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Is Popcorn Vegan? (10 Brands You Can Have)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 26, 2023

Don't worry, fellow vegans; this crunchy, salty, irreplaceable snack is vegan-friendly. Well, at least in its basic form, that is.

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.
  • The best popcorn brands for vegans range from Pipcorn sea salt, Angie's boom chicka pop, lesser evil popcorn, and Amish country popcorn.
  • Popcorn is considered a safe vegan snack and a perfect alternative to wheat for individuals with celiac disease.

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.

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.

Also, some brands may use palm oil, which, although plant-based, is but not approved by the vegan community because its production causes a number of environmental problems.

In short, the type of oil used for popping and the absence of toppings that may contain animal ingredients is what makes popcorn suitable for a vegan diet.

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

The presence of dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter automatically disqualifies a food item from being vegan.

Minassian also reminds us to be on the lookout for brands labeled as vegan but contain other suspicious ingredients.

Common vegan-friendly ingredients include corn, sunflower, cottonseed, olive oil, sucralose, salt, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), and TBHQ.

On the flip side, you should watch out for ingredients such as: meat flavors (e.g., bacon flavor), natural flavors (these are usually animal-derived - avoid if the product isn't labeled vegan), mono and diglycerides, cheese, milk/milk powder, whey, lactose, and sodium caseinate, refined sugar.

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." [1]

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:

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, [2]

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.

Is Popcorn Vegan? The Final Verdict

So, the definite answer to the question is that popcorn is vegan in most cases.

Contrary to what many people think, not all popcorn is covered with butter, but you should always keep an eye on the added ingredients, which may be based on animal products.

Katherine Kyle, certified vegan nutritionist at Magical Life of Fruit, highlights the importance of checking food labels to make sure the popcorn is vegan-friendly.

This is especially true for microwave and pre-popped popcorn varieties.

If you decide to make vegan popcorn at home, then you can be sure that you won't stumble upon any unwanted ingredients.

If you crave that buttery kick, try mixing some nutritional yeast with coconut oil, and you got yourself a nice, cheesy, vegan snack.

What do you usually add to your bowl of popcorn? Let us know what your go-to vegan popcorn brand is in the comments below.


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