The Complete Oil-Free, Low-Sodium Popcorn Guide

Coming in at only 93 calories per 3-cup serving, popcorn has got to be one of the most ‘worth-it’ snacks for dieters and health-conscious snackers.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that a bag of microwave popcorn is a perfectly healthy snack, because hey— a cup of popcorn only has 31 calories… how bad can it be? The trouble is, when you buy the pre-packaged, pre-seasoned stuff which brings along with it a whole lot more sodium and fat than you need. A nutrition label from one of your popular neighborhood microwave popcorn bags packs 230 mg sodium (10% of your recommended daily intake) per serving (½ bag) not to mention extra fat from the butter or oil.

In order to get the most out of your popcorn snack (i.e. the least number of calories and milligrams of sodium), you need to buy plain popcorn kernels and pop them yourself.

Plain popped popcorn with seasoning is the way to go. Cut out the oil, and cut out the excess sodium for a light and low-cal snack you can munch on any time of day.

There are a few methods to popping popcorn without oil. Experiment with them and do what works best for you!

1. No-oil stovetop popcorn

stove 1

Stovetop popcorn is often made with a layer of oil on the bottom of the pot. You can make stovetop popcorn without oil, but you must be vigilant. Stand by the pot the whole time, and you’ll have perfectly popped popcorn.

Add ¼-½ cup of popcorn kernels to a deep non-stick pot. The kernels should be in one layer in the pot so that they are all touching the bottom. Optional: add a pinch of salt, stir, and even out.

Turn the flame up to medium heat and stand by the pot. Once they start popping, shake the pot every 5 seconds to bring the unpopped kernels to the bottom.

When the popping slows to intervals of one or two seconds, turn off the stove.

Wait one minute and transfer to a large bowl.

2. No-oil microwave popcorn


This one requires ¼ cup of popcorn kernels, a large microwavable bowl, a large microwavable plate, and a microwave.

Place ¼ cup of popcorn kernels in the bowl (Pyrex works great!) and cover with a plate. Place in the microwave for 6 minutes.

If the popcorn is still popping vigorously at 6 minutes, add time. It may take up to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of your bowl and the power of your microwave.

Once the popping has slowed to intervals of one or two seconds apart, stop microwaving and remove using mitts or a towel.

3. Popcorn popper

popcorn machine

If you really love popcorn and think it may become a permanent household snack (or it already is, but you want to switch to healthier version), it’s time to get yourself a popcorn popper. These handy gadgets pop your corn to perfection using only hot air. And yes— they’re affordable!

Now that we have the method down, let’s move on to seasonings. Whether you’re into sweet or savory, there’s a popcorn flavor for you.

Tip: If you’re ok with using just a little bit of oil, you can lightly spray the popcorn with oil first to get the seasoning to really stick to each piece. This is not necessary, though, so you can leave the spraying out and keep your snacks completely oil-free.

Put these ingredients into salt shakers and have your very own popcorn seasonings ready to reach for when the craving strikes. Sprinkle over the top and shake the bowl to evenly distribute the seasonings.

Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn Seasoning

cinamon sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla sugar OR light brown sugar

Pinch of salt

BBQ Popcorn Seasoning

bbq popcorn

2 Tbsp smoked paprika

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp onion powder

4 tsp ground mustard

¼ tsp allspice

Optional, for heat: ½-1 tsp cayenne pepper

Coconut Curry Popcorn Seasoning

coconut curry

3 Tbsp coconut flakes

1 Tbsp curry powder

½ tsp ginger powder

Ranch Popcorn Seasoning


1 Tbsp dried dill

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp black pepper

½ tsp salt

Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn Seasoning

rosemarie parmasean

For this one, if you choose to spray oil before adding the spices, go for olive oil.

1 Tbsp dried rosemary

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp grated parmesan

It’s time for the superbowl or a movie night.

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