11 Best Gluten-Free Popcorn Brands

Popcorn

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Individuals with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity may assume that popcorn—either plain or flavored varieties—is gluten-free. After all, plain corn is gluten-free, and popcorn is just popped corn, right?

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.

Gluten-Free Popcorn Brands

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. These 11 companies make gluten-free popcorn.

Act II

Act II offers microwavable popcorn in eight flavors: Butter, Light Butter, Butter Lovers, Xtreme Butter, Movie Theater Butter, Kettle Corn, 94% Fat Free Butter, and Buttery Kettle Corn. 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, also a ConAgra subsidiary, 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.

Arrowhead Mills

Arrowhead Mills produces many different gluten-free grain products and mixes. Its white and yellow popping kernels are certified gluten-free.

Black Jewell Popcorn

An heirloom black popcorn kernel inspired a business when founders discovered it pops fluffy corn without the hull attached (the fragments that get stuck in your teeth or throat). The aptly named company Black Jewell offers many other ready-to-pop, heirloom varieties marketed as Crimson Jewel, and Blue Ribbon White, and Native Mix, a blend of crimson, gold and white kernels.

Black Jewell also makes a microwavable popcorn product line that includes Natural, Butter, Sweet-and-Salty Kettle, and No Salt No Oil. Ready-to-eat, bagged hull-less popcorn is also available in flavors such as Sea Salt and White Cheddar. Black Jewel confirms their products are pure popcorn and gluten-free.

Bob's Red Mill

This purveyor of grain-based flours and mixes offers ready-to-pop yellow and white kernels. To protect consumers from accidental cross contamination, Bob's Red Mill built a separate facility to prepare gluten-free products and states that it batch tests all products in a controlled laboratory. Bob's Red Mill processes its gluten-free oats in this facility as well.

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.

Jolly Time

Started by Cloid Smith in 1914, and operating as the American Pop Corn Company, Jolly Time remains a family-owned business. It contracts directly with farmers to grow non-GMO corn without cross contamination.

According to the company's allergy statement: "Jolly Time pop corn is gluten-free from wheat, rye, oats and barley. However, all of our products do contain corn gluten (modified corn starch) (which should not be a problem for people with celiac or gluten sensitivity). Our microwave flavor providers have also assured us that our flavorings are gluten-free as well."

From its early days selling kernels for stovetop popping, Jolly Time now offers white, yellow and organic kernels, plus a wide variety of microwaveable flavors in full-size and mini bags (without diacetyl, a chemical butter flavoring investigated for contributing lung disease in plant workers.)

Classic flavors include a variety of butter and sea salt styles; sweet and savory styles range from standards such as Kettle Mania and The Big Cheez to experimental flavors such as Mallow Magic and Jalopeno Butter. Healthy Pop serves calorie- and nutrition-conscious snackers.

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, jarred, and ready-to-eat flavors.

The microwavable products include: a variety of butter flavors; sweet and savory flavors; SmartPop!, which is 94 percent fat-free; and Orville Redenbacher's Naturals that have real ingredients, less oil and 20 percent fewer calories.

The company also sells both yellow and white popcorn kernels 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, jarred, 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: several styles of buttery flavors ranging from a touch of butter to double butter, a Sweet 'n Crunchy line, plus similar flavors offered for a "94% fat-free" line, "100 calories per bag" line, and in single serving sizes for kids.

The Homestyle product combines a light touch of butter and salt. Pop Secret also sells kernels for popping. Owned by Snyder's Lance, Pop Secret allergens listed on the label do not include wheat.

Skinnygirl Popcorn

The brand that signifies low calorie food and beverages has produced low-calorie microwavable popcorn in small servings 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, owned by Amplify Snack Brands, produces ready-to-eat bagged popcorn, popcorn cakes, popcorn puffs and microwavable popcorn in many different flavors. Pre-popped bagged popcorn flavors include standard flavors such as salt, butter, cheese; plus specialty and seasonal flavors such as high-protein, gingerbread and dark chocolate.

Popcorn and mini cakes come in salted, cheese-flavored and sweet. Basic microwavable popcorn flavors from SkinnyPop start at 25 calories per cup. According to the company: "All our products contain no artificial ingredients or flavors, are non-GMO, and always gluten-free. We also offer many vegan options (just check the package)." All flavors are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, which requires testing to less than 10 parts per million of gluten.

Popcorn Brands That May Contain Gluten

These popcorn brands may not be safe on the gluten-free diet due to potential cross-contamination.

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 certified or labeled gluten-free. This could mean it's subject to gluten cross-contamination in processing, and that it isn't tested for gluten.

Smartfood Popcorn

Smartfood, started in 1985 and owned by PepsiCo, differs from other ready-to-eat bagged popcorn brands in that it is air-popped and then seasoned with standard (butter, cheddar) and specialty flavorings that may be seasonal such as Sour Cream and Onion, Hot Buffalo and Caramel Cheddar Mix.

Smartfood also makes a low calorie line, Smart 50. However, not all Smartfood popcorn flavors are gluten-free (to less than 20 parts per million). Check packaging carefully and review nutritional information listed for each product on the company's website.

Movie Theater Popcorn: Gluten-Free or No?

It's relatively uncommon to find movie theater popcorn that's specifically labeled "gluten-free"—theaters may not purchase concession goods that have been certified or tested for cross contamination. However, you're most likely to find that the popcorn sold in your local cinema is safe, unless you're particularly sensitive to trace gluten.

However, if you need to eat gluten-free, call the theater and ask. Concession contracts and product lines change all the time. If a definitive answer is not available, inquire with the theater manager whether you can bring your own safe popcorn due to severe food allergies.

A Word from Verywell

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 conglomerate and independent brands have products 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.

Consider making your own plain popcorn at home and flavoring it yourself. For example, this low-sodium garlic parmesan popcorn is tastier than any snack you're likely to find at a movie theater.

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Article Sources
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Flavorings Related to Lung Disease. Updated October 3, 2017.