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What Is Gluten-Free Popcorn?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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Gluten-free popcorn is a version of this popular snack made specifically without ingredients that can often lead to adverse reactions in individuals with gluten intolerance. Many people follow a gluten-free lifestyle due to a medical condition called celiac disease, though this type of diet is often easy to follow due to a wide variety of gluten-free foods and recipes. The corn kernels in popcorn do not naturally contain gluten, although it is sometimes used flavorings and preservative ingredients. Some oils used to pop the kernels can contain gluten, so some research into these oils can be helpful in ensuring a batch of popcorn is, in fact, gluten free.

Vegetable oil and coconut oil do not contain any gluten, and they are often the favored choices for making gluten-free popcorn. Many packaged versions of pre-popped corn list the type of oil used, and often packages will include labels designating the snack as gluten free. Canola oil usually has preservative agents that contain gluten. Some salts used to flavor kettle-popped popcorn also have gluten-based additives that prevent the salt grains from clumping together. These ingredients are often used for the popcorn sold in movie theaters, although many theaters also offer gluten-free popcorn that is made separately from these types of salt and oil.

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One of the main keys to making gluten-free popcorn is the avoiding cross-contamination. Popcorn made for a gluten-free lifestyle generally cannot be made in the same kettle or popper as other popcorn made with gluten-containing oils or salts. Even when canola oil is thoroughly cleaned from the inside of a kettle, it can still often leave behind enough residue to risk a popcorn batch that is not completely free from gluten. The same can sometimes happen with salts and other flavorings that are not designated gluten free.

Flavored gluten-free popcorn can also be made at home from a variety of recipes that follow the guidelines of a gluten-free diet. Some people prefer to buy unsalted, unflavored, and non-buttered popcorn kernels and add their own gluten-free spices or seasonings. This type of popcorn is usually available in microwavable bags or in packages of loose kernels that can be cooked in an electric popper. Some popular gluten-free popcorn seasonings include flavors such as lemon-herb, curry, and southwestern chili.

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