It’s good news for people on a gluten free diet as popcorn is naturally gluten free. As popcorn is made from corn, which is gluten free, there are no gluten-containing ingredients to worry about.
However, this applies only to plain, air-popped popcorn that you make yourself. There’s a risk that prepackaged popcorn and popcorn smothered in tasty toppings contain gluten.
Here, we’ll tell you all you need to know about what popcorn is and isn’t gluten free, how you can enjoy flavorings without worrying about gluten contamination, and a whole lot more.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is naturally found in wheat, rye, and barley. Most people can eat gluten without any problems. However, some people’s bodies mistakenly attack the small intestine when they eat gluten.
Celiac disease is usually diagnosed in these individuals and a strict gluten free diet should be eaten to prevent long-term damage to the villi in the small intestine.
Around 1 in 133 Americans (1% of the population) have celiac disease, according to Beyond Celiac. But statistics show that 30% of the population avoid gluten, mostly due to personal choice.
What Kind of Popcorn is Gluten Free?
If you’re looking to buy ready-made popcorn from the grocery store, you’ll be pleased to know that the following brands all sell gluten free popcorn:
- 365 Everyday Value
- Act II
- Arrowhead Mills
- Black Jewell
- Bob’s Red Mill
- Boulder Canyon
- Cape Cod
- Cousin Willie’s
- Covered Bridge
- Crunchy Rob’s
- Earth Balance
- Garry Poppins
- Gold Emblem Abound
- Great Northern Popcorn Company
- Jolly Time
- Kernel Season’s
- Kettle Brand
- Live Love Pop
- Organic POP
- Orville Redenbacher
- Our Little Rebellion
- Pop Art Gourmet Popcorn
- Popcorn, Indiana
- Pop Secret
- Skinny Pop
- The Little Kernel
- Trader Joe’s
Does Movie Theater Popcorn Have Gluten?
In theory, movie theater popcorn should be gluten free as it typically contains the following ingredients:
- Popped corn
- Coconut oil or canola oil
The catch comes if the popcorn has additional flavorings added to it. Some flavorings contain additives, such as modified wheat starch or seitan, which aren’t gluten free.
Don’t panic just yet, though, as you haven’t got to miss out on a large, pleasurable box of popcorn the next time you go to the theater.
Regal and AMC both state that the popcorn they sell in their theaters is gluten free, so stick with these theaters if you’re worried.
Does Buttered Popcorn Have Gluten?
Buttered popcorn shouldn’t contain gluten. Butter is made from churned milk or cream, which is completely gluten-free.
If butter flavorings are used instead of pure butter, you need to check that it doesn’t contain any additives that contain gluten.
Is Packaged Popcorn Gluten Free?
Most packaged popcorn is gluten-free. As you can see from our list of gluten-free popcorn brands, many gluten-free packaged popcorn brands are available.
One thing to be aware of is there’s a risk of gluten cross-contamination with packaged popcorn.
Most factories will produce other items that contain gluten, so there’s always a chance that a small amount of gluten makes its way into a gluten-free bag of popcorn. This is why you’ll often see a warning on the back of the packet saying, ‘May contain gluten’.
This should only ever be a trace of gluten, but it’s something to be aware of if you suffer badly when exposed to gluten.
Does Corn Contain Gluten? Does Popcorn Have Gluten?
No, corn doesn’t contain gluten. There is often confusion about whether corn is gluten-free because the protein in corn is known as ‘corn gluten’. Despite this name, we can confirm that corn, and therefore plain popcorn, is gluten-free.
Is Popcorn Good for People on a Gluten-Free Diet?
Yes, popcorn is good for people on a gluten-free diet.
It’s common for people on a gluten-free diet to gain weight. Gluten-free snacks are highly processed and are high in fat, sugar, and calories.
Is there gluten in popcorn? No! Popcorn is a healthy snack choice for those on a gluten-free diet, as plain, air-popped popcorn contains just 31 calories per cup. This is a lot fewer calories than you’ll find in potato chips or chocolate.
Celiac sufferers also need to ensure they eat enough fiber. Fiber helps to keep the gut healthy and bowel movements regular. Popcorn is a good source of fiber and contains 1.15 g per cup, so it’s a good way to supplement your fiber intake.
Acid reflux is a common symptom among people with celiac disease. Popcorn is effective at reducing acidity levels in the body, which contribute to acid reflux. This means munching on popcorn could be good for your acid reflux symptoms.
Are Popcorn Flavorings Gluten Free?
Not all popcorn flavorings are gluten-free. If you look at the ingredients list of popcorn flavorings, you may find that it lists barley, barley malt, wheat germ, or soya sauce as an ingredient. These ingredients are not gluten-free and should be avoided by anyone on a gluten-free diet.
If you want to spruce up your popcorn with some scrummy flavorings, we advise buying from gluten-free seasoning brands, such as:
- Captain Season’s
- Urban Accents
- Great Northern
- Kernel Season’s
- Healthier Comforts
- Hidden Valley
How to Make Sure Popcorn is Gluten Free
The only way to be 100% sure that your popcorn is completely gluten-free is to make it yourself. It’s easy to make air-popped popcorn at home either in the microwave or with an air-popper.
How to Make Gluten-Free Popcorn Seasoning
Don’t want to buy ready-made popcorn seasoning but still want great-tasting popcorn? No problem. Follow our recipe below to make your own gluten-free herb popcorn seasoning:
- 1 tsp dried basil leaves
- ½ tsp dried tarragon leaves
- ½ tsp dried chives
- ¼ tsp dried oregano leaves
- Place the herbs in a bowl or shaker and mix.
- Sprinkle over your air-popped popcorn and combine thoroughly.
- Store any remaining popcorn flavoring in an airtight container for future use.
Is Popcorn Gluten-Free?
Yes, and there are lots of gluten-free popcorn options available for people with celiac disease or who choose to avoid gluten. You can even enjoy popcorn at some movie theaters. But we do advise that you always check that any popcorn you plan on eating is gluten-free, and if there’s any doubt, avoid it.
Remember to be careful with popcorn flavorings, too, and stick to ones that are labeled ‘gluten-free’ or make them yourself.