{My Favorite Fair Food} Kettle Corn

by Alice Currah on March 6, 2010

[donotprint] I know its not summer yet but I don’t care. We’re making homemade kettle  corn at our house and its the perfect salty-sweet snack on a beautiful day like today. Several months ago I posted a caramel corn recipe (Crackerjack) and a company called JustPoppin.com left me a comment. Out of sheer curiosity I replied via email with a very simple question.  “How come my popcorn doesn’t have huge balloon type qualities like the kettle corn I get at the fair?” I was told the variety of popcorn they use at the fair are called “mushroom” kernels. I had always believed the way to get those huge kernels was the kettle cooking method and was happy to learn I could buy the same  mushroom kernels to make kettle corn at home! Truth be told, I love the balloon type variety of kettle corn and was excited to learn the secret behind my misconception.

The folks at JustPoppin were kind enough to send me a few small samples of different types of popcorn (tender pop, movie pop, and mushroom popcorn) to play around with. All I can say is this… Kettle corn made with mushroom popcorn is d’bomb. <— I realize no one says d’bomb anymore but once again, I don’t care. They are d’bomb.

So what I have for you dear friends is a simple, easy recipe for kettle corn.  The outside coating is a clear thin sugary shell seasoned with a hint of salt. Eating it makes me happy, making it brings me joy, sharing with you is my pleasure. Enjoy! [/donotprint]

Easy Kettle Corn Recipe

Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt

*Special Equipment – A large pot with lid

Directions:
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add popcorn and sugar giving it a quick stir and then cover with lid.  Once popcorn starts popping, pick it up and give it a quick shake every few seconds until popping slows down, between 3-4 minutes.  Remove immediately from heat and pour into a large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.  Do not make the mistake of removing the pot from heat without transferring to a bowl. Due to the high heat of the pot, if you don’t transfer the popcorn it will caramelize and perhaps burn. *Also, do not attempt to make a batch of this in a dutch oven. I made a second batch thinking it would work and it caramelized to quickly and burned.

<<Update>> Buck from JustPoppin just left a really informative comment with suggestions on popping kettle corn.  This is what he had to say:

“I’d like to suggest adding a step (or clarification) at the beginning of the recipe to get the most out of the Mushroom Popcorn kernels…

3 kernels of corn should be added to the oil in the pan at the very start. Only after those kernels pop should the rest of the corn and other ingredients be added to the hot oil. Do this instead of adding the popcorn to cold oil and heating it together (which saps the popcorn of needed moisture).

More so than any other popcorn, Mushroom Popcorn kernels are very heat sensitive. They need higher heat (over 400F) to pop with the explosiveness necessary to get that big puffy ball shape, and to get it from the overwhelming majority of the kernels in the pan (which should be the result).

Popcorn will pop at temperatures as low as 250F but it’s more of a PFFFFT instead of a POP! Get over 400F and you’ll be getting bigger POPs. The step above is a great way to be sure the oil is plenty hot before adding most of your corn.”

If you have more questions about popcorn he says you can pop (get it? pop?.. never mind)  on over to Justpoppin for more tips.

PS: If you are fanatical about this type of kernel like I am, you can order them online at justpoppin.com since grocery stores do not carry this type of kernel.

Just so you know – Disclaimer: JustPoppin.com did not sponsor this post. They merely provided me with a few samples because I was curious about mushroom kernels.

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{ 115 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna Powell April 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Hi same Anna here who put truffle oil on her kettle corn! I have perfected my recipe using clarified butter and a tea spoon of truffle oil to pop and adding powered sugar at very end while pop corn is still blazing hot! Amazing! You don’t get the same crunchy sugar coating but this just melts in your mouth the truffle adds a extra flavor profile that my family is just loving including my 19 mouth old son!

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Rachel April 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I recently bought the mushroom popcorn (my favorite!) from justpoppin.com

I tried twice to make the kettle corn in my whirleypop, but both batches came out a little burnt. I just tried your recipe and suggestions, and it came out perfectly this time! Thanks so much! = )

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Dolores June 6, 2011 at 11:06 am

I just purchased mushroom popcorn and haven’t made it yet. I was wondering if I could substitute 1/3 c corn syrup to the oil instead of 1/3 c sugar.

Also, for future, I do not have an air pop popcorn maker for the microwave, could I just place 1/3 c popcorn kernels in a paperbag and mic on high for 2-3 minutes?

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alice June 6, 2011 at 11:41 am

Hi Dolores,
I’ve never tried substituting corn syrup. But if it were me, I wouldn’t make this substitution because the sugar dissolves with the oil to make a sweet infusion when each kernel pops. As for the microwave, in the past I’ve used a brown paper bag to pop kernels in the microwave but I wouldn’t try making kettle corn this way.

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Don Deslippe June 29, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Please sen dme the recipe for home made Kettle Corn

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Don Deslippe June 29, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Please sen dme the recipe for home made Kettle Corn

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Jolleen July 5, 2011 at 3:37 am

OH MY!!!!!!!!! I have for years popped popcorn on the stovetop (grew up with it that way!!) I usually use coconut oil (what I used tonight) and once in a blue moon bacon fat…so first try, came out perfect, ate the whole stinking bowl myself and LOOOOVED it!!!

Now to try it with bacon fat…

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Jaclyn July 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm

How did it turn out with the bacon fat?!?!?

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T DuPey August 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm

What a great recipe. Made awesome kettle corn, was really wanting some kettle corn this afternoon that was not the micro junk. Thanks

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Nathan August 16, 2011 at 9:55 pm

We just had WONDERFULLY tasty success with this recipe. I used a stove top popcorn popper–the kind with a rotary handle that keeps the popcorn moving in a circular motion around the bottom of the pan. It worked well to keep the three ingredients blended as it pops. I made 5 batches tonight as a movie treat for my five cute kids (and my wife and me). Thanks for the many other suggestions too.

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Connie October 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm

I’m thinking about getting whirley pop and start making my own popcorn! I have a couple questions:
1) Will a Whirley Pop be hard to clean, if I make kettle corn?
2) Can you make kettle corn with another sweetener, other than white sugar? (like brown sugar, turbinado, sucanat?)

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Katieliz August 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm

How do you know how hot your stovetop is? Is medium-high about 400 degrees? Can’t wait to try this – thanks!

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wenders September 28, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Made two batches of this today for my kiddos. Yummy! The 3 kernel test was a huge help! My first batch had zero unpopped kernals, but second batch had one. That’s awesome! Thank you! They are delicious, crunchy and sweet. I used store-brand popping corn (because it’s what I have), so not the mushroom type, but still yummy!

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Mercedes September 29, 2011 at 12:24 am

mmm! I think I added too much salt (didn’t measure), and I may have over cooked slightly (wanted to make sure all my kernels were done), but it’s the perfect addition to my evening of homework

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Miranda October 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm

I found that using my wok worked great! The shape of it seemed to help the popped kernels move to the outside while the unpopped finished erupting! Also, I wanted to go with all natural/organic ingredients and used Coconut oil and Pure Cane Sugar, and it turned out AWESOME!!! Great recipe!

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becky @ the Mixing Bowl Diary October 25, 2011 at 10:14 am

Just made this with my kids yesterday and we all loved it!!! Thanks for the recipe. This will save me $$$ from buying the packaged version at the store!!!

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Cassey October 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Do you think this would work with maple syrup instead of sugar?

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alice October 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Cassey,
I don’t think so but I can’t definitively say so.

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Ilene November 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm

I want to try this with maple sugar instead of syrup. We make a maple popcorn, but use an old corn treat center kettle. This has to cook to 275 degrees before it can be poured over the popped corn. Tastes like Crackerjack.

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Angela November 26, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Fantastic find and info! I can’t wait to try making this tonight for our family movie.We love the Kettle-corn from our local Farmer’s Market–here’s hoping that this will be just as good. Thanks so much!

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Beka January 13, 2012 at 2:21 am

This was so yummy! I used olive oil and liked the flavor it gave. Thanks for the yummy recipe!!

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Bev January 30, 2012 at 1:28 am

I love kettle corn and have had great success making it with my Whirley Pop pan. I find that ultra fine sugar works better than regular grained sugar. I also prefer to use peanut oil, it handles high temperatures well.

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alice February 2, 2012 at 2:52 am

Hi Bev,
I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about the Whirley Pop! I agree with you about peanut oil and ultra fine sugar but regular suguar works great too.

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Siobhan May 1, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I made this with coconut oil instead of butter and it came out absolutely delicious!

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Madison June 12, 2012 at 11:25 am

This was disgusting and I followed the “3-4 minute” rule and it was still burnt. Yuck! I’d rather buy the store brand. Literally gagged off this…

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James August 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm

You did it incorrectly

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Kelly August 19, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Madison, I’ve read 20-30 reviews on this website ALL loving it – ever stop to think its not the recipe that is defective?????? If you’d rather each an old bag of chemicals and food colouring no one is stopping you! Besides didn’t your mother ever teach you if you have nothing nice to say……………..!

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Holli June 25, 2012 at 8:30 pm

This recipe is amazing and so simple! I couldn’t decide if I wanted something sweet or salty and searched for kettle corn. This is awesome!
Unlike the previous commenter, I didn’t burn any popcorn.

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Sprout July 9, 2012 at 9:32 pm

This was an absolute great recipe….tried it for my 1st time 5 mins ago and I mite add ITS A HIT!! Thanks and we will make it more than once for sure!!

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Becky July 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm

I stepped away from the stove for just a second and completely burned the first batch…instantly smelled horrible and smoked for minutes. Second batch turned out well, seems more like caramel corn than kettle corn, but sure tastes good. Starting a movie with the fam now, I’m sure the popcorn will be gone soon…

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Elizabeth July 20, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Aha! A mystery revealed! I’ve been making popcorn on the stove since I was a kid. My parents always put a kernel in the oil and waited to dump rest in until after that first one popped. I have always done the same. Never understood why, but I did it. Thank you Just Poppin for clearing that up for me!

BTW–This recipe is fantastic. I’ve burnt part of it twice because I didn’t trust my popcorn-poppin’ instincts, but after we pick those portions out what’s left is delicious!

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Julie Souin July 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Just made it. YUMMO!!!

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Lydia September 2, 2012 at 11:22 am

My daughter wanted “rainbow popcorn” like she gets at the farmer’s market. I have never tried to make kettle corn before. I stirred a. few drops of plain green food coloring into the sugar before adding it to the pot. I used my wok,but it doesn’t really have a well-fitting lid (I think I bought the wok and lid separately at the thrift store) and I scorched the corn a little, but is wasn’t inedible. I need to fine-tune the temperature selection on my stove, I think. I will be making more batches. My popcorn wasn’t very fresh…probably 6 or 7 years old, but it still was okay. I figure if I make several different batches, each a different color, she can have her “rainbow” as much as I hate artificialcoloring… I will be keeping my eyes out for a whirlypop pan on my future thrift store visits–just makes sense that it would work well. would love to grow my own popcorn next year-wonder if the mushroom type is available-

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nicolle February 12, 2013 at 11:40 pm

hi there! I was just reading about rainbow popcorn online made from using different flavors of jello boxes :)

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April September 2, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Hi I am planning a fair themed housewarming and this recipe seems like a great fit to my menu. Can anyone please tell me what type of pan to use? I have a 3 qt pot that has a non stick coating that I use for rice and veggies and a tall sort of narrow stainless steel pot that I use for gumbos and pastas… If not, is there an inexpensive pot I can buy to make the popcorn?

Thanks!

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kristen September 14, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Yummy! Have been craving kettle corn after all these summertime fairs. It’s just like it. Thank you!

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Emily Roesly September 30, 2012 at 11:27 pm

My husband and I love kettle corn! I’m almost sorry I found your post, because now I know how easy it will be to make at home. Thank you so much for the great instructions!

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Alli October 24, 2012 at 6:44 pm

I’m eating this kettle corn as I’m typing. It’s delicious and reminds me of the kettle corn that I buy from the farmer’s market. I was only able to save half the popcorn because it burned on me. I’m going to make another batch and hopefully it will come out perfect.

Thanks for sharing a great recipe!

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JustPoppin Buck October 26, 2012 at 12:26 pm

@April You would be better off going with the 3 quart nonstick pot but you’ll need to double check the quantities of ingredients – my estimate is that you should probably halve them because Alice’s recipe is designed for a much larger pot/popper and a 1/4 cup of kernels will pop into about 2 quarts of popcorn. The reason I’m recommending the smaller pot is because we find that pots that are taller than they are wide result in popcorn that is not as fluffy and it definitely affects Mushroom Popcorn poorly because Mushroom Popcorn needs room to spread out. A tall pot causes everything to pile up on top of and squish the kernels still to pop, and well…you get the picture.

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Jenny November 23, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I tried This recipe but the sugar melted at the bottom and stick to the pot and burn.
The corn at the top was great but the bottom half was burnt. I shake it nonstop but it still burned, even before the corn stopped popping. Help?

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Jenny November 23, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I used brown sugar instead of white sugar because another website said it will turn out like caramel corn, and I didn’t used the mushroom popcorn. I’m 12. Is it because i didn’t shake the pot hard enough? Please reply.

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Monica December 16, 2012 at 6:06 pm

This kettlecorn recipe is complete awesomeness! Made a batch in less than 10 minutes! It rocks! Will be bagging it up for Christmas gifts and gonna make a few batches for my kiddos birthday on New Years Day!
thank you , this one is a keeper!

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Tanna December 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Just made this for my grandson’s 1st grade Christmas party. I added red and green food coloring to different batches and it turned out great. This is such and easy and fun recipe. Can’t wait to take it to his class. Also decided to make the as gifts for the neighbors!!! Everyone love kettle corn!!!!

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Tanna December 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Sorry for the typos. So excited to post that I didnt read it before doing so. Merry Christmas to all!!

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Mary @ Fit and Fed December 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for teaching me something new, I’ve never heard of the mushroom kernels before. I’ve cooked popcorn on the stove for ages and have good success, but haven’t used the method of just putting a few kernels in first, I’ll have to give it a try.

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Lisa March 9, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Just made this with extra virgin olive oil! So yummy! And so easy!

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Heather March 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Just made in my Whirley Pop using 2 tbs of coconut oil. No more buying kettle corn at the farmers market!

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beth March 16, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Bacon fat sounded epic! Duck fat anyone?

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JustPoppin Buck April 2, 2013 at 7:02 pm

@Jenny – without knowing everything that you did while trying to make the recipe, it’s hard to say what caused the burning. My best guess would be that you may have had the heat too high. In my experience, there’s nothing wrong with doing lots of experiments when it comes to making fun foods like popcorn! I hope you’ll try again. If you have burned sugar in your pot, an easy way to clean the pot (instead of trying to scrub it) is to fill it with enough water to cover the burned areas and put it on the stove to boil with a few drops of dish soap. Keep an eye on it so you don’t boil it dry. It may take a little while of boiling to re-melt the sugar.

@beth – would that be Pate corn?

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Toni April 21, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Made this recipe a couple times; it’s delicious except for some of the sugar turns to rocks.
Any suggestions why?

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JustPoppin Buck May 1, 2013 at 4:43 pm

@Toni – I’m not the chef or food scientist here but I’ll venture a guess. Cooked sugar will always get hard and crystalline when cooked to the proper temperature. When this is in the form of a glaze, all is good. But if too much of the sugar is globbed together, it would be like little stones of sugar. My guess is that the sugar isn’t being distributed enough through mixing. The more it’s mixed, the more spread out the sugar will be, meaning smaller crystals and no “rocks”. Good luck!

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MomOf3 September 5, 2013 at 9:26 pm

i’m still learning to make this perfect but even though i don’t have it perfect yet its still good n thank u for sharing my kids n i was disapointed when we found out the fun fair was consoled cuz of rain n we couldn’t get our kettle corn but then we found your page n we was happy again the bag i’m eating now as i’m writing this is r 2ed try r first try r sugar burned a little witch now thanks to post earlyer i may know why maybe heat was to high so i’ll try again n this one we eating now is good but to sugary couse we put the sugar on after but its still good oh n one more thing thank u for teaching me the trick of putting one corn in first before the rest it making popping the corn alote easyer :) n we will be saving a lot more money now thank u so very much :)

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Kathi October 3, 2013 at 6:02 pm

My son was begging for kettle corn, so I began searching the web, and found your recipe…..we made it quickly and easily, and even though it turned a tad golden, it was delicious….reason for that was my son was too eager and turned the heat too high….lol…..thank you again for an awesome new recipe for my favorite recipes….:)

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Patvetzal October 7, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Don’t think maple syrup will work unless added after popping stops. The water in the syrup will boil off at about 210F leaving a burnt tasting carmellized remnant. By the time it’s hot enough to pop the corn the room will be awfully smoky….

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Catherine Santana October 10, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Made this today and it came out absolutely delicious. Even my husband who ordinarily hates popcorn loved it.

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Jim November 18, 2013 at 10:20 pm

I used coconut oil and organic sugar (white). Just follow the directions and you’re in for the best kettle korn ever! Tips: On an electric stove, turn heat to 8 (on a 1-10 setting). KEEP SHAKING the pot to prevent burning. Remove from heat as the popping slows. Don’t wait untl it stops or you might burn the sugar. MMMMMMMM!!!!

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Debbie Hamilton March 16, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Super delicious!

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Jenny B March 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm

I have to admit, this stuff is AMAZING!! My 21 month old could not stop munching! The 1st batch came out a bit burnt at the bottom but the 2nd batch came out perfect as soon as I turned down the heat a bit :) I also used Organic popcorn(non-GMO), turbinado sugar and organic coconut oil.
NOM NOM NOM!!!
My new favorite popcorn recipe!
THANKS!

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