People with gluten sensitivity need to avoid many foods. Is popcorn gluten-free? Are there gluten-free popcorn brands?
Many brands of popcorn are certified gluten-free, and many uncertified brands don’t contain gluten. However, popcorn may contain toppings/flavors with gluten and may contain wheat as well as corn. Usually, you can eat store-bought popcorn or even movie theater popcorn on a gluten-free diet.
Popcorn is gluten-free most but not all of the time. Since corn is naturally gluten-free, it is fine even on a strict gluten-free diet. However, you need to eat popcorn with gluten-free popcorn toppings.
Is Popcorn Gluten Free?
A lot of the time, popcorn doesn't have any gluten in it and is safe even if your gluten intolerance is serious. Corn does not contain gluten, and there might not be any other ingredients that contain gluten.
Most major popcorn brands offer gluten-free choices. You can stick to products labeled gluten-free by the gluten-free certification organization.
You can also make gluten-free popcorn yourself. It’s easy to make your popcorn gluten-free if you pick all the ingredients yourself.
What Foods Contain Gluten?
Wheat, barley, and rye are the three main grains that contain gluten. Farro also contains gluten because it is an older form of wheat. There are different forms of farro (such as einkorn, spelt, or emmer) and they all contain gluten. Triticale is a cross between wheat and rye, so it contains gluten.
None of these grains are low enough in gluten that you can eat them if you are gluten-intolerant. For example, farro may be lower in gluten than modern wheat - but most gluten-intolerant people still can't eat it. Most popcorn is gluten-free popcorn because it is not made from any of these grains.
Low-gluten foods that you might be able to eat with gluten sensitivity (if it is not severe) include gluten-removed beer (some gluten remains) or sourdough bread (the sourdough bread-making process breaks down most of the gluten). Those with celiac disease should avoid gluten completely, those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity might only have to limit it.
Most Popcorn is Fine
Again, it is easy to find popcorn that doesn't have any gluten in it. The main ingredient is corn, which has zero gluten.
However, there is a chance that the corn was harvested alongside other crops, including crops that contain gluten. There could be a small amount of wheat in your popcorn, enough to give you symptoms if your gluten intolerance is serious. Other ingredients are also added to popcorn, and they may contain gluten.
How Serious is Your Intolerance?
Some people are so intolerant that a small amount of gluten can give them an allergic reaction. These people should stick to popcorn that is labeled gluten-free. They should not risk it otherwise, because there can easily be gluten in foods made with corn instead of wheat.
However, other people don't have to be as careful. I will sometimes eat popcorn that is not specifically labeled free of gluten and does not have any symptoms. A small amount of wheat found in your popcorn might not be enough to bother you.
Is Movie Theater Popcorn Gluten-Free?
Surprisingly, movie theater popcorn often has very little or no gluten. The other ingredients they add to spice up the popcorn don't always contain gluten. Even with celiac disease, you might be fine.
Be Wary of Accidental Contamination
Movie theater popcorn might accidentally be contaminated with other grain, so it is not a completely safe food. Find out more information before you order popcorn at a particular theater. A lot of the time, it will be gluten-free or low enough in gluten that it won't hurt you.
Toppings and Spices May Contain Gluten
Popcorn is pretty bland on its own, so it needs flavoring. One common ingredient is modified food starch, which is wheat-based and contains gluten. Popcorn also includes spices, which have gluten in them a lot of the time.
The Safest Popcorn is Labeled Gluten Free
Synthetic meat flavors are sometimes made with grain that contains gluten. BBQ-flavored popcorn may contain it, so be careful. If you want to be as safe as possible, only eat foods that are certified gluten-free.
You Can Make Your Own Popcorn
If you make your own popcorn using corn kernels and your own toppings, you can be fairly sure there is no gluten. Common toppings like butter and salt are gluten-free. You can make your own gluten-free popcorn with ingredients that are very easy to find.
At least most margarine is gluten-free, although possibly some exceptional brands contain ingredients with gluten. You can also experiment with different flavorings as long as you check the ingredients.
Possibly, the corn or some other ingredients could be contaminated with wheat. Again, it depends on how serious it is if you accidentally consume a small amount of gluten.
How Does Gluten-Free Certification Work?
Since gluten-free diets are so common these days, many products are tested to prove they are gluten-free. Anything certified gluten-free by the FDA in the United States has less than 20 parts per million of gluten. 20 parts per million is such a tiny amount of gluten that even people with celiac disease should be fine.
Many brands of popcorn obviously contain ingredients with gluten. Many others are certified gluten-free and are quite likely fine for gluten-intolerant people. Many major popcorn brands offer certified gluten-free products.
There are also those that aren't certified gluten-free but don't contain any gluten-containing ingredients. Packaged popcorn might only contain three ingredients - corn, butter, and salt. Most of the time, that popcorn should be fine, but it might be cross-contaminated with wheat.
Gluten-Free Popcorn Brands
Some brands of popcorn contain very little or no gluten. There are no ingredients with gluten intentionally added, and the popcorn is tested to make sure it is not contaminated with wheat.
Orville Reddenbackers is one of the best choices if you are looking for gluten-free popcorn. Their products are tested to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
Orville Reddenbackers uses real butter instead of the much more common butter flavoring. Their popcorn is also lower in calories than many other brands, although not vastly lower.
Skinnygirl popcorn is low in calories but still tastes great. It is microwaveable and comes in small portions.
There are two flavors, butter and sea salt and lime and salt. Both of them contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Skinnygirl popcorn is also non-GMO and contains no artificial ingredients.
Anyone who makes popcorn at home should try jiffy pop. The popcorn kernels are in an aluminum pan that rises as the kernels are heated and pop. Their popcorn is certified gluten-free.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker