If you're planning a night in with friends, you'll be happy to learn that everyone's favorite movie snack is free of gluten. So even your pals on a gluten-free diet can feel comfortable reaching for the bowl.
Popcorn is naturally gluten-free, but that doesn't ensure all packaged varieties and flavors are totally safe to eat. Before you buy, always double-check the packaging or play it safe and make your own healthy popcorn (more on that below). After all, who doesn't love the smell of fresh popcorn wafting through the house?
Is Popcorn Gluten-Free?
As it's made from dried corn, a naturally gluten-free grain, popcorn is generally free of gluten and safe to eat if you have a sensitivity or intolerance. For the record, corn is both a vegetable (when in raw form) and whole grain (when dried), according to the Whole Grains Council.
Plain popcorn is naturally gluten-free, but keep in mind that various popcorn flavors or seasonings may contain gluten ingredients or may put the food at risk for cross-contamination.
Cross-contamination occurs when foods come into contact with gluten, whether through shared utensils or storage, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. So, for example, the popcorn at the theater may be prepared or stirred using the same utensil used on other gluten-containing foods. Or, if you scoop your kernels out of a bin at the grocery store, the same container may have been used to store wheat ingredients in the past.
Cross-contamination can also happen during manufacturing. Sometimes popcorn may be prepared using the same machinery as other gluten-containing ingredients. As a result, your popcorn may get contaminated with gluten.
How to Ensure Your Popcorn Is Gluten-Free
If you want to be sure the popcorn you're eating is safe, look for a gluten-free label on the packaging. This means the product contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, according to the Food & Drug Administration.
Or keep an eye out for certified gluten-free seals from reputable third-party organizations like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization. This organization uses particularly strict standards, testing and marking foods that contain less than 10 ppm of gluten.
Even if your popcorn is marked gluten-free, make sure to always double-check the ingredient list of the products you buy, recommends Feriha Bilgen, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian and founder of Celiac Simplified.
"Popcorn is typically considered to be a naturally gluten-free product that is safe for those with celiac disease and/or non-celiac gluten sensitivity," Bilgen says. "Yet I educate my clients to never assume that any product is gluten-free without first reading the ingredients label to determine if the product contains gluten."
Aside from searching for hidden gluten in the popcorn you buy, avoid heavily processed varieties. Often, these are topped with tons of butter or artificial flavorings. Instead, go with air-popped or simple options, recommends Bilgen.
Want to stock up on some healthy popcorn options? Start with these gluten-free products and trusted brands.
3 Gluten-Free Popcorn Products We Love
1. Jolly Time White Popcorn Kernels
Although this variety isn't made for the microwave, the bag provides instructions for easy stovetop preparation.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $22.32 for a pack of 12
2. SkinnyPop Original Popped Popcorn
At only 100 calories a bag with no trans fat, this pre-popped popcorn makes a great gluten-free alternative to less-nutritious microwavable options.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $11.76 for 30 bags
3. Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP Real Butter Microwave Popcorn
Sometimes you just need a warm bowl of butter-flavored popcorn. And if you're going to go in that direction, Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP is a great option. This variety is made with real butter and only four simple ingredients. Plus, it's gluten-free!
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $36.61 for 24 packs
3 Ways to Make Your Own Gluten-Free Popcorn
1. Basic Freshly Popped Popcorn
This popcorn recipe is only 213 calories per three-cup serving. All you need is two ingredients and six minutes to prep this must-have movie night snack. This recipe also calls for grapeseed oil, which is a good source of healthy fat, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Get the **Basic Freshly Popped Popcorn** recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Sriracha Popcorn
Topping your popcorn with sriracha is a healthy way to add some low-calorie flavor to your popcorn. And using olive oil instead of butter means you're getting in healthier fats.
This recipe calls for a cup of plain, pre-popped popcorn, but you can also use the popcorn from the recipe above if you want a total DIY snack.
If you're not a fan of sriracha, experiment with your favorite hot sauce. Some sauces can be high in calories, though, so double-check the serving size before you pour.
Get the **Sriracha** Popcorn** recipe and nutrition info here.**
3. Grecian Popcorn
This popcorn has a strong Mediterranean flavor, combining olive oil, dill, lemon, clove and sea salt with six cups of plain popcorn. At only 221 calories per three-cup serving, this unique popcorn flavor is sure to become your next go-to.
Thanks to the olive oil, this recipe also provides 11 grams of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats.
Get the **Grecian Popcorn** recipe and nutrition info here.