Homemade Kettle Corn Recipe

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.

Kettle Corn in a popcorn bucket.

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.

You can find it on Amazon by clicking the image below. (Affiliate link).

Organic mushroom popcorn kernels sold on Amazon. (Affiliate link)

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.

You can find it on Amazon by clicking the image below. (Affiliate link)

Whirley Pop popcorn popper sold on Amazon. (Affiliate link)

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.

Kettle corn packaged in a clear plastic bag and tied with a red ribbon.

Recipe Tips

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Prep:

A bowl of sugar mix to make kettle corn.

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:

The popcorn in a pot with oil, ready to pop.

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.

The lid on the pot so the popcorn can popl

Make sure you have some pot holders handy if you need them. Occasionally shake the pot over the flame to avoid burning.

Removing the pot from the heat source and placing it on a heat-safe surface.

When the popcorn is popped, keep the lid on, but remove the pot from the heat.

Stirring the spices into the popcorn.

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.

Clean Eating Kettle Corn Recipe

More Healthy Popcorn Recipes

Recipes Used

Homemade Kettle Corn Recipe Card

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Kettle corn in a popcorn bucket, ready to eat.

Homemade Kettle Corn Recipe

Kettle corn doesn't have to be a totally guilty pleasure when you make it yourself at home!
4.50 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 85kcal

CLICK TO WATCH THIS RECIPE IN ACTION!

Equipment

  • Large pot with lid

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • ¼ cup un-popped, organic popcorn
  • 2 tbsp. coconut sugar
  • ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Instructions

Prep

  • 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.
    A bowl of sugar mix to make kettle corn.

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.
    The popcorn in a pot with oil, ready to pop.
  • Make sure you have some pot holders handy if you need them. Occasionally shake the pot over the flame to avoid burning.
    The lid on the pot so the popcorn can popl
  • When the popcorn is popped, keep the lid on, but remove the pot from the heat.
    Removing the pot from the heat source and placing it on a heat-safe surface.
  • 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.
    Stirring the spices into the popcorn.
  • 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.
    Finished kettle corn served in a popcorn container, laying on its side.

Notes

Please note that the nutrition data below is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.25the recipe | Calories: 85kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 15mg | Potassium: 28mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 0.4mg

Recipe from the Gracious Pantry® archives, originally posted 11/19/2012.

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22 Comments

  1. I’ve perused your blog before, but this is the recipe that will make me subscribe! ย 

  2. Rodegghero says:

    5 stars
    this Recipe is AMAZING!

  3. Tisha Rhone says:

    Thanks for this! We ran out of bags of popcorn that my daughter loves so I decided to teach her to make it “the old fashioned way” but when I reached for the oil, I wondered how it would taste with coconut oil instead but wasn’t brave enough to try it.

  4. Christine says:

    Hate to be dense, but I’ve only ever made popcorn with a hot air popper. Is the oil melted on high heat and popcorn added at high heat as well? Or melt on low then turn up to high?… I don’t know what a standard stove top method is! Thanks

    1. graciouspantry says:

      I melt the oil first to be sure the entire bottom of the pan is coated. Then I drop in the popcorn. Keep the heat somewhere around medium to medium-high. Not on full high because it will burn the popcorn.

  5. Awesome, I love kettle corn, is there another spice that you could recommend instead of pumpkin?

    1. graciouspantry says:

      It’s funny, the pumpkin flavor is not prevalent at all. It sort of caramelizes with the sugar for a nice sort of maple-y flavor. You could experiment with other spices, but I haven’t tried it myself.

  6. 5 stars
    Okay I just tried this recipe and it was soooooooooooooooo good!! WOW was that amazing! I was a little nervous about the pumpkin pie spice but it was right on and tasted wonderful! I did only use 1/4 tsp of the pumpkin pie spice and it tasted wonderful!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Awesome! Glad you liked it! I haven’t made it since just because it’s so darned addicting! LOL

  7. I use air popped pop corn. Will it still work? Where do I find coconut sugar?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      It would probably work okay. You’d have to try it though. Coconut sugar is sold in many health food stores. You can also get it on amazon.com.

  8. have you ever heard of a whirly pop? I have one and was wondering if you had any idea if I could do this in it?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sorry, never heard of it.

  9. 5 stars
    I didn’t have Pumpkin Pie Spice, so I substituted Apple Pie Spice. Deeelish! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Sounds delish, I’ll definitely try it! I’m a popcorn addict and make it exclusively on the stove. I wish more people weren’t so afraid to try their hand at cooking it on the stove! It’s fluffier, tastes better, healthier (and you know whats in it), cheaper and takes about as long to cook on stove as any other method ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Very true!

  11. I AM GOING TO HAVE TO TRY THIS WITH GINGER AND WASABI POWDER I HAVE BEEN WANTING A KETTLE CORN SWEETNESS WITH OUT USING WHITE SUGAR AND I HAVE SOME COCONUT SUGAR ON HAND YEA !!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Trish – Great! I hope you enjoy it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I experimented once with a kettle corn version by just adding the sugar to the oil and it worked great. Not sure if you’ve ever tried it that way, but I’m always up for easy and less clean up! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Cheri – If you want it to be clean, you could try that with Sucanat or Coconut Sugar. I’m sure it would work fine! ๐Ÿ™‚