Corn Nuts originated in 1936 as a small-town bar snack in Oakland, California. The brand didn’t become popular until the mid-60s, though, after the creator died and his sons turned the local favorite into a national brand. Today, they’re one of the most popular corn snacks on the market.
Are Corn Nuts vegan, though?
The original Corn Nuts are 100% vegan and are made from three simple ingredients: corn, corn oil, and salt. The other flavors of Corn Nuts are also vegan-friendly and don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients.
Some vegans may object to the artificial ingredients in Corn Nuts flavors, but they’re vegan nonetheless.
Today, I’m going to take a closer look at one of America’s most iconic snacks. I’ll show you which flavors are vegan and give you an in-depth look at exactly what Corn Nuts are made of, so you can see for yourself!
Are Corn Nuts A Plant-Based Food?
The original Corn Nuts are as simple as it gets. They were first sold by Oakland local Albert Holloway. He’d make them at home and sell them to local pubs and restaurants as a bar snack. Today, the original Corn Nuts are still made with the same plant-based recipe.
Essentially, Corn Nuts are just fried corn kernels that are lightly seasoned with salt. Since the kernels are fried, they have a crispy, crunchy texture, making them more similar to nuts than traditional steamed corn appetizers.
The light, crunchy kernels are the perfect snack to pair with a beer or eat on the go. They’re not as heavy or filling as nuts are, which means that you’ll still have plenty of room left for dinner!
If you’re the type who likes to get creative in the kitchen, then you can even make your own homemade Corn Nuts, using a few simple ingredients:
Are Corn Nuts Gluten-Free?
A growing number of people have been diagnosed with gluten insensitivity or are cutting grain-based protein out of their diets as part of an anti-inflammatory diet.
Unfortunately, gluten is one of the most common ingredients in chips and snacks since it’s present in all wheat flour.
Thankfully, Corn Nuts are 100% gluten-free. Corn does not contain any gluten, and since Corn Nuts are just made with corn and corn oil, you’ll never have to worry about any gluten sensitivity issues when consuming this snack.
What Are Corn Nuts Made Of?
Corn Nuts are made using relatively simple ingredients. In fact, the recipe is so simple that virtually anybody can make their own Corn Nuts from home! I’ve always respected the brand for sticking to a simple, all-natural recipe.
Making Corn Nuts is simple.
First, the dried corn kernels are soaked in water to soften them. Then, they’re allowed to dry and are deep-fried in corn oil. Once they’re taken out of the oil, they’re seasoned with a bit of salt (which also acts as a natural preservative) and then packaged!
Are Corn Nuts Ranch Vegan? A Look At The Ingredients
While the original Corn Nuts are still made with Albert Holloway’s simple three-ingredient recipe, the same cannot be said of the other flavors of Corn Nuts.
All corn nuts share the same base ingredients: corn, corn oil, and salt.
However, the seasoning that’s used to coat the other flavors of corn nuts contains a long list of additives, including spices, starch, natural acids, preservatives, and food coloring, as well as natural and artificial flavors.
Of all of the Corn Nuts flavors, the Ranch Corn Nuts are the most popular. Typically, anything that’s ranch-flavored isn’t vegan (which is why vegan ranch is so popular).
Surprisingly, Ranch Corn Nuts are 100% vegan and don’t contain any of the dairy-derived additives you’ll find in other ranch-flavored snacks.
Take a look for yourself:
Don’t get me wrong, and I don’t like all of the added chemicals and preservatives used in the seasoning mix. However, this flavor of Corn Nuts is still vegan-friendly, as none of the additives come from animals.
Due to all of the highly processed additives, I recommend that you treat Ranch Corn Nuts as a once-in-a-while treat rather than an everyday snack.
If you, like many, don’t know what half of these ingredients are in the first place, then keep reading for a full breakdown of the ingredients!
The main ingredient in all Corn Nuts is, of course, corn. Corn isn’t the most nutritious plant-based food out there, but it is all-natural. Compared to the corn flour, corn meal, and corn starch used in snacks like Fritos, the whole corn kernels found in Corn Nuts are more nutritious.
2) Corn Oil
Corn oil is a popular cooking oil that’s made from pressing corn kernels. It’s 100% vegan and sustainably sourced.
Now, we’re getting into the seasoning blend. The main ingredient used as the base for the seasoning is maltodextrin, which is a super-processed starch that’s derived from corn.
It’s used as a binding and drying agent, which helps the seasoning bind to the corn kernels until they’re consumed.
Salt is used for flavoring and has always been one of the main ingredients in Corn Nuts.
MSG stands for monosodium glutamate. This is the chemical molecule that our taste buds perceive as “savory.” It’s added to a number of processed foods, such as ramen noodles, to improve the taste.
6) Corn Syrup Solids
This ingredient is the solid form of corn syrup. It’s often used in seasoning blends to balance out the sharp flavors from the acid and starch with a mellow, sweet flavor. Corn syrup is vegan-friendly!
7) Tomato Powder
Tomato powder is a common seasoning used in Corn Nuts and other chips. It provides a bright, fruity flavor and also helps the Corn Nuts to appear more colorful by adding a bit of red tint to the seasoning mix.
8) Onion Powder & Garlic Powder
Garlic and onion powder are made from a combination of salt and dehydrated ground onions and garlic. They’re all-natural, 100% vegan, and are some of the main sources of flavor in Ranch Corn Nuts.
In addition to the main ingredients listed on the package, Ranch Corn Nuts are also made with several “secret” spices. These are considered trade secrets and are not required to be listed on the ingredients.
Believe it or not, sugar is the only questionable ingredient you’ll find in Ranch Corn Nuts. This is because the refined sugar used in this snack is filtered through bone char in sugar refineries. Because of this, many vegans try to avoid or limit white, refined sugar whenever possible.
11) Sodium Diacetate
This salty additive is part of what gives the seasoning its sour ranch flavor. The powder tastes similar to acetic acid (vinegar), and is used in the place of dairy-based buttermilk. It’s not particularly natural or healthy, but it is vegan.
12) Malic Acid & Citric Acid
Both malic acid and citric acid are natural acids found in fruits. Citric acid is commonly associated with citrus, while malic acid is a bitter-sour acid found within the peels and outer layers of fruit.
Both acids provide a mild “sour” flavor while also acting as preservatives. They increase the acidity of the Corn Nuts, making it harder for bacteria to reproduce.
13) Lactic Acid
Lactic acid is another organic acid that’s actually produced by our own bodies and other animals. The lactic acid used in food products is all derived from the fermentation of plant-based foods, though, and is always vegan.
14) Sodium Citrate
Sodium citrate is a concentrated salt that’s made from citric acid. It provides a super-sharp citrus flavor and also acts as a strong preservative in Ranch Corn Nuts.
15) Turmeric Extract
Turmeric extract is known for its deep yellow color. Because of this, turmeric is often used as a natural food coloring. This gives the corn nuts a deeper yellow color, which makes them look more appetizing and appealing.
16) Disodium Inosinate & Disodium Guanylate
Both of these chemicals are commonly found in seasoning blends. They’re “flavor enhancers” that behave very similarly to MSG by targeting the savory receptors on our taste buds.
17) Vinegar Powder
Real vinegar powder (made from acetic acid) is used to give Ranch Corn Nuts a more potent “sour” flavor, making them taste more like ranch.
18) Natural & Artificial Flavors
Another key component used to achieve that perfect ranch flavor is a combination of natural and artificial flavors. These flavors are all vegan-friendly, though, and aren’t derived from dairy or meat.
19) Red 40 Food Coloring
Last but not least, the seasoning used for Ranch Corn Nuts is infused with a bit of red 40 colorings. This food coloring is vegan-friendly and is 100% artificial.
Do Nacho Corn Nuts Contain Dairy?
Usually, the word “nacho” or “nacho cheese” means that the snack in question is a no-go for vegans. Surprisingly, though, Nacho Corn Nuts are dairy-free!
Similar to the Ranch-flavored Corn Nuts, you won’t find any dairy-derived powders or seasoning. The nacho cheese flavor actually comes from the nutritional yeast extract used to coat the corn kernels. Nutritional yeast is a popular vegan seasoning that’s known for its cheese-like flavor.
The Verdict – What Flavors of Corn Nuts Are Vegan?
Currently, all flavors of Corn Nuts are 100% vegan-friendly.
Even the flavors that don’t sound vegan (nacho, jalapeno-cheddar, and BBQ) are all vegan-friendly and don’t contain any cheese, gelatin, or other common animal by-products.
If you’re looking for some more great-tasting, crunchy vegan snacks, then be sure to check out my post listing the best vegan chip brands next!