SparkPeople Blogs  •  recipes  •  snacks

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

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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?

Want more healthy recipes from me and fellow SparkPeople members? Be sure to subscribe to SparkPeople's Recipe of the Day email. Click here to sign up!

Like this blog? Then you'll love "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight."

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


I love popcorn. A great way to change it up. Report
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... :-) Report
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. Report
Wish I had read this last night! Can't wait to try the Braggs!
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... Report
great ideas, gotta try them asap Report
I can't wait to try these! Report
It sounds awesome. Report
I love popcorn. Thanks for sharing all these toppings. Report
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. Report
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! Report
Yummy,love popcorn will try some of these this weekend Report
Lawry's garlic salt is yummy on popcorn. Report
The Fiery Wasabi topping sounds delish! Report
I love popcorn so I'll be trying this out....Happy Topping! Report
These are awesome ideas. I will have to try a few of them out...I loooooooove popcorn, and just got a new popcorn popper Report
I love popcorn these were good ideas Report
I love popcorn and have often eaten it for dinner or lunch. yum! Report
Ummmm Maybe I will have popcorn for breakfast - great ideas

I like my popcorn with nutritional yeast Report
Just be sure you are using organic popcorn, gorn is the biggest GMO crop in the US Report
I love nutritional yeast flakes on my popcorn! Report
Fun ideas - thanks!! Report
I just pop my popcorn in a lunch bag in the microwave. I put in a Tblsp of the popcorn in and pop for about 90 seconds. So far I have been topping that with 1/2 Tblsp of salted butter.. no additional salt needed. Now I have more ideas! woohoo Report
I love popcorn in all it's incarnations! Thanks for great ideas on indulging. Report
I'm just starting with my air popper again so I'll try some of these Report
Awesome Idea's...I'm loving it :0) Report
When I'm in the mood for some sweet popcorn I sprinkle on pumpkin pie seasoning. I'm really looking forward to trying several of the options here. Report
Despite buying kernels on several occasions I've never yet made popcorn from scratch - my favourite popcorn used to be cheese popcorn but now a huge fan of the salty n sweet. Think that will be displaced by some of the savoury suggestions here esp. the pizza popcorn. Report
I love popcorn and this just made it better! Report
These are some excellent ideas for popcorn! Thank you! Report
I love air-popped popcorn plain! Nothing bland about it. Great ideas here, but for me, adding something makes it "not so healthy" Report
I use a Glass Popcorn Popper I bought from I love it. You just pour 1/3 cup of popcorn in it and put a dab of butter on the top of the silicone lid. It melts down on the corn while popping. Thats it! I'm sure you creative people could come up with other things to flavor it with. Report
I usually put my air popped corn in a paper bag, spray with vegetable oil, and sprinkle with Splenda and cayenne pepper and shake for a sweet and spicy taste.
I can't wait to try some of these toppings - they really sound yummy. Report
I tried the pizza one but used cajun spice instead of red pepper. I also love the ranch
I put organic popcorn kernels directly into a brown paper lunch bag, seal it by tearing two slits in top and folding over and putting it in the microwave. I add toppings after. It's a great snack! Report
Bagged microwave popcorn you buy in the stores has carcinogens on the inside of the bags. For a healthy way to pop in the microwave try this:
Fill a large size brown lunch bag with 1/3 cup popcorn kernels, fold top over twice, lay down flat in microwave and use your popcorn button on the microwave. I spritz mine then with olive oil and add a little sea salt. Delicious! Report
We made this rub to use on pork when my husband fires up his barbecue smoker. I tried it on popcorn one day, and it is FABULOUS! It's a little bit sweet, and a little bit spicy, but very tasty!! (Credit to the website )
Meathead's Memphis Dust Recipe
Yield. Makes about 3 cups. I typically use about 1 tablespoon per side of a slab of St. Louis cut ribs, and a bit less for baby backs. Store the extra in a zipper bag or a glass jar with a tight lid.
Preparation time. 10 minutes to find everything and 5 minutes to dump them together.

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup Morton's kosher salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons rosemary Report
First, we cut several bell peppers into strips, thinly slice half a small onion and fry in a bit of olive oil or broil until tender with a few blackened edges. While the strips are cooking we air-pop or olive oil-pop up about 12 cups of corn. The veggies are added to the popcorn and sprinkled with a tablespoon or two of Parmesan cheese. To add heat we sometimes toss a sliced jalapeno in the pan. Sometimes we vary the flavor by adding thin strips of dill pickle. We never add salt. Try it! Report
has anyone tried peanut butter powder on popcorn? I have some of it but haven't tried it on popcorn yet. Report
Just to cure my curiosity, can someone help me figure out how many calories are in a bag of my microwave popcorn? It is Fit & Active Butter flavor. The box says there are six - 2.7 oz (76g) bags in the box . Now, on the back it says that a serving size is 3 Tbsp (37g) and that it makes about 5 cups popped, and there are 2 servings per bag. So, does anyone think that a bag of microwave popcorn is 10 cups of popcorn? One cup popped is 20 calories, so in my calorie counter I have that a bag is 200 calories (20 cals x 10 cups). Anyone agree?? And yes, I do worry myself :-). Report
Jacfrank, an air popper just sits on your counter and pops corn without any oil, just hot air. Those microwave bags have a plate that allows the microwaves to pop the kernels and they also add oil to the bag. Air-popped is much healthier and you have all the control in how much butter/coconut oil/olive oil you use and what seasonings to put on it, too. Report
Thanks for so many ways to update one of my favorite snacks! Report
sounds tasty Report
January 19 is . . . . National Popcorn Day, it's not too early to start celebrating!
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! Report
I spritz the popcorn with Pam and then sprinkle with Mrs. Dash's Mexican Seasoning Blend. Report
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. Report
Stupid question...what is air popped popcorn? How is it different from the microwave bags? Report
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! Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.