How to Pop Oil-Free Popcorn Without an Air Popper

By Amy Brantley

Looking for a healthy way to snack? Popcorn, when done right, is a great way to munch guilt free. The health quality of popcorn depends primarily on how it's prepared and cooked. For example, making popcorn on the stove requires oil (high fat content), and microwaveable popcorn is usually loaded with preservatives and artificial butter and preservatives. One of the healthiest choices is using an oil-free method. Typically this method requires an air-popper, but if you're without one (like many of us are) there are easy alternative options. Plus, oil-free popcorn is delicious and still full of flavor.

You'll Need:

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • Microwave-safe bowl
  • Cookie sheet
  • Butter- or olive-oil-flavored cooking spray
  • Cinnamon sugar
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Place 1/2 cup popcorn kernels in a microwave-safe bowl, preferably a glass or stoneware bowl. Plastic can damage from the hot kernels hitting against the sides of the bowl. Also, make sure the bowl is large enough to contain the expanding kernels. A 3-quart bowl is perfect in size because it is large enough to keep the kernels in place without needing to be covered.

Microwave for 4 to 5 minutes or until fully popped. As with any popcorn prepared in the microwave, you'll need to keep a close watch. Each microwave has different power levels, which means that some microwaves will complete this process in 4 minutes, while others may take more time. As soon as the popping starts to slow down, remove the popcorn immediately to prevent burning.

Next, spread the popped kernels in an even layer on a cookie sheet. While plain popcorn is still tasty, it's more satisfying to add a bit of flavor. Spreading the popcorn in an even layer ensures that every piece will get well coated.

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Coat with butter or olive oil cooking spray. Cooking spray is low in calories but still adds great flavor. Butter-flavored cooking sprays are great for sweet applications, while olive oil works best with herbs and savory spices.

Ground red pepper and other spices
credit: IgorDutina/iStock/GettyImages

Sprinkle an even amount of your favorite seasonings and then toss. Tossing ensures that the seasonings stick to the popcorn and distributes evenly. If you're looking for a savory snack try cayenne pepper or chives; if you prefer sweet, cinnamon or another sugary topping is the way to go. Need some suggestions? Check out our sinful coconut, cinnamon popcorn recipe.