To all of you who are parents–do you remember what life was like before those little bundles of joy arrived? It wasn’t all that long ago for me, but I still have to squint my eyes and make my brain hurt to remember that at one point in my life, I didn’t have permanent snotty hand prints on the shoulders of every shirt I own. Or that back in the day, a basic trip to the grocery store didn’t involve a major strategic battle plan. In fact, it’s amazing how different life was back then. For me and my husband it involved a lot of kettle corn. When we got married, we received a Whirley-Popper from a good friend (who, ironically, is Kate’s mother-in-law and I didn’t even know Kate back then!) along with a bunch of gourmet popcorn and seasoning mixes. It quickly became our favorite kitchen appliance and just about every single night, we’d sit on our LoveSac (the only piece of furniture that would fit in our tiny apartment living room), watch movies, and chomp on bowls of hot, sweet kettle corn. Those were the days when we didn’t have to pause movies every 12.5 minutes to take turns dragging toddlers back to bed. Ahhh…kettle corn. For the record, as fun and carefree as those kid-less times were, it’s SO much better now, snotty hand prints and all :)

For those of you who love to buy bags of this at the fair, get excited because you can make it at home! And you don’t even need the fancy-schmancy popcorn popper. But beware: it’s highly addictive!

Stove Top Kettle Corn
Recipe by Our Best Bites

3 T canola or vegetable oil
1/3 C popcorn kernels
3 T granulated sugar
kosher salt

The recipe for kettle corn isn’t complicated–it’s the little tricks that matter. So I’m going to teach you all of my little tricks!

1. Place a large stock pot on the stove top. Set heat to medium-high. Add oil. While your oil is heating (it won’t take long), measure out your popcorn into a small bowl. Add sugar to the kernels. When it’s time to cook, everything moves very quickly, so it’s important to have it all ready to go.

Now, wait until you see your oil smoke. This is one little trick that a lot of people overlook, but it’s important. The smoke is very faint, but if you just stare at the pot (it helps to get down parallel to it), you’ll see little billows of smoke coming up. That’s your cue!

Pour popcorn kernels and sugar into the pot.

Immediately stir using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, scraping sugar from bottom of pan. This step should only take about 10 seconds because I don’t want a lawsuit from someone who got pegged in the eye with a popping kernel. Got that? There’s your disclaimer. 10 seconds people!

Cover pot with lid. You will need to shake the pot with your hands and you’ll want to make sure the lid stays on, so I get a dish towel and drape it over like this:

Of course I had to let go to take the picture, so normally I would be holding the handles so the towel wouldn’t be dangling so dangerously close to the burner. I may be a klutz but I’m not an idiot!

Hold the pot by the handles in a way that you’re securing the lid on as well. Shake the pan side to side in all directions and up and down a few times. Do this every 20 seconds or so. It will keep the sugar from burning on the bottom and help the kernels to be evenly coated.

After a few minutes you should start hearing the pops. (If it doesn’t start popping after a few minutes, crack the lid to let some of the pressure out. Chances are when you put the lid back on, it will pop away). Continue the shaking every 20 second or so until you can tell almost everything is popped. Remove the lid and stir immediately.

Sprinkle Kosher salt to taste and then keep stirring. You can eat it warm right out of the pan (Disclaimer #2: caramelized sugar it HOT so don’t eat it right away.) or let it cool completely. It’s great either way!

Still planning out what to eat for Halloween Weekend?
Surprise the family with a special breakfast! Then go for Chili and Cornbread for dinner. Make sure to sip some Cider, pop some Kettle Corn, and if you’re having a party make lots of fun food and plenty of Halloween treats!
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hope you all have a fun, and safe Halloween!


  1. 1
    sherri says:

    There's nothing better than kettle corn. Thanks for this.

  2. 2
    amylouwho says:

    oh no, i'm in trouble! I have a whirly pop – do you still need to shake it up and down, or just spin it?

    I'm so excited! I figured it wasn't hard – but never had a recipe! THANKS!!

  3. 3
    Joelen says:

    Yum! I have to make some kettlecorn in my whirley pop now! Looks delicious and so glad you liked the plates! :)

  4. 4
    2busy says:

    This looks so delicious I am making this tonight for movie night!

  5. 5
    Jen says:

    Oh YUM. I'm in trouble.

  6. 6
    Sara @ Our Best Bites says:

    Amylouwho- it's even easier with a whirly pop, no need to shake- just follow the exact directions, only stir instead of shake. Enjoy!

  7. 7
    Heidi says:

    I notice you use kosher salt a lot. I know it is different than regular salt, but could sea salt be used in place of it? I always have sea salt, but never kosher, maybe I need to get some?

  8. 8
    Sara @ Our Best Bites says:

    I use kosher salt almost exclusively, with the exception of baking things like cakes and cookies. Kate and I have been meaning to do an entire post on salts because we get a lot of questions about that. Sea salt can be a good substitution when recipes call for kosher salt, but kosher salt is still best.

    In this recipe however, regular ol' table salt would work just fine. I just prefer the flavor of the kosher so that's what I used.

  9. 9
    Jason Sandeman says:

    Thank you for the wonderful post. I gues I have been chicken to try and make popcorn on the stove, and I do not believe I have ever had Kettle Popcorn before. I am going to try this out tonight.

  10. 10
    Shawna says:

    Yum! I can't wait to make this tomorrow night while waiting for all the cute little trick or treaters!
    You guys have such a wonderful site I look forward to checking it out each morning! :)

  11. 11
    Steff Childs says:

    Love your photos for this post! The wooden plate and the pumpkins and the straw. So much fun! And I'm with you, very exciting to see everyone's #PlateSwap posts.

  12. 12
    Chef Cathy Shambley says:

    I sent wooden plates too, just love them. My son LOVES Kettle corn and I can't wait to make this – it's hard to impress a teenager ya know. Thanks!

  13. 13
    Somewhere In The Sun says:

    Is this Fat Free??? I'll just pretend! I love kettle corn and can't wait to try this.

  14. 14
    Danielle says:

    I love our whirly pop!!! My mom loves the kettle corn so much that it is the one thing she requests when she comes to visit. We will have to try heating the oil first. Oh and I like to add a little vanilla occasionally.

  15. 15
    Matteo Fagin says:

    Not only is this popcorn look good it is much healthier than Microwave Popcorn which most likely has Bisphemorol a


  16. 16
    Kelly says:

    OMG, I love kettle corn. My husband thinks it's gross. What is wrong with him? 😉 I'd be so afraid that the sugar would burn, but it looks fantastic.

    And I love the wood plates – lovely! I got some bamboo ones from Pampered Chef not too long ago and they're so cool. There's something about dishes made with natural materials like wood that is very appealing.

  17. 17
    Myrnie says:

    Looks delicious!! What a fabulous wedding gift- she's the best :)

  18. 18
    Busym1 says:

    I know what I am making this afternoon! Thanks for the recipe, I am so excited! Hugs, michelle

  19. 19
    betchacanteatjustone says:

    I make kettle corn often and we love it! :) I made 10 bathches for my daughters carnival theme birthday party last month and it was a HUGE hit!

  20. 20
    TheFitnessFreak says:

    Mmmmm, love kettle corn! This sounds like the recipe I make and it is soooo good!

  21. 21
    julie! says:

    oh my goodness, this is the BEST kettle corn recipe I have ever made! It tastes just like what you buy at the fair. Thank you! I am sending this recipe to everyone I know!

  22. 22
    Nicole says:

    Please tell me how much salt you add. I am worried I would put too much or little on. I realize it's to taste, but give me a ball park figure…

  23. 23
    WizzyTheStick says:

    Do I remember what life was like before becoming a parent? Of course I do and I miss those days much like I miss making 'real' popcorn. That's now the domain of the microwave -only because I dread the cleanup of the popcorn popper. I ask you who is the idiot that designs these electrical appliances without removable parts that can be washed easily.

  24. 24
    Jimi says:

    I'm a big fan, but I think this is my first comment. I have made this exact recipe for some time and after burning a batch of two I learned a handy trick. After adding the corn and sugar to the oil, I take the pan off the burner for 30 seconds. Not sure why it works, but it always turns out perfectly.

  25. 25
    Kate @ Our Best Bites says:

    Sara, I'm so glad you posted this because my Whirly Popper has, unfortunately, become severely disabled and I don't really want to shell out another $30 for a new one. The hubs and I did the same thing when we were poor, childless students.

  26. 26
    Jen says:

    So, So good! I just tried this and it's amazing! I was worried that I had burned it because it smelled burned, but the popcorn didn't taste burned–just sort of had that smoky taste that you get with fair kettle corn. AWESOME!

  27. 27
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction says:

    Your kettle corn looks delicious! I have been thinking about making some homemade kettle corn for a while. It's one of my favorites!

  28. 28
    Amanda says:

    My daughter will love me if i make this!!

  29. 29
    Susan G. says:

    When I click on "print friendly" for this recipe I get the candy corn cupcakes!!

  30. 30
    Michelle says:

    I love kettle corn! Another way to tell if the oil is hot enough is to put a kernel or two in with the oil as it is heating. When they pop, the oil is hot enough and you can dump the rest in.

    Fun blog–I just found it!

  31. 31
    Ward-a-Loo's says:

    This is awesome and so easy!! Thanks for the great recipes!

  32. 32
    Myrnie says:

    Made this for the second time tonight for a girls night with Arwyn- she loved it just as much as my husband and daughter did the first time! I think next time I'll have to make 2 batches- one for me, and one for everyone else :) Yum, thanks!

  33. 33
    Ashley says:

    I just made this. WOW so yummy! I used my stir crazy popper, it worked perfectly! Super easy too! Thank you thank you!

  34. 34
    Miranda says:

    I LOVE Kettle corn and am always tempted to buy those huge bags at carnivals and fairs! I was looking for a quick snack and this was SOO fast snd super delicious! Thank you so much for sharing!

  35. 35
    Cheri says:

    Ok I LOVE this recipe, thankyou!
    Just wanted to FYI you that it is not in the links with your Recipe Index, at least I couldn't find it. But for others sake I thought I let you know… should not be kept a secret. :)

  36. 36
    Sara @ Our Best Bites says:

    Thanks for the heads up Cheri! I added it to the index under desserts – snacks.

  37. 37
    Dawn says:

    I added about a tsp of pumpkin pie spice to the sugar before adding it to the pot and it made the most delicious fall popcorn ever!

  38. 38
    Sara @ Our Best Bites says:

    Dawn, that's brilliant! I can't wait to try that :)

  39. 39
    Miranda says:

    Just wanted to say thanks! We love kettle corn and this stuff is delish AND easy! Heads up to anyone as foolish as I am.. do NOT try to use a plastic spoon it WILL melt. Guess I shoulda listened to directions :)

  40. 40
    Jaci says:

    One should NEVER read this site when hungry… and detoxing!! Kettle Corn and more in the near future!

  41. 41
    sweettooth7 says:

    Wonderful directions. I just started experimenting with kettle corn this summer. So far, raw sugar has given the best sweetness/flavor. Cane sugar was just too sweet.

  42. 42
    Erin says:

    WOW- That was wonderful. I had no idea how easy it was to make kettle corn at home. This is really dangerous. Thanks for all the great recipes. I make at least 2 things a week from your site. Thanks!!!

  43. 43
    Vil Spills says:

    I can't wait to make this!! I am in love with kettle corn and as a treat, I walk down to our Sunday Farmer's market for some~ Lately though, I been getting there a little late because the kettle corn person has always just left :( Thank you for all the wonderful recipes!!

  44. 44
    Tara says:

    OH Kettle Corn how I love yo so. Yummy easy recipe! Thank you!

  45. 45
    Traci says:

    We have an air popper, but you can still get the kettle corn flavor. We pop a big bowl of popcorn, add about 1/2 cup of melted butter, sprinkle on sea salt (what we have in the house) and then some turbinado (raw sugar). not exactly the same, but an awesome substitute!

  46. 46
    Digishire says:

    I just tried your recipe, and want to report back that it turned out great. I appreciate you taking the time to share it (lovely photos as well).

    John McConnell
    The Kettle Corn Guy

  47. 47
    Rachelle says:

    I remebered having kettle corn when I was younger, but it was colored…when do you add the food coloring?

  48. 48
    Heidi says:

    I used to make this all the time, thanks for reminding me how yummy and easy it is. And thanks for the tip about kosher salt, I'll have to try that.

    We usually make a microwave cheater's version: put maybe 1/4 cup kernels in a paper lunch sack, pour in a splash of oil, and 1/8 c sugar then roll the top shut and nuke until it seems done. (I put a paper towel under it because the oil will soak through the bag a bit). Sprinkle the popped corn with salt and voila! Kettle Corn! Bonus: no sticky pot to wash. :)

    Thanks again!

  49. 49
    Camille says:

    I just made this and it’s so good!! My mother in law is a popcorn FREAK and ABSOLUTELY LOVES kettle corn. I’ll have to make her a batch next time we go over to their place and earn some in-law points!! Super easy and way less expensive than the microwave bags you can get…and much tastier too!! Thanks Sara!

  50. 50
    Meg Beachler says:

    Invest in a whirly-pop! They are $25 or less and makes making kettle corn EASY… I also make cinnamon kettle corn… substitute the sugar for 1/2 Cup of red hots!!

    I think I am going to try rainbow popcorn with the Starburst jelly beans I picked up after Easter. I am going to divide the colors and make each batch their own color!!

  51. 51
    Kellie says:

    AWESOME recipe! It only takes a few minutes to make and it’s delicious. Thank you, thank you!

  52. 52
    Jill says:

    I ABSOLUTELY ADORE THIS WEBSITE! 😀 usually, you guys have covered everything that I needed when cooking, so I have never left a comment before. but there is one question I have now; do you know how to make caramalised popcorn? I used to love the caramel covered/chocolate covered popcorn at the popcorn shops, but they all seem to have disappeared.. is it possible to make it at home?

    thanks so much! x

    • 52.1
      Adica says:

      Use brown sugar instead of white (just make sure to break it up really well). It won’t have the same coated texture of the kind from popcorn shops, but it’ll still be very good. It’ll have the texture as kettle corn, except caramel flavored. Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network website also has a microwave version of caramel corn (“Microwave Nutty Caramel Corn”) that I’ve also made before. It’s more coated like the store bought (only better!).

  53. 53
    Kara C. says:

    I love this popcorn popper!

  54. 54
    Adica says:

    @Jill: Use brown sugar instead of white (just make sure to break it up really well). It won’t have the same coated texture of the kind from popcorn shops, but it’ll still be very good. It’ll have the texture as kettle corn, except caramel flavored. Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network website also has a microwave version of caramel corn (“Microwave Nutty Caramel Corn”) that I’ve also made before. It’s more coated like the store bought (only better!).

  55. 55
    Rachel says:

    So easy and yummy! Perfect for movie night with our family. Thanks!

  56. 56
    Bev says:

    I always wondered how kettle corn was made. Thanks to your great and witty instructions, I can make my very own kettle corn. It’s a little late tonight, (3;15 a.m.)but I will sure try it soon. Thank you.


  57. 57
    katee says:

    a tip to know when to add the kernals would be to add a few and when they pop you know the oil is ready and you can add the rest.

  58. 58
    HW says:

    Thanks for sharing! I love kettle corn and am so excited that now I can make it quickly and easily at home for cheap! It’s amazing how they charge you so much for it at the store. I’ve used your tutorial to make it several times now. I usually do 1/2 c. popcorn instead of 1/3 c. and leave everything else the same and it still turns out great.

  59. 59
    Gina says:

    I have made this 3 times in the last 2 days! You do the math on that one. haha. Thank you for sharing this and believe me I am spreading your words. 😉

  60. 60
    britni says:

    Fantastic! Better than the kettle corn at our farmer’s market!!!

  61. 61
    Christina says:

    It helps if you use a pot that has a see-through lid, that way you know when it’s done. Hope this helps!

  62. 62
    Lynette says:

    I am so excited to make this! I tried a kettle corn recipe a while back, and it just didn’t work. I’m positive yours will be great. I love that you have so many popcorn variations too. :)

  63. 63
    Heidi says:

    We love this stuff!!! My husband requests it all the time now and it is so easy! Thanks!

  64. 64
    Haley says:

    I have a question : I don’t have any popcorn kernels like that , but i do have bags of unpopped popcorn. Could i use that instead of the kernels like she used?

    • 64.1
      sara says:

      I’m not sure what you’re asking Haley- popcorn kernels are unpopped popcorn.

      • Haley says:

        I mean ones that are in the bag with the butter on them , as compared to yours which don’t have butter .

        • sara says:

          Lol, so you’re talking about microwave popcorn? Should have said that! haha. I can’t say how that would turn out since those have oils, seasonings, and other substances in them. You’d have to experiment, but your best bet would be to just buy a bag of plain popcorn.

  65. 65
    Sharry M. says:

    Just wanted to let you know I made this today and followed your directions to the tee. I used a dutch oven. It turned out FABULOUS!! We usually buy a large bag at the craft fairs every fall and spend some big $$$….and this recipe tastes just like it!! Thank you so much for an awesome recipe!!

  66. 66
    Cindy says:

    Great recipe. Have made kettle corn this way for years. Try brown sugar – it tastes like caramel corn!

  67. 67
    Karen Ensign says:

    Can you make it using one of those stir-crazy popcorn poppers? Just wondering if it is okay to put sugar in one of those poppers. If so, would you add it at the beginning, along with the popcorn? I’m curious to try it. I’ve done it on the stove top once and it got a little burnt on the bottom. Maybe it was because I didn’t stir it at the beginning.

    • 67.1
      sara says:

      Yep, you can for sure use that! In fact, it works way better than just in a regular pot. You’ll just want to start cranking right when it goes in and don’t stop until it finishes popping.

  68. 68
    patti Beasley says:

    Awesome! I just finished eating my bowl of popcorn and it was perfect. I have been buying bags of kettle corn in the chip isle for $3-4 a bag. Yikes! This is cheaper and does not have all the preservatives for shelf life. THANKS!!!!

  69. 69
    Maureen Hatch says:

    This recipe is awesome. I have a son who loves kettle corn. He is now in 7th heaven now that we can make it ourselves. Thanks for the recipe.

  70. 70
    BeccaS says:

    Oh my Yum! My husband LOVES Kettle Corn. He is so happy right now!

  71. 71
    Vonda says:

    Aaaaawesome! …in my Oprah voice I love kettle corn thanks!

  72. 72
    Kathy Palmer says:

    I love this one! I have made it twice in the last 3 days! I found it was easy to cut in half so I don’t feel as guilty when I eat the entire batch :)

  73. 73
    Gwen says:

    This is also really good with about 1 Tb of cinnamon added to it.

  74. 74
    Kristin E. says:

    I found my way over here from Pinterest while looking for something easy for a Halloween party. And yes, I decided that stove-top popcorn was easy! It’s also cheap, which as a college student is probably the most important thing. Anywho, I experimented/practiced tonight and this is delicious! I didn’t have kosher salt on hand, but it still turned out great! Thanks for the easy and wonderful recipe! Your site is now in my favorites.

  75. 75
    Tifanie says:

    I was thinking of doing “pink” kettle corn for my daughters Valentine’s party tomorrow, do you think I should add the red food coloring with the oil? Have you ever colored your popcorn? Hmm..

  76. 76

    […] obsessed with this Kettle Corn recipe from Our Best Bites! Popcorn has always been a favorite of mine, but this recipe is life […]

  77. 77
    Leah says:

    My family loves kettle corn. It is always our special treat at the farmers market each week, but I never would have thought I could try it at home. Thanks so much for the recipe, we’ll be trying it soon!

  78. 78
    Cory says:

    I just made this and it was fantastic!!! Thanks for adding your special tips too.

  79. 79
    Caca says:

    I like the 1st step of heat up the oil completely is essential, this will ensure popcorns are crunchy.

  80. 80
    Julie says:

    This is AMAZING! I thank you and my husband thanks you a thousand times over. I have one question: Have you ever tried making one batch right after another without washing the pot? I’m wondering if it will work without burning the sugar spots that are stuck to the sides….

  81. 81
    carmel says:

    hi, when do you turn the heat off?

  82. 82
    Darcy says:

    I have a Whirly Gig and love it but I was wondering if you had any recipes for fruity flavored popcorns that I could make in it. Kinda like those Jell-o recipes that can be baked in the oven. Thanks!

  83. 83
    vika says:

    This is still my go to recipe for movie night! Always a big hit. Thank you ladies for sharing!

  84. 84
    Tammy says:

    Use coconut oil! My friend used it and it it sooooooo good!

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