Is Popcorn Vegan? (10 Brands You Can Have)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
FACT CHECKED by Dr. Kristy Dayanan, BS, MD
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Don't worry, fellow vegans; this crunchy, salty, irreplaceable snack is vegan-friendly. Well, at least in its basic form, that is.

From my own vegan journey, I've learned, just like Katherine Kyle, a certified vegan nutritionist, the importance of diligently checking food labels. Ensuring popcorn is vegan-friendly often means scrutinizing each ingredient for hidden animal products.

As a certified personal trainer, I know that some brands tend to sneak in a couple of ingredients that may not go well with the vegan diet, so let's get into details and discover what you should look out for when choosing your next bag of popcorn.

Quick Summary

  • Plain popcorn is a vegan snack as it is made of corn kernel, which pops up when heated.
  • The common vegan-friendly ingredients when preparing popcorn include olive oil, sunflower, cottonseed, salt, ascorbic acid, and sucralose.
  • According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Nielsen reports that 62% and 61% of global respondents avoid artificial flavors and colors, respectively.
  • Personally, I find that being vigilant about the ingredients in popcorn, especially in pre-packaged or flavored varieties, is crucial for maintaining a vegan diet.

What Makes Popcorn (Non)Vegan?

Non vegan popcorn

Some vegans hesitate to eat popcorn because it is usually served with butter, which is a dairy product. Adding artificial or animal-derived flavors is another red flag for vegans.

According to one of the studies from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, artificial flavors may be more acceptable than artificial colors due to negative health perceptions and labeling rules associated with colors [1].

Regardless, most movie-goers' snack of choice is made of corn kernels that pop when heated - and that's how you get a bowl of nice and crispy plant-based snacks. So, in its essence, plain popcorn is a vegan snack.

Tenny Minassian, vegan lifestyle coach, suggests looking at the allergy warning of the packages.

Is It Gluten-Free?

Yes, most unflavored, plain popcorn is safe for gluten-sensitive folks.

"Popcorn is made from corn, which doesn't contain gluten. In fact, corn is often recommended as a safe alternative to wheat for those with celiac disease, and most people who cannot tolerate gluten can safely enjoy corn products."

Although it's naturally gluten-free, this and other possible allergens can end up in your bag of popcorn during the production process.

Homemade vs. Store-Bought

Difference between homemade and store bought popcorn

If you are into homemade popcorn, you can make them from scratch by using just some good-quality corn kernels and a bit of vegetable oil. Making your own bowl of stovetop popcorn is the foolproof way to ensure your popcorn is vegan; make sure not to burn the kernels.

Microwave popcorn and pre-popped popcorn, on the other hand, may contain some less-than-vegan ingredients.

We'll go over some vegan-friendly popcorn brands in this article, so keep on reading to find out more.

If you are a hard-core popcorn fan, you can get one of these cool devices to make your own vegan popcorn. This is a smart way to control the amount of salt and the type of flavors that end up in your movie-night snack bowl.

Are Popcorns in Movie Theaters Vegan?

Yes and no, depending on the theater. Vegans can sit back, relax and munch on vegan popcorn in most U.S theaters these days:

According to another study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, commercial popcorn contains significant amounts of the class of antioxidants known as phenolic acids [2].

Don't let the word "butter" printed on the box throw you off because popcorn in most theaters is suitable for a vegan diet:

"At national theater chains like AMC Theaters and Cinemark, popcorn is totally vegan. At AMC Theaters, they even pop gluten-free, trans-fat-free popcorn kernels in coconut oil."

- Liz Miller, vegnews.com 

If you head to one of the Regal movie theaters, the chances are that they'll have a vegan version of this iconic snack, but that may not be the case in all of their theaters. If you are curious about popcorn sold in a specific movie theater, the safest bet is to call before you go and check if their popcorn is vegan.

10 Best Vegan Brands

different vegan popcorn brands

Whether you're into kettle corn, classic tender popcorn, or even butter-flavored popcorn, there are plenty of trusted brands that offer vegan options of these salty goodies.

  1. Orville Redenbacher's Melted on Caramel is our top pick. Still, if you're not into sugar, you can go for other excellent vegan popcorn options from this brand, including Kettle Corn, SmartPop Kettle Corn, and Naturals Simply Salted (Light and original).
  2. Angie's Boom Chicka Pop - A convenient, pre-popped vegan snack that's made with whole-grain popcorn covered in salted caramel.
  3. Whole Foods Market, Classic Organic Popcorn
  4. Pipcorn Sea Salt - Unlike other vegan popcorn brands on the list, this one features mini popcorn kernels. With only a couple of ingredients, among which are olive oil and sea salt, Pipcorn might be a healthier popcorn option.
  5. Amish Country Popcorn - this popcorn brand offers a variety of flavors and good-quality corn kernels, all of which are both vegan and non-GMO.
  6. Newman's Own - This brand's Tender White and Sea Salt Popcorn microwave popcorn are delicious, safe vegan choices.
  7. Skinny Pop, Original Popped Popcorn
  8. Dutchman's Popcorn Coconut Oil Butter - Unfortunately, butter flavor popcorn is usually off-limits for vegans, but this is where this smart product comes in.
  9. Act II - Butter Lovers - This is a rare find in the world of vegan popcorn. It should be noted, though, that it does contain palm oil.
  10. Lesser Evil Popcorn - This is another great option if you are into buttery and cheesy stuff. They also offer other tasty options, such as Himalayan Salt Popcorn.

So, when it comes to popcorn, vegan options seem to come in all shapes and sizes. The only problem you may encounter is the agony of choice, but the good news is that you probably won't go wrong with any of the brands on this list.

FAQs

What Is the Sustainability of Popcorn Production in Terms of Environmental Impact?

The production of popcorn has notable environmental impacts, including significant water usage, land use, and carbon emissions. Understanding these factors is crucial for those concerned about the sustainability of their food choices, especially within the context of veganism.

How Does Popcorn Serve as a Healthy Vegan Snack?

Popcorn, when prepared correctly, is a nutritious vegan snack that offers high fiber content and a low-calorie count, making it an ideal whole-grain snack for a balanced vegan diet. Its nutritional profile supports digestive health and can contribute to a feeling of fullness without excessive calorie intake.

What Is the Cultural Significance of Popcorn in Various Regions?

Popcorn enjoys a diverse cultural significance around the world, being consumed in various forms and playing a role in different culinary traditions. From being a staple movie snack in the United States to its traditional preparation methods in Latin America, popcorn's versatility is celebrated globally.

Can You Share Some Homemade Vegan Popcorn Seasoning Recipes?

Yes, there are many recipes for homemade vegan popcorn seasonings that allow for creative and healthy flavoring without the use of animal products. These can range from simple combinations like nutritional yeast and garlic powder to more elaborate blends incorporating herbs and spices for diverse flavor profiles.

What Are the Health and Environmental Impacts of Non-Vegan Additives in Popcorn?

Common non-vegan additives in popcorn, such as artificial flavors and preservatives, can have negative health and environmental impacts. These additives may contribute to health issues and environmental degradation, making it important for consumers to choose popcorn products with natural, plant-based ingredients.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6722695/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6356482/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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