This Homemade Kettle Corn is the perfect combination of sweet & salty popcorn made right on the stovetop. In ten minutes or less you will have an addicting snack that's perfect for movie night!
Here in Minnesota we take full advantage of the three months of warm weather we tend to get each year with a different county fair or festival every weekend. During these events, there is never any shortage of cheese curds, corn dogs or funnel cakes. During my childhood, I remember having to make one last stop at these events before heading home: the kettle corn line. People, including us, would wait in line for what seemed like forever to get their hands on a bag of this sweet and salty snack that was made in a huge cast iron cauldron.
I remember always feeling sorry for the people who's job it was to stand over this huge pot of popcorn over an open flame in 85 degree heat. I also think there's another reason why we waited to get the kettle corn until right before leaving. We would always buy the largest bag which was skinny, but close to 3 feet tall! How are you supposed to do anything else while carrying that around?
I created the recipe for this Homemade Kettle Corn to satisfy a craving for this sweet and salty snack at home. It is cooked right on the stovetop and will be ready in ten minutes of less, making it an easy snack or movie night treat!
What You'll Need for Homemade Kettle Corn
- Dutch oven or other large thin-bottomed pot - at least 3 ½ quarts in size
- Vegetable oil - canola oil will work too. You want to use an oil that doesn't have much flavor on it's own.
- White & brown sugar - I use a combination of both in this Homemade Kettle Corn recipe to give the popcorn a slightly caramel-like flavor
- Popcorn kernels - yellow or white
- Salt - to add the perfect complement to the otherwise sweet popcorn
Tips for the Perfect Homemade Kettle Corn
There are a few tips & tricks to making the perfect Homemade Kettle Corn every time:
- Set the heat at medium and keep it there! It may be tempting to speed the process along by cranking the heat, but chances are a higher temperature will cause some of the sugar on the bottom to burn no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to popping popcorn on the stove.
- Use some test kernels. After the oil has been heating in the pot for a couple minutes, add in 2 or 3 popcorn kernels. Cover the pan and let the oil continue to heat until you hear these kernels pop. Then you know the oil is the perfect temperature for popping.
- Sprinkle in the sugar. This tip especially goes for the brown sugar. Often when we measure brown sugar we tend to pack it into the measuring spoon or cup and when we dump it out it comes out like you are making a sand castle. For this kettle corn, measure the brown sugar how you normally would but when you are ready to add it to the pan, dump it into your hand, break it apart then sprinkle it in. This will help avoid any clumps of sugar that may burn more easily.
- Don't turn your back. This Homemade Kettle Corn requires 10 minutes of your undivided attention. Before starting, get all your ingredients out and a bowl next to the stove for the finished popcorn. Once you add the popcorn and sugar to the pot it can burn very quickly. You need to constantly be shaking the pot over the burner to cook the popcorn evenly.
How to Make Homemade Kettle Corn
Once you have all your ingredients and equipment ready, start heating 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. After a couple minutes, throw in your test kernels. This may take 4-5 minutes so be patient! Once they pop, open the cover and add in ½ cup of popcorn kernels, white and brown sugar. Put the cover back on the pot and start shaking.
Continue shaking the pot back and forth over the burner and within a minute or two the popping will start. Keep cooking until you hear no more than 1 pop within 3 seconds. I'd rather sacrifice a couple unpopped kernels in the bottom than burnt popcorn, so this is a delicate balance. Speaking of unpopped kernels, my family has always called them "Old Maids".
When the popping has slowed down, immediately pour the popcorn into a large serving bowl. You want to get the popcorn off the heat as quickly as you can. Sprinkle ½ tsp. of salt evenly over the popcorn and stir to coat well. Within a couple minutes, the kettle corn will be cooled and ready to eat. Break apart any chunks that are stuck together.
"The" Popcorn Bowl
Growing up we always had an official popcorn bowl. I remember it being a wooden bowl with a red insert that read "Harriet's Popcorn" on the outside. It was my family's go-to vessel we used every time we made popcorn.
This is another example of an easy way to make traditions with your family in the kitchen. I lost track of this popcorn bowl after my childhood, but the memories remain in my mind of movie nights with my family eating popcorn out of this bowl. I encourage you to find joy in these simple things, as they are the things that can make the biggest impressions.
Other snack recipes:
Homemade Kettle Corn
- 2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp. white sugar
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- ½ cup popcorn kernels
- ½ tsp. salt
- In a large Dutch oven or thin-bottomed pot with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add a couple kernels of popcorn and wait for them to pop to ensure the oil is hot enough.
- When the test kernels have popped, add in popcorn kernels and sprinkle in white & brown sugar. Cover and continually shake pot back and forth on burner while the popcorn pops until there is a 3 second gap between any popping.
- Immediately pour popcorn into a large bowl. Sprinkle evenly with salt and toss well to coat.
- Allow popcorn to cool completely before storing in an airtight bag. Break apart any chunks that are stuck together. Popcorn will stay fresh for at least 2 weeks.
- This Homemade Kettle Corn requires 10 minutes of your undivided attention. Before starting, get all your ingredients out and a bowl next to the stove for the finished popcorn. Once you add the popcorn and sugar to the pot it can burn very quickly. You need to constantly be shaking the pot over the burner to cook the popcorn evenly.