keto friendly caramel popcorn

Is Caramel Popcorn Keto-Friendly?

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Caramel popcorn is a bit salty and a lot of sweet, a taste that many of us love and crave! While caramel popcorn is usually high in calories, popcorn by itself has a few health benefits. 

But is caramel popcorn keto-friendly? We talk about the carb content in caramel popcorn, the best type, and we have a recipe to help you make the keto-friendliest caramel popcorn to satisfy your cravings! 

keto friendly caramel popcorn

Carbs in Plain Popcorn

The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet, so whether popcorn is keto-friendly or not depends on how many carbs it has. Take note that caramel popcorn can be prepared in three different ways: air-popped, oil-popped, or microwaved. Let’s exclude movie theater popcorn for now!

Here’s how many carbs of grams are in each popcorn variety:

  • A cup of air-popped plain popcorn has about 6 grams of carbs.
  • A cup of microwavable popcorn has about 5-10 grams of carbs.
  • A cup of oil-popped popcorn also has 5-10 grams of carbs.

So, popcorn, when consumed without any additional flavorings, is keto-friendly if you keep your servings low.

Take note, however, that we mentioned the amount of carbs and not net carbs. Carbs include all the different types of carbs in a food or meal, such as starches, dietary fiber, and sugars. Net carbs only include carbs that the body digest and absorb into glucose.

Here’s how much net carbs there are per cup of popcorn:

  • Air-popped popcorn: 2-5 grams of net carbs.
  • Microwavable popcorn: 3-8 grams of net carbs.
  • Oil-popped popcorn: 3-8 grams of net carbs.

Air-popped popcorn is the lowest in carbs, so we suggest using this for your sweet cravings. But if you want to maximize your fat intake, go for oil-popped plain popcorn and use non-vegetable oils like coconut oil, avocado oil, or peanut oil. 

Avoid microwavable popcorn because its packaging contains PFOAs, the same thing that gives Teflon pans their bad reputation, and diacetyl, which is a chemical that can cause lung issues when inhaled. It also has bad fats, preservatives, and other harmful chemicals.

Carbs in Caramel Seasoning

As mentioned, plain popcorn is keto-friendly when consumed in small portions. If you’re planning to add a teaspoon of caramel powder to your popcorn, here’s how many carbs it contains per teaspoon:

4 grams of carbs is relatively high and not recommended on keto. So, if you’re planning to add a teaspoon of caramel seasoning to your popcorn, make sure to limit your consumption to about half a cup. You may also opt to decrease the amount of seasoning you put in, say, ¼ tsp!

However, if you want actual caramel syrup drizzled on your popcorn expect about a 7-gram increase in your carb intake per half a tablespoon. Adding this amount of syrup to a cup of plain air-popped popcorn will add up to a 13-gram consumption of carbs, or 10 grams of net carbs. That may be a little too high for a snack.

If you’re choosing between the two, go for the powdered caramel one which is not only lower in carbs, but is also less sticky, easy to shake, and more convenient to use with popcorn!

Carbs in Caramel Popcorn

So far, we have learned the amount of carbs in the following types of caramel popcorn:

  • 1 cup of air-popped popcorn with 1 tsp of caramel seasoning – 10 grams of carbs and 5 grams of net carbs.
  • 1 cup of air-popped popcorn with ½ tbsp of caramel syrup – 13 grams of carbs or 10 grams of net carbs.

Another type of caramel popcorn is the bagged and pre-popped popcorn which typically has 8-23 grams of carbs per cup, depending on the brand.

Another option is plain Skinny Pop and drizzle caramel seasoning, which comes in at about 8 grams of carbs per cup. 

Based on our research, it is clear that air-popped popcorn with a teaspoon of caramel seasoning or Skinny Pop with a teaspoon of caramel seasoning is the best option on keto. Make sure to consume only about a cup or less to stay in ketosis.

Caramel Popcorn vs. Kettle Corn

Kettle corn is another variety of popcorn which is also sweetened. Unlike regular popcorn, kettle corn is prepared in a cast-iron kettle or a Dutch oven, although modern times make people use the stovetop method instead. Usual recipes use the same ingredients: oil, kernels, sugar, and salt. 

The oil is heated in a pot on the stove with a few kernels. Once the kernels pop, the rest are added along with the sugar. Salt is added after transferring the warm kettle corn to a bowl.

On average, a cup of kettle corn has 10-22 grams of carbs and 8-11 grams of net carbs.

While it’s as sweet as caramel popcorn, it is a little higher in carbs compared to pain air-popped popcorn with caramel powder. So don’t hesitate to go for the latter to satisfy your sweet tooth!

Sugar-Free Caramel Popcorn Recipe

Is this possible? A sweet snack that’s low in calorie and carbs, and is free from sugar? 

This recipe by The Hungry Elephant only contains about 5.6 grams of carbs and 4.8 grams of net carbs per cup, meaning its keto-friendlier than all previous caramel popcorn types mentioned! The key is to make your own caramel and to use air-popped popcorn or Skinny Pop.

Here are the ingredients:

  • ½ cup Swerve sweetener
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 6 cups of Skinny Pop or air-popped popcorn.

Read the directions here!

Make Your Own Caramel Popcorn!

Anything sweet is not recommended on keto unless you play your cards right! A cup of air-popped popcorn or Skinny Pop is the best popcorn base to use. You may add a teaspoon of caramel seasoning, but we recommend following a recipe that uses sugar-free sweetener for a lower carb intake! 

Make sure to limit your intake to a cup or less, depending on your own carb limit. 

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