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How to Make Kettle Corn at Home

You can easily have hot, freshly popped kettle corn at home with this easy stovetop kettle corn recipe. All you need is a large pot and 4 basic ingredients for the best homemade kettle corn.

Kettle corn popcorn in bowl
Kettle Corn = very crunchy, slightly sweet, and little bit salty

The BEst Kettle Corn is homemade

If you’ve been to any state fairs or county festivals, you know the scene: a sea of people, both young and old, dot every path leading to carnival rides and mini donuts. Most memorable of all is that sweet buttery aroma wafting through the air, leading to the kettle corn tent.

It’s hard to resist that sweet and salty kettle corn magnificence. I don’t even try to resist; I obediently follow my nose and get myself to that warm, freshly popped kettle corn pronto. Inevitably, everyone (especially the kids) in the group starts grabbing at my bag of kettle corn, which never lasts long. All you mamas know what I’m talking about

This is why it makes absolute sense to make your own homemade kettle corn. Popcorn is the best when it’s freshly popped, with its irresistible crunch and salty-sweet flavor.

Crunchy kettle corn is a winner at every game day party, birthday event, and family movie night. Just grab a big pot and 4 simple ingredients to get the party started.

Kettle Corn Popcorn in dish
Kettle Corn is unbelievably easy to make at home

How to Make the Best Kettle Corn

  • Use a heavy, large pot with tight fitting lid. I always use my trusty large All-Clad pot, as it heats evenly throughout.
  • Use good quality corn kernels. I’ve used many different brands, and consistently get the best results using name brand kernels vs. generic kernels.
  • Use fresh corn kernels. Fresh corn kernels pop up larger and fluffier than old corn kernels.
  • Extra light olive oil (not extra virgin) can handle the heat and won’t impart any unwanted flavors to your popcorn. Vegetable or canola oil will work as well.
  • Be sure the oil is hot enough before adding all the corn kernels; we use the 3-kernel test, described in recipe.
  • To avoid burning and ensure even popping, pick up the pot and shake it vigorously every few seconds. Consider this your arm workout for the day.

Oil, Sugar, and Salt

Did I mention there are only 4 ingredients, including the pinch of salt?  Aside from good-quality corn kernels, you’ll need oil, sugar, and table salt. The end.

Kettle Corn Popcorn Recipe
Kettle Corn is a hit at parties, game days, and family movie nights

How do you keep kettle corn crispy and fresh?

  • Store your kettle corn popcorn out of direct sunlight. A dark, dry, cool space is best.
  • Let kettle corn reach room temperature before storing it. Otherwise, humidity will rise in the container or bag and make your popcorn soggy. Nobody wants that.
  • Once kettle corn is completely cool, store it in an airtight container. If stored correctly, kettle corn can stay crisp for a week at room temp.
  • Because kettle corn is coated with sugar that crystalizes over the popcorn, kettle corn naturally keeps its crunch for longer than regular buttered popcorn.

Can you freeze popcorn?

You may be as surprised as I was when I first discovered popcorn can be frozen for several weeks when kept in an airtight freezer bag. This little hack prolongs popcorn’s freshness several weeks longer than usual.

You can freeze most kinds of popcorn, including store-bought varieties, and prolong their crispiness for much longer than pantry storage. If I’d known this trick earlier I’d have rescued many half-eaten bags of popcorn from early demise.

kettle corn popcorn recipe
Kettle Corn can keep fresh for weeks in an airtight container

Common Questions

Q: Is Kettle Corn a healthy snack?
A: Kettle corn is healthy-ish, as we pop it using olive oil, the least amount of sugar needed to gain great flavor, and just a pinch of salt. Corn is also packed with fiber and keeps you full longer. It’s a deliciously healthier alternative to other processed snacks.

Q: Is Kettle Corn gluten-free?
A: Yes, our kettle corn recipe is naturally gluten-free. Only corn, olive oil, sugar, and salt are used. It’s also dairy-free, since we don’t use butter.

Q: How do I keep my kettle corn from burning?
A: First, be sure to shake the pan vigorously every few seconds to ensure even cooking. Once popping has slowed down, remove pot from heat and keep shaking the pot until popping ceases. Remove popcorn immediately from the pot so it can quickly cool to room temp.

More Party Snacks:

Kettle Corn Popcorn in dish

How to Make Kettle Corn at Home

5 from 5 ratings
You can easily have hot, freshly popped kettle corn at home with this easy stovetop kettle corn recipe. All you need is a large pot and 4 basic pantry ingredients for the best homemade kettle corn.
Prep Time: 2 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients  

  • ¼ cup extra light olive oil, not extra virgin
  • ½ cup good quality, fresh popcorn kernels
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • table salt

Instructions

  • Heat oil with 3 test kernels in large, deep, heavy pot with tight fitting lid, over medium-high heat.  Once all 3 kernels pop, your oil is hot enough to start popping the rest of the kernels. 
  • Add popcorn kernels and sugar; stir and cover. Shake pot vigorously every few seconds (yes, every few seconds).  I alternate between setting pot down to rest a few seconds and shaking it a few seconds.  This is a bit of an arm workout, but it must be done so sugar/popcorn won't burn.
  • Once popping has slowed, remove pot from heat and keep shaking until popping ceases. Sprinkle evenly with a pinch or two of salt. Give it another good shake, and immediately pour kettle corn into a large bowl.
  • Break up clumps as needed, and let cool enough to eat. Store cooled popcorn in airtight container or zipper bag up to a week at room temp. 

Notes

You can also use canola or vegetable oil.
Name brand kernels tend to pop up fluffier than generic brands; same goes for fresh vs. older kernels. 
As noted in original article, popped popcorn can be stored in airtight freezer bags and frozen for up to several weeks. 
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating ♡

Nutrition

Calories: 205kcal | Carbohydrates: 6.2g | Fat: 20.6g | Saturated Fat: 12.9g | Sodium: 0.9mg | Sugar: 6.2g
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free
Method: Stovetop

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20 comments

    • Harry K.
    • 5 stars

    We may be a little bit biased, but I get my kettle corn from Green Mountain Kettle Corn every year at the fair. They are the best!

    • Sarah Bailey

    I struggle with the best way to add anything to popcorn but a little salt so I am definitely going to try this recipe!

    • Swathi
    • 5 stars

    Kettle Corn popcorn looks delicous I love this sweet and salty idea. perfect for watching game.

    • Catalina
    • 5 stars

    It sounds so easy to make at home! My family will go crazy over it!

    • Monica Young

    This is great, we are having a movie night and I really would like to make this for the family

    • Lynndee

    We always enjoy having kettle corn over here but we just always get the ones from the store. I’d like to try your recipe sometime.

    • Nikki Wayne
    • 5 stars

    I always used the usual cooking oil, I guess olive oil is better. Thanks for sharing

    • Brianne
    • 5 stars

    I am SO down for this! I love kettle corn, but I’ve never tried making it myself. I always just get it in a microwave bag. This looks so much better!

      • chewoutloud

      Thanks, Brianne!

    • Heather D

    I’m not a fan of the sweet, but I do love popcorn. It’s a great healthy snack!

    • Jose

    OMG!!!!! Just made these and they are amazing and extremely easy. They turned out perfect!! Thank youuuu!

      • chewoutloud

      You’re so welcome, Jose! It’s so much better when you make it fresh! 🙂 🙂

    • Ashton

    Just made this and it’s awesome! It’ll be up on my blog next week with a link back to you!

      • chewoutloud

      So happy to hear you enjoyed it! 🙂

    • baileysbelljar

    Yum!! What do I set the stove to — medium, high? This looks so amazing, I am going to make it right now. 😀

      • chewoutloud

      yes, about med-high. have fun munchin’ 🙂

    • barbellsandbuttercream

    Thanks for the like! Thought I’d pop over and take a look-see. Your blog looks great. Beautiful food pics!!! Your kettle corn looks yummy. You might be interested in my caramel corn recipe I posted on 9/12. I’m excited to see more of your food!!!

    • glowjoy

    this looks delicious-definitely will try!

    • scolgin

    I do a similar popcorn. But I add bacon. 😉

      • chewoutloud

      OK, ya got me… can’t go wrong with bacon 😉

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