Homemade Kettle Corn

Kettle Corn. The crunchy savory and sweet popcorn that’s wildly addictive. I can’t say no to this delectable snack. Once I see it – at a fair, a baseball game, or even at the supermarket – I have to get a bag. Once it’s in front of me, I can polish off the entire thing. It’s so scary.

This is why I have wanted to make it at home so badly. And until now, it has eluded me.

My biggest problem was that I would often burn the sugar, resulting in something that looked more like burnt-sugar popcorn. Half my popcorn would turn black, and I would salvage what remained, which still looked like this:
Tonight, I think I finally figured out my problem. The Eureka discovery: the oil has to be hot enough before you add the kernels and the sugar! Otherwise, the sugar will sit in the hot oil too long (waiting for the kernels to pop) and will turn BLACK!

Here is the optimized recipe.

1/4 cup Canola oil
1/3 cup unpopped corn kernels
1/4 cup sugar
salt to taste

1. Put the oil in a pot (ideally a pot with handles and a cover!) and heat to medium high.

2. Put 3 kernels in the oil and wait for the three kernels to pop. When this happens, you know the oil is hot enough.

3. Add kernels. They should be spread out in one thin layer at the bottom of the pot.

4. Cover and let pop – it should start popping almost immediately. Start shaking the covered pot around to let the kernels shake around so that the un-popped kernels can get to the bottom where it’s hot!

5. When the popping seems to have slowed down a bit (2-3 minutes), dump the sugar in. I used cane sugar, but you can use normal white sugar as well.

6. Continue shaking the covered pot around, distributing the sugar and also letting the rest of the kernels pop.

7. When it seems like the popping has slowed considerably (1-2 minutes), remove the pot from heat and let it cool. Stir the popcorn around to make sure the sugar has evenly distributed.

Note: some recipes say you can add the sugar in at the same time you add the rest of the kernels. I think if your oil is hot enough, this should not be a problem. However, you run the risk of the sugar burning if it’s in the pot for too long.

I took it safe by waiting until a portion of the kernels had popped.

Note2: The recipe I’ve posted above makes a pretty light popcorn. It’s tasty, but definitely a bit on the light side. If you want, you can increase the oil volume to be the same as the popcorn volume (i.e. in the above case you would have added 1/3 cup canola oil). If you like your kettle corn sweeter, then you might want to add more sugar (maybe 1/3 cup) as well.

Again, a lot of this is personal preference. I think the above recipe is a great starting point, and then you can adjust according to your preference.


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  1. says

    I was just thinking about this! We had kettle corn at the farmer’s market last week, and it occurred to me it ought to be fairly easy to reproduce at home. Must try this!

  2. says

    Thanks for this great recipe. My mom used to make kettle corn, I always loved the slightly burnt kernels that didn’t pop, so I like your first photo of the burnt stuff. Yum.

  3. says

    I make it in one of those aluminum popcorn poppers that you crank. Real easyP:

    I put in 3 tbl oil, 3 tbl sugar, 1/2 cup popcorn. Put it on the burner and start cranking. The popcorn pops really quickly in one of these I find, (faster than microwave popcorn, which of course, sucks!) and the sugar never burns. You turn the popcorn out onto a cookie sheet when done, spread it out a bit, let it cool for a minute or two, add some salt, and enjoy!

  4. Dearimasu says

    Love this but if you find the original a little to sweet like I do
    1/4 cup Canola oil
    1/4 cup Sugar
    1/2 cup Corn
    Salt to taste after cooking using Popcorn salt
    I find it tastes much more like the one at the fairs but I guess each Kettle person has their own recipe.

    Anyways Thanks for the recipe!

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