Popcorn is a perfect healthy snack and seems to be making a huge revival. In fact it may be as popular as ever with so many different flavours, sweet and savoury, appearing in the shops. If you choose a brand thats selling proper popcorn these are generally good but check the ingredients list carefully as some can be packed full of fat and sugar which make it pretty unhealthy and dare I say it, microwave popcorn is not a great option!
In the quest for a healthier revision snack I’ve started making popcorn for my children to eat as they study. I knew a sweet popcorn would be favourite, so I’ve used coconut nectar as a sugar alternative, it has an amazing caramel flavour is natural and unrefined. It also has a lower Glycemic Index compared to regular sugar which means it shouldn’t peak blood sugar levels and therefore keeps energy even, helping avoid the sugar highs and lows which can affect concentration. Coconut sugar may also retain some of the nutrients found in the coconut palm. Cooking in coconut oil as well as adding a great flavour also adds some healthy fats.
I’ve tried various methods and find this one works best for me. Here’s a few hints before you get started. Make sure you use the biggest pan you can as its best to have the corn in as thin a layer as possible and it needs plenty of space to expand in to! If you want to make double, its really best to make it in two batches as this way you’ll avoid being left with loads of un popped kernels or overcooked popcorn and you’d also need a pretty massive pan to fit it all! Finally, please don’t be tempted to tip the flavouring ingredients into the saucepan instead of transferring the popcorn to a bowl. The pan is so hot that the sugar begins to caramelise in the remaining coconut oil and tends to stick to the bottom of the pan!
This makes enough for about 4 people, although there are probably days when I’d like to sit and eat the whole bowl to myself! If you do have any left, I find once cool it keeps well in airtight container for a couple of days.
2tbsp crystallised coconut nectar (see below)
1/4tsp Himalayan pink salt or good quality fine sea salt
1/4tsp vanilla powder (see below)
25g coconut oil
150g popping corn
Mix together the coconut sugar, salt and vanilla powder in a small bowl.
Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan over a medium/high heat and add 3 or 4 corn kernels. When the oil is hot enough and these few pieces have popped, remove them from the pan and add the remaining corn. Cover and remove from the heat for about a minute. This will allow all the corn to heat up evenly without beginning to pop.
Return the covered pan to a high heat and the corn should start popping madly. Frequently shake the pan on the heat to prevent it from burning. If you’re feeling brave, occasionally lift the lid a very small amount to let the steam escape.
Once the rate of popping slows down to one every few seconds, remove from the heat. Tip the contents of the pan into a large bowl or container, add the flavouring and stir to combine. I’ve found shaking the popcorn and flavouring together in a container with a lid is the best way to get an even flavour but don’t leave the lid on if the popcorn is still hot.
Ingredients: I’ve used Ndali organic vanilla powder which is packaged in a small tin and is available in some supermarkets and health food shops and Tiana Raw Organic Crystallised Coconut Blossom Nectar (pictured below) which is available in health food shops, Holland & Barrett and Tesco.
I’ve intentionally not added lots of butter and refined sugar to keep a healthier element so if anyone has any favourite ‘healthy’ popcorn flavours, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.