Fundamentally, 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.
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 carefully read the ingredients list.
Though there are plenty of gluten free options for gourmet popcorn, you want to make sure you are getting a true gluten free popcorn. Snacktime Express in Texas for example offers a variety of gluten free products and ensure of this quality by cooking their popcorn in coconut oil. Another company is Miss Hannah’s Gourmet Popcorn in Oregon, which offers most of their popcorn in vegan and gluten-free flavors. Brands like NOW Foods is a 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.
Gourmet popcorn is an amazing treat and can keep you honest from a nutritional standpoint, depending on the flavor. When selecting a company to buy popcorn from, always ask questions to make sure your purchase is a pleasant, stress and gluten-free one.