White vs yellow popcorn

The big question on most popcorn lovers’ minds is whether you prefer white popcorn or yellow popcorn.  Don’t be confused; even though white and yellow kernels seem the same, they are very different from each other.

White and yellow popcorn kernels look similar but once popped, the differences are revealed. White popcorn is smaller with more tender and delicate flakes, while yellow popcorn tends to have a larger flake and is fluffier. Also, white kernels pop white, while yellow kernels pop a light-yellow color.

Aside from the popcorn’s color, there are other differences we will discuss to help you decide which you like better, white popcorn or yellow popcorn.  You also don’t necessarily need to choose a favorite and can like them both, as I do.

Differences Between White Popcorn and Yellow Popcorn

My spouse, who has eaten every popcorn bowl I have made and experimented with for years, asked me what article I was writing today.  I gave him the article topic and he said to me, “there is a difference between white and yellow popcorn, other than the color?” 

Many people are like him and are not aware of the differences between white and yellow popcorn, so I am about to share those differences with you.

Characteristics White Popcorn Yellow Popcorn
ShapeSnowflake or MushroomSnowflake or Mushroom
SizeSmallMedium or Large
Color When PoppedWhiteLight Yellow
FlavorNeutralSlightly Nutty
Nutrition – Air-popped, 4 cups25g Carbs, 5g Fiber22g Carbs, 4g Fiber

White Popcorn vs. Yellow Popcorn: Shape

There are two shapes of popcorn available, which are mushroom and snowflake, also known as butterfly.  You can find white popcorn and yellow popcorn in both mushroom and snowflake shapes.  One thing to know is that the kernels that are popped are called “flakes”.

Mushroom-shaped Popcorn

Popcorn flakes that are shaped like a mushroom are sturdy and round.  This round popcorn allows them to hold up well to stirring, which makes them perfect for recipes like caramel corn or kettle corn. Gourmet popcorn businesses use the shape where they coat popcorn with cheese, chocolate, or other fun glazes.

Snowflake-Shaped Popcorn (aka Butterfly)

The snowflake-shaped popcorn has an irregular shape with winged edges. This popcorn is the one most often sold in grocery stores and is readily available.

White Popcorn vs. Yellow Popcorn: Size

Popcorn comes in sizes including small, medium, large, and jumbo.  I have not tried the jumbo size yet, but it is on my radar to try as soon as it is available from Pop Secret.

White popcorn kernels tend to pop smaller and are lighter.  White kernels pop up to 35-40 times their original size.  Their size is better used with light seasonings so they don’t break apart.

Yellow popcorn kernels tend to pop larger and are a heavier popcorn.  Yellow kernels pop to around 45 times their original size.  Their size allows them to hold more toppings without getting gooey.  There are also yellow popcorn kernels available that pop as a smaller size, such as Lady Fingers.

Are wondering if your popcorn is vegan, read the article How To Make Sure Your Popcorn Is Vegan

White Popcorn vs. Yellow Popcorn: Popped Color

This characteristic is probably the easiest to notice between white and yellow popcorn. Even though it can be obvious, you will find people that just don’t pay attention to the popcorn color and assume when it is yellow, that it has butter flavoring on it. 

I grew up eating yellow popcorn that I popped with my grandmother on the stovetop.  It wasn’t until I was a teen that we purchased white popcorn for our air popcorn popper.

White popcorn kernels are white when popped.

Yellow popcorn kernels are a light-yellow color when popped.

White Popcorn vs. Yellow Popcorn: Hull

For me, this is the most important part of my popcorn kernel decision.  I am not a fan of hulls so I prefer white popcorn kernels because their hulls are thinner. 

Now when we head out to the movies, I eat popcorn, hulls, and all and never complain because it is all about the experience and tastiness of the movie theater popcorn with butter.

White popcorn kernels have thinner hulls.

Yellow popcorn kernels have thicker hulls.

When we aren’t testing popcorn, we buy hulless popcorn kernels.  Hulless popcorn kernels do have hulls, they are just thinner and when they pop, they break apart and don’t get stuck in your teeth as often or hurt as much as the bigger hulls.

White Popcorn vs. Yellow Popcorn: Texture

I enjoy both white and yellow popcorn, so the texture isn’t a decision point for me when selecting popcorn with just butter and salt.  If I am going to put seasoning like garlic and herbs or cheese, then I prefer to use yellow popcorn that is thicker and fluffier and can hold onto the seasoning.

White popcorn kernels are tender and lighter.

Yellow popcorn kernels are thicker and fluffier

If you want to know if popcorn is healthy, read the article Is Popcorn Healthy? Answering The Top 15 Questions

White Popcorn vs. Yellow Popcorn: Flavor

I usually cover my homemade popcorn in butter and top it with salt, so I don’t notice the difference in flavor between white or yellow popcorn, but yellow does have a stronger flavor than white popcorn.

White popcorn kernels have a neutral flavor.

Yellow popcorn kernels tend to have a nuttier flavor.

White Popcorn vs. Yellow Popcorn: Nutrition

Nutritionally, white and yellow popcorn are more similar than they are different.

For 4 cups of air-popped popcorn, white popcorn contains 25g of carbohydrates and yellow popcorn contains 22g of carbohydrates.

For 4 cups of air-popped popcorn, white popcorn contains 5g of fiber and yellow popcorn contains 4g of fiber.

Both white and yellow contain the same amount of fat, protein, and fiber.

What Type of Popcorn Do Movie Theaters Use?

Movie theaters use yellow popcorn kernels, mainly because it pops larger and looks better in the popping machine. The yellow snowflake kernel, once popped, is a sturdier flake and it stands up better to butter flavoring.

Final Thoughts on White Popcorn vs. Yellow Popcorn

Use white popcorn kernels if you want flakes that are smaller and more tender. If you want larger and fluffier flakes that are sturdy, then yellow popcorn kernels will give you that.

If you are making kettle corn or Unicorn Popcorn, mushroom-shaped popcorn will give you the best results.  If you are putting garlic and herbs on your popcorn, the snowflake/butterfly shape will be more desirable.

Regardless of the color, popcorn is a low-calorie, wholesome food that’s high in fiber. Popcorn is a good snack when eaten without butter or other additions.  It’s a healthy snack that can be eaten every day when prepared with low-fat ingredients.

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