Experiments in Kettle Corn

Introduction: Experiments in Kettle Corn

Fresh kettle corn is super fantastic made by using the simple, top Google-result recipe below. The methodology was to use the basic recipe as a starting point and then look around the kitchen and think, "Maybe that would be good in kettle corn". From here, a series of kettle corn experiments were conducted which yielded 6 yummy variants, plus 2 that bombed (maybe you'll be able to do something with them).

Basic Kettle Corn Recipe
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup canola oil

Saucepan with lid
Wooden spoon (no exceptions!)
Baking sheet
Silicone mat

Safety First!
Precautions should be taken when working with melted sugar and/or hot oil. Make sure you have a clear working area, wooden utensils, kids and pets are not underfoot and any pan used has a lid that fits well. Kettle corn has the extra risk of hot-sugar covered projectiles, so be super-extra-careful!

  1. Pour oil and corn into saucepan
  2. Turn heat to medium-high until the first bubble appear
  3. Add sugar (plus any additional flavoring) and gently stir just a few times with the wooden spoon
  4. Cover pan with lid
  5. Turn heat to high
  6. Once the first kernels begin to pop, lightly shake saucepan - just enough to keep kernels moving
  7. When popping reaches the most rapid point, turn off heat completely
  8. Continue to shake pan until popping stops
  9. Pour out onto silicone mat and spread out with spoon

Mixing any one of the following into the sugar before adding it to the saucepan came out great!
  • Ginger - 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • Cocoa - 1 Tbs cocoa powder
  • Pumpkin Pie - 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • Matcha - 1 1/2 tsp matcha powder
  • Sweet and Spicy - 1/4 tsp ground cayanne pepper
  • Honey Mustard - 1 Tbs honey, 2 tsp yellow mustard powder

Not so much...
These combos didn't go so well for me, but the concepts may work with some modifications.
  • Thai - 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/8 tsp garlic, 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • Gingerbread - 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 ginger, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp allspice, dash of cardamon
Happy experimenting!

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    10 years ago on Introduction

    OK, I'm letting out a 'Trade Secret' to improve your at home KK.

    I am a KK concession owner and 99.999% of the recipes on Al Gore's interwebs are WRONG, wrong, WrOnG! You've got the recipe about right, but the process is totally wrong.

    (justifiably, I've seen some folks doing it the way above at events too,  but this is NOT how the original eqpt manufacturers taught us to do it.,  our process just makes a consistently better product)

    Here's how we do it at the fair, carnival, ball games, etc  (read this all the way through, THEN go try it)

    Put the pot on the stove and heat the oil. When you heat ANY cooking oil it will reach a point where it looks like it's moving without you touching the pot.

    (we call that 'roiling')

    Maybe you've seen what I'm talking about.  You can see the heat moving in the oil, when you see that, THEN add the sugar

    (don't freak out yet, I've done this at least 11,327 times and it works)

    As soon as you put the sugar in the pot stir, stir stir.

    (I don't use a spoon at home, I just swirl the pot to keep the oil and sugar moving to prevent burning)

    The sugar will go through several changes.

    1st - it will just look wet, that goes away quickly.

    2nd - it will look like it's crystallizing into a messy clump, don't throw it out, just keep stirring.

    Last - the sugar will melt down into a syrup,

    (we call that, The Slump)

    As SOON as it does this, throw in the popcorn, and slam on the lid.

     From there on out it's the same as any popcorn. Cook it, shaking the pot to evenly cook the popcorn. When it just about stops cooking, pull it so the sugar does NOT burn.

    Dump your newly minted Kettle Korn into a bowl. If it's cooked right, the KK will slowly 'move' as the sugar sets up.

    (we call that 'crawl' or 'crawling')

    ("...aw man, that's a GOOD batch, look at the crawl...") ("....be careful bagging that, it's still crawling!")

    (OK, I'll admit it, I'm from KY..we actually say crawlin'...)

    (go ahead and laugh, I did) (baaaaack to the KK...)

    NOW add your salt, sprinkle it evenly over the top of the bowl, toss the KK to distribute the salt.

    There it is friends, the concessionaires KK recipe that we've been using for over 10 years.  It's a proven top seller, and NOW you too, yes you too Mr, Ms, Mrs Instructables Viewer can treat family & friends to top notch Professional KK!

    Be Careful & Enjoy!

    (obviously, you can massage this recipe, just like this author says...try a little chili powder mixed with some onion powder and garlic powder, it creates a kinda, sorta BBQ KK...and OMG is it good!)

    (instead of regular salt, use onion salt...tastes like caramelized onions AND popcorn)


    5 years ago

    Cardamom and cinnamon are a good pair up


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I was experimenting with kettle corn today and found this site. I burned the first batch, then I tried again. Biggest mistake I made was having the pan too hot. You just need the pan hot enough to pop the corn (maybe 280-300 degrees Fahr.), but not hot enough to scorch the sugar (maybe 330-350 deg. F.) Seems like it would be pretty difficult to use a cooking thermometer, since it all happens pretty fast.

    I wound up heating the oil (1/4 C) at medium-high heat with a couple of kernals until they popped, then dumped the rest (1/3 C) of the kernals in, then gave them a few seconds to start to heat, then added mixed sugar/salt (3 tsp/1/2 tsp), put the lid on the pot and shook every few seconds until the popping almost stopped. The popcorn came out very white. I think it would be better with just a bit of caramelization, but it seems like getting the heat just right for just a bit of caramelization without getting burnt would be hard to control (on my stove anyway!) Better too light than charred and inedible. Note that I was trying for a lightly sweet version - you may want to use a bit more sugar. Also, I used a fine grain salt, and it worked fine to mix it in with the sugar, but most of the recipes I found salted after the popcorn was cooked.

    Now I want to try the suggested variation with cocoa! And discowhale's BBQ suggestion!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You'd probably have more luck with gingerbread if you didn't leave out molasses and cloves. I'd also grate some fresh ginger in there for a more complex flavor. Ground ginger and fresh ginger taste different; I'd use both.

    Your Thai probably needs more actual Thai flavors to work. I'd consider adding lemongrass, fish sauce, authentic chiles in place of the cayenne, some lime (juice or zest - even powdered dried leaves), maybe sub in some coconut or palm sugar (or add in toasted shredded coconut), cilantro, basil, mint, onion, and a hint of soy sauce.

    You made me want to make your failed flavors to see if they'll work :-)

    Thanks for posting!


    This one gets favorited. I love kettle corn and haven't had it in ages. Will make it soon. I think I'll substitute red pepper flake on the sweet and spicy, because I like the flavor better. But honey mustard is genius I am sooo looking forward to trying it.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I wonder what it was about the last combinations that didn't work? Perhaps trying to add too many seasonings? Seems like the successful ones used only one or two additions. And the gingerbread recipe is so similar to pumpkin pie spice, except for the cardamon.
    Sounds like a fun experiment!