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Don't Sacrifice Flavor For Healthier Air-Popped Popcorn

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

We don't need all the extra salt and 'fake' stuff, that comes in so many of the commercially available popcorn flavorings. This is especially true if you're trying to watch your intake of sodium! Those products might be convenient, but they're low on real flavor and high on sodium and fat. So, I decided I could make my own. And, my family loved it so much they asked that I teach them how to make it.

As I've said before, I find most 'recipes' too rigid, generally. They're a starting point. And, that's what I want this to be for you, too. At the simplest, all we're talking about here is Nutritional Yeast - aka 'Nooch', onion powder, garlic powder, a bit of sugar and salt. Note that I said "a bit". Of course, I go further, and you can, too. I've included a 'basic' recipe for popcorn seasoning at the end of this post. But, you should experiment and make it your own.

Do you love curry flavors? Then, add your favorite curry powder. Or, are Mexican flavors, with bold chilis, more your thing? Then, add your favorite chili blend. Don't want to add sugar? Go with powdered honey. Or, date sugar. I've also included a recipe for a Hickory Maple blend, using maple sugar from Jed's Maple Products, in Derby, Vermont.

This is so 'customizable' that you'll run out of popcorn before you run through the possibilities.

I have a dehydrated vegetable blend, by It's Delish, that I buy in bulk, and use constantly in soups and stews, but I also grind it super fine, in one of those little coffee/spice grinders, for use in broths and stocks. Then, I had an epiphany one day - combine it with the Nooch, garlic and onion powders, maybe some paprika ... and the rest was history, so to speak. It added an incredibly rounded and exciting flavor profile with the sweetness of carrot and tomato, the brightness of celery and bell pepper. The 'whole' was greater than the sum of the parts, and gave me a whole other use for the dried veggie blend.

So, grab that little electric grinder, and I'm going to give you a list of ingredients to get started with, and then an 'optional' list of things to add or riff on. There's a printable recipe at the end.

Granulated Onion Powder (not onion salt!)

Granulated Garlic Powder (again, not the salt!)

Just enough salt and sugar to round out the flavors

Now, add some good stuff:

Granulated Shallots for a more 'nutty' flavor than onion

Ground Paprika

Granulated Maple or Honey or date sugar

Smoke Powder (Hickory or Mesquite)

Umami Powder (mushrooms) - or if you're looking for 'amazing' try Truffle powder

If you're looking for something gloriously herbal and a little French, try Lake Shore Drive Seasoning.

I also like the Mural of Flavor blend as it adds a subtle hint of citrus.

Of course, you can go South of the Border, with your fav chili seasonings, or as I noted earlier, something like a Sweet Curry

I've given you the paint box, and now it's up to you to play! BTW: if you're trying to keep the calories down, in addition to the sodium in air popped corn, you still need something to help the seasonings 'stick' to the popped kernels. I've actually heard people suggest spritzing water on the kernels. Eeeew! That seemed to be sure-fire way to make soggy kernels. I use a very simple method: Short bursts of spray oil. Dust lightly with seasonings. Then 'seal the deal' with another burst of spray oil. There's no reason to get all fancy with these canned spray oils. You really won't be able to taste one from another. So, go cheap. I use a Winco Spray Canola oil. Toss the kernels, hit 'em again, toss the kernels, hit 'em again until they taste sufficiently seasoned for you.

As you can see, I use a big restaurant mixing bowl for the tossing and seasoning. I like to make enough for 3-4 evenings. It's a ritual here. Popcorn during the news, before dinner.

The popcorn stays pretty crispy for a few days when made like this, but I admit that Reno, Nevada - with our super low humidity - could be a factor. You'll have to see if making in bulk makes sense where you live.

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