Is popcorn your favorite movie snack? Find out if this food is gluten-free and safe to continue enjoying on a gluten-free diet.
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I don’t know about you, but popcorn means movie time. While I don’t particularly love popcorn from movie theaters (too heavy, salty, and fatty for my taste), I feel like popcorn is the ultimate snack when it comes to lounging at home and watching movies or my favorite shows.
But if you’re like me, you worry about keeping with your gluten-free diet. Is popcorn gluten-free? What is popcorn anyway? Is it safe for a gluten-free diet?
In this post, we’ll answer all those questions and get you the answers you need to feel good about enjoying this food and sticking with your diet.
What is popcorn?
Popcorn is a type of corn that when heated pops and expands into a fluffy starchy snack food. It is known as popcorn, because it “pops” from the kernel when the pressure from the moisture inside gets to be too much and the starch from the inside expands and pops out.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
Gluten is naturally occurring, and therefore is impossible to strip away from the grain. If a grain naturally has gluten in it, there’s no way to make that food gluten-free.
Is popcorn gluten-free?
Since popcorn comes from corn kernels, it is gluten-free and safe for a gluten-free diet when it is in its most natural form.
While the popcorn itself is gluten-free, that doesn’t mean that all popcorn is safe for a gluten-free diet. If you buy microwave popcorn or packaged popcorn with seasonings and spices on it, you may run into gluten.
For example, popcorn that is sold in bags that has flavorings, like kettle corn, cheese powders, or spicy popcorn are items you’ll want to look more closely at ingredients lists.
Another thing to take note of is where the popcorn is manufactured. While popcorn itself is gluten-free, depending on the facility and manufacturing process, the popcorn could come into contact with other gluten containing grains. This cross contamination could make your popcorn not gluten-free.
Read on: Is corn gluten-free?
Read on: Are Corn Nuts gluten-free?
When popcorn isn’t gluten-free
Popcorn is gluten-free naturally, but if you buy microwave popcorn or pre made and packaged popcorn, you’ll want to be sure that any seasonings or spices that have been added to it do not contain gluten.
The easiest way to find this information out is to read the ingredients list on the package before purchasing. Review the list for hidden sources of gluten, so you know to avoid that product. Most popcorn products are gluten-free, but it is always a good idea to check before buying.
One of my little secrets is that I carry around a copy of my GFDF Take Along Cards so that I always have a point of reference when I can sneak a peek at the ingredient list of a food.
You can also look for a gluten-free label on the package which will tell you that the brand has done testing and research to determine that the product contains less than 20ppm of gluten. If you see a gluten-free label, you know this is a safe option for you.
If you don’t see a gluten-free label, you know the manufacturer has not done testing or is aware of the potential of cross contamination. Use your best judgement based on what you know about how your body reacts to gluten to determine what level of risk you’re willing to take here.
Is popcorn dairy-free?
Popcorn is naturally gluten-free and dairy-free, not all popcorn is dairy-free. Many microwave popcorn and packaged popcorn have butter or other dairy products in them, making them not safe for a dairy-free diet.
Do your research, read ingredients lists, and double check that what you buy is safe for your diet. Look for names of dairy, like “butter” and “butter flavor.” You can also look for a “contains milk” label near the ingredients list.
Is movie theater popcorn gluten-free?
While it would depend on the movie theater and how they pop their popcorn and where, we can assume movie popcorn is fairly safe for a gluten-free diet.
According to Celiac-Disease.com, “most major theater companies including Regal and AMC report that their popcorn and butter (or imitation butter) is gluten-free.”
That said, some movie theaters offer other gluten-containing snacks, like pretzels, hot dogs or pizza slices. If this is the case where you go to the movies, you may want to consider the risk of cross contamination before purchasing movie popcorn.
Is buttered popcorn gluten-free?
Since popcorn is naturally gluten-free and butter or oil (depending on the ingredients used in your popcorn) are naturally gluten-free, buttered popcorn is generally considered safe for a gluten-free diet.
Is kettle corn gluten-free?
Kettle corn is popcorn that has a sweet and salty coating on it. Most of the ingredients you’ll find in kettle corn are naturally gluten-free, like salt, sugar, oil or butter, and popcorn. It is generally considered safe for a gluten-free diet.
Brands of gluten-free popcorn
While we’ve already established that popcorn is naturally gluten-free, not all brands share that their products are safe for a gluten-free diet with a label. Here are some brands you can shop for of microwave and packaged popcorn at the grocery store.
There are plenty more gluten-free popcorn options available, but this will give you a good jumping off point next time you’re shopping.
The ingredients in this brand of organic yellow popcorn is only one: yellow organic popcorn. This brand has a gluten-free label, and you can easily pop this at home with your own oil and toppings.
Black Jewell Popcorn
Black Jewell offers kernels, microwave popcorn, and packaged popped popcorn. This type of popcorn has a distinct darker color from the darker popcorn kernels, but it tastes just as good as other popcorn brands. Best of all, all their products are gluten-free.
Bob’s Red Mill
Bob’s Red Mill has both white and yellow popcorn kernels for you to pop at home. Both have a gluten-free label, so you can feel safe with this brand knowing they’ve tested their products for gluten.
Boom Chicka Pop
All of Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop packaged popcorn products are gluten-free, and they properly label all their flavored popcorn as vegan, kosher, or kosher dairy when applicable.
According to the Jolly Time website, all their pop corn products are gluten-free, and they go on to say:
“We understand the complicated choices for those who suffer from Celiac Disease, and we want to provide helpful information for you. Gluten-free labeling is voluntarily added to our packaging for this reason.
This labeling means that ingredients have not been derived from wheat, rye, and barley or their crossed hybrids such as triciale, spelt, kamut, farro and durum or products like bulgar and semolina.
To the best of our knowledge, we can also declare that our products contain no ingredients derived from oats, which can be of concern to some who choose a gluten-free diet.”
SkinnyPop shares on their website that their products have been certified as gluten-free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization. This is helpful to know they’ve gone the extra distance to test their products and we can trust that a third party has certified that they are in fact gluten-free.
I hope if you’ve been looking to find out if your favorite movie snack is gluten-free, that you can confidently enjoy popcorn moving forward. As always, be sure to check ingredients lists before buying to ensure that what you pick up is safe for your diet.
If you have any doubt, the best way to know if something is gluten-free is to make it yourself at home. Pick up some plain popcorn kernels and pop your own at home, then add your own favorite toppings and seasonings.