Is popcorn gluten-free?
Popcorn is a favorite healthy snack food around the world. It’s easy to make, affordable, and versatile. But, do you know what goes into making it? Corn kernels are high in fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, selenium, molybdenum, and tryptophan.
Popcorn products also contain some protein, carbohydrates, fat, dietary fiber, and calories. Most kinds of popcorn are safe for people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergies, but that does not mean that all popcorn brands on the market are gluten-free. In this article, we break down everything you need to know to make sure that the popcorn you eat is 100% gluten-free.
What exactly is gluten anyway?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats that gives bread its elastic properties and chewiness. Naturally, gluten can cause digestive problems for people who have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine when exposed to gluten.
What type of popcorn is gluten-free?
Corn is a gluten-free grain, so plain pieces of popcorn (without any butter) are gluten-free. Celiac patients can safely eat plain corn without worrying about cross-contamination, just like with any other kind of corn product. However, if you choose to buy popcorn from a store, you should read the labels carefully before buying.
Some stores may list "gluten free" next to the brand name, but others may only say, "no additives." You'll want to check the ingredient list before purchasing to make sure there are no gluten-containing ingredients in the popcorn. Generally, if a bag of popcorn says it is gluten-free, you can trust that it is. However, if you are hesitant to get store-bought popcorn, you can make sure 100% that your popcorn is gluten-free by buying plain popcorn kernels, popping them yourself at home and making homemade popcorn.
How to ensure your popcorn is gluten-free
If you prefer to avoid gluten altogether and maintain a gluten-free diet, it’s important to know what to look for when buying snack foods. A quick online search reveals thousands of brands claiming to make completely gluten-free snacks, many of which don't actually comply with FDA regulations. To help consumers identify safe options, we've compiled a list of things to consider when selecting gluten-free popcorn.
1. Food Label Claims
The most obvious way to tell whether a product is truly free of gluten is to check the label. Gluten-free labels must include one of four terms: "gluten-free," "casein-free," "wheat-free," or "dairy-free." There are no laws requiring the use of these terms. However, the FDA does require that manufacturers clearly mark products containing less than 20 ppm of gluten.
2. Ingredients Listing
Another key consideration is how much of each ingredient appears on the label. Allergen labeling requirements vary depending on the type of food product, but generally speaking, a listing of ingredients should include the following information:
- Name of the ingredient
- Amount present in the product
3 Tips When Shopping for Popcorn
Whether you are completely intolerant to gluten, or if you have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it can be difficult to shop for food that you know is going to be safe to eat. Although you can confidently assume that the popcorn on the shelves is gluten-free, the spice blends, melted butter and sugar mixtures on top often include gluten ingredients. To help you better adhere to your gluten-free diet, we have collated these tips to make shopping for gluten-free popcorn easier and simpler.
1. Pre-made or raw
You may choose between purchasing ready-to-eat bagged or raw popcorn. However, the decision depends on what situation you find yourself in. If you're going to the movie theatre, then you'll probably opt for the prepared version. On the other hand, if you have more time on your hands, you can roast your own little delish snack.
If you plan on making it yourself often, then you might consider investing in a popcorn machine. When it comes to being conscious about your gluten intake, buying raw plain kernels might be something you are more comfortable with, but it is more time-consuming. Either way, enjoy your snacks!
2. Look for the gluten-free stamp
If you choose packaged popcorn, just make sure to double-check the labels carefully. Fortunately, the US Food and Drug Administration has now made it easy to spot a gluten-free product, so that you can avoid buying something that contains trace amounts of gluten. Anything labeled "gluten-free," "no gluten" or "free of gluten" must contain no more than 20 parts per million of gluten, and anything labeled "low gluten" must contain no less than 25 ppm.
If you are unable to locate a certified gluten-free popcorn label, you should probably switch brands. Cross-contamination is a problem that happens when one product absorbs traces of another. For example, if you prepare your own pizza dough on a countertop, then later transfer it to a baking sheet, you could risk transferring wheat starch residue onto your newly baked crust, which could also occur during the process of making popcorn. All in all, you should stay clear of any popcorn that does not have a clear gluten-free label, even if the ingredients in popcorn don’t look dangerous to you.
3. Buy from a reputable gluten-free brand
The popcorn industry has grown at an exponential rate, as has the healthy food industry over the past few years. The growth of these two industries means that the gluten-free popcorn scene has also made huge strides, with more options than ever available to people who are seeking to enjoy popcorn that they 100% know is gluten-free. There is a good chance you will find your favorite popcorn brand does offer gluten-free popcorn.
Many of the brands offering gluten-free popcorn are brands that you will have heard of before, and their large presence in the food industry means they can be completely trusted. Moreover, the brands that are solely dedicated to gluten-free foods or healthy foods are also highly trustworthy.
What about movie theater popcorn?
Most major movie theater companies including Regal and AMC report that their popcorn and movie theater butter is gluten-free. Most theaters use the same vendors for their concessions so it’s likely that you won’t find any movie theater popcorn that is NOT gluten-free.
If you go to a smaller independent theater, make sure to ask them specifically about the popcorn they sell. The seasoning salt, oil, and optional butter topping can be checked. Concession cooking oils typically do not contain gluten as they are either coconut or canola oil, both of which are gluten-free.
However, whilst many movie theaters will inform you that their popcorn is gluten-free, it is important to know that in many cases, movie theater popcorn is subject to cross-contamination, so you cannot be sure that it is 100% gluten-free. If you want to be completely safe, we suggest taking your own popcorn to the movie theater that you can be sure is gluten-free.
Shop for popcorn
If you love popcorn and want to avoid gluten products, you should get your hands on Bad Monkey Popcorn. Our popcorn is certified gluten-free, so you can enjoy your favorite snack with peace of mind. Did you know that Bad Monkey Popcorn is one of the largest manufacturers of popcorn in North America? Our popcorn is distributed in over 7000 points of sale including Dollar General USA, Dollarama, Winners, DollarTree, Metro, Superstore and many more !