This homemade kettle corn recipe is perfect for those sweet and salty cravings that we all get from time to time. It's so simple to make, with only 4 basic ingredients—and FAST. From prepping, to popping, to eating, you're looking at about 5 minutes.
There's no more need to attend fairs and farmers markets to enjoy fresh kettle corn. You can make this at home in just a matter of minutes…and it couldn’t be easier!
I love homemade kettle corn, especially when it’s still a little warm and slightly sticky.
The sweet and salty flavors are so satisfying. Our family likes this kettle corn so much that it has become almost a nightly snack.
AND THAT DOESN'T BOTHER ME ONE BIT !
For being considered a treat, it’s really low in calories. It even has a decent amount of fiber and protein, which keeps me fuller, longer. I cover this in more detail later in the post.
Now let’s shift to saving money. This kettle corn costs less than 15 cents per serving. Can you think of any snack this good that costs so little?
Isn’t it scary to think how much money movie theaters must make on their popcorn sales?
I may have just stumbled upon the world's best snack...so enjoy to your heart's content!
If you are hankering for that buttery flavored popcorn you can only get at the movies, check out my Movie Theater Popcorn recipe. You won't be let down.
What's in kettle corn
Kettle corn is made with just four basic ingredients that you probably have in your pantry already.
Buy a reputable brand. The average cost per serving will be only pennies more than the cheap stuff.
I prefer coconut oil because of the subtle sweetness it brings. It perfectly complements the sugar in the kettle corn.
Don’t have coconut oil? No problem: any neutral vegetable oil will work.
Sugar & Salt
I am talking basic table salt and granulated white sugar. Easy-peasy.
Choose your popcorn pan wisely
There are four main characteristics to look for when choosing your pan.
- It needs to have a lid.
- It needs to have ample room when the popping begins.
- It needs to have a wide base so the layer of kernels have room to move around.
- It needs to be a good conductor of heat.
I find my non-stick dutch oven works best for making popcorn.
Enough talking, let’s get to popping!
How to make homemade kettle corn
The steps outlined below take every precaution to NOT BURN THE SUGAR. This is critical for great tasting kettle corn.
Start by heating the oil
Add the oil to your pan and turn the burner to just past medium.
For example, my stovetop has a heat range from levels 1 to 7. I set my burner to level 4.
All stovetops vary in temperature. After your first cook, you may need to increase or decrease this temperature.
As the oil heats up, swirl it around so the bottom it's fully covered.
Then drop in just one kernel of corn and place it near the edge of your pan.
We want that kernel farthest from the heat source. When it pops, we know the entire base of your pan is ready. Discard this kernel after it pops.
IMPORTANT: use caution! Stand back from the pan and protect your eyes.
Add the sugar and popcorn
Now dump in both the sugar and popcorn.
Immediately after adding them, it’s important to continuously stir the popcorn, sugar, and oil mixture. We don’t want the sugar to burn.
A flexible rubber spatula works great for this.
You will notice that the sugar begins to liquify in a matter of seconds. Continue to stir until a kernel pops. This will take about 30 seconds.
Shake, shake, shake
The kernel that popped is letting us know that the oil is hot and that a popping frenzy is about to begin.
The first thing to do—very quickly—is to lid the pan to keep the popcorn from exploding everywhere.
Then, with one hand on the lid and the other hand holding the handle of the pan, gently shake (or slide) the pan back and forth. The pan should only be moving about 4-5 inches back and forth.
The purpose of the continuous shaking is to keep the kernels moving around on the bottom of the pan. Again, this is another technique to prevent burning.
When is the popcorn done?
Your popcorn is done when you notice that the popping has slowed down and the kernels are popping about 2 seconds apart.
It's okay during the end of the shaking phase to stop and listen periodically to determine when it's done.
Once done, immediately remove the pan from the heat and dump that glorious kettle corn into a large bowl.
Now, just add your salt and enjoy!
The total shake time averages about 3 minutes.
This time is from when the popcorn is added until it is ready to be dumped into your bowl.
Warnings about homemade kettle corn
I know this probably seems like a weird topic, but both of the issues below have happened to me, so you should be aware of them.
First, the sugar on the popcorn is extremely hot immediately after dumping it from the hot pan into your large bowl.
Folks: it's LAVA. Don't eat it right away, or it will burn your finger and lips.
Always let your kettle corn rest 1-2 minutes before eating it.
The second concern to be aware of is regarding the unpopped kernels. Every batch will have some of these.
The problem is that these unpopped kernels don't just fall to the bottom of the bowl, like what would happen with most popcorn.
Because kettle corn is sticky, some of these kernels attach themselves to perfectly popped pieces of corn.
Be careful when you're chomping down: an unpopped kernel might just be stuck underneath one that's perfectly done.
Kettle corn nutrition
Below is a nutritional breakdown of calories, fiber and protein.
While this kettle corn recipe yields a total of 8 cups, the ingredients and numbers below are for one serving (4 cups).
Did you know: Sweet kettle corn is actually lower in calories than traditional buttered popcorn? That blew me away. I discuss this more at the end of the post.
Want even lower calories?
Reduce the oil (recommend)
Reduce the oil from ¾ to ½ tablespoon per serving. That saves you another 30 calories (180 total per serving).
I make it this way all the time and it still comes out awesome.
Reduce the sugar (don't recommend)
For this to be kettle corn, it needs to have sugar.
If you want to reduce the sugar, I recommend only reducing it to ¾ Tbsp. This change saves you 11 calories.
This isn't a big enough calorie savings to justify the change, in my opinion.
How to store leftover kettle corn
You’ll be happy to know that kettle corn stores really well.
Just add it to a Ziploc bag or Tupperware container with a good lid. It should stay fresh for up to a week in your pantry.
This makes kettle corn that is perfect for parties, or wrap it up in cellophane as party favors or gifts.
I make a bunch of it days in advance, then all I have to do is tip it into a large serving bowl when guests arrive.
Prefer buttered popcorn?
This is easy: simply substitute butter for the sugar.
The cooking process is exactly the same, EXCEPT that you only cook the popcorn in oil. The butter should be melted separately and drizzled over the top of your popcorn at the end. Then salt the popcorn and you're good to go!
Be advised: this butter substitution will add over 27% more calories. (266 vs 209).
Or take butter flavor to the next level by making my Movie Theater Popcorn. You will be convinced this is just as good, or better, than popcorn you get at the movies.
Other treats & party appetizers
If you're looking for more great party ideas, check out some of our favorites:
- Homemade Pan Pizza
- Easy Spicy Hummus
- Deviled Eggs with Relish
- Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Michelle's Sweet & Zingy Asian Meatballs
- Perfect Loaded Nachos
- Cutting-Board Guacamole
I hope you enjoy this kettle corn as much as we do!
Now get popping!
- ¼ cup Popcorn kernels
- 1 ½ tablespoon Oil, (Coconut oil recommended) See recipe note #1
- 2 tablespoon White Sugar, Granulated
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- In a large pot, add the oil and turn your burner to just past medium (see Recipe Note #2).
- Once oil is heated, swirl it around to cover the entire base of your pan and add ONE kernel of corn to the far edge of the pan (see Recipe Note #3).
- When this kernel pops, immediately add the sugar and popcorn and stir for 15 seconds to mix thoroughly with the hot oil. Then spread the kernels in single layer along base of pan.
- When another kernel pops, lid the pan and begin to shake the pan back and forth over the burner.
- Continue shaking the pan until the popping slows down to the point where a pop occurs every 2 or more seconds. Immediately remove the pan from the burner and pour the popcorn into a large bowl.
- Allow popcorn to cool for 1 minute before eating.
- Reduce oil to 1 tablespoon if you are trying to reduce calories. This substitution will still produce great tasting kettle corn.
- Stovetop temperatures vary. After your first cook, you may need to increase or decrease the recommended temperature.
- Use caution and always protect your eyes from flying popcorn!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 4 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 210Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 585mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 13gProtein: 0g
Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate: if you are tracking this information for medical purposes, please consult a trusted external source. Thanks!