TikTok's Healthy 'Protein Popcorn' Uses An Unexpected Ingredient

Conventional popcorn is great. It's a treat for when you go to watch a movie at the theaters and when you have surprise guests over. Even with the unexpected health benefits of popcorn, however (they're rich in fiber content and full of antioxidants), sometimes it's nice to mix things up. 

Enter a new TikTok healthy snack involving a plant-based ingredient that's popular in many Italian dishes – white kidney beans or cannellini beans. Introduced by registered dietician, Alissa Steinberg, who goes by the name healthyu_dietitian on TikTok, the dish is called protein popcorn. What do you need to make it? A couple of cans of cannellini beans, some extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and any herbs you may want to use as topping. 

If you're not familiar with Italian cuisine — or you've not explored most plant-based protein options out there — you might be surprised to find that cannellini beans are a decent source of protein. In fact, you'll find 8 grams of protein in just 130 grams of the ingredient, per Verywell Fit. As explained by naturopathic medicine doctor, Dr. Brian Yeung on YouTube, "White kidney beans fall under a group of closely related beans known as Phaseolus vulgaris." This common umbrella term for beans includes black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, and navy beans, among others, explained the doctor. So how do you make this TikTok famous protein popcorn?

Start by rinsing and draining the beans

While you can opt to get the fresh stuff at a farmer's market, canned kidney beans will do just fine for this recipe. Rinse and drain the beans before spreading them out evenly on a baking tray layered with baking paper. Drizzle on some olive oil, add some salt and pepper, and any other herbs you might want to use for seasoning. From rosemary and Tajin Spice to garlic powder and smoked paprika, the ingredient list is endless. Or you can opt to stay simple, and just stick with salt and pepper. Make sure the beans are coated well with whatever spices you throw in and then pop them in the oven for about 45 minutes at 425 Fahrenheit.

Steinberg shares in the TikTok post, "This recipe turns out super crunchy, salty, protein and fiber loaded, and simply delicious. It's all about seasoning and roasting white cannellini or kidney beans. They kind of pop in the oven, adding a crispy crunch to this snack or salad topper." The recipe comes with a dip, for which the video doesn't seem to carry the recipe. But according to Steinberg's website, the sauce is made by combining ¼ cup tahini, 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon of Tajin Spice. 

If you're looking for a healthy and protein-filled version of a traditional snack like popcorn, this protein popcorn treat is made for you.

Protein is not the only benefit to cannellini beans

White kidney beans are also very low in calories, making them a great food for those who are watching their weight. And since they're made up of complex carbohydrates and contain a considerable dose of fiber, cannellini beans take time to digest once you consume them, making them a safe food for those concerned about blood sugar spikes (via Verywell Fit). The fiber content in this nutrition-rich food also aids digestion. 

Cannellini beans also contain the powerful antioxidant polyphenols, which are known to fight inflammation in the body, per Healthier Steps. They're packed with iron and calcium and some cans also contain a good amount of potassium which help with everyday bodily functions like fluid balance and transportation of oxygen. 

For vegans and vegetarians, finding new sources of protein is always a bonus. White kidney beans provide a great source of protein while also being low in calories. But be mindful of the canned goods and read the labels well to take into account any preservatives or salt content. While the TikTok 'healthy coke' trend might be difficult to tweak to fit your particular needs, with the protein popcorn treat, making adjustments is easy. Try air-frying the white kidney beans with little or to no oil or reducing the saltiness of the treat. Combine it with an equally healthy dip, and you have a guilt-free snack for movie nights.