Popcorn is the perfect snackable snack. It’s cheap, easy to make, and can be made in loads of different flavors, both healthy and not-as-healthy. On the definitely-terrible-for-you end of the spectrum are the microwave extra butter popcorn packages my sister and I used to devour watching movies in her room late at night. Then, we’d fight over who got to lick out the inside of the bag (I won’t say who nearly always won). Delicious, right?
For a long time after I started eating foods that were better for my body, I didn’t really eat popcorn. I knew there was a way to make it besides in the microwave, but I thought it was complicated and difficult to do correctly, or that you needed some kind of special pan to accommodate the expanding snack as it popped. Of course, though–as I do–I eventually got curious about the popcorn kernels in the bulk bins at our local grocery co-op when we were living in Wisconsin. I did some blog-searching and realized homemade popcorn is actually really easy if you use the right technique. Best of all, once it’s popped, there are hundreds of ways to flavor it. You can go sweet with honey or shaved dark chocolate that melts into a delicious mess, or savory with seasonings and cheeses.
Our absolute favorite popcorn topping, however, has a clear reputation as a health food. And to add to that, this is most definitely a vegan recipe. Vegans rejoice! And the rest of you, don’t stop reading! I promise this popcorn is delicious enough for everyone to enjoy. But if everyone is enjoying it, make sure you double the recipe or something, and use a really big pot. Because it’s a little bit addictive once you start munching.
This recipe is worlds better than microwave popcorn, no matter what fancy artificial flavor you can find in the store. It tastes a little like pizza, with an intensely cheesy flavor thanks to the nutritional yeast. Remember that neon orange “cheese” popcorn that everyone really hoped would show up at your classroom parties in elementary school? Yeah, this stuff is better than that. WAY better. And healthier, because nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B vitamins, and olive oil is a wonderful way to get in your healthy fats. I use coconut oil to pop the corn (also a great healthy fat!) but olive oil to flavor it and help the nutritional yeast stick. You really can’t do without some kind of fat because of the amount of nutritional yeast (affectionately nicknamed “nooch”) we’re going to add. Hint: it’s a lot. And you will love it.
Oregano, garlic powder, and sea salt round out the pizza-style flavors of this homemade popcorn. It’s perfect for movie night or a Saturday afternoon snack, and it’s vegan and gluten-free. And it’s delicious. I mean, would you just look at the level of noochy goodness coating these bite-sized beauties? Just LOOK at it!
Yes, that’s what good popcorn looks like.
Now, I’ll warn you that my instructions might look a little finnicky. This is NOT a tricky snack to make, but there are a few key rules that seem silly but they’re there for very good reasons. We’ve made a lot of nutritional yeast popcorn in our house, and there are some keys to getting it exactly right. For example, you really need the nutritional yeast to be powdered, not just in the flakes it comes in. The powder is important for helping it stick, as is the extra step of mixing part of the nutritional yeast with the olive oil before drizzling it over the popcorn, and then adding the rest and tossing it. I like to mix the seasonings in with that last powdered part because they’re distributed a little better that way.
If you’d like to try this recipe but don’t have nutritional yeast hanging around in your pantry, try the health food section of your local grocery store. And a health food store (or Whole Foods) would definitely have it. We get ours at Sprouts, our local “natural” grocery chain, and they sell it in the bulk aisle. It’s also cheap (because it weighs almost nothing) so that’s a bonus.
Anyway, let’s get popping.
Healthy, deliciously savory popcorn seasoned like pizza with nutritional yeast, oregano, and garlic powder.
- 1 cup nutritional yeast flakes, processed into 1/2 cup powder
- 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (possibly more to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Start by organizing your toppings: combine half of the nutritional yeast with the olive oil in a measuring cup. Stir until you have a not-very-appetizing slurry. Trust me, it'll all come together. In another cup, combine the rest of the nutritional yeast with the other seasonings.
Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat in a medium-large, heavy-bottomed pot. I use an enameled cast iron pot, but make do with what you have. Add three kernels to the oil, cover, and wait for them to pop.
Once the test kernels have popped, take them out and add the rest of the kernel. Shake it a bit to coat them in oil, cover, and remove them from the heat. Wait about 45 seconds.
Put the pot back on the heat and continue to cook. Shake it every once in awhile so the popcorn doesn't burn. You should hear it popping!
Once the popping has slowed down, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let it cool for a minute or so, then drizzle the olive oil mixture slowly, stopping a few times to toss the popcorn with a spatula.
Once all of the olive oil is added, add the rest of the powder/seasoning mixture slowly. Don't dump it in all at once! Add a few shakes, toss. Add a few more shakes, toss again. Do this until all of the powder is added and the popcorn is evenly coated.
Enjoy! If you have leftover popcorn, let it cool completely and store it in an airtight container.