Stove Top Kettle Corn

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!

This stove top kettle corn is easy and fun!

Stove Top Kettle Corn

5 from 2 votes
A perfect late-night sweet treat...and fun to make, too!

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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.
  • Wait until you see your oil smoke. 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. 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 the top.
  • 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!

Notes

  • Great tip: Be sure to 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!
Author: Our Best Bites
Did You Make This Recipe?Snap a picture, and hashtag it #ourbestbites. We love to see your creations on our Instagram @ourbestbites!
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!

woman in denim shirt holding a salad bowl
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. 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!

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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…

  8. 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!

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

  10. 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!

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

  12. 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.

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

    healthierhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3_cYZKksvI

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

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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! 🙂

  19. 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.

  20. lisa-
    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.

  21. 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?

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

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

  24. 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!!