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Some of the most common questions I get in our keto support group are , “is popcorn keto friendly?”, “can I eat popcorn on keto?”, or “how many carbs in popcorn?” I get it! This is one keto snack that’s hard to replace. So, what to do when you’re craving a keto popcorn alternative? This keto cheese puffs recipe comes to the rescue! It’s got the salty, buttery, cheesy flavors that we love in popcorn, airy texture, major crunch, and a boost of protein!
Puffed cheese might not be exactly the same thing as popcorn, but it’s an awesome keto popcorn replacement that will satisfy those cravings in a clean way.
Is Popcorn Keto Friendly?
Unfortunately, popcorn is not keto compliant. The carbs in popcorn are simply too high to enjoy it regularly. In addition, there are a few other elements as well that make it best to avoid popcorn on a keto diet.
Can you eat popcorn on keto?
You might get away with eating very small amounts of popcorn on keto, but it would be a “dirty keto” option because of the way corn is produced:
- The vast majority of corn crops are genetically modified [*] and sprayed with herbicides like glyphosate, which the FDA has labeled a possible carcinogen [*].
- Even if you chose organic and non-GMO varieties, popcorn is primarily made of carbohydrates and popcorn carbs are still too high to call it a truly keto food. (See which foods are keto friendly in the keto food list, or the keto vegetables list.)
Does popcorn have carbs?
Yes, popcorn has carbs! In fact, it’s primarily made up of carbs… and air. 😉 It also has a little bit of fiber, which reduces its net carbs, but total carbs are still fairly high.
How many carbs in popcorn?
How many carbs in popcorn, exactly? A single cup of plain, popped popcorn has 6.2 grams total carbs and 5.1 grams of net carbs [*].
That doesn’t sound like much, but here’s why it’s best to avoid popcorn on keto:
- A serving is a lot more than one cup. In fact, the USDA says a serving of popcorn is 3 cups [*]! Some labels use different quantities, but it’s always multiple cups, and with good reason. If you like popcorn, it’s hard to eat just one cup.
- Popcorn is mostly carbs. The other factor to consider when it comes to popcorn and keto is the distribution of macros. Even if popcorn is airy, almost all the calories in popcorn come from carbohydrates.
Is Popcorn Keto Friendly?Pin It For Later!
Is there a keto popcorn substitute?
Okay, no popcorn on keto… so what should you have instead? This keto puffed cheese recipe makes a decent keto popcorn alternative! It still has the crunch and buttery flavor of popcorn, and dramatically cuts the carbs.
How To Make Keto Popcorn
When you need the best popcorn for keto, these white cheddar cheese puffs are it! Here’s how to make them:
- Arrange small cheese cubes on parchment paper. Be sure the pieces are uniformly 1/2-inch in size, and at least 1-2 inches apart.
- Bake at low temp very briefly. This step is optional, but if you want a more rounded keto popcorn with more air in it, it’s recommended. It takes just a couple of minutes for the cheese starts to melt to form round edges but not spread too far. Remove from oven and while cheese is still warm, use a small spatula or fingers to push the edges inward a bit if the cheese spread too much. Cool completely.
- Air dry for 3 days. This is the hardest part – the waiting! Cover the cheese pieces with a paper towel and leave out on the counter for 3 full days, until they are completely hard. The time will vary depending on the humidity in your kitchen. If they are rubbery, they need more time!
- Pop cheese puffs. Bake again briefly, this time at a higher temperature, until the cheese puffs up. Watch closely to make sure they don’t burn! Remove immediately once most pieces are puffed up.
- Make corn-flavored butter topping. Stir together melted butter-flavored coconut oil (or plain butter) and corn extract.
- Toss keto popcorn with toppings. Right before serving your homemade cheese puffs, toss baked cheese puffs in the oil mixture…
…Then toss again with white cheddar cheese powder.
Tips For Making Keto Cheese Puffs
Keto friendly popcorn isn’t difficult, but it does require some special techniques to ensure that your cheese can pop properly. Be sure to follow these tips:
1. Cut the cheese into uniform cubes.
For consistent keto cheese puffs, the cheese pieces must all be the same size – including width, depth and height. This helps them cook evenly and also ensures they won’t flatten too much.
2. Place cheese pieces tall side up.
If your cubes have a slightly longer side, place them so that they are the tallest they can be. This will make the puffiest result.
3. Melt cheese slightly before drying for the best shape.
The optional step of melting the cheese slightly first is not required, but makes more rounded keto popcorn and also helps it puff up more than the regular cubes do.
I highly recommend this step, but do watch closely during initial melting! You want to just barely round the edges, but if the cheese melts into a completely flat puddle, it likely won’t puff up later.
If the cheese melts too much, you’ll get cheese crisps instead of cheese puffs. Crisps are still delicious, but not the greatest keto popcorn substitute!
4. Make sure the cheese dries fully.
The most critical part is for the cheese to dry fully. If it’s rubbery at all, it needs more time to dry.
The optional step of melting the cheese slightly first is not required, but makes more rounded keto popcorn AND also helps it puff up more than the regular cubes do. You’ll still need to dry the cheese fully after the optional melting step.
5. Use butter-flavored coconut oil for topping keto popcorn.
It’s strange, but I found that butter flavored coconut oil actually had a stronger buttery flavor than plain butter does. You can use either one, but I recommend the butter flavored coconut oil for this reason.
6. Only add toppings right before eating.
Coating your keto popcorn in butter or oil will make the cheese puffs soften with time, making them rubbery instead of crunchy. And without the butter, any seasoning or cheese powder won’t stick. So for best results, add toppings only when ready to eat.
Keto Friendly Popcorn FAQs
Do cheese puffs really taste like popcorn?
This keto popcorn recipe is a great way to enjoy popcorn on keto diet – without actually eating popcorn!
Like some of the low carb/keto recipes we come up with, this is not going to taste exactly like, or have the same texture as, traditional popcorn.
With that said, these white cheddar cheese puffs are sure to bust through any popcorn craving. The flavor is remarkable, you get crunch and airiness in every bite, and the topping adds a ton of flavor that’s just like popcorn.
Is it okay to leave cheese out on the counter for 3 days?
According to the USDA, hard cheeses like the provolone we are using to make these white cheddar cheese puffs actually don’t require refrigeration. They are usually refrigerated so that they last longer, but it’s not actually required. Especially without added moisture (we are drying out the cheese), it won’t spoil or mold in 3 days.
Can you use a dehydrator or microwave for making keto friendly popcorn?
Unfortunately, a dehydrator does not work very well for drying the cheese. I’ve tried! It darkens too much and for some reason does not puff up.
I have not tested puffing the keto cheese puffs at the end using a microwave. Let me know how it goes if you try it.
How many carbs in keto popcorn?
This baked cheese puffs recipe has just 1.2 grams net carbs per serving. It’s a much better way to have popcorn on keto, even if it’s not quite the same thing.
Does puffed cheese work with all kinds of cheese?
You can make easy cheese puffs with other types of hard cheese. Good choices are cheddar or gouda – I have made this keto popcorn recipe with both of these with success.
If you try a different type of cheese, let me know how it goes!
Avoid soft cheeses, like mozzarella or brie. They have too much moisture to puff up.
So, why did I choose provolone? Because it has the most neutral flavor and will still puff up. Provolone makes the closest thing to “authentic” keto popcorn because the flavor of the cheese is not overpowering, and the flavor of the toppings can shine instead.
Are the keto popcorn toppings necessary?
If you want this popcorn keto snack to taste as closely to popcorn as possible, then yes! Absolutely use the butter-flavored coconut oil, sweet corn extract, and white cheddar cheese powder. It gives the keto popped cheese amazing popcorn flavor.
However, if you just want to make an easy puffed cheese recipe, feel free to use any hard cheese (as mentioned above) and skip the toppings.
Puffed Cheese Storage Instructions
Can you make puffed cheese ahead?
Yes, you can make keto cheese popcorn ahead and you just might want to have a batch constantly going… because it’s slightlyyy irresistible! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
How to store keto popcorn
Store your white cheddar cheese puffs in an airtight container for 3-4 days at room temperature. For best results, don’t add the topping until you are about to eat.
More Easy Keto Movie Snacks
I know it’s disappointing that the answer to “can you have popcorn on the keto diet?” is a sad “no”. But, I hope this cheese puffs recipe is a decent replacement. If you like it, you might also like some of these other keto snacks:
- Keto Crackers – Two ingredient and ultra buttery.
- Hard Boiled Eggs – A hefty dose of protein and major flavor that’s a favorite – keto or not.
- Pepperoni Chips – ONE ingredient is all you need for these crunchy chips.
- Cauliflower Hummus – I bet you thought hummus was off-limits! Not with this sneaky version.
- Keto Soft Pretzels – These taste like the real thing! Dip them in mustard or eat them plain – either way they are delicious.
Tools To Make Keto Popcorn
Tap the links below to see the items used to make this recipe.
There are definitely a few ingredients that take this keto cheese puffs recipe to the next level:
- Sweet Corn Extract – This little bottle is what gives this keto cheese puffs recipe its popcorn flavor. It’s also used in my keto cornbread recipe!
- White Cheddar Cheese Powder – This powder is slightly magical…and can also be used for cheese sauces, crackers, and more!
Keto Popcorn Recipe
Keto Popcorn (Cheese Puffs Recipe)
Is popcorn keto? Learn why not, and how to make this keto popcorn recipe instead. You'll be surprised how well these keto cheese puffs (a.k.a. puffed cheese) replace the carbs in popcorn on a keto diet.
Recipe VideoTap on the image below to watch the video.
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Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Optional Step For Rounded Keto Popcorn:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (148 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Arrange the 1/2-inch cheese pieces on the parchment paper, at least an inch apart. Bake for about 2-4 minutes, until the cheese pieces start to slightly melt to form rounded edges, but do not spread too far.
Remove from the oven. While the cheese is still warm, use a small spatula or your fingers to push the edges inward a bit if the cheese spread too much. The pieces should be round and thicker than typical sliced cheese.
Basic Keto Cheese Puffs:
Cover the cheese pieces with a paper towel and leave on the counter for at least 3 full days, until they are completely hard. (Squeeze them to check if they are ready - if they are at all rubbery, they need more time!)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C). Remove the paper towel and place the pan into the oven for 4-5 minutes, until the cheese pieces puff up. Watch closely to avoid burning. Remove immediately once most pieces are puffed up.
Cool the cheese puffs completely to get crisp.
Keto Popcorn Topping:
Right before serving, in a small bowl, whisk together the butter flavored coconut oil or plain butter and corn extract.
Toss the keto popcorn with the corn flavored butter mixture. Sprinkle with white cheddar cheese powder and toss again.
Last Step: Leave A Rating!
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Serving size: 12 pieces, or 1/4 entire recipe
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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© Copyright Maya Krampf for Wholesome Yum. Please DO NOT SCREENSHOT OR COPY/PASTE recipes to social media or websites. We'd LOVE for you to share a link with photo instead. 🙂
Maya, would nutritional yeast work instead of the cheddar powder? I always loved that on my popcorn!
Wholesome Yum D0
Hi Pam, Yes, that would work.
I tried keto popcorn from another keto blogger’s recipe and it called for using sliced cheese. I loved it, but liked the size and shape of yours so I decided to give it a try. I made two batches, the second time with slightly smaller cubes. Both batches when cooled were tough and chewy. I solved the problem by spreading them out on a paper towel (to absorb some of the fat) and nuked them in the microwave for about 1 1//2 minutes. This made them perfectly crunchy and delicious!! Hope this helps anybody else who ends up with a less than crunchy outcome.
Unlike other types of corn, popcorn is not genetically modified and hence is not resistant to glycophate like GMO corn is.
Hello, I am so excited for this recipe. I am half way through the drying process and after reviewing the recipe again, I realized that I cut the cubes a little too big and melted them probably too much. My cheese rounds are a little bigger than the ones you pictured. Should I try cutting them in half or just let them dry a little longer? I need to learn to follow instructions better. Thank you for you amazing recipes and feedback.
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Lana, Either option will work, but cutting them smaller will speed up the process. Enjoy!
If I accidentally made the cubes a little too big and they’re still rubbery after 3 days, what’s the longest I can leave them sit to harden without the cheese going bad?
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Emily, Keep them in a cool, dry spot and your cheese cubes will be good for several more days.
Hi! I just found your page and I love it! All the recipes are great! Thank you!! I haven’t tried this recipe yet but I want to try it. 🙂 I just had a question: Can the cheese be left in the counter for 3 days and not go bad? Thank you!!
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Laura, The cheese dries out, but it doesn’t go bad. This creates the right environment for “popping” it. Enjoy!
I haven’t even tried it with the toppings yet – just plain they are yummy! A question though, I used provolone cheese, cut it up, melted it (a little too much I think. I got “puffing” but probably would have gotten more. Some actually popped in the oven as they puffed!) After the melting, my cheese seemed very greasy, leaving grease spots on the parchment paper. It seemed so greasy that after 2 days I changed the parchment paper and paper towels, patting the cheese off while I was at it. Now it’s day 3 and I just finished the puffing stage. They still seem greasy and have left more grease marks on the parchment paper. Is this normal? Should I store them in a container with paper towels to soak up the grease?
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Melissa, The cheese cubes may give off some grease, this is normal. How do the cubes feel? Are they hard (like the rind of a hard cheese) or are they still rubbery? If they are still rubbery, then leave them on the counter until they become hard. This drying time may vary according to the humidity levels in your house.
This sounds amazing.
Unfortunately the corn extract and cheese powder are not as readily available in Australia, with the corn extract costing at least 59AUD.
I may just try them and use different seasoning however! 🙂
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Ash, The extract and cheese powder make them taste like popcorn, but really they are just as delicious on their own!
Without the toppings, do these taste anything like Moon Cheese? Ive become obsessed with them especially the gouda ones.
Wholesome Yum M0
Hi Kate, Yes these are very similar to moon cheese!
That is incredible. I never would have thought of something like this. It sounds even BETTER than popcorn! I’ll be back as soon as I get the ingredients from your links.
I’ve been buying something similar to this recipe at the local market. But they don’t always have it and we were craving it so I tried your recipe. The fam loved it. Thanks for making our day.
I love these! What a fun snack when you are craving popcorn.
I never would have thought to make this as a sub for popcorn but it is so delicious and brilliant!
I really like that you used provolone for this. I could snack on these any day.