Answer: Yes. The traditional kettle corn is 100% vegan, but you need to keep an eye on some modern flavors that might include animal-based ingredients.
A popular snack in America, kettle corn is a variation of popcorn that is predominantly sweet, although it has a hint of a salty taste. It was introduced in the US in the 16th century, and the traditional ingredients used to make the snack include salt, oil, and sugar.
The corn derives its name from the huge copper kettles where it was traditionally made. The pioneers used big wooden paddles to stir the ingredients together with the corn.
While most occasions when kettle corn was consumed back in the day were festivals, many people consider it an anytime treat.
You can enjoy the snack at home anytime you want, and for the fans of home-cooked dishes, preparing kettle corn consumes less time, while the process is pretty simple. More on that later in this post.
If you’re far from home, kettle corn is available in the US, and you can find it pre-popped or microwave-ready in virtually all snack bars, movie theaters, and supermarkets.
However, for everyone concerned about saving animal lives or if you’re just curious about vegan diets, there’s a need to be careful with what to choose if you go the buying route. These days, manufacturers are adding more questionable ingredients to create different flavors of the old snack.
That makes store-produced kettle corn worrisome for vegans, and this post will address it. But before that, isn’t kettle corn just like your regular popcorn?
How Kettle Corn Differs From Other Popcorn
While kettle corn is rightfully considered popcorn by many, two specific factors distinguish it from other types.
Regular popcorn is known for its salty taste, although other flavors include cinnamon, barbecue, and caramel. On the contrary, kettle corn is mainly sweet.
Comparing the nutritional value of kettle corn with regular popcorn is hard, and it may go down to the preparation mode. However, regular popcorn edges kettle corn as it is double richer in antioxidants than kettle corn.
Why Is Kettle Corn Vegan?
We consider a food vegan-friendly when it contains no animal products or by-products. That is the case with the traditional kettle corn, which uses only four ingredients, including kernels, oil, salt, and sugar.
While the vegan status of kernels and salt is undebatable, there are questions to be asked about the nature of the oil and sugar used to make kettle corn.
The production of some oils may involve animal cruelty, one practice that is against vegan standards. Palm oil is an example of such controversial oil as people say its production harms rainforests where animals, notably orangutans, live.
The good news is most kettle corn brands use vegetable cooking oils such as sunflower oils. But still, to be on the safe side, read the label of your packet for confirmation before ordering or purchasing.
What’s more, to enhance the flavor of kettle corn, some varieties also tend to use butter, which comes from animals, instead of oil. That disqualifies such popcorn from vegan diets, but you can achieve a similar taste if you choose to prepare your kettle corn using coconut oil, which is vegan. And as a bonus, your homemade treat will be healthy as coconut oil has a lot of nutritional benefits, unlike butter. Better deal, while at the same time, you save animals from exploitation.
Both white and brown sugar create controversy among the majority of vegans.
Brown sugar might not use bone char in its production. But while some modern varieties of kettle corn use brown sugar, vegans can rejoice since the old-fashioned flavor, which is the most popular, is sweetened with cane sugar only, a 100% plant-based ingredient.
Best Vegan Kettle Corn Brands
Preparing kettle corn at home is a sure way of ensuring you have the best vegan kettle corn brand. Plus, with the homemade brand, you get the luxury of enjoying the snack while warm.
And the deal doesn’t get any better when making the snack is super easy. The process consumes less time, with the difference between the start and snacking being only five minutes.
Remember to use fresh popcorn kernels with more moisture inside that aids in popping.
For storage purposes, an airtight container will ensure your snack stays fresh for about three days, but with its incredible taste, I bet it won’t.
For shoppers, you will need to be cautious when picking your kettle corn box. For some brands, it’s difficult to tell what sugar they use. You can, however, trust the following brands.
Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP is known for balancing salt and sugar in their popcorn to ensure your snack is not too sweet or salty. Healthwise, their products are gluten-free and non-GMO.
This brand has two vegan flavors: Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn Popcorn and Light Kettle Corn Popcorn.
Although the two flavors differ slightly, they use the same ingredients, sunflower oil, and sea salt. And the sweetest part for vegans? They are sweetened with cane sugar, which is 100% plant-based.
Also, Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP has one more flavor, Dark Chocolaty Sea Salt. This flavor uses similar ingredients as its counterparts but contains milk and soy as extras. But since the brand fails to specify the source of such ambiguous components, vegans must ask some questions.
Popcorn Indiana has a couple of kettle corn flavors, but most are not welcomed in vegan foods as they contain real sugar, whose vegan status is uncertain.
You can, however, go for Kettlecorn Swt/Slty. It has similar ingredients as Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP, although it sometimes uses plant-based canola oil instead of sunflower oil.
Popcornopolis makes Kettle Flavor a super delicious treat worth trying. Contrary to many vegan kettle corn brands, Popcornopolis uses pure coconut oil. Coconut oil comes from coconut fruit and is free from animal contact.
This flavor has no preservatives, and all ingredients are gluten-free and GMO-free.
Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits of Kettle Corn
It may surprise many, but kettle corn is a whole-grain food that packs essential nutrients your body needs.
Rich In Dietary Fiber
Thanks to whole grains, kettle corn is rich in dietary fiber, an essential nutrient for a healthy diet. For instance, Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn provides 2g of dietary fiber in a single serving, which is 7% of your daily value.
According to research, this type of fiber can aid in weight loss and also enhance digestive health.
Previous studies have linked dietary fiber to a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart-related ailments.
Kettle corn is an excellent source of polyphenols and very healthful micronutrients for the body.
A 2012 study found that one serving of kettle corn provides 114mg of polyphenols. With a daily polyphenol recommendation intake of 1500mg, 114mg might sound insignificant, but remember that’s just for one cup, which most people rarely take. And some experts believe you can still reap some benefits with polyphenol intakes of as low as 500mg.
Some of these health benefits research has linked to polyphenols include improved blood circulation and digestive health.
Plus, as per studies, polyphenols can reduce breast and prostate cancer risks.
Low in Calories
While calories are necessary for the functioning of your body and sustaining life, you risk health complications, including weight gain, when you take in too much of them.
With kettle corn, however, you are safe. The snack contains about 70 calories in a one-cup serving, which is way too less than the daily recommendation of 2500 for men and 2000 for women.
Also, 70 calories per cup mean you can confidently grab even three cups of this treat without worrying about weight gain. Anyway, that’s what most people do, thanks to the popcorn’s incredible taste.
But There’s a Caveat
With the said benefits, that’s not to mean kettle corn is the healthiest food, precisely due to the added sugar. Snacking moderately on store-bought versions could be the trick to limiting added sugar intake in kettle corn. But the homemade version is the best at the end of the day, as you’re free to use less sugar.