My favorite popcorn-making supplies:

 

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10 Healthy Microwave Popcorn Recipes

Sweet & savory flavor recipes using coconut oil; 100 calories


There's been considerable buzz lately about the health benefits of both popcorn and coconut oil. Today's post combines both of these in an easy microwave method for making 10 different popcorn flavors. A 2-cup serving size of each of these recipes is 100 calories or less, making them a great choice for a healthy, figure-friendly snack.  

DIY Microwave Popcorn. For several years now, I've been making my own microwave popcorn without the bags, waste, and mystery ingredients of the store-bought bags of microwave popcorn. I explained my method and it's benefits in detail in a previous post:

Homemade Microwave Popcorn--Healthier, Cheaper, Greener

You can check out my Popcorn Recipe Index for a list of numerous versions of sweet and savory popcorn that I've made in the past. I still like them all. But, today I want to share a new way that I'm making microwave popcorn that is healthier.

Flavor without high calories and fat. A small unbuttered popcorn at the movies typically has more than 650 calories; a large has 1,200.  Yikes. Those calories are almost all from the oil and flavoring used to cook it. Although you can find low-calorie microwave popcorn packets, they are normally loaded with salt and mystery ingredients. Popcorn itself is a healthy snack that is often made unhealthy with oil, butter, salt, and other high calorie toppings. In today's recipes, I'm sharing an easy technique for adding a limitless number of flavors with few or no added calories.

Popcorn is a smart snack (minus the butter and additives). 

  • It is a whole, unprocessed grain and full of fiber.
  • It is packed with polyphenols (same ones found in red wine); more antioxidants than found in similar weight of fruits and vegetables
  • It's antioxidants can have a wide range of effects in fighting cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and neuro-degenerative diseases (Alzheimer's)

Sources: Time Magazine, Center for Science in Public Interest, CBS News

Coconut oil is a healthy choice. Until fairly recently coconut oil was considered a bad oil because it is 90% saturated fat. But recent scientific findings indicate that coconut oil is a "good fat." To be clear, it's not low in calories. All fats & oils, good for you or not, have approximately 120 calories and 13 grams of fat per tablespoon. However, there are considerable potential health benefits to a "good" oil or fat. Here's what I've been reading about coconut oil:

  • It may actually help promote weight loss because it metabolizes better than fats from other oils.
  • It can raise our good cholesterol.
  • It contains polyphenols (like popcorn); more antioxidants!
  • It can help fight bacteria, fungal infections, and boost your immune system.
  • It can help you absorb calcium and magnesium.
  • It can help stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • It can nourish your skin and hair.

Sources: Dr. Oz, Shape Magazine, Huffington Post

Popcorn and Coconut Oil. Dr. Oz recommends adding 1 tablespoon of coconut oil per day to your diet to enjoy its health benefits. One way to do that is with my popcorn recipes. In the recipes below, for every 6 cups of popped corn I have substituted 1 tablespoon of coconut oil for the tablespoon of butter I used before. Not only has that transformed my popcorn into a healthier snack, but it tastes fantastic! The coconut oil gives the popcorn a great flavor. I love it.  If you are a coconut hater (I know they're out there, because I'm married to one), I still recommend that you give coconut oil a try. When distributed over an entire batch of popcorn, it adds a pleasant taste with a hint of sweetness. It doesn't have a strong coconut flavor at all. Coconut Hater King-Man gives this popcorn a thumbs-up, and he considers himself quite the popcorn connoisseur.

Although it's much lower in calories to make air-popped popcorn with no salt, oil, or butter; frankly, that tastes like cardboard to me. I'm all for reducing calories and healthy eating, but I want my food to taste good, too. Today's recipes accomplish that.

How to Make
Microwave Popcorn with Coconut Oil (in 10 flavors)

Step 1. Assemble these ingredients and supplies:

  • popcorn kernels -- use fresh, good quality kernels to get the best popability and fewest unpopped kernels; Trader Joe's and Whole Foods carry good organic brands;
    available on Amazon, click here
  • coconut oil -- I use organic, extra virgin; available in many grocery stores;
    available on Amazon, click here
  • kosher salt -- my go-to salt for cooking and baking; widely available at grocery stores
    available on Amazon, click here 
  • seasonings, extracts, and flavors -- specifics are included with individual recipes further down in the post
  • microwave-safe bowl --  If you use a glass bowl, make sure it is tempered glass and can handle the high heat. If your glass bowl isn't up to the task, it can explode. Not good. For years, I've used an Anchor 2.5 quart mixing bowl--it came in a set of 3 bowls,
    available on Amazon, click here
  • vented microwave food cover -- The one I have can be used flat, or the sides pop up to make a dome as pictured below. It is essential that the lid has vent holes. As the popcorn kernels heat, the steam generated is extremely hot. If the lid isn't vented, intense heat can build up and cause the bowl to explode. These covers are handy for containing heat and splatters with all kinds of microwaving.
    available on Amazon, click here 

Specific amounts of each ingredient are listed with the recipes of each flavored popcorn; they are further down in this post. Click on the big purple bar below each flavor and that links to the printable recipe with detailed ingredients and instructions. 

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Step 2. Add coconut oil and salt to the bowl. Microwave it for approx. 30 seconds, until the coconut oil melts.

Step 3. Remove from microwave, add popcorn kernels and stir so that the kernels are evenly coated and in a single layer on the bottom of the bowl. (This is an important trick to my microwave method. Cooking the kernels in the salted oil results in the flavors getting cooked onto each popcorn kernel. No need to add salt at the end.) 

Step 4. Cover the bowl with the vented lid and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes, or until there are 1-2 seconds between pops. The time will vary depending on your microwave and bowl, so you may need some trial-and-error on the first batch or 2 to figure out how long it takes the popcorn to cook. My 1100-watt microwave takes 3 minutes, 40 seconds. If you pop a second bowl right away, it won't take as long because of the residual heat in the microwave and bowl.

WARNING: The glass bowl gets extremely hot. Use hot pads to remove it from the microwave.

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Adding flavors. You may prefer your popcorn plain (like King-Man) or jazzed up with additional flavors (like me).  Here are the easy methods I used in the 10 recipes in this post.

  • Method 1 for adding flavors: Cook the flavors onto the popcorn as it pops. There are some spices and seasonings that can be stirred into the melted coconut oil along with the unpopped kernels. The spices get toasted to bring out their flavor while they get evenly distributed on the popcorn as it pops. I used this method for the Fiesta Popcorn recipe, shown below. I added taco seasoning to the melted coconut oil before popping the corn. Then I followed the same procedures described above. Easy! Don't worry if some of the seasoning and kernels are left in the bottom of the bowl; my recipes account for that. Here's how I made Fiesta Popcorn using Method 1:

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Some flavors can't be cooked with the popcorn, because the high heat will cause them to scorch and burn. Here are some alternative methods for adding flavors.

  • Method 2 for adding flavors -- Put flavored extracts (like vanilla or almond) into small, travel-size mister bottles. While the cooked popcorn is still hot, lightly spray the extracts onto the popcorn. You can also do this with flavored oils; use a ratio of 1/2 oil to 1/2 water in a small mister bottle and give it a shake before spraying. Don't overdo it, or you'll make the popcorn soggy. But, the liquid from a light misting will evaporate from the heat of the popcorn and just leave behind flavor. Look for travel-size misters at the drug store.
    Small misters are available on Amazon, click here 

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  • Method 3 for adding flavors -- You can also add solid flavored ingredients to the popcorn after it is popped as along as they have a powder-like consistency so that they will cling to the popcorn. I used powdered buttermilk, cocoa mix, protein powder, and powdered sugar in my recipes. None of these can be cooked with the popcorn without scorching them, but they can be sprinkled on while the popcorn is still hot. The steam from the popcorn helps them stick. (I tried using granulated sugars and sweeteners, and they simply wouldn't stick--they fell to the bottom of the bowl. A powdery consistency is key to having evenly coated flavors on the popcorn.) I put my powdered flavors into spice shaker bottles to lightly sift them onto the popcorn. You could also use a strainer or sifter. However, it's really handy to have these filled shaker bottles ready to use whenever I make popcorn.
    --small spice shaker bottles available on Amazon, click here
    --larger shaker for powered sugar available on Amazon, click here 

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Additional tips:

  • Blend your seasonings to a finer consistency. If you are using spices or leafy dried herbs that aren't already finely ground, put them in your blender or food processor and give them a whirl to make them finer. This will help them stay mixed into your popcorn. I used the small container that came with my smoothie blender to further grind some of my herbs. It worked great.
  • Blend parmesan cheese to a powder like consistency. Again use a blender or food processor for this. I normally shun the dry parmesan cheese that comes in a can; but it works much better on popcorn than the freshly grated kind. The dry cheese can be reduced to a powder consistency much better. (I tried several powdered cheeses, and have yet to find one that is both healthy and tastes good. If you know of one, please share!)  
  • Add healthy supplements to your popcorn for a nutrition boost. 
     --protein powder (used in my vanilla popcorn recipe),
       available  in several flavors on Amazon, click here
    --finely ground chia seeds, available on Amazon, click here
    --nutritional (or brewer's) yeast adds a cheesy flavor, available on Amazon, click here

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10 Microwave Popcorn Recipes. For specific ingredients and instructions and a printable recipe for each one, click on the big purple bar below photo.

#1:  Plain, Lightly Salted Microwave Popcorn with Coconut Oil
Nothing but the basic ingredients in this recipe. A healthy replacement for "regular" popcorn. Adjust the salt to your personal preference. 
A 2-cup portion is only 73 calories; 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus

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View Microwave Popcorn with Coconut Oil recipe


The remaining 9 recipes are the same basic recipe with different flavors added. The flavors are subtle enough to let the yummy popcorn flavor shine few. However, you can adjust the seasonings to suit your taste.

#2:  Fiesta Microwave Popcorn
Flavored with taco seasoning. Add parmesan cheese for a nacho flavor. 2-cup portion (with cheese) is only 100 calories; 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus. 
You can use store-bought taco seasoning, but it's easy and healthier to make your own.
Here's my recipe:  
click to view Fiesta Taco Seasoning Mix recipe

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View Fiesta Microwave Popcorn recipe


#3:  Cinnamon Toast Microwave Popcorn
The cinnamon is cooked with the popcorn; then it's misted with vanilla extract and sprinkled with powdered sugar (or your favorite powdered sweetener).
2-cup portion is only 85 calories; 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus.

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View Cinnamon Toast Microwave Popcorn recipe


#4:  Vanilla Protein Microwave Popcorn
Popped corn is misted with vanilla extract and sprinkled with vanilla protein powder. (You can substitute another flavored protein powder of your choice.) 
Available  in several flavors on Amazon, click here
2-cup portion is only 100 calories; 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus.

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View Vanilla Protein Microwave Popcorn recipe


#5:  Italian Herb Microwave Popcorn
Italian seasoning and garlic powder are cooked with the popcorn. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese. 
2-cup portion (with cheese) is only 100 calories; 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus. 
Buy Italian seasoning, or make your own using my recipe:

click to view Italian Seasoning recipe

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View Italian Herb Microwave Popcorn recipe


#6:  Curry Microwave Popcorn
Curry and garlic powder are cooked with the popcorn. Did you know the tumeric that gives curry powder it's yellow color is super nutritious?
2-cup portion is approx. 75 calories (3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus) 
Buy curry powder, or make your own using my recipe:                                        

 click to view Curry Powder recipe

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View Curry Microwave Popcorn recipe


#7:  Peanut Butter Microwave Popcorn
PB2 (powdered peanut butter) is first cooked with the popcorn; more sprinkled is on after it cooks. Sprinkle with powdered sugar for a sweeter flavor (or use your favorite powdered sweetener).
2-cup portion is approx. 98 calories (3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus) 

  • What is PB2? I'm a fan of this amazing powdered peanut butter. It's simply peanut butter with 85% of the fat removed. With all of the flavor and protein of regular peanut butter, PB2 is recommended as a great way to reduce calories in all of your favorite peanut butter recipes. It's available at some Whole Foods and health food stores, 

PB2 available on Amazon, click here.

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View Peanut Butter Microwave Popcorn recipe


#8:  Lemon Pepper Microwave Popcorn
Flavored with Lemon Pepper. This is the simplest of the recipes and happens to be my personal favorite. Look for a lemon pepper that is finely ground (or give it a whirl in a blender or food processor). It's widely available in grocery stores. Some has salt and some is salt-free, so you may need to adapt how much salt you add accordingly.
2-cup portion is approx. 75 calories (3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus)  

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View Lemon Pepper Microwave Popcorn recipe


#9:  Cocoa Lovers Microwave Popcorn
This is simply flavored with hot cocoa mix. Because it's already sweetened, there's no need to add anything else. Sprinkle it on cooked popcorn while it is still hot. You can shake on some cinnamon, if you like. 
2-cup portion is approx. 85 calories (3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus) 

There are lots of cocoa mix varieties available in stores. I used my homemade mix (minus the chocolate chips).          

 click to view Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix

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View Cocoa Lovers Microwave Popcorn recipe


#10:  Creamy Ranch Microwave Popcorn
The herbs, garlic & onion powders and seasoned salt are cooked with the popcorn. Buttermilk powder is lightly sprinkled on after it's cooked. (You may substitute store-bought dry buttermilk ranch dressing mix.) Powdered buttermilk is available in the baking aisle of grocery stores. Also available on Amazon, click here.
2-cup portion is approx. 85 calories (3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus)   

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View Creamy Ranch  Microwave Popcorn recipe

 

Choose a favorite! Here they all are. I've been snacking on them all throughout the past week as I've been preparing this post. I love having a selection of sweet and savory.

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DIY 100 Calorie (or less!) Snack Bags. For help with portion control, you can bag  2 cup portions of these mixes--so much healthier, tastier, & cheaper than the 100 calorie cookie, chip, and cracker packs that they have in the stores. These are great to take along to work or make for after-school snacks. Make up a variety of flavors for a party and let guests choose their favorite. I used waxed paper bags from Whole Foods. You can find similar options on Amazon, click here.

NOTE: The exact calorie count of each flavor will vary slightly. If you follow my recipes, none of these will exceed 100 calories with a 2 cup portion; most fall below that. Check each recipe for specific calories.

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Hope you enjoy these healthy snacks as much as I do. Let me know your favorite flavor or if you invent a new variety of your own. The best ideas come from Yummy readers. Love you guys!

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Make it a Yummy day!

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Posted on Sunday, April 29th, 2012








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