Skip to content

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:

Did you make this?

Please give us a rating and comment below. We love hearing from you!

Kettle Corn Popcorn in dish

How to Make Kettle Corn at Home

4.86 from 14 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 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8
Author: Amy Dong


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


  • 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. 


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 (per serving)

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

Add a comment

Recipe Rating


    • Tanya W
    • 5 stars

    Delicious! I made it in a Whirley Pop (best way not to burn it!). I brought it to a church function (3 batches… you wouldn’t really want to make more than one batch at a time as that would increase the possibility of burning). I put a large plastic cup for serving… it was part of a treat table. I have been trying to ditch sugar. This gave me the idea of allowing myself a serving size that “doesn’t count.” Dividing a batch into 8 servings makes for a fairly healthy snack with only 6 grams of sugar. I wish I would have measured, but I think each serving would be 1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups. Super yum!

      • Amy Dong

      So glad you all loved it, Tanya!! 🙂 🙂

    • Laura
    • 5 stars

    Followed the recipe exactly as written came out delicious. Super easy!

    • Molly
    • 5 stars

    Great recipe! Easy weeknight treat

Get our free email series: 5 Easy Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less

Plus our newest recipes each week