Have you ever gone to the farmer’s market and walked away with a big plastic bag brimming to the top with sticky sweet kettle corn? The aroma of caramelized sugar and the signature pop of corn merrily bursting out of its shell in large cast iron kettles practically calls to you.
There is something so delicious and addictive about that sweet treat. It’s hard not to buy a big bag of it and polish it off before I even get back to the house. I mean, I’m there for farm-fresh vegetables… yeah. 😉
Sadly it’s not the greatest thing I could buy at the farmer’s market since it’s made with refined sugar and poor quality oils. Do you want to know a secret? Thanks to this stovetop kettle corn recipe you can make your own with quality ingredients in just about 15 minutes. I love easy and better-for-you snacks! (Like these healthy homemade granola bars.)
This recipe calls pretty awesome ingredients- coconut oil is one of the healthiest fats out there, and maple syrup is an excellent choice of sweetener. Real sea salt is totally good for you as well, as long as your diet is not over-saturated with processed junk containing refined sodium.
Make this kettle corn after the kids are in bed and enjoy! It might become one of your favorite snacks.
Maybe the next time you make it you can share the kids, or not. They won’t know what they’re missing out on right? If you do decide to share your kettle corn with the entire family be sure to plan a family movie night to make it all the more special.
A stovetop kettle corn recipe that your whole family will love
A bit of fun history…
Would you have guessed that guess that kettle corn is an old recipe?
Dutch settlers living in Pennsylvania during the mid to late 1700s were the first to mention enjoying kettle corn in colonial time. Before that people were making it in Europe with lard and sugar. I love good old-fashioned healthy fats!
It was sold at fairs and enjoyed on other special occasions. How cool is it that kettle corn is still enjoyed at state fairs today? Thanks to this homemade kettle corn recipe you can enjoy a taste of the fair in the comfort of your own home – no matter the time of year!
Homemade Kettle Corn Recipe: The Ultimate Guide
If you are looking for an easy kettle corn recipe this is it. From start to finish it should only take you about 15 minutes to make. That is my kind of recipe! This may be the best homemade kettle corn you have ever eaten.
What gives kettle corn its flavor?
Kettle corn gets its signature flavor from the caramelized sugar that lightly coats each kernel. Typically most kettle corn is made with white sugar or brown sugar but maple syrup is a great alternative to refined sugar and it works beautifully in this recipe.
How do you make kettle corn from scratch?
This such a simple recipe. It may be the best homemade kettle corn out there. (Not that I am biased or anything.) Kettle corn cooks quickly, so if you decide you need a second batch, it’s no problem.
Thanks to healthier food options being in higher demand you can probably find all four ingredients for the best kettle corn at your local grocery store.
- 1/2 cup Popcorn Kernels
- Coconut Oil
- 1/8 cup Maple Syrup
- Sea Salt (if you don’t have it kosher salt will work)
Don’t you love simple ingredient lists?
The Basic Recipe
- Heat enough coconut oil to cover the bottom of the pan on medium. Add a couple of kernels of popcorn to know if the oil is the right temperature. When the kernels pop, add the remaining kernels.
- Keep the pot moving, vigorously shaking back on forth over the burner to prevent burning. Don’t leave it sitting on the heat source. Popcorn pops quickly!
- As soon as you hear popping kernels, add the maple syrup and continue to shake pot.
- When the kernels are popped, use a wooden spoon to remove the unpopped kernels. Pour the popcorn out into a bowl, add a little salt, and give it a good shake.
Don’t be worried if there are some unpopped kernels at the bottom of the pan, it’s rare that you will have a pot of kettle corn where all the kernels pop. It’s better to have a few kernels left than to have the maple syrup burn.
What is the difference between kettle corn and popcorn?
Popcorn is the perfect canvas for all sorts of flavors. Normally popcorn is simply popcorn kernels that have been popped with a bit of fat or in an air-popper. Then you top it with salt and some melted butter or whatever else you like to sprinkle on.
When you make kettle corn the sweetener is added to the pot along with the kernels and fat. As each kernel pops the maple syrup or sugar melts coating each kernel making it a sweet popcorn instead of a salty treat.
What kind of popcorn is used for kettle corn?
Frequently people use yellow or white popcorn kernels. They are often the easiest to find in the store. If you can snag a bag of mushroom popcorn you are in for a treat! Unlike most other popcorns that have more of a butterfly shape, mushroom popcorn is more rounded and lighter, making it perfect for coating with the maple syrup.
If it’s labeled popcorn kernels, then it will work. Each type of kernel has a slightly different flavor so you can experiment to see which one your family likes. The type of popcorn is not going to dramatically change how your kettle corn turns out. It’s all going to be delicious!
Is kettle corn healthier than popcorn?
Air-popped popcorn (or stovetop popcorn) is a healthy snack in moderation. It’s a pretty starchy grain, but when drenched in butter and real sea salt it can be made a little healthier, and it can help satisfy those munchy cravings that so many of us get. It’s not your average microwave popcorn, that’s for sure.
At our house, we love our salty popcorn with melted butter. We don’t have lots of popcorn recipes but this recipe kicks it up a notch with the sweet and salty combo, and really seems indulgent.
Sweet kettle corn is that happy medium between plain popcorn and caramel corn. It has a little bit of sugar (or maple syrup in this case) instead of a heavy sugar coating like store-bought caramel corn. So is kettle corn a healthy snack? Sometimes. Maple syrup is still a form of sugar, so you might not want to eat it every day (but then it wouldn’t be a special treat if you did that anyway).
What kind of oil should I use for kettle corn?
Typically, when you come across a kettle corn recipe, it is going to call for canola oil or some other type of less than stellar cooking oil. I prefer to avoid highly processed and refined oils even if it is just a 1/4 cup of vegetable oil.
Coconut oil works amazingly for this kettle corn recipe! If you use haven’t used it before, once you try it you won’t want to switch back to your old oils.
There are two basic options for coconut oil. The main difference is in how they are processed, both methods create healthy oils.
- Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil. This oil has a strong coconut flavor. If you are a fan of coconut it tastes amazing in this homemade kettle corn recipe!
- Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil. This method produces a mild oil that is more flavorless (but not 100%). If you aren’t a coconut fan or simple want the flavor of the maple syrup of shine through, this is your oil.
Coconut oil melts when when the room temperature is 76 F or 24 C. When it is cooler in the house coconut oil turns solid.
What if I don’t want to use coconut oil?
Coconut oil has a high smoke point which is one reason it works well in the recipe. Olive oil, while it is a healthy oil, doesn’t have a high smoke point, and you probably don’t want your sweet corn to taste like olives…
Another option would be to use ghee (clarified butter). All of the milk solids have been removed, giving it a higher smoke point. Animal fats could work as well (such as tallow or lard) but the flavor may not be ideal in this recipe.
What is the best type of pot to make kettle corn?
You might wonder if you have to have a special popcorn popper or other special equipment to make kettle corn. The easy answer is no! This mama loves a good multi-purpose kitchen tool, and a cooking pot works fine here.
There are things that make it easier though. If you are wanting to be traditional a cast iron Dutch oven would work. Of course – the downside is that they are heavy and cumbersome when shaking during the cooking.
When you are making popcorn (especially kettle corn), you want to be able to move the pot around to prevent the kernels and sugar from burning. So you might want to go with something lighter.
Some people swear by their Whirley Pop. If you are making stovetop popcorn all the time, this special popcorn pot might be a good fit for your kitchen. They even make a stainless steel version! (We were gifted the aluminum one a few years ago and LOVE how it makes the popcorn, but we’re planning to upgrade to the stainless steel version soon as it’s a safer cookware material.)
If you only make popcorn and kettle corn occasionally, your basic large stock pot or cast iron pot are a good way to go. As long as it’s a big pot with a lid and you can move it around, it will do the job. If you have a pan with a glass lid that lets you see the corn popping then it’s even easier to know when it’s done. (Plus, it’s just fun!)
Best ways to serve kettle corn
To keep it simple you can just give each person a small bowl of this sweet treat. Or you can fill a small paper bag for each person with kettle corn. That would definitely be a fun way to enjoy it for a family movie night.
This kettle corn would be an awesome treat at a birthday party or fall party. You can make a large pot of it and fill indidivual paper lunch sack for each kid as a treat to take home. (Or you could get fancy and fold your own out of parchment paper, if you’re the crafty type.)
If you want to get fancy you could drizzle some peanut butter or melted dark chocolate over the top. Or both. (You wouldn’t regret it, I’m pretty sure.)
How long does kettle corn last?
If you somehow have leftover kettle corn (which… I really don’t know how that is possible) you can store it in an airtight container for about two weeks. Some people freeze popcorn in a freezer-safe container, so you could try that if you want. I don’t have personal experience trying this method out.
Want more easy snack ideas?
It’s alway a good ideas to have a great recipe or two, or three on hand when you want an easy snack. Here are some ideas.
Make sure to sneak a few handfuls before serving, ‘cuz this stuff doesn’t last long!
Stovetop Kettle Corn Recipe (With Maple Syrup & Coconut Oil)
- Heat enough coconut oil to cover the bottom of the pan on medium-high heat. Add a couple of kernels of popcorn.
- When they start to pop, add the add the remaining kernels.
- Keep the pot moving, vigorously shaking back on forth over the burner, still on medium high, to prevent burning. Don't leave it sitting on the heat source.
- As soon as you hear popping kernels, add the maple syrup and continue to shake the pot.
- When the kernels are popped, use a wooden spoon to remove the unpopped kernels. Pour the popcorn out into a bowl, add salt, and give it a good shake.