Introduction: How to Make Kettle Corn

Picture of How to Make Kettle Corn

Kettle corn is a slightly sweet, slightly salty popcorn snack. For those of you that know and love kettle corn, this recipe will ensure that you don't have to wait until the next Apple Festival / Craft Fair / Maple Festival or whatever to enjoy it. Please note that this is nothing like the microwave kettle corn they sell in the stores (ugh - Sucralose - ewww).

Step 1: Here's What Your Going to Need.

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1/4 Cup unpopped popcorn
1/4 Cup olive or corn oil (Olive oil will give it a lighter, cleaner taste)
2 Tablespoons sugar ( I prefer cane sugar)
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Utensils needed:

One or two quart sauce pan
Large bowl
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons

You may also want to have some safety glasses and an oven mitt handy because it can get pretty wild when things get popping.

Step 2: Let's Get Popping

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Put the popcorn in the pot. There should be just enough to cover the bottom in a single layer. Next pour in the olive oil. There should only be enough to barely cover all of the popcorn. Then you turn on the heat. This step is the hardest to get just right. I set my stove halfway between the medium and high settings. If you set the heat too high, you will burn the sugar before the popcorn pops. If you don't have enough heat, the popcorn just won't pop. You may have to experiment with different settings before you find the one that is just right for your stove.

Step 3: Now You'll Have to Move Fast

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This is where you may need your safety glasses as you're now dealing with hot oil and exploding projectiles. (you could also try the "duck and cover" if you like)

After it has heated up a bit, the oil will start to bubble and the popcorn will begin to swell (this will take about 2-3 minutes). As soon as a couple of kernels pop, sprinkle the sugar on top of the popcorn and place the lid on the pot.

Step 4: Shake Your..........popcorn

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For the rest of the time the popcorn is on the heat, you will need to constantly shake the pot. I like circular motions (clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counter clockwise in the southern), but sometimes I change it up with a little side to side or even a figure eight.

Once you add the sugar, the popcorn will stop popping. It will take it about 30 seconds to 1 minute to start popping again. Once it starts again, you will need to listen carefully to it. The popping will get very rapid and then begin to slow. Once it slows to once every couple of seconds you will remove the pot from the heat and dump it into your bowl.

Just as a note here, you will notice that the popped corn lifts the lid off my pot. Feel free to use a pot with higher sides so this won't happen to you. I just happen to like this pot so much that I can overlook it's short sides.

Step 5: We're Almost There

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Once you have poured the popcorn into the bowl, you must let it cool for about 5 minutes. If you try to do anything with it right now, you are likely to burn your hands on the molten sugar.

After 5 minutes you will notice that most of the popcorn is sticking together in one big clump. Just break this clump up by hand until there are just smaller clumps of 1 - 3 kernels. Then add your salt by sprinkling it on top and mixing the whole thing together by hand.

Now you're ready to eat!! Yay!

Step 6: Remember to Share

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Remember to share your delicious snack with other people and pets in the house. If you don't have anyone in your house, invite some people over or take some kettle corn to them. I guess you get the idea.........enjoy.


Kaiven (author)2008-09-11

small pot? xD I must try this the next time I pop my pop corn :D

GRitter (author)Kaiven2008-09-12

Oddly enough, that little pot is the only pot that I have in the house that I can use and not burn the whole batch. I don't know why it is, but that's the only one that will work for me.

Kaiven (author)GRitter2008-09-12

Heh, cool! Think it's possible for a microwave version?

GRitter (author)Kaiven2008-09-18

It seems to me that using the microwave would only complicate the process. I mean with the stove top version you have a pot and a bowl and about 3 minutes. I can't imagine you could save any time in the cooking and certainly not in the cleanup if you were to try to do this in the microwave. Besides, the microwave always messes with the metal plate in my head :)

Kaiven (author)GRitter2008-09-19

Oh! Ok then, I guess there isn't a way to do it... Unless you popped plain kernals in the microwave, then melted the sugar and instantly poured and mixed with the popcorn?

Tropicalone (author)Kaiven2016-03-26

Microwave kettle popcorn. 1/3 cup popcorn,1/2 tsp salt, 1Tbsp salt, 1 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp olive oil. Put all together and mix, put in paper lunch bag fold bag twice at top. Micro safe plate with paper towel put bag on top, cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Good Luck

GRitter (author)Kaiven2008-09-22

That's kind of my point. My process is so short and simple, as soon as you start doing things with the microwave, it just complicates it for no reason. I'm sure there are a thousand different ways you could use the microwave to make this recipe, but I can't figure out even one that makes it any quicker and easier. But if you figure something out, let me know. Thanks

Kaiven (author)GRitter2008-09-23

Well, kettle corn seems hard, but I FOUND THE WAY OF POPCORN CARAMEL MICROWAVE!!! It is sooo AWESOME! The kernals are completely coated, and it tastes better than caramel on the stove, especially since it never gets burned :D I really am thinking about posting...

GRitter (author)Kaiven2008-09-23

If you have an easy caramel corn recipe, you should definitely post it. I have a caramel corn recipe that is much like the one right here on Instructables, but it takes about an hour to do it and, like you said, there is that chance of burning the caramel. Let me know when you post it and I will be the first to try it out.

Kaiven (author)GRitter2008-09-24

Ok, lol. My sister keeps randomly saying "caramel popcorn" whenever I am aound her. If she likes it, you better believe it's good! She is freakin' OCD and looks skepticle at everything I show her or I want her to try. So, I guess I'll take some pictures next time I make it. I'll be sure to tell you :D

Chikara (author)Kaiven2009-11-15

psst... i havent seen a post yet! i want some caramel corn :) I dont have a stove here...

Kaiven (author)Chikara2009-11-15

Oh, sorry! I haven't made it in a while, and I don't own cream, and I can't find the recipe... let's hope I can make this again soon.

Chikara (author)Kaiven2009-11-25

heh, just inform me when you can make it please :D

OldDaddy (author)GRitter2010-01-14

Right on my friend. An old wearever aluminum pot is what I use it for candy and kettle corn. Glad we kept it when we quit aluminum. Pops just shy of 1/2 cup of corn at a time.  Picked up on the tip of pouring from a height, that will work. I offer one tip to make it more fun. I use my " turkey fryer burner" in the back yard. easy to control heat and our guests love to be part of it. Although that was a challenge at -47 C this winter. I retreated to the garage.

JerryMopar (author)GRitter2009-11-15

The trick I have found to cooking p'corn in a big kettle is when your getting to last 2/3rds of the popping, is to pick the whole kettle off the burner and shake it around with the lid on every 30 seconds until the popping finally stops, it will get some of the still loose and un-popped kernals down to the bottom, and will shift the already-cooked kernals so they dont burn! hope this helps

earlyflyer (author)2015-03-29

We used our Stir Crazy popper and it came out perfect! Next experiment: chocolate drizzled kettle corn!

GRitter (author)earlyflyer2015-03-30

That sounds amazing!

Roman2 (author)2013-06-18

I often make kettle corn and to avoid having the popcorn harden into large clumps, I simply stir it while it cools. This also helps to distibute the salt I add. I have found that a chopstick is ideal for stirring, as it tends to push through the popped kernals, rather than pushing them around.

goyo81 (author)2013-02-10

I just made this using your recipe and an electric wok and it was amazing! This is the best popcorn I've ever had, and with the wok it is super portable and easy to clean up. My students are going to love it!

GRitter (author)goyo812013-02-11

The wok sounds like a brilliant idea! With the rounded bottom, it is more like the kettle they cook the stuff in at the festivals. Great idea!

emmieg (author)2012-05-25

looks great we are going to try it tonight here in Maine

pumpernickel_babe (author)2011-11-18

Absolutely delicious, tastes exactly like the kettle corn at Disneyland but it's made with real sugar instead of nasty corn syrup! Cleanup was a breeze, as well. Definitely filing this away in my mental recipe book. =)

calicos (author)2011-03-11

I am so excited! We love kettle corn! We are both out of work so treats are pretty small for us - popcorn is it right now. I've always popped my own popcorn (thanks, mom!) but never, ever thought kettle corn would be just one more step! Thank you for this instructible -it was clear and -funny! Love that combo! Can't wait to make this tonight and surprise the SO!.

kill-a-watt (author)2010-12-29

I had no idea that kettle corn was this easy to make. I ended up with the last bit a bit burnt, but that was my fault. I'll take it off the heat a bit sooner.

iwitmateo (author)2009-12-03

Awesome recipe!!! I Love it!!! Quick easy and taste great... I made it with brown sugar earlier today, taste just as good, and adds a little color!!!

wolf1234link (author)2009-11-23


maigatter420 (author)2009-11-22

 Awesome recipe! I strongly recommend this method for home kettle corn making! It comes out way better than an air popper, or microwavable versions found in the supermarket. This recipe has that distinct "county fair" taste. Kudos!

RENATO.ROSS (author)2009-11-19

aqui no brasil é comum fazermos pipocas assim!!!!!

GRitter (author)RENATO.ROSS2009-11-20
Então Brasil deve ser um grande lugar a viver!
RENATO.ROSS (author)GRitter2009-11-20

sim,maravilhoso!!! as pessoas são amigas e temos muitas belezas naturais!!

droepcke (author)2009-11-08

Great Instructable!!!  I have been meaning to try this for a while, so today when I saw a huge bag of Jolly-Time at Big-Lots! . . . the rest is history.  It really does taste just like at the fair. 

One thing I did was pour the corn out of the pot from about a foot-and-a-half above the bowl.  This cooled it down a bit so that it did not stick together too bad.

Thanks again for the Instructable.

GRitter (author)droepcke2009-11-16

The method you describe for pouring / cooling the popcorn is the same as the guy at the festival uses. I don't know why I never thought of that (sometimes I can be a little thick )Thanks for the tip!


TH3 R4ND0M H3R0 (author)2009-11-15

What's the point in this if you could just buy kettle corn you cook in your microwave? At least then you don't have to worry about oil splashing into your face and scarring you for life.

GRitter (author)TH3 R4ND0M H3R02009-11-16

If I could find microwave popcorn that was sweetened with sugar, I would be willing to give it a try. But  all the kettle corn I have found for the microwave is sweetened with sucralose, which has that artificial sweetener taste that I don't like because they are so ridiculously sweet.

kfr1sby (author)TH3 R4ND0M H3R02009-11-15

Because making popcorn fresh on the stove tastes so much better than the microwave stuff. It tastes fresh and clean. That's the only way I make popcorn anymore. Give it a try!

JerryMopar (author)kfr1sby2009-11-15

oh gosh, home-made popcorn is the best, I refuse to eat store-bought junk anymore. Plug, being gluten intolerant, i dont know if there is any gluten from store-bought junk

It's probably something about wanting to put a lot of chemicals into your body or not, probably taste would be a factor also. Hot oil spatters (how would you get "splashed'?) hitting you in the face are not going to scare you for life,  an 'ible for placing a bag in the microwave wouldn't be on here right?

galaxygee (author)2009-11-15

 My thanks also, very delish.

I just made for the first time and wonder if using "better" (read: bigger, easier popping) popcorn, like Orville Reddenbacher would be better. I just have/used crappy JollyTime and while it always somewhat sucks (perhaps in part due to my popping situation, i.e., a cast iron dutch oven on a gas stove) it was worse with the sugar because it burned more easily.

Still very yummy, though!

Doggie Stylish (author)2009-11-15

great 'ible! i'm going to have to try to make this yummy stuff!

sbirdranch (author)2009-08-24

I got luck and was in two places this summer where I could get it. I just finished the last and am jones'in for more already. I'm going to try this with some popcorn I grew last season. Thanks.

GRitter (author)sbirdranch2009-08-24

I hope it turns out good for you. I just made a batch and ..........mmmmm........

lfontein (author)2009-06-11

Yum, thanks for the recipe. I found this online last night. Within minutes, my boyfriend and I were shoving handfuls of kettle corn into our mouths as if we hadn't eaten in days (in fact, we'd just finished dinner). So easy and sooo good.

GRitter (author)lfontein2009-06-11

I'm really glad you enjoyed this and thanks for the nod in your blog. I'm very honored.

capaneus (author)2008-12-10

I'm munching it down right now. Took about 3 minutes to make. I used coconut oil and cane sugar and it's perfect. Thanks for the instructions. And people make microwave popcorn why? :)

egriff (author)capaneus2008-12-18

less work.

bonbon663 (author)2008-11-15

This was great! It is very easy, and makes a delicious, healthy snack. Thanks for the great instructable!

whitehawk (author)2008-01-31

I always thought you had to heat the oil first, *then* add the corn ... does anyone know if it makes any difference either way? Thanks!

Spokehedz (author)whitehawk2008-02-01

Putting the corn in with the oil first lets you know when the oil is the right temperature. Because the popcorn works on the theory that water turns into steam at around 212 degrees, it lets you know when to add the sugar so you don't burn it.

GRitter (author)Spokehedz2008-02-03

Spokehedz seems to understand the chemistry of this whole thing a lot better than I do, but this is how I came to do it the way I do. The gentleman that I learned to do this from did it just the way you are describing. He would heat the oil in this giant, round bottomed kettle with just one kernel of corn in it and when that kernel popped he would then add all of the popcorn and the sugar. He was doing this in very large "carnival sized" batches and everything worked out just fine for him and that's how I fell in love with kettle corn. So, I get home and try to do it and burn it EVERY TIME. Just a dark brown, smoking mess. I played with the heat, the timing, different oils and some things got better, but over all I still didn't like what I was getting. Then I decided to do it the way that I posted and I have been a happy boy ever since. I have a few theories as to why things turned out for me this way but Spokehedz may be able to speak to this better than I am capable. With the large batch, adding the popcorn and sugar at the same time doesn't effect the overall temperature of the project as much as with the smaller batches that I was doing. Plus my heat source was different ( my "mentor" used gas). I don't know if that has a great effect or not. Also the shape of the kettle -vs- the shape of my pot might have something to do with it too. I wish I knew what it was, but all I know is that this was the only way that I could make it work for me. Other methods will work, I'm sure. But no matter how you do it, you've got a great snack in the end that your friends and family will ask you to make over and over again. Enjoy.

bishophicks (author)GRitter2008-02-06

I heat the oil first using a couple of test kernels. After they pop, I put the rest of the popcorn in, but do a slow 10 count before putting in the sugar. The sugar will start to burn in the oil before the water in the popcorn turns to steam unless you give the popcorn a head start. Another issue may be your pot. It looks like a fairly lightweight pot which can lead to scorching. My stovetop popcorn cooking results improved dramatically after I started making popcorn in a heavy bottomed skillet. Mixing the salt and sugar together before adding it works great. The heat doesn't bother the salt - it's a rock. Now I want some.

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Bio: Making anything keeps me happy. I like making soap, canning food using vegetables we have grown in our garden (pickles, pasta sauce, jelly, relishes, pesto ... More »
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