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11 Ways to Naturally Flavor Popcorn - Modern Alternative KitchenModern Alternative Kitchen

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Today’s Daily Challenge Tip: Create realistic goals, not grandiose goals: you’ll be more likely to stick to them.

Ooooh.  Popcorn.  An American staple.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like popcorn.  There’s just something about the sound of kernels popping and the scent of melted butter that brings on a flood of emotions and memories.  For me, I am taken back to my childhood and munching on a big bowl of warm popcorn every Sunday afternoon while I snuggled in and watched Anne of Green Gables on the VCR.

Movies and popcorn.  They just go together.  The perfect marriage.  Or is it?

Many of us are real food savvy enough to realize that microwaveable popcorn isn’t the most nutritious snack ever, but we may not be sure why.  Is it simply the high sodium content?  Is it just that the safety of using a microwave to cook food is questionable?  While both of those are real concerns, there is much more risk lurking in commercial popcorn than you may realize.

Let’s take a quick look on why you should toss that microwavable popcorn in the trash:

GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)- an estimated 90% of the corn grown in the U.S. is GMO corn.  So, unless you buy organic popcorn, you are more than likely buying GMO popcorn.  GMOs are responsible for allergies, immune dysfunction including autoimmune disorders, liver problems, infertility and sterility, damage to intestinal flora, and even death.

Partially Hydrogenated Oils- also known as “trans fats”, these oils are almost certainly genetically modified and are well-established culprits in heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, obesity, infertility, liver dysfunction and major depression.

Diacetyl- otherwise known as artificial butter flavoring, this ingredient is responsible for “popcorn worker’s lung” (bronchiolitis obliterans).  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has long suggested that diacetyl is hazardous when inhaled, yet until recently the risk has appeared to be limited to popcorn factory workers.  A few months ago a Colorado man was awarded $7.2 million after suffering lung damage from inhaling steam from microwaveable popcorn in his own home.

TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone)- a chemical preservative that is a form of butane.  Among other symptoms, this is linked to nausea, vomiting, asthma, dermatitis, ADHD, and estrogen disruption in women.

Potassium Chloride- may cause irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and numbness or tingling in your hands, feet or mouth.

Natural Flavor- for one thing, using this language as an ingredient is frustrating to individuals, like me, with food allergies or sensitivities.  Is it corn? Wheat? Soy? Pig? The FDA requirement for natural flavoring is simply that it be derived from animal or plant “matter”.  What does that even mean?  Probably that whatever it is is loaded with pesticides and GMOs. Though this additive originated from plant or animal, it is so processed that it can no longer be considered natural at all.  And guess what else- natural flavor is just a sneaky way of labeling migraine-inducing MSG.

Artificial Flavor- these are man-made chemical concoctions.  They contain petrochemicals and are derived from byproducts of other (non- food) industries.  When I read artificial flavor on a label I picture a sinister scientist in a white lab coat laughing as he creates a deadly poison that tastes good.  I don’t think I’m too far off base.  For example, strawberry flavoring contains 49 chemicals.  FORTY-NINE, people!

The good news is there’s a simple solution to this freaky little movie snack– make your own!  Plain popcorn is quite nutrient-dense.  It is high in protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin A, folate, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.  Add on some nourishing fat such as grass-fed butter or coconut oil and you have yourself an amazing snack.

In reality, it doesn’t take much more effort to pop your own fresh popcorn than it does to throw a bag of popcorn into the microwave.  You can either pop the kernels on the stove, or in an air popper.  I prefer the air popper method.  An inexpensive air popper works just fine and can run you under $20.  Where I live, I can get a bag of organic popcorn kernels for $1.99 or even more frugally from the bulk bin at the natural foods market.  While the popcorn is popping, it is quick and easy to prepare your own real food toppings.

Popcorn is like a blank canvas- almost anything you can think to put on it will be yummy.

Recipe Ideas:

  • “Cheesy”: Grass-fed butter or coconut oil, sea salt and nutritional yeast (Vegans refer to nutritional yeast as nooch.  It is very high in B vitamins and tastes very similar to the powdered cheese on commercial popcorn.)
  •  Cinnamon Bun: Coconut oil or grass-fed butter, vanilla extract, raw honey or maple syrup, crispy pecans or almonds, cinnamon
  •  Chocolate: Coconut oil or grass-fed butter, raw honey, unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  Valentine: Coconut oil or grass-fed butter, raw honey, unsweetened cocoa powder, dried cranberries and cinnamon
  • Peanut Butter Cup: Coconut oil, raw honey, unsweetened cocoa powder, peanut butter or almond butter
  •  Spicy Lime: Olive oil, cumin, chili powder, lime zest, lime juice
  •  Pumpkin spice: Grass-fed butter, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice
  •  Taco: Grass-fed butter or olive oil, cumin, chili powder, oregano, sea salt, cayenne
  •  Salted caramel: Grass-fed butter, coconut sugar, sea salt

General directions: melt the butter (coconut oil, maple syrup, etc.) on the stove, drizzle over warm air-popped popcorn, sprinkle with sea salt or other seasoning, add any mix-ins and stir.  Amounts of each ingredient are ‘to taste,’ so have fun with it! Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite popcorn combination? Please share!

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26 Comments

  1. Thanks for these suggestions. My dad got a movie theater style popcorn popper for Christmas, so we’ve been enjoying popcorn on a regular basis this past week. Although we haven’t seasoned it beyond butter and salt, I’ve been wanting to play around with flavorings. Therefore, I enjoyed seeing your suggestions. I’ll have to refer back to this soon!

    Reply

  2. These sound awesome! I can’t wait to try them!! I did want to comment though that from what I have read there are not any gmo popcorns yet. They are probably pesticided though so organic is ways better 🙂

    Reply

  3. Love this post!! Popcorn is my all-time favorite snack. Now I have even more ways to flavor and enjoy it. Yum!

    Reply

  4. I love these ideas! Thank you for sharing. My favorite is simply butter and cracked black pepper. Although I have to admit I haven’t tried most of these variations. While reading through them, my husband informed his favorite is cinnamon bun. Thanks for our dessert tonight! 🙂

    Reply

  5. Growing up, we had a strange mixture, but it works. We used melted butter and put it in the microwave with a spoonful or more of sugar. It sounds strange, but it is simply delicious. Enjoy!

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  6. I don’t think popcorn is genetically modified….

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  7. One of my favorite popcorn toppings is nori seasoning which you can buy in Asian markets or mix up yourself: toasted sesame seeds, sea salt, tiny pieces of nori and a pinch of sugar… with plenty of butter or coconut oil to make it stick.

    Yeah, I’d like some verification on that “popcorn is GMO” statement. I was under the impression that popcorn wasn’t GMO as well. Also, any tips on how to get wet toppings, such as peanut butter or honey, to coat the popcorn without being clumpy or soggy?

    Reply

    • I should have been more specific about the GMOs when I wrote this post. Since most corn is GMO corn, the likelihood that the popcorn is either GMO contaminated from other crops, or is indeed GMO is quite high. While there is no GMO popcorn at this time, not all corn used for manufacturing popcorn is made from kernels specifically grown to produce popcorn. Sometimes commercial popcorn companies buy regular corn kernels from corn farmers who grow GMO corn. The only way to assure non-GMO popcorn is to buy organic popcorn kernels. Organic kernels are the only way to avoid pesticides as well.

      Reply

      • Popcorn is not the same as regular corn grown as a crop in the US, so it is not directly genetically modified by Monsanto.
        Not sure about the cross contamination issue though, about corn and popcorn.

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  8. I think it’s wise to check *everything* against being GMO! Considering 95% of corn products are now GMO – yeah it wouldn’t surprise me to find pop*corn* infected, too. I’m lucky to be able to buy 50 lbs of GMO-free popcorn! Yay! My family thrives on the stuff. I love all your ideas for flavoring it – we’ll have to try some.

    I haven’t seen up there what my family does for flavoring — brewer’s yeast/nutritional yeast. ..shrug.. We started doing this quite a few years ago and we are now all hooked! We pop the corn, add sea salt and then sprinkle on as much or as little nutritional yeast powder as we like. Humbly admitting that it’s great! :^D

    Reply

  9. […] I love popcorn, and it sounds like many of you do as well! This week, our most popular post at MAK was 11 Ways to Naturally Flavor Popcorn. […]

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  10. We just had popcorn last night for dinner because we got home late and nothing was ready to eat. I love the sound of the taco version. I’m pinning this for next time!

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  11. mmmmmm eating the cinnamon bun version right now. so delicious!! i cant wait to try more!

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  12. So many yummy ways to eat popcorn! I’m super lucky to get local organic popcorn kernels from my co-op, and I can’t wait to try some of these 🙂 And your post is going to be featured on tomorrow’s Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, so don’t forget to come by and check it out!
    http://www.poorandglutenfree.blogspot.ca/

    Reply

  13. According to http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/, popcorn is not GMO, thankfully!

    Reply

  14. What a great post! I love popcorn and am always looking for new ways to enjoy it. I love that you included the bit about ‘natural flavors’. I’ve read it can be MSG, which I am highly sensitive to, so I avoid it like the plague. It’s good to see someone else recognize its perils.

    Reply

  15. […] Homemade Popcorn with 11 Flavor Variations by MAK […]

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  16. […] We eat a fair amount of popcorn at our house. Usually, I segregate Joseph’s since the rest of us don’t like the taste of his fake butter. But I’ve been curious to try Italian popcorn for awhile, so I decided to see what a Joseph-safe version would taste like. The recipe I adapted came from Modern Alternative Kitchen. […]

    Reply

  17. […] and my daughter loves tons of pepper on hers. I just like good old sea salt! Here’s a site that has lots of interesting ideas for flavors to make with your […]

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  18. […] not to love about popcorn?  Make your own healthy popcorn with coconut oil, and try these 11 different flavoring combinations, or this salted chocolate and caramel popcorn (that sounds […]

    Reply

  19. We used to put flaxseed oil, spirulina, and sea salt on ours. Delicious!

    Reply

  20. here in New Zealand we all grew up having home popped corn with icing sugar! Now I like it just with Pink Himalayan salt and paprika! I love it with butter, but can never get it to coat evenly.

    Reply

  21. […] family loves popcorn, so I was excited to see Jill’s post at Modern Alternative Kitchen with 11 Ways to Naturally Flavor Popcorn. […]

    Reply

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