Popcorn is one of the world’s oldest crunchy snacks. In fact, a recent archeological survey unearthed evidence that indigenous tribes in Peru were popping corn in 4700 BCE, almost seven thousand years ago!
Today, most people cook their popcorn in the microwave. Prior to that, however, it was cooked in a kettle over a stove or an open fire, meaning that ancient tribes needed no special equipment.
Today, popcorn is widely regarded as one of the healthiest snack foods on the market. Unlike chips, which are often soaked in oil or deep-fried, popcorn is cooked with limited ingredients and is popped with hot air or in a microwave.
A cup of popcorn only has around 35 calories, while a comparable serving of potato chips will set you back almost 150 calories.
Aside from popcorn’s low-calorie status, though, it’s also 100% vegan and gluten-free!
That’s right- as long as the popcorn doesn’t have any non-vegan seasonings, you can chow down and eat as much as you’d like! However, not all popcorn is vegan.
To make your life easier, I decided to make a conclusive list of my favorite vegan microwave popcorn brands. So, the next time it’s movie night, you’ll be all ready to go. Let’s take a look!
Before I jump into my list, you’re probably wondering, “what makes vegan popcorn different from plain old-fashioned popcorn?”
It all comes down to the ingredients used in the popcorn…
Popcorn kernels, by themselves, are always vegan. They’re a natural plant-based ingredient that requires nothing from animals. It’s the other additives that you have to worry about.
The most common non-vegan popcorn additive is, of course, butter. Butter is a dairy product and is the result of churning milk that’s been cruelly pumped from nursing cows.
The second-most-common additive to watch out for is cheese. Like butter, cheese is a dairy product that’s produced in a similar manner.
Last but not least, you may find that some microwave popcorn brands (especially the cheaper ones) use palm oil.
While palm oil is a natural plant-based product, the commercial palm oil industry is slowly destroying South American rain forests and resulting in the wholesale slaughter of tens of thousands of animals and their natural habitat.
Vegan popcorn brands tend to use olive oil, avocado oil, or sustainably-sourced palm oil that doesn’t come from exploitative farming and harvesting methods.
In a nutshell vegan microwave popcorn typically doesn’t have:
- Unsustainably-sourced palm oil
Other than that, there’s little difference between traditional popcorn and vegan popcorn!
Since I first started my vegan journey, popcorn has remained one of my favorite snacks, so this is going to be a fun article! Now that you have a better idea of what to expect from vegan popcorn, I’m going to show you my favorite vegan microwave popcorn brands.
Some of the brands listed below also sell pre-popped vegan popcorn as well. Personally, though, I like to save money, and I find that microwave popcorn is a lot more “budget-friendly” than the marked-up pre-popped bags.
I’ve also found that freshly-popped popcorn also tastes better than pre-popped varieties, and you’ll never have to worry about any hard-to-pronounce preservatives.
Without further ado, let’s get it poppin’!
1) Orville Redenbacher’s Naturals Simply Salted Popcorn (link)
Flavor Profile: Light and salty
Orville Redenbacher is pretty much synonymous with popcorn in the United States. You can walk into the smallest grocery store in your city, and I guarantee you’ll find good ole’ Orville on a shelf.
Before popping corn, Orville was a notable agricultural scientist and spent almost ten years perfecting the perfect strain of corn for popping. In 1965, his first product hit store shelves and became an American staple.
While some Orville Redenbacher popcorn varieties contain butter (making them non-vegan), the salted and unsalted varieties are vegan-friendly. The company’s Naturals line is also made with 100% organic, non-GMO corn, which is just another great reason to take pride in it.
While it may not be the most exotic-tasting popcorn flavor on my list, its consistent quality, affordable price, and widespread availability make it one of my go-to favorites.
- Consistent quality
- Uses non-GMO corn
- The brand itself is not 100% vegan but offers vegan-friendly varieties
2) Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP Sea Salt Microwave Popcorn (link)
When it comes to organic food, Angie’s is a household name that you’ll find widely available both online and in health food stores. Like Angie’s other products, I’ve found their signature BOOMCHICKAPOP to be nothing less than satisfactory.
The kernels pop into large, full-sized balls that make for a delicious crunch, and the sea salt is a nice artisan touch. Surprisingly, I’ve found that sea salt popcorn tastes quite a bit different from traditional salted popcorn like the Orville Redenbacher option I listed above! It’s more “oceany” and has a full-bodied flavor.
Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP also uses organic, non-GMO corn, so it’s 100% natural. The only drawback of this brand is that it’s a bit expensive. So, for me, it’s more of a holiday treat than an everyday snack.
- Non-GMO ingredients
- Organic sea salt
- Large, fluffy popcorn balls
- It’s a bit on the expensive side
3) Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popcorn Kernels, Original Yellow (link)
When most people think of microwave popcorn, they tend to think of those pre-packaged, folded microwave bags that slowly rise and expand as the kernels pop.
However, you can also make your own homemade popcorn without the microwave bag! All you need is a microwave-safe bowl to place the kernels in and a microwave-safe plate to cover the bowl as the kernels pop.
These are the same high-quality, non-GMO, 100% whole grain kernels used in Orville Redenbacher’s other products. The thing I like most about this bulk jug of kernels is that there are absolutely no additives at all. It’s like starting with a blank slate.
So, whenever I’m feeling creative and I’m looking to add my own oils, seasonings, and spices to my popcorn, I pull out my jug, pour them in a bowl with a dash of olive oil, and get to popping.
If you’re the type of person who likes to get creative in the kitchen, then this is a great quality, affordable option.
- Save money by purchasing bulk kernels
- You can make your own popcorn flavors from scratch
- No additives or extra ingredients
- Requires a few extra steps to pop in the microwave
- You’ll need to have your own seasonings and oil if you want to add flavor
4) Popcorn on the Cob 10 Pack – Poppin’ Cobs Microwave Popcorn (link)
I was first introduced to “Popcorn on the Cob” by a friend of mine during a girls’ movie night. Its light, fluffy, and slightly crunchy flavor made it an instant favorite. So, I decided to do a bit more research, which only made me appreciate the brand even more!
Poppin’ Cobbs is a 100% vegan brand, so you don’t have to feel guilty for supporting a brand that also offers non-vegan products. It’s also a relatively small brand that uses organic corn sourced from local farmers.
Small-time farmers have it rough in the US right now, so I try to do everything I can to support them when I can.
The thing I love most about Poppin’ Cobs, though, is their signature cobb in the bag. Yes, that’s right- the kernels are quite literally popped off of the cob!
Whenever you open the bag, you’ll find a kernel-less cobb along with the popcorn. This comical touch is a great icebreaker at a party and shows just how organic the product is.
- Supports small farmers
- Comes with a corn cob in the bag
- Has a rich, full-bodied taste
- Somewhat expensive
5) Orville Redenbacher’s Skinnygirl Lime & Salt Popcorn (link)
Somewhere along the line, popcorn got a bit of a bad rep thanks to all of the butter, cheese, and other fatty, oily ingredients that were added to movie theater butter.
When the low-calorie diet fads started hitting mainstream media, Orville Redenbacher created a clever marketing strategy to sell more popcorn to dieters, calling the line Skinnygirl.
Stereotypical name aside, though, the product itself is golden (no pun intended). The popcorn is 100% vegan and doesn’t contain any butter, non-vegan oils, or other heavy ingredients.
Instead, it’s seasoned with a tasteful blend of lime and salt that make it a great snack to eat with an ice-cold beer while you’re kicked back at the beach.
Another thing I love about the brand is the small 100-calorie bags. While they’re not exactly ideal for sharing, they’re perfect if you just want a small serving of popcorn for yourself without having to worry about wasting any leftovers.
Lastly, this vegan popcorn won’t break the bank, so you can eat as much as you want without having to check your bank account!
- Addictive lime and salt taste
- Small bags are great for one person
- The small bags aren’t so great if you plan on sharing
6) Preferred Popcorn Jalapeno Microwave Popcorn (link)
Okay, so I admit that whoever named this brand of popcorn could have done a better job. Not that there’s anything wrong with Preferred Popcorn; it’s just not that enticing. If I had never tried it at a vegan trade show I attended, I would have never considered it.
However, I did get to try a sample, and let me tell you – this is hands-down one of the best-tasting vegan popcorn brands I’ve ever had! If you’re a fan of jalapenos (or you just like spicy food), then you’ll love this.
So far, it’s the only microwave popcorn I’ve found that’s seasoned with ground jalapenos. Pretty cool, right?
Price-wise, it’s pretty affordable compared to some of the other vegan popcorn varieties I’ve sampled over the years.
Plus, the brand is 100% farmer-owned, meaning that you’re helping small farmers by purchasing this product; not shoving more money in the pockets of large conglomerates.
- Farmed-owned brand
- Organic, non-GMO corn
- All-natural spicy flavor from jalapenos
- Not a great option for people who don’t like having their taste buds kicked by spice
7) Black Jewell Kettle Microwave Hulless Popcorn (link)
The last thing that typically comes to mind when I think of popcorn is the color black (except when I accidentally burn it). However, black popcorn kernels happen to be the upper echelon of corn. The brand’s slogan is “The Better Popcorn,” which should tell you everything you need to know.
I’ve only had this particular brand a handful of times, but there’s a reason why I still remember it to this day. While the general lack of flavor is a bit disappointing (coming from somebody who loves a spicy kick), this is easily made up for by the popcorn’s texture.
Unlike traditional popcorn kernels, which have large hulls that get stuck in your teeth, Black Jewell’s popcorn is hulless.
This means that the kernels are extra-small; they’re so small that you won’t have to worry about them getting jammed in between your teeth or having to look around for a toothpick after eating!
Lastly, I like the fact that Black Jewell uses natural, chemical-free microwave bags. Some of the bags used by larger mainstream brands have some nasty chemical byproducts that can find their way into the end product.
- Hulless popcorn means that kernels won’t get stuck in your teeth
- Uses chemical-free microwave bags
- Organic, non-GMO black corn
- No flavor or seasoning, so you’ll have to add your own
8) Great Northern Popcorn Premium Old Glory Red White And Blue Variety Pack (link)
Until recently, I had no idea that different colors of corn existed. As far as I was concerned there was only yellow corn and the occasional white corn. Great Northern Popcorn showed me differently, though.
If you’re a popcorn connoisseur who can appreciate the subtle flavor differences between red corn, white corn, and blue corn then this variety pack is a great option.
It was originally sent to me as a gift from a popcorn-loving friend, and I’ve admittedly had a lot of fun popping blue popcorn for friends who come to visit me.
Of course, the popped popcorn is still white; but the little blue kernel in the middle is a good conversation starter. Colors and novelty aside, though, this is some seriously good popcorn.
The flavor is full-bodied and the texture is perfectly crunchy. You’ll have to add your own seasoning and oils, but that’s never been hard for me!
- Sample three varieties of popcorn: red, white, and blue
- Organic, non-GMO popcorn
- Great gift or conversation starter
- No seasoning
- No microwave bag, so you’ll have to pop in a microwave-safe bowl
9) Mushroom Popcorn Kernels by Princeton Popcorn (link)
When I first picked up a bag of this popcorn, I thought that it was going to be mushroom-flavored. To my surprise, though, it was just normal popcorn. That’s what I get for not reading labels properly…
So, why is it called Mushroom Popcorn?
As I discovered, the term “mushroom” refers to the shape of the popped corn kernels. Unlike your traditional x-shaped popcorn, these kernels pop into large mushroom-shaped balls that make for an amazing texture and a great crunch.
This is the type of corn that’s used to make those large tins of holiday popcorn. The large, round shape provides extra surface area, making them a great choice for those who enjoy creating their own popcorn flavors and seasonings.
Simply put, sauces, oils, and spices, have more room to stick to each kernel, resulting in a better overall flavor.
- Great for making homemade popcorn flavors
- Great texture and crunch thanks to a larger popcorn kernel
- No microwave bags
- Only sold in large 50-pound bulk bags
10) Nature’s Crush Natural Microwave Popcorn, TexMex Blend (link)
Do you remember that Skinnygirl Lime and Salt popcorn that I mentioned earlier? While I like the convenience of the small, single-serving microwave bags, I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t like this flavor a lot better.
Plus, these microwave bags are a lot larger, making them perfect for sharing.
The TexMex flavor is out of this world! It’s a blend of chili, lime, and salt, which gives it a delicious, slightly spicy, flavor that’s reminiscent of Mexican cuisine. Nature’s Crush also offers an Herbal variety and a Zesty variety, both of which are equally as tasty!
The only downside is the rather expensive price per bag.
- Amazing TexMex flavor
- Large microwave bags are great for sharing
- Gourmet popcorn with all-natural ingredients and seasoning
While many of the options I listed above come pre-packaged in familiar microwave bags, several of them are sold as whole kernels that require a few extra steps.
Thankfully, you can easily cook popcorn kernels in the microwave! All you need is a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave-safe plate.
Start by putting several tablespoons of kernels in the bowl. A 2-tablespoon serving is the generally accepted serving size, resulting in 4-5 cups of popped popcorn.
You can pop the kernels dry for a more “organic” flavor, or you can add a dash of vegan oil to the kernels if you’re looking for a more traditional popcorn flavor. I typically prefer olive oil or avocado oil.
Next, cover the bowl of kernels with your microwave-safe plate and place it in the microwave. The kernels should start popping after about 30 seconds and should be finished in 1.5-3 minutes, depending on your microwave settings.
Once your popcorn gets out of the microwave, you can add as much seasoning as you want!
Personally, I like to dice up some pickled jalapenos, add a dash of black pepper, and squeeze fresh lime juice on my popcorn. I encourage you to experiment and find your own flavor, though.
Whether you’re trying to host a movie night or you just want a healthy, organic, low-calorie snack, vegan popcorn is a great option. The only difference between vegan and non-vegan popcorn is the absence of butter, cheese, or other animal by-products in vegan varieties.
For more great tips on vegan snacks, sauces, and general eating, be sure to check out my food and beverage blog on Vegan Calm! Until next time, keep calm and carry on.