Is Popcorn Vegan?

Is popcorn vegan? A simple question with some confusing answers. In this post we’ll attempt to answer as best we can some of the most common ingredient questions popping around this healthy snack and perfect treat. We’ll also cover pop-ular microwave varieties and answer if the popcorn at your local movie theater is vegan friendly.

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Popcorn. One of the most popular and delicious snack foods in the world. Movie night would seem incomplete without it. 

It should seem simple enough to think it’s suitable for those following a vegan lifestyle. But then you have its perfect partners: salt and melted butter. But not all “butter” is butter. Confusing, I know. But that’s why I’m here. 

In this post we’re going to try and clear up some of the more confusing elements surrounding vegan popcorn options. 

We’ll focus on microwave and movie theater popcorn, and cover homemade stovetop and air-popped popcorn as well. But you’ll be happy to know that with very few exceptions, stovetop popping corn is vegan. 

There’s a lot of questions out there. Let’s get popping!

Is Popcorn Vegan?

Plain popcorn by itself is vegan. It’s when store-bought brands start adding things to flavor their popcorn where things can start to get a little tricky. 

One of the most obvious animal ingredients used in popcorn is butter. But surprisingly, some buttery microwave and bags of pre-popped popcorn are actually vegan. 

I know, it’s confusing. That’s why we’re going to try and clear some of this up. First rule: Always read the ingredient label if you are unsure.

Overhead photo of a bowl of popcorn with another one in the distance

Is movie theater popcorn vegan?

This is a very hot topic, and there’s a lot of misinformation floating around the internet about the buttery popcorn you get at the movie theater. I thought I’d take it upon myself to get the information straight from the source. 

So I called up representative movie theaters of the three largest moviehouse chains in the United States and spoke to managers to find out if there are any non-vegan ingredients in their popcorn. They were all nice enough to oblige and check the package labels directly. 

Good news! Turns out AMC, Regal, and Cinemark in our area all use the exact same products! They pop their corn in colored and flavored coconut oil. They use Sunglo buttery topping and Funtastic Buttery Salt. None of the items they use contain dairy ingredients. 

And no, none of them pop their caramel corn in the same popper. As a matter of fact, the caramel corn these chains offer isn’t even popped in-house. It’s shipped in prepackaged. So you can dispel that myth, too.

It’s easy to check your local theater’s popcorn by calling and asking a manager or someone in concessions what brand of butter flavoring and popcorn salt they use. They are always more than happy to oblige and are the best way to find out from the source.

Is stovetop popcorn vegan?

This is one of my favorite ways to make popcorn. I love making my own popcorn in a large pot with a glass lid and watching the show as the kernels pop. 

There are two kinds of stovetop popcorn to my mind. Jiffy Pop self-contained popcorn and all the other brands that offer containers or bags of loose kernels. This is also the same type of popcorn you would use to make homemade popcorn in an air popper. 

Jiffy Pop contains dairy and is not vegan. So if you’re looking for good vegan options for around the campfire, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Loose stovetop or machine popcorn is almost always vegan. It’s just loose kernels of dried corn that can be popped at home in a high smoke point oil like sunflower oil

There are very few exceptions where the loose popcorn is flavored using any animal products. Always check ingredients of any flavored popcorn.

Is microwave popcorn vegan?

Most microwave popcorn sold at the grocery store contains dairy products in the form of butter or whey. 

There are a few microwave popcorn brands that are indeed vegan friendly. And some of them might surprise you. 

We’ve compiled a list below, but it’s always best to read the ingredients and double check. I’ve seen brands change ingredients before. 

Overhead photo of a box of microwave popcorn with 4 individually wrapped bags of popcorn spilling out of it

Vegan Popcorn Brands

In most cases, brands have one or two vegan-friendly options among the vast varieties. And some of them may surprise you. 

  • Act II – Ironically, the “Butter Lovers” variety from Act II is vegan. Also, their Llama Party and regular Kettle Corn is vegan, but not the Buttery Kettle Corn. All the other popcorn flavors contain dairy in the ingredients list.
  • Pop Secret – The loose kernels are vegan. There are eight vegan flavors from Pop Secret: 94% fat-free Kettle Corn, Sea Salt, Sea Salt Kettle Corn, Sweet’ n Crunchy Kettle Corn, Sweet’ n Crunchy Caramel, Kidz First Order Kettle Corn, Popfetti, and Pumpkin Spice. Most of their microwavable kettle corn varieties are vegan but the other types all contain dairy in some form. Check ingredient list for any milk ingredients.
  • Orville Redenbacher – Again, the stovetop popcorn kernels are vegan. Other vegan varieties include the regular and SmartPop! kettle corn, the Naturals Simply Salted, and the light version of Simply Salted. 
  • Jolly Time – Most of Jolly Time’s microwave varieties contain dairy. The Simply Popped Sea Salt doesn’t though. And the loose kernels are vegan.

Packaged Store-Bought Popcorn

  • Lesser Evil Organic PopcornAll of Lesser Evil’s packaged popcorns are vegan with the exception of their “Oh My Ghee” flavor.
  • Skinny Pop – They have a great dairy-free white cheddar flavor popcorn. Just don’t confuse it with the aged white cheddar that has dairy.
  • Cracker Jack – The classic popcorn and peanut treat every one loves. And the real prize in the box is that it contains no dairy whatsoever!
Overhead photo of a bowl of popcorn with a hand reaching in to pick up a piece

Dairy-Free Popcorn FAQs

Is AMC popcorn vegan? 

AMC popcorn is vegan! The theater chain uses a popcorn “butter” and butter-flavored salt that is dairy-free and suitable for vegans. We confirmed this with the store directly.

Is kettle corn vegan? 

Traditional sweet and salty kettle corn is vegan. It’s just popcorn popped in oil, salt and sugar. However, some brands add butter or milk powder to their kettle corn. Read ingredient label to be certain.

Is Cinemark popcorn vegan? 

Yes! Cinemark popcorn is vegan. I was informed they use the same artificial buttery topping AMC and Regal does. We confirmed this with the store directly.

Is Orville Redenbacher popcorn vegan? 

The loose popcorn sold by Orville Redenbacher is vegan. Most of the microwave types by Redenbacher contain milk products and are not suitable for vegans. The only exception I found to this was the “Naturals Simply Salted” variety by Orville Redenbacher.

Is caramel popcorn vegan? 

True caramel popcorn contains dairy and is not vegan. However, caramel flavored popcorn, the kind like this 32 oz tub from Stonehedge Farms or classic Cracker Jack candy, is vegan. Double check ingredients if you are unsure.

Is Jolly Time popcorn vegan? 

Most Jolly Time microwave popcorn contains milk and is not vegan. Three of them are vegan: Kettlemania, Simply Popped Sea Salt, and Healthy Pop Kettle Corn. Their loose corn for stovetop and popcorn machines is vegan.

A head-on shot of vegan ranch seasoning in a classic restaurant shaker jar with a metal lid. There is a bowl of popcorn behind the jar.

Vegan Popcorn Seasoning

There’s a wide variety of popcorn seasonings beyond salt out there as well. But a lot of them contain dairy. That’s why we prefer to make our own.

There are also a few brands of vegan seasonings out there as well.

  • Vegan Cheese Seasoning by Fire God
  • Jolly Time Buttery Seasoning – While most of their microwave popcorns contain real butter, this popcorn seasoning doesn’t!
  • Franklin’s Popcorn Seasoning
  • Sunglo – Like the movie theaters use.

I hope this article has helped clarify some of your questions about whether popcorn is vegan. 

If you have any other questions feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

Happy popping!

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