My favorite cheesy snack is dairy-free and takes only 5 minutes to make

I recently rediscovered a healthy snack inspired by a trip to the farmers market

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published October 15, 2023 1:30PM (EDT)

Homemade popcorn filled with spices and grains (Getty Images/MmeEmil)
Homemade popcorn filled with spices and grains (Getty Images/MmeEmil)

I recently rediscovered a healthy snack that can be prepared in under five minutes — and it’s so easy to make, that even a pedestrian like me can pull it off. 

Like most, I love to snack. Like really, really, love to snack. One of my favorites are Flaming Hot Cheetos, but salt and unidentifiable ingredients like “Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5,” scare me religiously.

And who doesn’t love the legendary Cool Ranch Doritos? But they have even more salt and more unidentifiable ingredients like Dextrose, Malic Acid, Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate. My favorite you ask? Fuego Hot Taki’s, but by now you should know the cons; honestly, I don’t even know what a Taki is and neither does Google. If I could, I would munch on this crap all day.

However, my age, my health, the fact that like having teeth — and not having the necessary science degree needed to understand the ingredients — prohibit me from doing so. Spicy-flavored corn chips belong to children and wild college students. 

Like a sad lost child, or better yet, a wounded puppy, I slowly stroll up and down the snack aisle with a dry mouth, my stomach growling, and mounting frustration about the lack of options for people who have to pay attention to things such as sodium intake and the amount of cholesterol one can have daily–– and if you are Black, it’s worse. The rules become even more serious for African Americans because you probably have high blood pressure, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes or all of the above, trickled all up and down your family tree. In 2019 the Center for Disease Control determined that African Americans are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites. Knowing this would lead you to believe that you must lead a snack-less life. 

However, no one deserves a snack-less life. That is why I’m blessing you with this popcorn. 

Years ago, I was taking a stroll through the Baltimore’s Farmers Market. It’s a glorious event that goes down every Saturday and Sunday, and it's maybe one of the most diverse experiences that the city had to offer. I’ve bumped into every kind of person there: artists, scammers, artist who scam, politicians, gangsters, the clergy, Girl Scouts and high-ranking medical officials. They are all buying fresh meats, produce, sweet and sticky preserves, hot meals and spicy empanadas at the same time. 

So, I’m walking the path of vendors, looking for meal and almost passed by a dreadlock dude doing push-ups. He and his eight-pack of abs popped up. “This popcorn will make you a bull, my family!” he called out.

“I don’t want to be a bull,” I laughed, “I’m OK being a regular guy.” 

He proceeded to tell me how men aren't men anymore because we don't eat ginger or take sea moss or black seed oil — and how, if I did these things, I would become a real man who was a superman lover who could easily perform 12 hours of loving with my "queen." 

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It would have taken me too long to explain that I was actually trying to get out my relationship with my alleged queen at the time and working towards 12 hours of loving could potentially send all of the wrong messages (also, who can do anything for 12 hours? Like, I had two real jobs). Anyways, I bought the popcorn. After all, it was only three bucks and he earned. 

“You have the popcorn," he screamed, pumping his fists. "You are a bull now!” 

“I’m also OK not being a bull,” I said, as I laughed it off. 

The popcorn was actually good. It was tangy, cheesy even, and not salty, but really fresh. I went back and bought two more bags. 

“What’s in this?” I asked the ripped-up king of kernels, “Is it healthy?” 

“Fresh popcorn and nutritional yeast, I make fresh daily and invented myself,” He said, “'Tis beyond health, it is spiritual!” 

Years passed and I don't remember seeing the dreadlock popcorn dude at the farmers market anymore, but I still attended to get warm ginger drinks, huge chicken and egg breakfast biscuits from Black Sauce, and tote bags full of spinach, beets and other vegetables. I had honestly forgotten about the popcorn until I headed toward the snack-less age of my life. What could I eat? I do love popcorn, and it does come from corn, so… 

I looked up different recipes for popcorn and there were so many that called for nutritional yeast, which you can buy from any Whole Foods or your local grocery store. Surprisingly, the dreadlock dude did not invent it, but I'll still give him credit for introducing it to me. 

Now, many of the recipes call for butter or salt-free butter and sea salt. I would recommend you save those for a cheat day. I make it straight up with three ingredients, popcorn, olive or coconut oil and nutritional yeast. 

Nutritional yeast is packed with vitamins and minerals and can even be a strong source of protein for vegetarians. However, don’t go crazy with it, because too much can send you to the bathroom all day long, and no one wants that. Remember everything in moderation. 

Cheesy, dairy-free popcorn
4 cups, popped popcorn
Prep Time
0 minutes
Cook Time
3-5 minutes


2 to 3 tablespoons of olive or coconut oil. You’ll need enough to coat the bottom of your pan.

2 to 3 tablespoons of kernels, depending on if you use large or small. 

Bragg’s nutritional Yeast (season to taste) 



  1. Put the oil and kernels into a large saucepan, and immediately put the lid on. My preferred heat temperature is medium. 

  2. When the colonels begin to pop, turn the flame down, and give the pot a good shake.

  3. When the kernels slow down to a few seconds apart, cut the flame completely off, give your part another shake and let it sit for like a minute. 

  4. You can douse the popcorn with more coconut or olive oil, and apply as much nutritional yeast as you like, but remember not to unload the whole bottle. 


By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a writer on the HBO limited series "We Own This City" and a professor at the University of Baltimore. Watkins is the author of the award-winning, New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America”, "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope" as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new books, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," and "The Wire: A Complete Visual History" are out now.

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