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Is Popcorn Keto? Carbs in Popcorn and Keto-Friendly Alternatives

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Many people snack on popcorn while watching a movie or as a late-night snack. It’s a source of fiber, which helps decrease hunger and manage weight. But is popcorn keto? It’s a common question asked by those who are restricting carbs in their diet.

Recall that the keto diet allows only up to 50 grams of carbs. This is extremely low compared to a standard diet wherein carbs make up 65% of a person’s total calories (*). So, it’s normal to question whether popcorn is really keto-friendly.

Here’s what you need to know about carbs in popcorn, its impact on ketosis, and some healthy popcorn alternatives.

Is Popcorn Keto?

Popcorn is a whole-grain food, and grains are off-limits on the keto diet, so technically — popcorn is not keto-friendly. However, it can still fit into your keto plan as long as you consume just the right amount so that you won’t get knocked out of ketosis.

Before deciding whether to have popcorn or not, it’s important to know your daily carb allowance first. Most people stick to 50 grams of net carbs — sometimes lower, for those who eat mostly meat — while others can get away with more than 50 grams, particularly athletes and very active individuals.

If you are striving to maintain ketosis for weight loss and health reasons, check your ketone levels regularly. You can use ketone test strips. Then adjust your carbs as needed.

How Many Carbs Does One Serving of Popcorn Have?

One cup provides 5 grams of net carbs in popcorn, according to the USDA (*). Considering the typical daily limit on keto, which is 50 grams of net carbs, you can have up to 5 servings of popcorn — for a total of 25 grams of net carbs — and still leave room for other carbs during the day.

As for other nutrients in popcorn, one cup has only 31 calories, less than 1 gram of protein, and less than 1 gram of fat (*). It’s a good option for people trying to control their calorie intake without going overboard on their carbs.

Popcorn is also a source of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, and zinc (*). These minerals are essential for regulating blood sugar, repairing cells and tissues, and supporting your immune system.

If you decide to eat popcorn, stick to plain popcorn. Flavored versions, such as those with cheese powder and caramel coating, may taste better, but they’re surprisingly high in carbs and sugar. Avoid them at all costs. 

Popcorn Nutrition Facts

Can I Eat Popcorn on Keto?

Although popcorn isn’t encouraged on the keto diet, you can still fit it into your daily plan within reason. Limit yourself to one to five servings (1-5 cups) of plain popcorn, which would have 5-25 grams of net carbs.

Making popcorn at home? Use coconut oil, which has zero carbs and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon (*). Coconut oil is a healthy fat source on keto since it naturally provides medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which may boost satiety and energy, and is relatively low in omega-6 fats (*).

Another pro tip for keto dieters: Drizzle 2 tablespoons of Perfect Keto Chocolate Hazelnut or Snickerdoodle nut butter over the popcorn for a low-carb flavor boost. Our nut butters are sugar-free and made with few ingredients. 

Keto-Friendly Popcorn Alternatives

What can you eat in place of popcorn? Thankfully, there are lots of low-carb substitutes to choose from. Satisfy your munchies with these crunchy, incredibly filling, and delectable snacks.

Pork rinds

Pork rinds are salty, making them a good substitute for popcorn. Made from deep-fried pork skin, they’re carb-free and are an excellent source of protein. One serving (28 grams) has 17 grams of protein and 9 grams of fat, plus calcium, iron, and magnesium (*).

Know that pork rinds already taste great on their own. But you can level up your snack game by turning them into “keto nachos” — just arrange them on a platter and top them with ground beef, cheese, tomatoes, and green onions!

Pumpkin seeds

Sometimes referred to as pepitas, pumpkin seeds are another low-carb option. A 28-gram serving, which is equivalent to 85 seeds, provides 10 grams of net carbs, 5 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat (*).

Try this roasted pumpkin seeds recipe: Season the seeds with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and paprika, then roast them at 350°F for about 15 minutes.

Cauliflower florets (pan-fried)

If you’re looking for a popcorn alternative that also has fiber, cauliflower is a good choice. What’s even better is that the same serving of cauliflower (one cup) has fewer carbs than popcorn — around 3 grams of net carbs (*).

Your family will love snacking on pan-fried cauliflower florets. This crispy recipe requires chopping and boiling cauliflower florets, then dipping them in an egg wash, followed by low-carb breading which consists of almond flour, parmesan cheese, and spices.

Dried seaweed

Packed with various vitamins and minerals, dried seaweed is a thin and crispy snack. It’s particularly high in iodine, which is low in plain unsalted popcorn. One cup contains 7 grams of net carbs, 5 grams of protein, and less than 1 gram of fat (*).

Bored with plain dried seaweed? Use them as wraps for avocado slices and eggs for an umami treat.

Freeze-dried cheese

For cheese connoisseurs out there, why not snack on cheese that’s freeze-dried? This crunchy snack is made by slicing or shredding your favorite cheese like cheddar or mozzarella, then placing the slices in a freeze dryer.

Alternatively, you can buy freeze-dried cheese online. Many brands are now selling this delicious snack, which usually comes in various flavors you’ll love.

The Bottom Line

Going back to the question of whether popcorn on keto is okay, the short answer is yes, as long as you limit yourself to one to five cups, which will provide you with 5-25 grams of net carbohydrates.

Just keep in mind that popcorn is a whole grain and that grains aren’t on the list of keto foods. But because a serving of popcorn is unlikely to kick you out of ketosis, you may eat it in the right amounts.

Following a strict keto diet? Forget popcorn and eat crunchy keto snacks from the options above instead. Also, check out Perfect Keto snacks that are delicious and full of healthy fats.

10 References

Mayo Clinic. Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. Snacks, popcorn, air-popped (Unsalted). 2019 April 1

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. Snacks, popcorn, air-popped (Unsalted). 2019 April 1

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. Snacks, popcorn, air-popped (Unsalted). 2019 April 1

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. Oil, coconut. 2019 April 1

Wang Y et al. Medium Chain Triglycerides enhances exercise endurance through the increased mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism. 2018 February 8

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. Snacks, pork skins, plain. 2019 April 1

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. Seeds, pumpkin and squash seeds, whole, roasted, without salt. 2019 April 1

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. Cauliflower, raw. 2019 April 1

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. Seaweed, dried. 2020 October 20

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15 thoughts on “Is Popcorn Keto? Carbs in Popcorn and Keto-Friendly Alternatives

  1. I am 54,over weight, and heard good things about keto. Wanting to give it a try. FYI, try popcorn cooked in bacon drippings, yummy!

    1. Hi Sohaila, it depends on your meal plan. If your carb intake for the day including the popcorn does not exceed 50 grams of carbs, you may.

  2. I presume because we can have grass fed butter, we can pour that over our popcorn. I have been on KETO 8 months and LOVING this lifestyle but desperately miss popcorn. I am so grateful to see how I can integrate it. Thank you

    1. Hi Deanna, it’s fine as long as you don’t exceed your daily carb intake. Always be mindful to check the nutrition labels and align it with your macros.

    1. It will still depend on your diet goal. As long as the carb count is within your keto macro goal, then it won’t kick you out of ketosis.

  3. Ugh…This is why I don’t count calories. I’ve seen two listings for 1/2 cup (unpopped) corn kernels, one for 420 calories, and the other for 260 calories. Anyway, divide by four to get grams of carbs.

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