Kettle corn is the perfect anytime treat. It’s popcorn, but better because it’s salty and sweet!

I am addicted to kettle corn. It doesn’t matter if it’s from a summer fair or from a store bought bag (I always make eyes at the one that comes in a pastel purple bag), kettle corn is my number one weakness. It’s so bad that a couple of weeks ago I called a grocery store to make sure they had a seasonal flavor in stock. Then Mike and I went on a walk, in the rain, so I could buy five bags. Just in case.

I have now finished 4 out of the 5 bags and I’ve told myself, no more! No more buying expensive bags of kettle corn. Not when making homemade kettle corn is super easy and just as good. Plus, have you ever had warm kettle corn? It’s magic.

I have been making kettle corn at home for 2 years now and it is seriously the best thing ever. It’s amazing how much flavor and crispiness you can get from just 4 ingredients.

kettle corn |

What is kettle corn?

Kettle corn is a sweet and salty popcorn snack! Traditionally, it’s popcorn made in giant copper kettles with oil, salt and sugar, stirred up with big wooden paddles. The kernels of corn get a light golden caramelized crust that is irresistible due to its sweet and salty flavors and crispy crunchy texture. At home, instead of a giant copper kettle, you can make homemade kettle corn with just a regular pot. The best part is, it only takes about 5 minutes from start to snack!

How to make kettle corn

  1. Warm the oil: heat some oil over medium high heat and when shimmery, add 3 kernels and cover, until the kernels pop.
  2. Warm the popcorn: add the popcorn to the pan in a single layer and sprinkle with sugar. Cover and take the pan off the heat and swirl everything around. The residual heat in the pan will bring the popcorn kernels up to near popping.
  3. Pop the popcorn: Put the pan back on the heat over medium high and start shaking, with the lid on. The popcorn will start to pop. Turn the heat to medium, and shake every so often, with the lid a little ajar so the popcorn stays crispy. The popcorn will start popping almost immediately. Let it pop until there’s about 1-3 seconds between the popping.
  4. Season: Once the popcorn is popped, immediately spread it out onto a baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt. Enjoy!

kettle corn |

Kettle corn ingredients

  • Popcorn kernels. Try to get fresh, plump kernels, they pop bigger and better.
  • Oil. Grab a neutral oil or oil you like the flavor of – more on oil choices below!
  • Sugar. Classic kettle corn is made with regular granulated sugar.
  • Salt. The crunch of flaky sea salt is perfect for kettle corn. You can use kosher sea salt too.

popcorn kernels |

Which popcorn kernels are the best for kettle corn?

The best popcorn to use for kettle corn is fresh popcorn. The fresher, the better because as popcorn ages, it gets drier and drier. Fresher popcorn has more moisture inside which is what helps it POP!

That being said, I like mushroom popcorn over butterfly popcorn.

Mushroom ball popcorn is a roundish popcorn, compared to butterfly popcorn, which has wings or flakes. Most caramel popcorns are mushroom kernels whereas movie theater popcorn is butterfly. The roundness of mushroom ball popcorn makes it easier to coat in that salty-sweet goodness.

kettle corn popcorn kernels |

What is the best oil to pop popcorn in?

I use grapeseed oil, but lots of people love popping in coconut. You don’t need a lot of heat when popping popcorn, so the best oil is the oil you love the flavor of. Popcorn pops at 355°F so as long as your oil is safe up to that point, go for it!

Here are some popcorn oil suggestions: grapeseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, canola oil.

testing popcorn |

What pan is best to pop popcorn in?

This is going to sound crazy (and I did not do this for the photos) but the best pan for kettle corn is a LARGE non-stick pot or pan with deep sides and a lid. Once the sugar caramelizes, the non-stickiness helps the caramel glide around and coat the kernels of popcorn better. The non-stick coating helps the popcorn move around freely making sure that none of the kernels stick and burn. Plus clean up is a breeze. Since you never take the heat up very high (keep it at medium to medium-high), non-stick is perfect.

popping kettle corn |

Tips and tricks

  • Make sure you shake. Make sure every kernel of popcorn is coated by shaking the pan every 10-15 seconds or so.
  • Don’t burn it! When you start to hear the popping slow to a couple of seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat. You’ll have some up popped kernels, but truthfully that’s much better than burnt sugar popcorn.
  • Keep the lid slightly ajar. This lets steam out and makes sure your popcorn is nice and crisp.
  • Salt it right away. Salt the popcorn while it’s hot so the salt sticks. I like to salt afterwards – not during popping – so I can better salt to taste.

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How to store kettle corn

Kettle corn will keep crisp in an air tight container on the countertop for 2-3 days, if it lasts that long :)

kettle corn |

Kettle Corn Recipe

Kettle corn is the perfect anytime treat. It’s popcorn, but better because it’s salty and sweet!
Serves 6
5 from 3 votes
Total Time 5 minutes


  • 2 tbsp oil eg. grapeseed
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels mushroom style preferred
  • flaky sea salt


  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Add 3 kernels of popcorn to a heavy bottomed stainless steel pan with high sides and cover. Listen carefully for the kernels to pop.
    testing popcorn |
  • Once the 3 kernels pop, add the remaining popcorn kernels in a single, even layer. Sprinkle with the sugar, cover and remove from the heat for 30 seconds to bring the kernels to a near popping temperature.
    popping kettle corn |
  • Return the covered pan to medium high heat. The kernels should begin to pop – keep shaking and turn the heat down to medium. You should hear almost constant popping, keep shaking the pan every 10-15 seconds, keeping the lid slightly ajar to let out steam so the popcorn stays dry and crispy.
    kettle corn |
  • Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove from the heat and remove the lid. Pour the popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
    kettle corn |

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