kettle corn

For some folks, the smell of warm apple pie evokes pleasant memories but for others it is the rustic fragrance of kettle corn that takes us back to sunny days at county fairs and farmer’s markets. 

Kettle corn is popcorn made in a heavy kettle mixed with oil, sugar and salt. It is best to use the round mushroom popcorn to allow the oil, sugar and salt to adhere to the popcorn. Kettle corn is still popular at fairs and farmers markets being made in kettles or steel vats.

It has been stated that making great kettle corn is an art and science that takes years of practice to perfect. While you will certainly develop your own “secret” recipes and special flavors as time goes by, you will find that making kettle corn is not that difficult. The following compendium of kettle corn knowledge has all you need to know to prepare and enjoy this timeless snack. 

When Was Kettle Corn Invented?

Kettle corn began its rise to popularity during the 1700s. This was made apparent by descriptions of this delightful snack in the diaries of Dutch settlers around this time. Many notes mention kettle corn making an appearance at county fairs and other special occasions of the time. 

Anecdotal accounts also tell of farmers and cowboys of the Midwest who would make kettle corn as a celebration at the end of a good harvest. Traditionally, kettle corn was made in a large cast-iron kettle, a dutch oven, or whatever large pot was available. 

The first ingredients were very simple as well. Lard or tallow was dropped into the heated pot until it was fully melted. Then, the kernels were added to the melted fat along with whatever sweetener was available at the time.

Typically, honey or molasses were used in the first kettle corn recipes as these were most widely available. Once the last of the kernels had popped, the corn was lightly salted, and the dish was ready to be enjoyed. 

 How is Kettle Corn Made Today at Carnivals, Fairs, and Farmers Markets?

Cooking methods may have changed over the years, but the final product is very much the same and delivers a slightly sweet and mildly salty flavor enjoyed at all types of fairs, carnivals, and farmer’s markets today.

The biggest change in the way kettle corn is made today has to do with the improved cookware and ingredients. The traditional cast iron kettles and dutch ovens have been replaced with massive steel pots. 

What Type of Kernel is Used for Kettle Corn?

While just about any popcorn kernels can be used to make kettle corn, there is one type that produces the very best results. Mushroom popcorn is characterized by a larger, denser kernel than regular butterfly popcorn.

This type of popcorn bursts into a perfectly rounded shape that is better suited to collecting the sugars, salts, and oils added to the recipe. 

What are the Ingredients for Kettle Corn?

The traditional animal fats, honey, or molasses used in times past have been replaced with conventional vegetable oils and refined sugars and a hint of salt. These are not only more easily sourced but can also provide a bit more control and precision over the final taste.

What is the Flavor of Kettle Corn?

Above all, kettle corn emphasizes a mildly sweet flavor, underscored by a subtle saltiness. It is the ratios of sugars to salts and the choice of oils or fats used in the cooking process that can strike a delicate balance between savory and sweetness of the final product.

kettle corn homemade

The exact recipe you follow and how you choose to adjust the recipe is a topic for endless exploration.

What is Prepackaged Ready-to-Eat Kettle Corn?

Kettle corn is also available prepackaged and ready-to-eat from a wide range of sources. This cuts back on the hassle of cooking and provides you with that satisfying sweet and salty flavor you have been craving.

Furthermore, you will find this convenient snack food available in an exciting variety of flavors and even low-calorie options.

Ready-to-Eat Brands of Kettle Corn

  • Boom Chicka Pop
  • Boom Chicka Pop – Lightly Sweet
  • Erin’s Premium Popcorn 
  • Erin’s Premium Reduced Sodium Popcorn
  • Great Value
  • Kroger
  • Popcorn Indiana
  • Skinny Pop
  • Smart Food
  • Stosh

What is Microwave Kettle Corn? 

For easy cooking and absolutely no cleaning, you can enjoy this tasty snack in a convenient microwavable bag. All that is required is to remove the package from the plastic, place it in the microwave for a given amount of time, and in just a few minutes your kettle corn is ready. 

Microwave Brands of Kettle Corn

  • Act II
  • Act II Buttery
  • Ass Kickin
  • Boom Chicka Pop
  • Jolly Time Healthy Pop 100
  • Jolly Time Kettle Mania
  • Kroger
  • Orville Redenbacher’s
  • Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop
  • Pop Secret
  • Pop Secret
  • Pop Weaver
  • Signature Select

What is Gourmet Popcorn Kettle Corn?

The gourmet popcorn companies have gone to great lengths to create a snack that will satisfy even the most demanding palates. 

Gourmet popcorn is made in small batches, unlike the larger food companies that create it on a production line.  They use a higher-quality corn kernel for making gourmet popcorn.

Gourmet Brands of Kettle Corn

  • Best Darn Kettle Corn
  • The Popped Popcorn Company
  • Kettle Corn NYC
  • Keith’s Kettle Corn
  • Kettle Brothers
  • Popcornopolis
  • Pop On The Block

What Seasonings Should I Purchase for Kettle Corn?

If you are looking to take your kettle corn to new heights, consider purchasing kettle corn seasonings, available from an array of online suppliers and at the grocery store. These kettle corn spices can be added to your regular popcorn and presto, it becomes delicious kettle corn.

Seasoning Brands for Kettle Corn

  • Kernel Season’s Popcorn Seasoning
  • Sur La Table Kettlecorn Popcorn Seasoning
  • Urban Accents Sweet and Salty Kettlecorn Popcorn Seasonings

Is Kettle Corn Dairy-Free?

All the recipes for kettle corn found in this article are completely dairy-free. However, you will need to carefully read the ingredients for other kettle corn recipes as many commercially manufactured kettle corn recipes include milk fats, butter, or cheese flavorings that may be made with dairy products.

No matter whether you want to make it, buy from a farmer’s market, grab some at the grocery store, or order it online, there are plenty of ways to bring kettle corn into your life.

Do you want to know the difference between white and yellow popcorn? Read the article here

Is Kettle Corn Healthy?

If you are trying to stick to a strict diet, you should remember that refined sugars are not only addictive but can add plenty of calories to your daily intake. Furthermore, the oils and salts added to kettle corn are not the healthiest food choices either.

Of course, you can exchange refined sugars for molasses, cane sugar, or honey. Vegetable oils can also be traded for coconut oils, as you saw in the recipes above. Salt will always be high in sodium, but you can also find low-sodium salt substitutes.

Is Kettle Corn Vegan?

Prepared with vegetable oils and only seasoned with salt and sugar, kettle corn is compliant with the vegan diet. As long as you are not using any animal products like butter or animal fats, kettle corn is a completely vegetarian and vegan-friendly treat. 

Is Kettle Corn Gluten-Free? 

All popcorn is gluten-free as it contains none of the gluten found in rye, wheat, oats, or barley. Nevertheless, many commercial popcorn products may contain modified corn starch which does contain corn gluten. This should be included on the product labels. 

Is Kettle Corn Keto Friendly?

The keto diet restricts the number of carbs that you can eat in a single day. While the exact amount of carbs you should ingest will depend on your body type, weight, and other factors, the general rule of thumb is between 20g and 50g of carbs per day.

Because kettle corn can have as many as 20g of carbs in a single cup, only about half a cup of kettle corn would fit in a keto diet. That is barely more than a few kernels and such a small amount shouldn’t disrupt ketosis. 

How Do You Make Kettle Corn at Home on the Stovetop?

You are probably ready to get down to making some magic yourself.  Here is how you can begin exploring the wonderful world of kettle corn with your simple stovetop setup. 


These are the most basic ingredients you will need, but feel free to swap these out for a change of flavors. Some people have reported great success by adding a dash of cinnamon to their sugar before adding it into the mix.  

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil — or coconut oil for a healthier snack.
  • ¼ cup white sugar — or brown sugar for a stronger caramel flavor. 
  • ½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels —or mushroom popcorn for best results.


  • The first thing to consider is which pot to use. Most home-style experts recommend a shallow, wider pan with high sides, like a skillet. You want something that will transfer the heat quickly and evenly, so thinner pans are better suited to this project. 
  • Also, a glass lid is the best option as it will allow you to observe the cooking process and the sugar changing colors. You will also need a large bowl into which you can transfer the kettle corn when it is ready. 
  • Begin by warming the vegetable oil in your choice of pot. Once it has warmed, add the popcorn kernels and the sugar and toss till the sugar is evenly spread. Cover the pot with a glass lid.
  • After the popcorn has begun popping, set a timer for 3 to 4 minutes, at which time it will be ready. The important thing here is to occasionally lift the pot and give it a good shake to stir up the sugars and distribute them evenly. This should be done every 20 – 30 seconds. The point is to not allow the sugars at the bottom to burn. After the timer has sounded, remove the pot from the fire. 
  • Quickly, transfer the kettle corn to the large container to ensure the sugars do not burn in the hot pot. Sprinkle it with salt and stir it well. 
  • If you want to remove the unpopped kernels, do so before the kettle corn has had a chance to cool or they will stick to the rest of the popped kernels. 

Enjoy right away or allow it to cool first — it’s your choice!

Calories Per Serving (2 cups): 180 calories

Still wondering of the difference between regular popcorn and kettle corn? Read the article here

How Do You Make Kettle Corn in the Microwave?

This delicious snack can be conveniently concocted in the microwave too — here’s how!


  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup popcorn 


  • In a 3qt. microwaveable bowl with a lid, combine the oil, salt, and brown sugar and mix well.
  • Microwave for 20 to 30 seconds until the oil has been melted.
  • Add the popcorn kernels to the mix and stir until all ingredients are combined. Spread the mixture evenly across the bottom of the container. 
  • Place the lid back on the container and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Different microwaves will cook popcorn at different rates so you may need to adjust this timing. Once the sound of the popping has diminished to about 2 seconds between pops, remove from the microwave.
  • Once completed, remove from the microwave, and transfer the final product to a large serving bowl. 


Calories Per Serving (2 cups): 160 calories

How Do You Make Kettle Corn in a Whirley Pop?

The following recipe is for use on a gas stove. If you have an electric stove, the directions may need some adjustment but should work similarly. 


  • 2 tablespoons oil 
  • 1⁄2 cup popcorn 
  • 3 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 


  • Begin by adding all the ingredients into the Whirley Pop. This is not exactly like your average pot so you will need to alternate between a high flame and a low flame to ensure a proper heat distribution. 
  • Listen carefully for the sound of the popping and as it begins to slow down, remove the Whirley Pop from the stove and empty the contents into a large bowl. 
  • You will need to mix the ingredients well as they may not have been properly mixed in the Whirley Pop — remember, contents are hot so it is better to use a wooden spoon. 
  • Fill the popper with warm water and a little soap to make it easier to clean.


Calories Per Serving (2 cups): 150 calories

 How Do You Make Kettle Corn in an Electric Popcorn Popper?

There is hardly anything easier than making kettle corn in an electric popper. Here’s what you need to know!


  • 1⁄2 cup popcorn
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • Make sure the electric popper has been shut off. 
  • Add oil, sugar, and popcorn kernels to the non-stick surface of the popper.
  • Cover the unit with the bowl provided.
  • Turn the unit on and watch the kettle corn pop. 

Salt and enjoy!

Calories Per Serving (2 cups): 190 calories

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