Healthy Air Popped Popcorn (Stovetop Or Microwave)

This article may contain affiliate links, please read our disclosure policy.

Did you know that you can make perfect crunchy, healthy air popped popcorn with no added oil? Yes! You can make this simple popcorn recipe in the microwave, on the stovetop, or with a popcorn machine in just minutes. Season it with wholesome ingredients to have a scrumptious, healthy snack with lots of flavor and crunch!

Any popcorn lovers here? There are so many different ways to make popcorn, but if you need a healthy, versatile recipe made without oil, you’ll love using this method!

Popcorn is rich in fiber, and this version is made with wholesome ingredients, no added fats, and no artificial flavorings. It’s so easy to make that it is one of my go-to snacks when I fancy a change from my no-bake peanut butter balls, granola balls, or coconut date bars.

Is popcorn healthy?

Popcorn is a whole grain and has many health benefits. It can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health.

It’s gluten-free and contains plenty of antioxidants.

What can make it unhealthy is the fat or oil it’s cooked in.

Traditionally, movie theater popcorn gets cooked in butter, palm oil, or other unhealthy oils.

Even recipes that claim to be healthy use added fats like coconut oil (which is rich in saturated fats and needs to be used sporadically).

You can easily make popcorn without oil by using a sealed cooking vessel to trap the heat. 

Also check: 25 Camping Snacks For Your Next Outdoor Adventure

Why does popcorn pop?

Popcorn pops not because of oil but because it contains a tiny amount of water inside the kernels.

When you heat up the kernels, they begin to expand until there is not enough room for all that pressure, and then it blows open, creating a fluffy and crunchy kernel that is perfect for snacking.

Popcorn cooked this way has fewer calories and can be a good way to help with your digestive health. 

In this recipe, popcorn kernels are heated on the stovetop in a skillet or can easily be popped in the microwave using a paper bag or ceramic bowl.

You can also make them with a popcorn machine.

They get tossed with your favorite seasonings for a healthy snack both kids and adults enjoy!

Hand adding salt to a bowl filled with popcorn

Ingredients and equipment you’ll need

Popcorn Kernels: Used to make crunchy popcorn without oil. Make sure they are non-GMO and fresh for the best-tasting popcorn. 

The freshest your popcorn kernels are, the more water content they’ll have. This will give more power to the explosion, and you’ll end up with much bigger and crunchier air popped popcorn.

Equipment

Stovetop popcorn

Nonstick pot: If you plan to make popcorn on the stovetop, you’ll need a nonstick pot with a very tight-fitting lid. This ensures that the hot air stays trapped enough to encourage the kernels to pop. I love using one with a glass lid, like this one, so I can actually see my popcorn popping!

Tip: If you don’t have a lid, you can use some aluminum foil to tightly seal your pot.

Microwave

Brown paper bag: Here, a sturdy paper lunch bag will be fine. Once you place the bag in the microwave, heat will remain trapped inside it, allowing the kernels to pop. 

Ceramic or glass bowl: Another way to pop popcorn kernels in the microwave is using a heat-safe ceramic or glass bowl. If you plan to use a bowl, you’ll also need a ceramic plate to cover the top. But please be careful when you remove the bowl from the heat. It can be extremely hot. You can also find silicone popcorn makers to put in the microwave as a safer alternative.

Popcorn Machine

Air popper: You can also buy your own popcorn maker. I used to have one when I was a kid and loved it! These days, since I have a more minimalistic approach to life, I prefer to avoid buying too many kitchen gadgets. But if you make popcorn often enough, something like this one can be worth the investment.

glass jars filled with healthy popcorn

How to make healthy stovetop popcorn

  1. Prepare for popping: Preheat a nonstick pot or stainless steel pot for a few minutes over medium heat. Make sure the pot has a tight-fitting lid. 
  2. Pop the kernels: Add half a cup of kernels in a single layer at the bottom of the pot. Place the lid on, then shake the pot every couple of seconds to create even heat. The kernels will begin to pop around the 3-5 minute mark. Once this happens, turn the heat to medium and keep shaking until you hear the popcorn pop 2-3 seconds apart. Then remove from the heat. 
  1. Season and serve: Let the popcorn rest for 10-15 seconds before removing the lid. Pour the popcorn into a large bowl and toss with your favorite seasonings while the popcorn is still warm before serving. 
Air popped popcorn in a pot

How to make healthy microwave popcorn

If using a bowl: Add the kernels to the bottom of a heat-safe glass or ceramic bowl, then cover the top with a heavy ceramic plate. Microwave for 3-5 minutes or until you hear kernels pop 3-4 seconds apart. Remove from the microwave with oven mitts or a thick towel as the bowl will be very hot. Let the bowl cool for a few minutes before tossing in your favorite seasoning. 

Using a brown paper bag: You’ll need a sturdy paper bag with no holes. Add the kernels to the bag and fold it 2-3 times to ensure it gets fully sealed with no gaps. Microwave for 3-5 minutes and stop when you hear pops every 3-4 seconds. Remove from the microwave and carefully open it (there will be a lot of hot steam inside!). Place into a bowl and toss with seasonings. 

Microwaved Popcorn in a glass bowl

How to make healthy popcorn with a popcorn machine

Check your machine’s instructions. Place a bowl underneath the spout. Add popcorn kernels while the machine is still off. Put the plastic lid on the machine and turn on the popcorn popper. Watch and wait until all popcorn has popped.

Air popped popcorn in a glass bowl with popcorn machine behind

5 Seasoning Ideas

You can season air popped popcorn in different ways.

I love to add wholesome, nourishing spices and seasonings with no added sugar or artificial ingredients to keep my popcorn healthy.

Simply toss the popped kernels while warm with whatever inspires you from the list below:

  • Sea salt (or smoked sea salt): Don’t go too crazy here. Just add a little bit of salt to enhance the flavor. But remember, salt can increase blood pressure. A small pinch goes a long way!
  • Italian seasoning: I used a mix of basil, oregano, and dried rosemary. But you can add other dried (or even fresh) herbs to the mix.
  • Chili powder or cayenne pepper: For a spicy kick.
  • Flaked seaweed: Seaweed gives the popcorn a salty flavor without adding any salt. Plus, it contains lots of iodine, which supports thyroid function.
  • Cinnamon: Gives hot air popped popcorn a sweet, spicy flavor.

You can mix any of these seasoning ideas. Plus, there are many other flavor ideas to pick from: you can add nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor without the cheese or opt for a bit of grated parmesan cheese, a little touch of cocoa powder, or ginger powder, to name a few.

5 different seasoning for healthy popcorn

How to store

You can store homemade popcorn in an airtight container or tightly sealed bag for up to 1 week. But remember, popcorn tends to absorb humidity over time, so it’s best to eat it within 2-3 days. 

If you want to keep them light and crunchy for as long as possible:

Make sure the popcorn is completely cool before sealing them in an airtight container (like a jar or a glass container).

Note: If you don’t have a jar or a glass container, you can use a sealable bag. Try to remove all of the air before closing the bag to keep the popcorn fresher for longer.

  • Avoid adding any flavoring before storing: things like salt and spices can draw out moisture from the kernels. Add flavoring just before consuming it.
  • Always store at room temperature.

And no, you can’t refrigerate or freeze homemade popcorn. 

Top tips to make popcorn at home

Use fresh kernels: Make sure to use fresh popcorn kernels as they have more water content and will produce bigger, fluffy popcorn. 

Keep shaking: Shake the pot often to ensure the popcorn kernels are evenly cooked and do not burn. The best way to make sure that you don’t burn the popcorn by cooking it at a high temperature is to just stay there the whole time it cooks. 

Keep it covered: Popcorn needs high heat to pop. That’s why you need a tight-fitting lid for stovetop cooking and a ceramic plate in the microwave method. Plus, you don’t want a hot popcorn kernel in your eye while they start popping!

Be careful: It’s exciting to make your own popcorn at home, but you have to be careful. There’s no doubt that everyone will love eating popcorn in its purest form, but be sure to let it cool a bit before digging in.

Close up of popped popcorn

Why I love this recipe 

  • No oil gets used to make healthy popcorn. 
  • Made with wholesome ingredients and rich in fiber.
  • A quick snack that takes just a few minutes to make.
  • It’s a low-calorie snack and one of the healthiest ways to make popcorn.

More healthy snack recipes

If you try this healthy popcorn recipe, please leave a comment and a rating and let me know how much you liked it!

close up of air popped popcorn
5 from 2 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe Save Recipe

Healthy Air Popped Popcorn

Perfect crunchy, healthy air popped popcorn made with no added oil? Yes! You can make this simple popcorn recipe in the microwave, on the stovetop, or with a popcorn machine in just minutes. Forget movie theaters popcorn and switch to this popcorn recipe for a healthy lifestyle change!
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Course: Snack
Cuisine: Vegan
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 77kcal
Author: Sara Trezzi

Ingredients

  • ½ cup popcorn kernels - note 1
  • seasonings - note 2

Instructions

How to make healthy stovetop popcorn  

  • Preheat a nonstick pot or stainless steel pot for a few minutes over medium heat. Make sure the pot has a tight-fitting lid. 
  • Add the popcorn kernels to the pot in a single layer. Place the lid on, then shake the pot every couple of seconds to create even heat.
  • Around the 3-5 minute mark, the kernels will begin to pop. Once this happens, turn the heat to medium and keep shaking until you hear the popcorn pop 2-3 seconds apart. Then remove it from the heat.
  •  Let the popcorn rest for 10-15 seconds before removing the lid.
  • Pour the popcorn into a large bowl and toss with your favorite seasonings while the popcorn is still hot before serving. 

How to make healthy microwave popcorn  

  • Using a brown paper bag: Use a sturdy paper lunch bag. Add the kernels to the bag and fold it 2-3 times to ensure it gets fully sealed with no gaps. Microwave for 3-5 minutes and stop when you hear pops every 3-4 seconds. Remove from the microwave and carefully open, as there will be hot steam trapped inside the bag. Place into a bowl and toss with seasonings. 
  • If using a bowl: Add the kernels to the bottom of a microwave-safe bowl then cover the top with a heavy ceramic plate. Microwave for 3-5 minutes or until you hear kernels pop 3-4 seconds apart. Remove from the microwave with oven mitts or a thick towel as the bowl will be very hot. Let the bowl cool for a few minutes before tossing in your favorite seasonings. 

How to make popcorn with a popcorn machine

  • Check your machine's instructions. Place a bowl underneath the spout. Add popcorn kernels while the machine is still off. Put the plastic lid on top of the machine and turn on the popcorn popper. Watch and wait until all popcorn have popped.

Notes

Note 1: The freshest your popcorn kernels are, the more water content they’ll have. This will give more power to the explosion and you’ll end up with much bigger and crunchier air popped popcorn.
Note 2: Pick one of the following seasonings to add extra natural flavor to your air-popped corn:
  • Sea salt (or smoked sea salt)
  • Italian Seasoning (a mix of basil, oregano, and dried rosemary)
  • Chili powder
  • Flaked seaweed
  • Cinnamon
 
How to store: You can store homemade popcorn in an airtight container or tightly sealed bag for up to 1 week, but it’s best to eat it within 2-3 days as they tend to absorb humidity and lose their crunch. 
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate per serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 77kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Sugar: 1g

Did you make this recipe? Tag @gatheringdreams on Instagram. I want to see it!

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Fantastic recipe and it worked the first time I tried it. So easy! Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    This turned out great! Thanks! I was craving popcorn and this recipe was perfect!