - 1/17/2013   1:08:53 PM
  • 33
    I spritz the popcorn with Pam and then sprinkle with Mrs. Dash's Mexican Seasoning Blend. - 1/17/2013   12:52:08 PM
  • 32
    I love air popped popcorn! I'd found directions on what to do on pinterest last year. We don't actually add any seasonings to it, but I'm excited to try out some of these combos!
    Side note: My MIL's microwave does not do air popped popcorn. I'm not sure what is different about hers (brand new, I might add), so there is a chance that it won't work for everyone. - 1/17/2013   11:11:45 AM
  • 31
    Stupid question...what is air popped popcorn? How is it different from the microwave bags? - 1/17/2013   10:11:41 AM
  • DJCNUZZ
    30
    Microwave popcorn is full of trans fat. I season my popcorn BEFORE popping in a microwave popcorn bowl. I use 1 tsp oil, 1/2 cup popcorn, top with parmesan cheese, turmeric (which tricks your mind into thinking its cheddar cheese from the color yet is a mild flavor) garlic salt & pepper. Yum! - 1/17/2013   10:06:19 AM
  • 29
    Great ideas. We really enjoy hot air popped popcorn and these are some great suggestions for toppings. Just one correction - olive oil has 40 calories per teaspoon, not 20 as the list shows. - 1/17/2013   8:20:45 AM
  • 28
    I pop mine in oil--either olive or canola--and add some hot paprika and garlic salt. So good! - 1/17/2013   6:21:49 AM
  • CGEIGER87
    27
    I make my popcorn with olive oil and seasalt in the pan as I pop it (not air, but in the skillet). That's enough seasoning for me! Popcorn is my favorite snack ever. :D - 1/17/2013   2:23:49 AM
  • 26
    I LOVE popcorn! Can't wait to try some of these great combinations! - 1/17/2013   1:36:15 AM
  • 25
    I tried to find a bag of popcorn today intending to try one of these ideas but they didn't have any! I like sweet like kettle popcorn and caramel. Caramel is the recipe I want to try. I've had the cinnamon on it too and parmesan is good also. Thanks for ALL these GREAT ideas!!! :))) - 1/17/2013   12:28:21 AM
  • 24
    I like jalapeños with my popcorn :) - 1/17/2013   12:24:05 AM
  • TSHIRT24H
    23
    Garlic & olive oil yum! - 1/16/2013   11:24:22 PM
  • 22
    These are great ideas!! I'm ready to pop some popcorn right now. :) - 1/16/2013   9:55:38 PM
  • 21
    Wow !! I am very excited to have found this blog..I love pop corn..but loaded with all the good stuff..so generally leave it alone..But now I am going to experiment..Thanks again !!1 - 1/16/2013   9:36:46 PM
  • 20
    I'll be trying everyone of these!! - 1/16/2013   9:34:08 PM
  • 19
    Even with butter on it I think it has to be better for you than most of those microwave bag popcorns. They're just nasty. Great Blog by the way . - 1/16/2013   8:58:35 PM
  • 18
    Sounds so good. Glad to find this blog and the great ideas. - 1/16/2013   8:25:21 PM
  • CRAZYGIRLSAM
    17
    I love putting garlic powder and italian herbs on my popcorn! It's the best! - 1/16/2013   7:18:21 PM
  • 16
    I've been putting curry powder on my popcorn for years and people STILL look at me strangely. ;-) - 1/16/2013   6:51:04 PM
  • 15
    Cabot cheddar shake is my fave. 45 calories for 2T and the flavor is so good you don't need much. - 1/16/2013   6:40:25 PM
  • 14
    I love popcorn!! I like to sprinkle Brewer's Yeast (Nutritional Yeast) on it or mix a little butter with honey and sprinkle a taddy bit of salt. Or some garlic salt. - 1/16/2013   6:34:48 PM
  • 13
    Yum! I definitely want to try some of these. I've been using spray canola oil and parmesan cheese and am getting bored! This came at the perfect time! - 1/16/2013   6:27:14 PM
  • 12
    Thanks for showing that I have other choices!!! - 1/16/2013   4:51:46 PM
  • FITALLEY
    11
    We LOVE popcorn as a snack. Thanks for the ideas. We pop our own in our "Whirley Pop" so that we can control the oil and salt. We have found that if we blend salt in a blender so that it is very fine, it sticks to the popcorn better. YUM! - 1/16/2013   4:29:28 PM
  • 10
    These are great ideas. I've started making my popcorn on the stove with a little olive oil. It's easier than pouring oil or butter on the popped kernals and then mixing. I've tried doing air popped in machines and in the microwave, but there are always a lot of kernals that don't pop. makes me nuts! - 1/16/2013   4:16:44 PM
  • 9
    I microwave popcorn in a brown paper bag all the time! It is so easy and super cheap. Once its popped I can toss in any herbs or seasonings (I like cinnamon best) right in the bag, close it back up and shake to coat :) - 1/16/2013   3:35:24 PM
  • 8
    OMG I LOVE popcorn--even the "bland" unflavored kind. I read a news article this morning that suggested using regular popcorn in a brown paper sack in the microwave instead of buying microwave popcorn, because of some of the ingredients that find their way into the secret recipes...

    My favorite way to eat it lately is to have a handful of caramel popcorn thrown in with regular salted or cheese flavored popcorn... a little salty and a little sweet! - 1/16/2013   3:20:44 PM
  • 7
    Wow! What an awesome list of creative ideas. I haven't been eating popcorn lately and I LOVE it. This will inspire me to "get popping" as you said. Thanks!
    - 1/16/2013   3:09:53 PM
  • 6
    I use the Pam butter spray for my oil, love all the ideas! Popcorn is my favorite snack.. - 1/16/2013   2:50:48 PM
  • 5
    i like mine with ICBINB and a pinch of salt. Sometimes I use parmesan cheese...especially if I want to insure my husband and daughter leave my popcorn alone! - 1/16/2013   2:04:38 PM
  • 4
    I like air popped and I am learning to eat it plan. - 1/16/2013   2:01:44 PM
  • 3
    But I like my air-popped popcorn absolutely plain!! - 1/16/2013   1:58:39 PM
  • 2
    I'M NOT A BIG FAN OF SWEET POPCORN BUT LOVE ALL THE SPICY OPTIONS. I LIKE TO USE A LITTLE CAYENNE PEPPER. SURPRISED IT WASN'T ON YOUR LIST! - 1/16/2013   1:33:34 PM
  • 1
    Such great ideas! I've saved this to my Favorites! - 1/16/2013   12:40:34 PM

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