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This homemade kettle corn recipe is just like the kind you get at a carnival! (But, shhh!!! It uses two secret ingredients to get its carnival-like flavor that most people wouldn’t suspect. They’ll never know!)
Kettle corn is a delicious treat. But if you purchase a big bag of it (does it come any other way?) you always end up feeling yucky for eating that much sugar, or your sweet tooth checks out halfway through and you’re left with half a bag to either give away or throw away. At least, that’s how it always worked around here. Instead, make it at home with healthy ingredients. It’s the perfect snack for going to the movies, or even for a movie night at home.
Is Kettle Corn Just Popcorn?
Yes and no. It’s definitely made with popcorn, but it also has a few other ingredients added.
What Is Kettle Corn
Kettle corn is a sweet variety of popcorn that is typically mixed or seasoned with a light-colored refined sugar, salt and oil . It was traditionally made in cast iron kettles, hence the name. But in modern times, other types of pots and pans are used.Wikipedia
What Gives Kettle Corn Its Flavor?
As mentioned above, kettle corn is typically flavored with sugar, salt, and oil. But I have found that that simple recipe often doesn’t quite get the desired results at home. So I developed another way to get the same, carnival-like flavor in your own home kitchen.
What Kind Of Corn Is Used For Kettle Corn?
For home use, regular popcorn kernels will work just fine. But if you want that big, round, puffy popcorn that you get at a carnival, you’ll want to purchase mushroom popcorn kernels. It’s a particular type of popcorn that is specific to what you get at a circus, county fair, or other types of events like that.
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What’s The Best Way To Pop Popcorn?
While I usually make mine with just a pot and lid, I highly recommend a Whirley Pop. It makes much better popcorn, especially kettle corn. There are other options (such as a hot air popper), but I find that only really works for plain popcorn that you add seasoning to after popping. If you need to add seasoning during popping, this type of popper is a very bad idea.
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The Secret Ingredients
This is hands down, the best kettle corn recipe I’ve ever made. So what are the secret ingredients I mentioned above?
Pumpkin Pie Spice – you might be scratching your head at the pumpkin pie spice. But I assure you, the finished kettle corn does not taste like pumpkin pie spice, and the effect on the popcorn is nothing short of delicious! Truly a carnival-like flavor.
Coconut Sugar – Using this sugar gives the kettle corn its absolute, perfect, carnival flavor. More than the pumpkin spice, this is the main secret ingredient of the two. No other sugar will give your kettle corn this marvelous flavor.
- If you want that classic flavor, there really isn’t a lot you can do to vary the recipe here. But there is one thing you can do to intensify the flavor and sweetness without adding more sugar. Sprinkle a little salt on it! Don’t use a lot, just a light dash in an even layer should do the trick.
- You can also make this in a dutch oven (with a lid), or a pan with a fitted lid. However, you’ll still want to keep the popcorn moving to keep it from burning. So keep the weight of the pot in mind when choosing which pot to use. You need to be able to easily move it across your stovetop to keep the popcorn kernels moving.
- If the popcorn seems too “dry”, stir a bit more oil into it while it’s still hot.
About The Ingredients
Coconut oil – This should be virgin coconut oil that is solid at room temperature. It melts very quickly in a hot pot. You can use other oils if you wish such as avocado oil, but it’s best to avoid oils such as canola oil or vegetable oil.
Popcorn kernels – Organic popping kernels are best to avoid GMO corn.
Coconut sugar – You can also use Sucanat or monk fruit. But coconut sugar gives the best flavor.
Pumpkin pie spice – No sugar added – See the recipe link below to make your own
How To Make Kettle Corn
I’m sure there are several ways to make kettle corn. This is just MY way to make it. If you know any other tips or tricks, please share them in a comment below!
One thing to note is that with this sugar, the bottom of your pot might look like a goner when you’re done. But I promise, with a little soak in some hot water, your pot will be good as new.
In a small mixing bowl, blend together your coconut sugar and pumpkin pie spice so you have it pre-measured and ready to pour. Set aside.
How To Make It:
Using a sturdy pot with a lid, melt the coconut oil and then add the popcorn kernels. Cover with lid. Turn the heat to somewhere between medium heat and medium-high heat. Never cook this with your stove on full blast. The popcorn will burn too easily and the oil will smoke a lot.
Make sure you have some pot holders handy if you need them. Occasionally shake the pot over the flame to avoid burning.
When the popcorn is popped, keep the lid on, but remove the pot from the heat.
Remove the lid and quickly stir in the coconut sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon is best. Stir until the popcorn is well-coated. There will still be some white spots on the corn. It should look roughly like the photo above.
Once mixed, immediately transfer to a cool, large bowl so the sugar doesn’t burn. A stainless steel bowl is best, if you have one.
How To Store Homemade Kettle Corn
This is best kept in an airtight container or zipper-top plastic bag. It can be kept on the counter for up to 2 days, but it’s better off in the fridge. If kept in the refrigerator, it will keep well for up to 2 weeks. Simply set it on the counter for 20 minutes before eating to get it back to room temperature.
Can I Double Or Trip This Recipe?
Technically, you could, depending on how large your pot is. But I find that even just doubling a recipe like this can leave you with a lot of burnt popcorn. Especially the remaining popcorn kernels that don’t pop. So it’s best to make this in batches if you want more than what the recipe yields. Thankfully, it does not take a lot of time to make a batch.
More Healthy Popcorn Recipes
Homemade Kettle Corn Recipe Card
Homemade Kettle Corn Recipe
CLICK TO WATCH THIS RECIPE IN ACTION!
- Large pot with lid
- 2 tsp. coconut oil
- ¼ cup un-popped, organic popcorn
- 2 tbsp. coconut sugar
- ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- In a small mixing bowl, blend together your coconut sugar and pumpkin pie spice so you have it pre-measured and ready to pour. Set aside.
How To Make It
- Using a sturdy pot with a lid, melt the coconut oil and then add the popcorn kernels. Cover with lid. Turn the heat to somewhere between medium heat and medium-high heat. Never cook this with your stove on full blast. The popcorn will burn too easily and the oil will smoke a lot.
- Make sure you have some pot holders handy if you need them. Occasionally shake the pot over the flame to avoid burning.
- When the popcorn is popped, keep the lid on, but remove the pot from the heat.
- Remove lid and quickly stir in the coconut sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon is best. Stir until the popcorn is well coated. There will still be some white spots on the corn. It should look roughly like the photo above.
- Once mixed, immediately transfer to a cool, large bowl so the sugar doesn’t burn. A stainless steel bowl is best, if you have one.
Recipe from the Gracious Pantry® archives, originally posted 11/19/2012.