Is Popcorn Keto? Guide to Snacking on a Low-Carb Diet (2024)

Being on the famous low-carb, high-fat lifestyle means giving up sugars, processed carbs, and maintaining a carb count that keeps us in keto. The thing is, specifics can get tricky — even with foods as simple sounding as popcorn.

So where does the most famous movie snack of all time fit in? Is popcorn keto-friendly?

In this article, we'll talk about:

  • What popcorn actually is
  • What keto and "keto-friendly" mean
  • Can you eat popcorn on keto?
  • The nutritional content of popcorn
  • Carb counts for common types of popcorn
  • The best keto popcorn alternatives
  • How to make your own low-carb popcorn at home

What Is Popcorn?

Popcorn is just what it sounds like — popped corn kernels. Kernels are the fruits of corn, and a single ear of corn can have over 800 of them! There are a ton of different types of corn (or maize), but farmers in the corn belt grow a specific variation known as “popping corn” for popcorn. This corn has kernels that are ideal for drying and popping due to their moisture levels.

All popping corn kernels have a starchy tissue called an endosperm. When the endosperm is exposed to high heat, the moisture inside it turns to steam and rapidly expands until the kernel splits and becomes the delicious treat we know and love.

Is Popcorn Healthy?

Whether or not popcorn is healthy depends on the type you eat and the diet you're following. Fresh, air-popped popcorn is low in calories, filled with fiber, has more antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables, and may even help fight cancer.

On the other hand, movie theater popcorn is a concentrated bucket of saturated fat and calories — delicious, yes, but so far from what we would consider "healthy".

Keto Diet Overview

The ketogenic diet aims to reduce your carbohydrate levels long enough for your body to enter a survival state known as "ketosis". This is when your body begins consuming its own fat to provide your body with the energy it needs. You are essentially gaming one of your body's survival mechanisms by swapping your typical energy source (glucose found in carbohydrates) for an alternative one (ketones found in your fat).

While the amount of daily net carbohydrates you can eat varies according to your activity levels and body, most people on keto should eat between 20g and 50g of net carbohydrates each day. Once you begin reducing your carbs, your body will begin to work toward a state of ketosis.

How long it takes you to reach ketosis depends on how long it's been since you were last in ketosis and how strictly you are reducing carbs, but you should reach ketosis within a few weeks.

People tend to report bad breath, short-term fatigue, increased focus, and insomnia when they first enter ketosis, but these side effects usually go away after a few days.

What Do We Mean by "Keto-Friendly"?

Keto is a little different from a traditional diet because it isn't concerned with calorie counts. It's all about carbs.

You could eat nothing but beef (meat is naturally zero-carb) and consume thousands of calories over your daily recommended value and still be "on keto". This wouldn't be a healthy approach to keto, but you wouldn't break your ketosis.

With this in mind, there aren't foods that are keto or not keto — it's all about staying below your allotted carb amounts. As long as you don't surpass your carbohydrate limit, you can technically eat anything, but in order to maintain some degree of normalcy and eat a balanced diet (that also keeps you full), you need to prioritize eating low-carb foods.

In short, the more keto-friendly a food is, the fewer carbs it has per serving. That's it!

Is Popcorn Keto-Friendly?

If you eat air-popped popcorn or popcorn popped with a healthy fat source like coconut oil or ghee and keep an eye on your serving size, then the answer to “is popcorn keto-friendly” is a resounding yes.

But wait a minute, is popcorn a carb? Technically, yes.

Most types of sugary and mass-produced popcorn such as movie theater popcorn, kettle corn, and microwave popcorn should be avoided on a standard ketogenic diet due to their high carbohydrate content and unhealthy additives.

How Many Carbs in Popcorn?

Homemade and popcorn made with healthier oil can be considered low-carb popcorn keto dieters can enjoy. For example, one typical serving of popcorn (4-5 cups) can have around 30 grams of carbohydrates — which is likely enough to kick you out of ketosis.

The thing is, that's a good amount of popcorn keto eaters can agree on! But if you only have a single cup, your snack will be under 10g of net carbs. Just measure your serving size ahead of time to be safe — we all know how hard it is to keep popcorn snacking to a minimum!

Is Skinny Pop Considered Keto Popcorn?

It is more keto-friendly than most other types of popcorn keto dieters enjoy.

Skinny Pop is incredibly popular. It's low in calories, tasty, and convenient. Skinny Pop has 7g of net carbs per small bag, making it pretty keto-friendly.

So while it is lower in popcorn carbs,it's still best to substitute Skinny Pop for lower-carb snack options like beef jerky sticks, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, and nuts.

Pro Tips for Eating Popcorn on Keto

Since your goal is to reduce carb counts, the best way to eat popcorn on keto is to eat it without any extra sugar or carb-containing additives. That eliminates all movie theater popcorn, all microwave popcorn, any sugary popcorn like kettle and caramel, and any other flavors that add extra carb-containing ingredients to their popcorn.

In short, make homemade air-popped popcorn and toss it with salt and pepper for the best results! Or better yet, choose a different, lower-carb snack altogether.

Popcorn Nutrition

Popcorn is probably healthier than you thought. If you eat air-popped popcorn that is plain or lightly seasoned it actually has a bunch of nutritional value and fits into a healthy ketogenic diet.

Benefits of Eating Air-Popped, Keto Popcorn

  • Popcorn is a low-calorie snack when eaten plain. 4-5 cups of popcorn only has around 125 calories. This makes it a great guilt-free keto popcorn when you're trying to keep your calorie count low.
  • Popcorn also has a lot of dietary fiber. Fiber can help with cholesterol, maintain weight, and improve your bowel regularity.
  • Popcorn contains useful vitamins and minerals. These include calcium, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin K.

Potential Risks From Eating Popcorn

The risks from eating popcorn almost all come from the oils, fats, and seasonings that often come with it.

  • Is popcorn keto friendly at the movies? Unfortunately, no because it’s extremely high in saturated fats. Movie theater popcorn is extremely high in saturated fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and eating too many saturated fats can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • This type of savory popcorn is also high in calories. Regal's large popcorns can contain 20 cups of popcorn, 1,200 calories, and 60 grams of saturated, artery-clogging fat. That's the same as eating two personal pepperoni pizzas from Pizza Hut. Wow!
  • Microwave popcorn contains harmful ingredients like diacetyl. Diacetyl has been linked to the progress of Alzheimer's disease and may contribute to respiratory abnormalities. Plus the bags themselves can contain carcinogenic PFOAs. Do yourself a favor and just skip the microwave popcorn from now on!
  • Does popcorn have carbs? Yes, which can kick you out of ketosis if your snacking gets out of hand. This isn’t really a risk, but it is something to keep in mind if you’re eating any sort of low-carb diet.

Common Popcorn Types and Brands (Plus Carb Counts)

If you’ve ever asked yourself the question “is popcorn keto?”, this next section is for you.

Here are a few of the most popular brands to buy and ways to prepare popcorn keto dieters can enjoy. It's pretty amazing to see how quickly popcorn goes from being a nutritious snack to being an entirely unhealthy one depending on how you prepare it.

Your choice of oil, seasoning, and additives all affect its nutritional value, so keep that in mind as you buy and make your own popcorn, keto dieters.

Note: the following macros are for a 1 oz (~28g) serving, which is approximately 3.5 cups of popcorn.

1. Air-Popped, No-Oil Popcorn

This is as plain as it gets. No sugar. No oil. Just the kernels and heat!

  • Calories: 120
  • Fat: 1.2g
  • Carbs: 21g
  • Fiber: 3.6g
  • Protein: 3.7g

2. Plain Oil-Popped Popcorn

This is about as light on the seasoning as you can go. This just means putting a bit of oil in the pot you're popping the popcorn in and tossing it with salt.

  • Calories: 142
  • Fat: 7.97g
  • Carbs: 16.5g
  • Fiber: 2.8g
  • Protein: 2.6g

3. Caramel Corn

These stats are for typical caramel corn, which usually includes oil and brown sugar.

  • Calories: 122
  • Fat: 3.6g
  • Carbs: 22g
  • Fiber: 2.8g
  • Protein: 1.1g

4. Kettle Corn

I've always been on team kettle corn as a kid, and it's easy to see why — kettle corn is just regular popcorn with white sugar.

  • Calories: 130
  • Fat: 5g
  • Carbs: 21g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 1g

5. Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn

Growing up I loved Smartfood's White Cheddar Popcorn. I can taste it just thinking about it! Here's what that popcorn is like on the inside:

  • Calories: 160
  • Fat: 10g
  • Carbs: 13g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 4g

6. Skinny Pop

Seemingly found in every co-working space and office in the country, here are Skinny Pop's nutrition stats!

  • Calories: 150
  • Fat: 10g
  • Carbs: 15g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 2g

Now that you know the nutrition behind your options, let's talk about how to make some healthy low-carb popcorn keto dieters can have at home.

The Best Keto Popcorn Alternatives

Have you ever asked yourself “is popcorn keto-friendly?” only to discover that your answer is a no for you?

If you'd rather skip thinking about carbs in popcorn altogether, then you should keep some no-carb or very low-carb snacks around the house. Here are 5 of our favorite keto popcorn alternatives!

1. Pork Rinds

Plain pork rinds are completely free from carbs. We recommend buying healthier brands than the ones you find at most gas stations, or just making your own. I was skeptical at first, but homemade pork rinds are amazing.

2. Deli Meats

Keeping fresh deli meats in the fridge is a great keto popcorn alternative. Any meat like ham, roast beef, turkey, or chicken is free from carbs and can help you feel full between meals. You can also add a bit of cheese to these to make a low-carb roll-up of sorts.

3. Chomps

We're a little biased, but we think Chomps are one of the best alternatives to keto popcorn out there. We use the highest-quality, sustainably-sourced protein with no added sugar and no harmful ingredients to deliver keto-friendly meat snacks that taste amazing and give you the fuel you need at any point during the day.

4. Cucumbers and Pickles

For one of the healthiest and lowest calorie snacks, keep some cucumbers or plain dill pickles around the house. Cucumbers and pickles have small amounts of carbs, but since serving sizes are small, you rarely ingest more than a couple of grams.

5. Homemade Cheese Chips

Cheez-It fans, this one's for you. Homemade cheese chips are super easy to make, and they make a fantastic alternative to keto popcorn. Plus, you can easily make variety packs with whatever cheeses you like!

How to Make the Healthiest (and Tastiest) Keto Popcorn at Home

If you want to whip up a snack for friends or family at home and keep it healthy, here's the way to do that.

What You'll Need:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • ¼ cup unpopped popcorn
  • sea salt to taste


  1. Place popcorn and oil in a 3-quart pot over medium heat and cover the pot with a lid.
  2. Shake the pot constantly as popcorn pops.
  3. When popping slows to a few seconds in-between pops, after about 3 to 5 minutes, remove pot from heat and pour popcorn into a large bowl.
  4. Season with sea salt.

That's it!

The Bottom Line on Eating Popcorn During Keto

Popcorn is considered a grain and has a moderate level of carbohydrates across the board. It is delicious and can be healthy if prepared with natural and simple ingredients.

But ultimately, the answer to the question “is popcorn keto-friendly” largely depends on your personal carb limits and how it’s prepared.

‘When eating popcorn on keto, it is best to view popcorn as a "treat". In other words, you can definitely have it but make sure to keep your portion sizes small.

Is Popcorn Keto? Guide to Snacking on a Low-Carb Diet (2024)


Is Popcorn Keto? Guide to Snacking on a Low-Carb Diet? ›

Net carbs are calculated by taking the total grams of carbohydrate in a food and subtracting the amount of fiber. In this case, popcorn contains 6 grams of carbs per 1 cup serving and 1.2 grams of fiber, bringing the net carbs per serving to 4.8 grams. Yes friends, popcorn is indeed a keto food.

Is popcorn a good low carb snack? ›

“It's going to fill you up, it's not high on the carb count and it has a little bit of fiber.” The key is not to go overboard — 1 cup of air-popped popcorn has only 6 grams of carbs, but if you eat 3 cups, that's 18 grams and likely more than half of your daily carbs.

How much popcorn can I eat on keto? ›

A typical serving of air-popped popcorn is 3 cups (24 grams) and contains 4 grams of fiber and 18 grams of carbs — or 14 grams of net carbs ( 7 ). Popcorn can easily fit into a keto diet with a daily limit of 50 grams of net carbs and can even be included in more restrictive versions of the keto diet.

What type of popcorn is keto friendly? ›

Skinny Pop Popcorn can fit into the keto diet and make an excellent healthy snack. Each serving provides 4g of dietary fiber and only 1g of net carbs per serving, making it an ideal option for those trying to keep their carb intake low.

Can you eat skinny popcorn on a low-carb diet? ›

Skinny Pop has 7g of net carbs per small bag, making it pretty keto-friendly. So while it is lower in popcorn carbs,it's still best to substitute Skinny Pop for lower-carb snack options like beef jerky sticks, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, and nuts.

What is the most filling low-carb food? ›

Low Carb Food List
  • Berries. ...
  • Broccoli. ...
  • Avocado. ...
  • Spinach. ...
  • Cauliflower Rice. ...
  • Olives. ...
  • Cottage Cheese. Cottage cheese is a high protein, low-carb food that's both filling and versatile. ...
  • Tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented soy product that's low in carbs and high in protein and fiber.
Jun 12, 2024

What sweets can I eat on low-carb? ›

Top 10 Low Carb Desserts
  • Variety Pack Bites. If you're looking for a sweet treat without any carbs, you'll love these tasty bites. ...
  • Dip Your Own Fruit & Chocolate Dipping Kit. ...
  • Low Carb Creme Brulee. ...
  • Keto Coconut Macaroons. ...
  • Low Carb Walnut Brownies. ...
  • Keto Coconut Lime Bars. ...
  • The Best Keto Cheesecake. ...
  • Keto Fluffy Chocolate Mousse.
May 30, 2023

Can I eat movie theater popcorn on keto? ›

What About Movie Theater Popcorn? While the question of "is popcorn keto" can be debated, most would agree that popcorn as a movie theater snack, specifically, is not keto-friendly because it is loaded with carbs, sodium, calories, sugar, and other additives. One ounce of oil popped, white popcorn has 16.22 carbs.

Is peanut butter keto? ›

Peanut butter can definitely be part of a keto diet, but it's best to stick to plain options that are free of extra flavors and sweeteners. Almond butter is a good choice, too, and it's slightly lower in carbs. Additionally, you should be mindful of your portion size if you're trying to lose weight.

How many carbs per day on keto? ›

The ketogenic diet typically reduces total carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams a day—less than the amount found in a medium plain bagel—and can be as low as 20 grams a day. Generally, popular ketogenic resources suggest an average of 70-80% fat from total daily calories, 5-10% carbohydrate, and 10-20% protein.

Can you use butter on keto? ›

Butter is perfect for your keto lifestyle, as it's carb-free and about 80% fat ( 21 ). Though it was long considered a menace to heart health, current research indicates that there is only a small or neutral association between butter intake and heart disease and stroke risk ( 22 ).

Why can you eat popcorn on keto but not corn? ›

Corn in itself is considered pretty carb-heavy. But, believe it or not, popcorn isn't that high in carbs: One cup of air-popped popcorn has 6 grams of carbs, and 1 gram of fiber, for a total of 5 grams of net carbs, says Natalie Rizzo, M.S, R.D.

Does popcorn spike blood sugar? ›

Popcorn offers people with diabetes a low-sugar, low-calorie snack option. It will not increase a person's blood sugar levels by a significant amount, making it a safe choice between meals.

Is movie theater popcorn low carb? ›

What About Movie Theater Popcorn? While the question of "is popcorn keto" can be debated, most would agree that popcorn as a movie theater snack, specifically, is not keto-friendly because it is loaded with carbs, sodium, calories, sugar, and other additives. One ounce of oil popped, white popcorn has 16.22 carbs.

What is the healthiest popcorn to eat? ›

The 10 Best Healthy Popcorn Brands of 2022, According to...
  • Bjorn Qorn.
  • Pipcorn Truffle Mini Popcorn.
  • Newman's Own Organic Touch of Butter.
  • Whole Foods 365 Organic Yellow Popcorn Kernels.
  • Trader Joes Organic Popcorn With Olive Oil.
  • Anthony's Organic Yellow Popcorn Kernels.
  • How to Choose a Healthy Popcorn.
Sep 27, 2022

How much popcorn can I eat on a diet? ›

A healthy portion size of popcorn is about 25-30g. While plain popcorn can be enjoyed as a low-calorie snack, portion size is key to keep calories in check. Flavoured varieties are best enjoyed as an occasional treat rather than as part of a regular balanced diet.

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