How to Make Kettle Corn at Home

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No need to wait for a fair or festival: Homemade Kettle Corn is way easier than you might think

How to Make Kettle Corn at Home featured image above

Kettle Corn, that ubiquitous treat at fairs and festivals, with its delicious smell wafting through the air, is actually nothing new. Stories vary, but it likely originated in Germany, where farmers would make it by popping corn in a large outdoor kettle and then adding lard and sugar, creating that irresistible salty-sweet taste. Immigrants to the United States may have brought it with them as early as the 1700s and it remained a popular snack up through the 1900s. So just imagine everyone from Ben Franklin to Laura Ingalls Wilder enjoying this treat! And yet apple pie gets all the patriotic love. Totally unfair. Kettle Corn saw a resurgence of popularity in the early twenty-first century, first at fairs and festivals but you can also often find it at grocery stores these days.

While you can buy it bagged in the grocery, nothing beats the aroma and taste of freshly popped, warm Kettle Corn. Whether it’s January and there are no outdoor events to go to for your KC fix, or you just want to enjoy it in your pajamas on the couch, this recipe for homemade Kettle Corn is so easy and convenient, it will become a fast favorite. It is simple, fast, and the payoff is warm, salty/sweet Kettle Corn right at home.

What is Coconut Oil?

Instead of using lard like the Kettle Corn-poppers of olden days, try using coconut oil. If you haven’t used it before, it is the oil generated by pressing the inside sections of the coconut – the meat, or kernel, which is the white part, as well as the milk. In its room temperature form, it is a soft solid. It is usually sold in jars and you scoop out what you need. Once you heat it, it is a clear liquid, and is a fairly healthy fat to use for frying or baking. Look for it in the oils section of your grocery.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Pinch of Salt
How to Make Kettle Corn at Home ingredients

How to Make Kettle Corn

Step 1: Add the coconut oil to a large heavy-bottomed pot and place a few popcorn kernels into your pan. Cover the pot and heat over medium-high heat. Once these kernels pop, you know the oil is hot enough.

How to Make Kettle Corn at Home step 1

Step 2: Add the remaining popcorn kernels, a pinch of salt, and the sugar to the pot, cover with the lid, and shake the pan for a few seconds.

How to Make Kettle Corn at Home step 2

Step 3: Cook the corn until all the kernels have popped, while continuously shaking the pan. Pause occasionally to listen for breaks in popping. Once there is about a 2-second break between the pops, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the popcorn to a bowl. Allow the popcorn to cool down before eating. Enjoy!

How to Make Kettle Corn at Home step 3

FAQs & Tips

How to Make Ahead and Store?

Like any homemade popcorn, you can definitely make this Kettle Corn ahead. Let it cool on the counter, and if you place it in an airtight, resealable bag, it will stay fresh at room temperature for up to a week. No need to refrigerate. Freezing is not recommended.

Can I try other kinds of popcorn kernels?

Absolutely. Normally, Kettle Corn is made with either white or yellow popcorn kernels – your everyday popcorn variety. But if you want to experiment for taste and texture, try some of the heirloom popcorn kernels, like blue or red. Follow the same instructions on the cooking time.

Will brown sugar work in place of granulated sugar?

If you want a more caramel flavor, try substituting an equal amount of brown sugar for the granulated sugar in this recipe. The brown sugar has a slightly deeper taste but will still give the Kettle Corn that sweet and salty flavor.

Why the continuous shaking?

Shaking the pan during Step 3 is crucial so you don’t end up with a pan of burned popcorn kernels stuck to the bottom. Shaking allows all of the corn kernels to keep moving but get hot. You can stop to listen for any breaks in the popping, and when there is about a 2-second pause, remove from heat. Just be careful removing the lid, as there may be stragglers jumping out of the pot. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Very unlikely – but do be careful!

Help! There is burnt sugar in my popcorn pan!

Sugar burns very quickly, so it’s not uncommon to have a few clumps of sticky or even burned sugar left in your pan. If this happens, just set the empty pan on the stove burner and add a cup or two of hot water. Turn the burner on high (it’s probably still hot from cooking the popcorn anyway) and bring the water to a boil. Let it simmer, covered, for about 5-6 minutes and the residue should come right off once you empty the pan again.

Serving Suggestions

As a snack, homemade Kettle Corn just about ticks off all the boxes of what makes a quality munchie. It’s not too unhealthy, super tasty with its sweet and salty flavor, totally addictive, and it yields a large quantity. Grab a bowl of this Kettle Corn, crack open your favorite beverage, and you’re set. Other snacks that pair well with Kettle Corn include Baked Bree’s Toffee Nut Snack Mix or Healthy Pumpkin Pie Dip.

How to Make Kettle Corn at Home

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Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 158 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Pinch of Salt

Instructions
 

  • Add the coconut oil to a large heavy-bottomed pot and place a few popcorn kernels into your pan. Cover the pot and heat over medium-high heat. Once these kernels pop, you know the oil is hot enough.
  • Add the remaining popcorn kernels, a pinch of salt, and the sugar to the pot, cover with the lid, and shake the pan for a few seconds.
  • Cook the corn until all the kernels have popped, while continuously shaking the pan. Pause occasionally to listen for breaks in popping. Once there is about a 2-second break between the pops, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the popcorn to a bowl. Allow the popcorn to cool down before eating. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 158kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 2gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 56mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gCalcium: 1mgIron: 1mg
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