- Is Popcorn Gluten Free?
- Most Popcorn is Gluten Free
- Tips for Shopping for Popcorn
- What About Movie Theater Popcorn?
- Spice Up Your Popcorn with These Tasty Recipes
- Top 10 Gluten-Free Snacks
- Very Best Gluten-Free Guacamole Recipe in History!
- Wait, so, is popcorn gluten-free?
- How can you make sure popcorn is gluten-free?
- But popcorn contains corn gluten…so what’s the deal?
- Is popcorn gluten free?
- What is gluten and who does it affect?
- How is popcorn made and does it have gluten?
- What about microwave popcorn?
- Is cinema popcorn gluten free?
Is Popcorn Gluten Free?
Popcorn is nothing but corn kernels that puff up when heated. As such, it’s safe to assume that popcorn is gluten free – or is it?
Plain corn is gluten free, and regular air-popped kernels are also gluten free. The problem arises when flavoring or toppings are added. However, as long as you stay away from the few brands that may pose a risk for cross-contamination, there are still many brands that are safe to eat.
In this article, we’ll explore the subject of popcorn as a gluten free snack. You’ll also receive tips for buying gluten free popcorn and recipes to spice up your homemade popcorn.
Most Popcorn is Gluten Free
Gluten is a protein found in certain grains including wheat, barley, and rye. Corn is a gluten free grain, so plain popcorn is also gluten free. This makes it a safe snack for people with celiac disease as well as sufferers of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Before you rush to the store to stock up on popcorn, however, there are a few things you should know. While popcorn kernels in and of themselves are gluten free, not all store-bought popcorn is safe for celiac sufferers. The problem isn’t with the corn – it’s with the processing and the potential for cross-contamination with gluten-containing ingredients.
Fortunately, most major popcorn brands carry a “gluten free” label on the product which makes it easy to shop safe. Keep reading to find out which brands are gluten free.
Tips for Shopping for Popcorn
Whether you suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you’ve probably gotten used to read food labels. The first place you should check is the allergen warning – if the product contains wheat, you should double-check the ingredients to check for sources of gluten. In fact, unless the product is clearly labeled “gluten free” you should scour the ingredients list.
To make things easy for you, we’ve assembled a list of top gluten free popcorn brands:
- Act II – A popular manufacturer of microwave popcorn, Act II offers eight flavors including butter, Xtreme butter, movie theater butter, and kettle corn.
- BoomChickaPop – Sold by Angie’s, this brand of popcorn comes in bags with plenty of ready-to-eat flavors like cheddar cheese, real butter, sweet ‘n salty kettle corn, and white cheddar.
- Bob’s Red Mill – A popular manufacturer of gluten free products, Bob’s Red Mill offers both white and yellow popcorn kernels. Their popcorn tests gluten free to 20 ppm but be mindful that they process oats on shared equipment, so avoid this brand if you are sensitive to oats.
- Great Northern Popcorn Company – A brand with popcorn in the name has to be good and you can count on this brand to offer a variety of popcorn varieties and seasonings.
- Jiffy Pop – Perfect for popping over the campfire or your stove at home, Jiffy Pop comes in a heavy-gauge aluminum pan with a wire handle and it tests to less than 20 ppm gluten.
- Orville Redenbacher’s – One of the most well-known popcorn brands on the market, this brand advertises that they use real butter and they offer eight different buttery flavors for microwave popcorn as well as popcorn kernels and toppings.
- Pop Secret – Known for their microwave popcorn, Pop Secret offers a wide variety of flavors including traditional flavors such as movie theater butter and kettle corn, as well as unique flavors such as cinnamon roll. This brand also produces and packages their popcorn in a nut-free facility.
- Skinnygirl Popcorn – For the calorie-conscious, Skinnygirl popcorn is a low-calorie brand of popcorn that comes in two flavors – lime & salt and butter & sea salt.
- SkinnyPop Popcorn – This brand sells ready-to-eat popcorn in a variety of flavors including original, sea salt and pepper, white cheddar, and jalapeno. They also sell popcorn cakes and microwavable popcorn.
- Smartfood Popcorn – The self-proclaimed favorite popcorn brand in America, Smartfood sells several flavors of ready-to-eat bagged popcorn but only four of them are gluten free (white cheddar, movie theater butter, sea salt, and lower-calorie white cheddar cheese).
Though there are plenty of gluten free options for store-bought popcorn, there are a few brands you should be wary of. Arrowhead Mills, for example, offers a variety of gluten free products but neither their white or yellow popcorn appears on their gluten free list. NOW Foods is another brand to watch. They sell non-GMO, organic popcorn but it isn’t gluten free. This could simply mean that there is a risk for cross-contamination, but if you’re highly sensitive it is better to be safe than sorry.
What About Movie Theater Popcorn?
For many people, movie theater popcorn is half the reason for going to a movie – or the entire reason. You’re unlikely to find a theater that sells popcorn that is specifically labeled “gluten free,” but just because your local theater doesn’t advertise gluten free popcorn doesn’t mean it’s not safe.
Two of the largest cinema chains in the United States – AMC and Regal – claim that their popcorn is considered gluten free. Cinemark, other major company, says that their popcorn is gluten free as long as you forego the buttery topping. Keep in mind that even if the theater sells gluten free popcorn, the cooking oil and popcorn salt may not be free from dairy or soy.
Even if the theater of your choice can’t confirm whether their popcorn is gluten free, there is a low risk of cross-contamination since most theaters primarily sell packaged goods like candy and snacks. The exception to this rule is café cinemas that serve meals to patrons, so you may want to talk to a chef or manager in this case, just to be safe. If you are very sensitive to trace gluten, it may be safest to avoid movie theater popcorn entirely.
Spice Up Your Popcorn with These Tasty Recipes
Unless the popcorn you’re buying is labeled “gluten free,” it may not be worth the risk. Fortunately, it’s easy to pop your own corn at home, and there are some simple things you can do to spice it up.
One option is to buy popcorn seasoning to sprinkle on your home-popped corn. Kernel Season’s is a brand that offers several flavors of gluten free popcorn toppings including white cheddar, butter, caramel corn, kettle corn, and ranch. When in doubt, you can also make your own popcorn seasoning!
Here are a couple of tasty recipes to try at home:
Sticky Caramel Corn
Melt 1 ½ cups of salted butter in a large saucepan then stir in 2 ½ cups brown sugar and 1 cup of golden syrup. Stir until the brown sugar is dissolved then bring to a full boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Remove from heat then stir in a teaspoon of vanilla before pouring the caramel over 24 cups of popped corn, gently stirring. Cool on wax paper and break it up to serve.
Peanut Butter Lover’s Snack Mix
Stir together a cup each of honey and white sugar in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat then stir in a cup of peanut butter. Toss the mixture with 3 ½ quarts of popped corn then spread in wax paper to cool. Break up the popcorn into chunks and toss with M&Ms and pretzels to serve.
Parmesan Ranch Seasoned Popcorn
Combine ¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese with 2 tablespoons gluten free dry ranch seasoning mix. Add 1 teaspoon dried parsley and ¼ teaspoon of onion powder, stirring it together in a small bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup of melted butter and drizzle it over 3 ½ quarts of popped popcorn to serve.
White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn
Start by melting ½ pound of white chocolate or white candy coating. Combine 3 ½ quarts of popped corn with 1/3 cup crushed peppermint candies in a large bowl. Drizzle the white chocolate over the popcorn and candy mixture then spread on wax paper to cool before breaking it up.
Sweet and Salty Snack Mix
Combine 10 cups of popcorn in a large bowl with 1 cup miniature pretzels (broken into chunks), 1 cup M&Ms candies, and 1 cup dried fruit (chopped, if needed). Next, melt 10 ounces of white candy coating (chopped to make it melt faster) and stir smooth. Drizzle the white candy coating over the popcorn mix and toss to coat before cooling on wax paper and breaking into chunks.
Popcorn is a tasty snack that can be low in calories, depending how you season it. If you’re considering a bowl of popcorn as your next snack, take a minute to double-check that the product is gluten free. If it’s not, buy some kernels and a microwave popper to make your own gluten free popcorn at home!
If you suffer from Celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten, you’re likely very careful about what you put into your stomach.
Yet when you find yourself from suffering symptoms that range from gas, bloating, and headaches to blisters and intense itching of the skin, you can’t help but wonder what slipped through your defenses.
Most commonly identified in bread, pasta, and muffins, gluten can also be disguised in other healthful forms of wheat including durum, kamut, farro, triticale, graham, einkorn, semolina and spelt.
Becoming a diligent label-reading detective is the key to successfully managing a gluten-free lifestyle. And it’s important to note that just because a food is labeled “wheat free” doesn’t mean it’s also “gluten free.” To be truly gluten-free, you need to know just where hidden sources of gluten may be lurking. As it turns out, it could be in some of your favorite places:
The Movie Theater
Before you order the value pack at the next Ryan Gosling flick, make sure to read the label on your favorite candy and popcorn. Many treats like Twizzlers, Jordan Almonds and Whoppers contain wheat flour and barley malt. Most movie theater popcorn is safe, but there is potential risk for cross-contamination depending on how the popcorn was transported, or if there are wheat products in the concession area.
Tip: Take your own “safe” snacks such as Skinny Pop Popcorn or Lucy’s Cookies.
The Breakfast Bowl
Aside from cereals being a source of gluten; oats and oatmeal can potentially be bad news. Many people living with Celiac disease react negatively to this belly-filling food. Oats are easily contaminated with gluten during harvest, storage or other stages of processing. Some oats are more toxic than others, so label reading for gluten-free varieties ensures a safer choice. Make sure your oatmeal, cereal and granola is made with gluten-free oats.
Tip: Try Glutenfreeda Oatmeal, Jessica’s Gluten Free Granola or Live Smart Raw Bars as alternatives to your traditional wake-up call.
The Bento Box
Japanese restaurants are enticing with the plethora of sashimi, brown rice and edamame. However, don’t get too comfortable with your chopsticks without your gluten guard up. Many Japanese ingredients including soy, teriyaki, imitation crab and salad dressings contain wheat and MSG.
Tip: Bring your own gluten-free soy sauces and salad dressings such as San-J Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce.
Tempting Trail Mixes
Raw nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense sources of protein and a low-carb snack. Yet, pre-mixed or seasoned mixes have the potential to trigger gluten-sensitivity symptoms. Always read the label to be sure that wheat, barley or rye did not make its way into the mix. Keep your eyes peeled in the bulk bins at your local health food store.
Tip: Try sprouted, dehydrated nuts with no added ingredients such as The Health Nut and Enjoy Life No Nuts Seed Mix.
Vegan Junk Food
Many products essential to a vegan lifestyle contain some gluten. Think fruits, veggies, and legumes. Non-meat alternatives such as veggie burgers, frozen entrees and desserts contain hidden sources of gluten. Beware of baked beans, binders, brown rice syrup, hydrolyzed plant and vegetable proteins, vital wheat gluten, seitan and TVP (textured vegetable protein).
Tip: Make your own veggie burgers using alternatives such as quinoa, navy bean flour and lentils.
The Deli Tray
The typical deli meal is laden with undercover gluten. This sticky protein can be found in lunchmeat, hot dogs, blue cheese, soups, mustard, pickles, and chips.
Tip: Look for lunchmeat labeled gluten free from companies such as Applegate Farm, and pair with a side of Michael Season’s Reduced Fat Potato Chips.
Top 10 Gluten-Free Snacks
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, you’re probably still getting used to big dietary changes. Once upon a time it was easy enough to toss Goldfish crackers into a child’s lunch box or grab a bag of pretzels from the vending machine at the office. But having a genetic sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in many grain products including wheat, barley, and rye, can make healthy snacking challenging.
Take heart: As more people are being diagnosed with celiac disease, there has been an explosion in the variety of gluten-free foods available.
Celiac Disease and Snacking: Top 10 Choices
As with any healthy diet, “fresh fruits, veggies, raw meat, and fish,” should form the basis of a gluten-free diet, advises Julie Miller Jones, PhD, a distinguished professor of nutrition in the department of family, consumer, and nutritional sciences at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. Most dairy products are gluten-free as well, though some processed yogurts, cheeses, and other items might have traces of the offending protein, so it is important to read labels carefully.
Some tasty (and healthy) gluten-free snack options include:
- Ants on a log. Made by spreading natural peanut butter (nothing but ground peanuts) onto celery stalks, and topping with raisins, “ants on a log is good because it has all the components of a healthy snack,” notes Dana M. Ellis, MPH, RD, a dietitian at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Peanut butter is a good source of monounsaturated fat and protein, raisins are a great source of carbohydrates, and celery adds fiber.”
- Fresh fruit and a handful of nuts. These gluten-free foods also provide a healthy mixture of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
- Baked corn tortilla chips with additive-free guacamole. These gluten-free foods combine healthy fat from the avocado, carbohydrates from the corn tortilla chips, and a little bit of protein. Watch out for the guacamole, though — it should only contain avocado, onion, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, and tomatoes.
- Natural peanut butter and jelly on gluten-free bread. This favorite of kids and adults alike is easy and simple to make, plus it provides good sources of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
- Trail mix. Combine nuts, raisins, and dark chocolate M&Ms for a sweet and salty snack.
- Air-popped popcorn. Enjoy air-popped popcorn by itself or add dried cranberries and almonds for a snack full of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats.
- Small baked potato with low-fat mozzarella cheese and chives. This treat provides everything from fiber and carbohydrates to protein and fat.
- Carrot sticks with gluten-free dressing. This veggie and dip combo serves as a good source of vitamin A, carotenes, fat, and carbohydrates.
- Low-fat yogurt mixed with high-fiber gluten-free cereal (or a rice cereal) and fruit. Experiment with different yogurt flavors and cereals for variety while receiving a healthy dose of calcium, protein, and fat.
- Gluten-free treats. A diagnosis of celiac disease doesn’t have to mean the end of traditional snacking. Browse the gluten-free foods aisle at the local grocery store for special pretzels, crackers, and cookies and stock up.
While it may mean keeping an extra supply of special snacks in a desk drawer rather than raiding the office refrigerator, rest assured it is possible — and even pleasurable — for someone with celiac disease to maintain a gluten-free diet.
Chips and dip are my downfall. I am incapable of controlling myself and will easily empty a bag of chips before I know it. It doesn’t matter if it is plain chips with french onion dip or corn tortillas with guacamole or salsa, I eat them all.
One of my favorite dips is guacamole, mostly because it has vegetables in it and I pretend it is healthy. Now guacamole is a healthy snack, however when I eat an entire bowl and an entire bag of corn chips it kind of defeats the purpose.
I have found it difficult to find good, consistent guacamole dip in restaurants. They are either too spicy, too bland, too salty, too oniony, or just yucky. Our local Mexican restaurant gets it right about 50% of the time. You can tell it varies greatly depending on who makes it.
Chipotle Restaurants normally do a good job but more than once I’ve gotten a mix that was way too hot to handle. Now, I do need to admit that I’m not a big fan of super hot/ spicy food.
So here is my go-to recipe for guacamole. It is super easy, fast, and only takes a few ingredients. It can also be customized based on your taste and how hot you want it.
Total Time: 10 minutes
For a spicy version add 1/2 a diced jalapeno. If you are making the guacamole ahead of time, place plastic wrap directly on the guacamole to cover and place in the fridge. Air is your enemy at this point.
- 2 ripe avocados
- 1/2 lime
- 1/4 red onion, diced
- 1/2 tomato, diced
- Salt to taste
- Cilantro chopped, amount to taste
- Remove avocado from outside shell and place in a bowl.
- With a spoon or fork mash the avocado to your desired texture.
- Squeeze lime over the avocado and stir so the avocado does not brown.
- Add onion and tomato to the bowl and stir.
- Add salt and cilantro to taste.
Just a quick rant about avocados. Why can you never find ripe ones in the grocery store? And if you bring home firm avocados they never seem to be ripe the day you want to use them. Most of the time I buy a bag of 3 avocados that are hard as rocks, put them next to the bananas, and hope they will be ready within the 2 to 3 days I plan to use them. Many times I’ve had to alter my menu plan because the avocados weren’t ready when I was.
What are your tips to pick good avocados? How do you store them? Any tricks to get them to ripen?
Enough of the rant. When you happen to find avocados that are ripe and ready to eat this guacamole recipe is your best friend.
Very Best Gluten-Free Guacamole Recipe in History!
I have a special place in my heart for avocados…
When I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I had no idea what the heck was safe to eat. I made the usual newbie mistakes, thinking “wheat free” labels meant gluten free (and totally glutening myself in the process). I was terrified to ingest much of anything for fear that my rear-end would literally self implode (ok, really bad visual, my sincere apologies). So, for the first month after going gluten free, I ate a block of sharp cheese, two avocados, and some sun dried tomatoes.
Every single day.
This odd trio of items were the three things I knew for certain were safe.
Three years later, I am (thankfully) educated like nobody’s business on the intricacies of Celiac Disease. Despite branching out from the avocado, cheese, and sun dried tomato diet, I still eat 1/2 an avocado most days on my usual serving of nachos. Recently, I have become slightly obsessed with guacamole. It’s very easy to prepare and the avocado provides a bevy of nutritional goodness.
Two important things to remember: (1) avocados practically turn brown as you are slicing them open, so plan to eat your guac in a timely manner and (2) be sure to select medium ripe avocados — you can check for ripeness by gently pressing the outside of the avocado. Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm, yet will yield to gentle pressure.
2 avocados – peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 onion diced
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and diced (note – the seeds within the pepper provide the heat)
1 lime juiced
1 large tomato or 10 cherry tomatoes seeded and diced
1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, mash the avocados with a fork. Mash as little or as much as you like. Fold in the the remaining ingredients and mix well.
There’s nothing like popping delicious, crunchy pieces of popcorn in your mouth like…well, popcorn, during a movie. And there are so many delicious ways to eat this delish snack: doused in butter, sprinkled with nutritional yeast, or even as kettle corn for a sweet and savory treat. But…is popcorn gluten-free?
First things first, here’s a refresher on gluten: “It’s the collective term for the proteins found in the grains wheat, rye, and barley and their various forms. It is best known for giving baked goods their doughy, elastic structure,” says Kris Sollid, RD, senior director at the International Food Information Council Foundation. Beyond breads, gluten is found in certain foods as a thickening agent or flavor enhancer. And unfortunately, packaged popcorn sometimes falls into that category.
Wait, so, is popcorn gluten-free?
Corn and popcorn, including its kernels, are completely gluten-free, naturally. But that doesn’t mean all popcorns are fair game for gluten-free dieters. “Gluten can sometimes be found in foods you wouldn’t expect, so always read food labels,” says Sollid. And popcorn is one of those foods you need to check twice.
“Certain toppings and spice blends on packaged popcorn might include gluten-containing ingredients, such as modified food starch, which can be made from wheat,” says Sollid, such as BBQ or buffalo flavoring. Plus, anything with a synthetic meat flavor (think: imitation bacon) might be made with seitan (i.e. wheat gluten), he adds. So read the labels carefully.
“But for the most part, if wheat, barley, rye or malt are not specifically listed in the ingredient list, it likely doesn’t contain gluten,” says Sollid.
How can you make sure popcorn is gluten-free?
To ensure a completely gluten-free snack, you’re best off popping plain kernels in your own microwave or on your own stove, and then adding your own toppings, says Sollid.
But if you do opt for packaged popcorn, just read the labels carefully. Luckily, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made it easier than ever to identify a gluten-free product. Any food with a label reading “gluten-free,” “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” or “without gluten” must contain a gluten quantity of under 20 parts per million. So, technically, your favorite popcorn bag might contain a whisper of gluten, but Sollid says that limit is considered safe for most people with Celiac disease.
If your popcorn ingredient label doesn’t seem to contain any iffy ingredients (i.e., you’re looking at only kernels, butter, and salt), and yet it still doesn’t contain the gluten-free stamp of approval, you’re best off finding a new brand. Packaged popcorn might be susceptible to cross-contamination, which occurs when one product absorbs remnants of another product prepared on the same surface.
If you want to be really safe, try these certified gluten-free popcorns:
Sea Salt Popcorn Cooking Light amazon.com $16.11
The simplest recipes often taste the best, and this pre-made popcorn with nothing but a dash of canola oil and sea salt surely gets the job done.
Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP amazon.com $15.74
This certified gluten-free treat is a great way to channel the nostalgic flavors of a county fair without having to leave your couch.
White Cheddar Popcorn SkinnyPop amazon.com $14.99
Get your cheddar fix with this light and airy popcorn, that’s totally gluten-free.
Delight Sea Salt Popcorn Smartfood amazon.com $3.45
This lightened-up version in Smartfood’s addictive popcorn line is perfect for snacking any time of day.
But popcorn contains corn gluten…so what’s the deal?
If you’ve heard that corn contains its own form of gluten, don’t stress. It’s not the same as wheat gluten. In fact, while corn gluten meal is edible and safe for humans to eat—including those with Celiac disease—it’s primarily used for livestock feed and pet food. It’s the dried residue derived from milling wet corn, according to Sollid.
“A small percentage of the population is allergic to corn and although corn contains protein, it does not contain gluten like the grains wheat, barley, and rye,” he says.
And speaking of delicious snacks…watch Chrissy Teigen taste-test fun chip flavors:
So when it comes down to it, you really can’t go wrong with popcorn unless you’re straight up allergic to corn. “Plain popcorn is a healthy snack that people with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can enjoy.”
Bottom line: Popcorn is naturally gluten-free, but read the labels carefully if you opt for packaged popcorn.
Marissa Miller Marissa Miller has spent a decade editing and reporting on women’s health issues from an intersectional lens with a focus on peer-reviewed nutrition, fitness trends, mental health, skincare, reproductive rights and beyond.
Gluten is a protein found in many cereal grains, and since popcorn is a product of a whole grain, it can be mistakenly assumed to contain gluten. People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity avoid gluten foods like the plague and tend to be wary of popcorn for this very reason. However, many sources have confirmed that popcorn is gluten-free and wheat-free, and that it is definitely a healthy snack without any major disadvantages as such.
There are many such cereal grains without gluten; millets, sorghum and corn. Healthline said that this presumption could be due to the fact that proteins called maize prolamins are found in corn, which is linked to gluten intolerance in some cases that studies have proven in the past. Research said that some people with celiac disease could develop inflammation as a response to these proteins, hence these individuals need to remain on guard while consuming the mundane and ubiquitous snack.
Since maize is considered an alternative to wheat for people with celiac disease, this may be additionally confusing to them with good reason. “In some CD patients, as a rare event, peptides from maize prolamins could induce a celiac-like immune response by similar or alternative pathogenic mechanisms to those used by wheat gluten peptides,” confirms one such study.
Is popcorn with additives gluten-free?
Certain popcorn with added flavors and ingredients including wheat starch, malt and soy sauce may contain some gluten according to Healthline. Reading the flavors on the label and checking the list of ingredients to see if there are no other ingredients apart from popcorn, corn kernels or salt could help consumers know beforehand. This puts the onus on the consumer as much as on the manufacturer. This is because it’s mandatory for manufacturers to disclose potential allergic ingredients like wheat as per the law.
When other glutinous foods are being manufactured in a shared facility, there are chances of ingredients overlapping and contaminating the popcorn that otherwise may be gluten-free. The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) mandates that gluten-free products must have 20 parts per million (ppm) of glutens and that food manufacturers must be honest in their disclosure. In worst case scenarios, directly contacting companies and asking them about their practices could provide some clarity.
According to regulations specified by the FDA, natural gluten containing products can be processed to remove the gluten. There is no other body that can certifiy products as gluten-free. The rule is very clear that the FDA does not endorse any third party certifications and asks consumers to be aware of misleading false certifications.
Of course, for peace of mind, the safest route to consuming gluten-free popcorn at the end of a rough day is to make it by yourself by cooking corn kernels in a microwave or stove, advises Healthline.
Popcorn is wrongly considered to contain glutenous ingredients. However, if added flavors are part of the mix, there could be some cross contamination. JoshArdle Photography, CC BY-ND 2.0
Is popcorn gluten free?
Popcorn is enjoyed the world around in movie theaters, at baseball games and at children’s parties. It is very popular thanks to its simplicity & delicious taste. I eat pop corn at least three times a month, sometimes more, depending on the occasion.
Popcorn has been scientifically proven to be a healthy snack. For example a study found that it contains more antioxidants know as polyphenols, than vegetables and fruits do. Polyphenols are extremely useful to the body as they can prevent diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
Popcorn is also very low in calories, if cooked without oil or butter. Air popped popcorn only has around 31 calories per cup and its fiber content makes it filling which is great news if you are trying to control your weight.
Similar to wheat, barley and rye, corn is a grain, so this might cause some confusion as to whether popcorn is in fact gluten free or not. The simple answer is yes, air popped popcorn without added flavourings and toppings is gluten free. However, some store bought and cinema popcorn can contain gluten. Read on to learn more.
What is gluten and who does it affect?
Gluten is a group of proteins that occurs naturally in wheat, rye, barley and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). The two most common proteins are gliadin and glutenin; the former is the main culprit behind the discomfort experienced by individuals who cannot tolerate gluten.
Gluten forms a glue like consistency when mixed with water and this helps give certain foods their shape and texture. A lot of foods don’t naturally contain gluten, however some manufacturers tend to add it to provide flavour and also so they can produce larger quantities of food relatively cheaply.
The majority of the population can consume gluten without facing any adverse effects. However a small minority experience severe discomfort if they eat it. This includes people suffering from celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and wheat allergies.
Celiac disease affects roughly 1% of people worldwide. People who test negative to celiac disease may also be allergic to gluten, a condition known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In both cases, when gluten is eaten, damage to the small intestine occurs and this results in symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating and constipation. They therefore need to avoid gluten containing products at all costs.
How is popcorn made and does it have gluten?
Popcorn is incredibly easy to make. All it involves is heating popcorn kernels in a sealed container such as a saucepan. Popcorn is a special type of corn and is the only kind that pops. Popcorn kernels have a tiny drop of water in them and when heated, the water turns into steam, builds pressure inside the kernel and causes it to explode.
The image above provides a good illustration of what popcorn looks before and after it is popped. The kernels are orange in colour and hard to the touch, whereas popcorn is white, soft and fluffy.
Popcorn made in this manner, from kernels alone, without any other ingredients added is gluten free. The problem of gluten being introduced happens when certain toppings and flavourings are introduced. Some sauces and butters that are traditionally added on top of popcorn can contain wheat in them, so you should always read labels before adding them in.
What about microwave popcorn?
If you have ever eaten microwave popcorn before, you know how convenient it can be. Popcorn is already easy to make but microwave popcorn takes it a step further. Simply place the bag in the microwave for roughly 2 minutes and your popcorn is ready to eat, straight out of the bag!
As you can imagine, there are a lot of different brands that make microwave popcorn, each with their own ingredients, some of which could contain gluten. So it is impossible to say whether all microwave popcorn is gluten free or not.
Before buying a bag, you should make sure that the packaging does indeed say it is gluten free. Also, there is a difference between gluten free and no gluten.
In order for a product to be labeled as “gluten free”, it needs to be made in a facility that only makes gluten free products. In other words, none of its other products can contain gluten. Manufacturers of gluten free products have to have their facilities and products thoroughly tested for signs of gluten.
“No gluten” on the other hand simply means that gluten has not been added to that specific product. However, there could be other products containing gluten that are produced in the same facility. Even though in the majority of cases no gluten products are fine to consume by gluten intolerant individuals, there is always the chance of cross contamination.
For example, this could occur if the same machinery is used to produce products that do and don’t contain gluten. If the machinery is not cleaned thoroughly, minute traces of gluten could be transferred across.
Your level of gluten intolerance will determine whether a no gluten product is fine for you or whether you should stick to gluten free only. Some people can handle extremely small amounts of gluten, whereas others simply cannot.
Is cinema popcorn gluten free?
Cinemas usually offer plain & flavoured varieties of popcorn; it is the latter that you need to be most concerned about. In most cases the plain popcorn will be gluten free, however you can never be sure about the flavoured type without asking.
You can check the cinemas website, ask staff members or call / email their head offices to find out which gluten free snacks they offer. In most cases they will get back to you very quickly with an answer.
One thing to note is that homemade popcorn tends to be much healthier than what you buy at the cinema. Homemade popcorn tends to contain less salt, butter and other unhealthy ingredients, some of which can cause discomfort to your stomach.
So it may not be gluten that you are reacting to when you eat cinema popcorn, but the other unhealthy ingredients inside it instead.
If your cinema allows it, make your own popcorn at home and take it with you instead!
Air popped popcorn, which is popcorn in its simplest form, is the healthiest type and is also gluten free. What you need to be cautious of, both from a gluten free and general health point of view, are the toppings and flavourings that are add to popcorn. Always read food labels and whenever possible, just stick to plain old air popped popcorn.