Is Popcorn Gluten-Free? 11 Gluten-Free Popcorn Brands

Learn whether popcorn found in stores and movie theaters is gluten-free

bowl of gluten-free popcorn
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Most people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity probably would assume that popcorn—either plain or in most flavored varieties—is gluten-free. After all, plain corn is gluten-free, and popcorn is just popped corn, right?

Well, it's true that many plain and flavored popcorn products are considered gluten-free. But you can't just assume that anything popcorn-related is safe—it's also quite possible to get glutened by popcorn.

The problem with popcorn isn't the corn (you're quite correct in saying plain corn is gluten-free). The problem is the potential for gluten cross-contamination in processing, and gluten ingredients in the flavorings used to make popcorn more interesting.

Fortunately, there are many options in gluten-free popcorn in ready-to-eat snack form, microwavable popcorn, and just plain kernels. Most popcorn sold at movie theaters also is safe, unless you're particularly sensitive to trace gluten. Read on for your alternatives.

Gluten-Free Popcorn Brands

Here are 11 companies that make gluten-free popcorn:

  • Act II. Act II offers microwavable popcorn in five buttery flavors: butter, light butter, butter lovers, Xtreme butter, and movie theater butter. Act II is part of the grocery conglomerate ConAgra Brands, which considers all Act II microwave popcorn flavors to be gluten-free to less than 20 parts per million of gluten. According to ConAgra: "Our foods labeled as 'gluten-free' undergo rigorous ingredient and preparation review, along with testing to validate that claim. We start by reviewing the label and our recipe to determine which ones should not contain gluten, and then talk to our ingredient suppliers. Next, we review our preparation and cleaning steps. Finally, we test the food to make sure it contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million) gluten."
  • Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP. Angie's makes ready-to-eat bagged popcorn in a wide variety of interesting flavors: Sea Salt, Sweet 'n Salty Kettle Corn, White Cheddar, Light Kettle Corn, Cheddar Cheese, Real Butter, Milk Chocolatey Peanut Butter, Caramel, Sweet Barbecue, Dill Pickle, Salted Caramel, Sea Salt and Vinegar, Sweet and Spicy, and Caramel and Cheddar. All are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), which requires testing of foods so that they contain less than 10 parts per million of gluten (less gluten is always better). Angie's is also non-GMO, uses all-natural colors and flavors, and avoids high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Black Jewell Popcorn. If you crave popcorn kernels that go beyond basic yellow-gold, you might want to consider Black Jewell Popcorn. The gourmet popcorn company distributes ready-to-pop kernels in black (hence the name), crimson, and Mayan gold, along with pearly white and mixtures. Black Jewell also makes microwavable popcorn in natural, butter, sweet-and-salty kettle, and no oil/no salt flavors, plus ready-to-eat No Hull bagged popcorn in two flavors: sea salt and white cheddar. All are considered gluten-free, according to the company. The company only sells popcorn, and uses a cleaning process that seems to help people who are especially sensitive to lower levels of trace gluten.
  • Bob's Red Mill. This purveyor of grain-based flours and mixes lists two different types of bagged popcorn: yellow and white. Both are considered gluten-free to 20 parts per million, according to Bob's Red Mill. Those people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity who also are sensitive to oats should be aware that Bob's Red Mill processes oat-based products on the same lines as its gluten-free-labeled products.
  • Great Northern Popcorn Company. Great Northern sells popcorn (in flavored and unflavored varieties) along with popcorn poppers both to consumers and to concessionnaires at fairs and movie theaters. According to the company: "We are proud to be able to claim that all Great Northern Popcorn Kernels and Seasonings are gluten-free."
  • Jiffy Pop. If you've ever made popcorn over a campfire, you've probably used Jiffy Pop. This iconic brand uses a sealed heavy-gauge aluminum pan with a wire handle to pop the corn, and as the kernels pop, the top of the pan rises. Jiffy Pop includes butter flavoring. Like Act II, Jiffy Pop is a ConAgra brand and is considered gluten-free to less than 20 parts per million.
  • Orville Redenbacher's. This well-known popcorn brand bills itself as the only brand that uses real butter (as opposed to buttery flavoring). Orville Redenbacher's popcorn comes in a wide variety of microwavable, jar, and ready-to-eat flavors. The microwavable flavors include: eight different "buttery popcorn" flavors; Kettle Korn, caramel, and cheddar cheese "sweet 'n savory" microwavable popcorn flavors; SmartPop! (lower calorie) butter and Kettle Korn flavors; and Orville Redenbacher's Naturals in Simply Salted, Lime & Salt, Garlic Butter & Sea Salt, and Light Zesty Pepper Butter flavors. The company also sells both yellow and white popcorn kernels in jars, and offers butter-flavored popcorn popping oil. Finally, Orville Redenbacher's sells Poppycock brand popcorn-based snacks. Orville Redenbacher's is a ConAgra brand, and the company states that its microwavable, jar, and ready-to-eat products are considered gluten-free to less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
  • Pop Secret. Pop Secret makes a wide variety of microwavable popcorn flavors, including: seven different buttery flavors (butter, double butter, jumbo pop butter, homestyle, extra butter, movie theater butter, jumbo pop movie theater butter), kettle corn, sea salt, three different Sweet 'n Crunchy flavors (Cinnamon Roll, Caramel, and Kettle Corn), 94 percent fat-free butter, light butter, and five different "100 calorie pop" flavors (including 94 percent fat-free butter, 94 percent fat-free Kettle Corn, Kettle Corn, Butter, and Homestyle). Pop Secret also makes pre-popped popcorn in white cheddar, salted, extra cheesy, homestyle, and kettle corn flavors, and sells jumbo popping corn and white popping corn kernels in jars. According to the company's allergy statement, all Pop Secret products are gluten-free, although they do contain corn gluten (which should not be a problem for people with celiac or gluten sensitivity): "For gluten/soy, all popcorn is free of glutens from wheat, rye, oats, and barley. However, all of our products do contain corn gluten (modified corn starch). Our microwave flavor providers have also assured us that our flavorings are gluten-free as well. For peanuts/tree nuts, Pop Secret popcorn is produced and packaged at a facility that is free from tree nuts and peanuts."
  • Skinnygirl Popcorn. This brand of low-calorie microwavable popcorn in small servings is produced in partnership with Orville Redenbacher's. Skinnygirl comes in two flavors: Lime & Salt and Butter & Sea Salt. Because they're made by Orville Redenbacher's, Skinnygirl Popcorn products are gluten-free to less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
  • SkinnyPop Popcorn. SkinnyPop produces ready-to-eat bagged popcorn, popcorn cakes, and microwavable popcorn in many different flavors. Pre-popped bagged popcorn comes in six flavors: Original, Sea Salt & Pepper, White Cheddar, Naturally Sweet, Jalapeño, and Dusted Dark Chocolate. Popcorn cakes come in three flavors: Sea Salt, White Cheddar, and Maple Brown Sugar. Mini popcorn cakes come in three flavors: Sea Salt, Sharp Cheddar, and Cinnamon & Sugar. Microwavable popcorn comes in two flavors: Sea Salt and Butter. According to SkinnyPop, all flavors are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, which requires testing to less than 10 parts per million of gluten (less is always better). SkinnyPop products also are non-GMO, dairy-free, peanut-free, and tree nut-free.
  • Smartfood Popcorn. Smartfood, which bills itself as "America's favorite popcorn brand," makes ready-to-eat bagged popcorn in eight different flavors, including: White Cheddar Cheese, Movie Theater Buttered, Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn, Spicy Jalapeño Ranch, Parmesan Garlic, lower-calorie Cheddar Cheese, Sea Salt, and Sea-Salted Caramel. However, only four Smartfood popcorn flavors are considered gluten-free (to less than 20 parts per million), according to the company: White Cheddar Cheese, Movie Theater Buttered, Sea Salt, and lower-calorie White Cheddar Cheese.

Popcorn Brands to Avoid

These two popcorn brands aren't considered safe on the gluten-free diet due to potential cross-contamination:

  • Arrowhead Mills. Arrowhead Mills produces many different gluten-free grain products and mixes. The company does offer both white and yellow popcorn, but neither appears on Arrowhead Mills' gluten-free list. Therefore, you should steer clear of Arrowhead Mills popcorn in favor of another that's labeled gluten-free.
  • NOW Foods. This brand offers organic, non-GMO popcorn in 24 oz. packages. NOW Foods' popcorn contains no gluten ingredients, according to the company, but isn't labeled gluten-free. Note that this could mean it's subject to gluten cross-contamination in processing, and that it isn't tested for gluten.

Movie Theater Popcorn: Gluten-Free or No?

It's relatively uncommon to find movie theater popcorn that's specifically labeled "gluten-free"—most theaters aren't going to get theirs tested. However, you're most likely to find that the popcorn sold in your local cinema is safe for you, unless you're particularly sensitive to trace gluten.

Both Regal and AMC—two large cinema chains in the United States—say that their popcorn is considered gluten-free. Cinemark, another large movie theater chain, states that its popcorn without the buttery topping is gluten-free, and that its popcorn salt contains both dairy and soy. Cineplex states that its plain popcorn is gluten-free.

You probably don't have to worry much about gluten cross-contamination at the movies, either, since most movie theater concession stands sell mainly packaged goods like giant candy bars (which are safe when wrapped, even if they're gluten-y). Cafe cinemas that serve casual dinner fare are an exception to this rule, so you should talk with a chef or manager to make sure they're handling your food, including your popcorn, in a safe way (most will be fine).

Some people who are quite sensitive to trace gluten have found they have problems with movie theater popcorn. If this happens to you, consider trying it without any topping or flavored salt, or inquire with the theater manager whether you can bring your own safe popcorn due to severe food "allergies."

The Bottom Line on Gluten-Free Popcorn

For most people, there's really no reason to take a chance on store-bought popcorn products that aren't considered gluten-free, since most national brands and many smaller brands are specifically labeled gluten-free. You're likely to do fine with most movie theater popcorn, as well, although you might consider ordering it without the butter-flavored topping.

Meanwhile, if you're particularly sensitive to trace gluten, you may want to stick with products that are certified gluten-free (these include Angie's and SkinnyPop), or try Black Jewell, which isn't certified but has produced good results for people sensitive to trace gluten. At the movies, plain popcorn (without the buttery topping or flavored salt) may be your safest bet, although even most movie popcorn contains no gluten ingredients.

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