5-Minute Homemade Kettle Corn

5-Minute Homemade Kettle Corn

Most of us remember freshly popped, crispy kettle corn with a whisper of lightly caramelized sugar coating as a nostalgic snack experienced only at state fairs or carnivals. But there’s no reason you can’t enjoy fresh kettle corn snacktisfaction at home. With just 4 kitchen cupboard ingredients and 5 minutes of effort, homemade kettle corn can be the star of your next movie night or midnight snack. 

What Kind of Pan to Use for Kettle Corn

Though the stuff at the fair is made in huge kettles, at-home versions need to be made in smaller batches to give the corn-sugar mixture room to move around in the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. A large, sturdy-bottomed soup pot that is about 10 to 12 inches wide at the base and at least 8 inches tall is ideal. Don’t use a heavy cast iron Dutch oven. They retain too much heat and can cause scorched corn.

Steps to Making Kettle Corn

  1. Start with hot oil. To test for this, put 3 popcorn kernels in the pot with the oil, cover it, and set it over medium heat. As soon as you hear the kernels pop, the oil is ready. The rest happens fast, so make sure to have the remaining ingredients ready to go next to the stove.
  2. As soon as you add the popcorn and sugar to the pan, stir, cover the pot, and slip on some oven mitts to protect your hands. Then commence swirling and shaking the pot non stop until you hear the popping slow to 1 to 2 seconds between pops. (If you wait too long on the heat, you’ll scorch the sugar, so err on the side of caution and take the pot off the heat sooner rather than later.) 
  3. Immediately move the pot off the burner and wait a few seconds until all the popping stops. 
  4. Sprinkle the popcorn with salt and let it cool in a large, wide bowl for a few minutes. This cooling step will ensure the sugar cools into a crispy glaze.

There may be a few unpopped kernels in the bowl. Fish those out and discard them if you’re worried about chomping down on one. The kettle corn is best when eaten straight away. Store it in an airtight container for a few days if you must. 

After all that action, the pot will have a thin coating of caramelized sugar and oil in it. Just soak it in cool water for about 10 minutes and the glaze will dissolve and make for easier clean up.

“Move over, microwave popcorn, this stovetop kettle corn is just as quick, and even more delicious, and it has no additives! The popcorn is the perfect combination of salty and sweet. I used an 8-quart stainless steel stockpot, which was easy to clean after a quick soak. 2 minutes was perfect on my gas stove.” —Diana Rattray

Kettle corn in a pot A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or any high heat neutral oil

  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) popcorn kernels

  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    kettle corn ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Abby Mercer

  2. Put the oil and 3 kernels of popcorn in a large (6-quart) soup pot, cover, and set over medium heat until you hear the kernels pop, about 1 minute.

    oil heating in large pot with a few corn kernels to test heat

    The Spruce Eats / Abby Mercer

  3. As soon as you hear the kernels pop, add the remaining popcorn kernels and sugar. Stir once or twice with a wooden spoon.

    pop corn kernels being stirred with oil in heated pot

    The Spruce Eats / Abby Mercer

  4. Cover the pot. Slip on oven mitts and cook, swirling the pan constantly, until the popping slows to about 2 seconds apart, about 1 minute 30 seconds. Slide the pot off of the heat and let it stand, covered, until the popping stops, about 5 seconds.

    pop corn kernels popping in covered pot

    The Spruce Eats / Abby Mercer

  5. Sprinkle the popcorn with salt, cover, and shake the pot to combine everything evenly. Pour the kettle corn out into a large, wide bowl immediately. Let the popcorn cool for 2 minutes so it crisps up before serving.

    kettle corn in bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Abby Mercer

Recipe Tips

  • Use a heavy bottomed soup pot, swirl the pan constantly, and take it off the heat as soon as the popping slows to one pop every 2 seconds. 
  • Be aware that unpopped corn kernels may not fall to the bottom of the pan as with regular popcorn, so bite down carefully on any clusters.
  • To double the recipe for 12 to 14 cups of popcorn, use the same amount of oil, 1/2 cup of corn kernels, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, and 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • If you have burnt-on sugar that is difficult to remove after soaking, try one of these methods.

Recipe Variations

  • Substitute light brown sugar for white sugar for a more caramelized flavor. 
  • Substitute truffle salt, smoked salt, Old Bay seasoning, or garlic salt for the regular salt for a sweet and savory flavor. 
  • Add a dash of chili powder to the kettle corn along with the salt.
  • For a warm spice flavor, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to the kettle corn along with the salt.

How to Store

  • The kettle corn is best served right away, but you can store it in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Try storing it with a food safe desiccant packet (the kind that come with nori seaweed sheets) in the container to help keep the kettle corn crisp. 
  • To revive stale popcorn, spread it out on a foil or parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet and heat it in a preheated 250 F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Use leftover popcorn as a garnish for soup or salads.
  • Make zebra popcorn with melted chocolate chips, brown sugar, and butter.
  • Make this salted caramel popcorn cheesecake.

Comments

No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *