Kettle Corn Recipe for Gifting or Snacking

Top view of a black bowl piled high with sweet and salty popcorn.
Recipe At-A-Glance
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Food Gifts, Gluten-Free15 minutes
Looking for a sweet treat that's great for gifting or snacking? This Kettle Corn Recipe is the sweet and salty snack you're looking for!

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Kettle corn is one of the absolute easiest snacks you can make at home. Don’t shell out the cash for the pre-popped bags or the microwave stuff—I promise you can make this favorite snack at home in just a few minutes with just a few cents worth of ingredients! You don’t need a popcorn popper or any other special equipment either.

And while kettle corn is totally delicious for snacking, it also makes a great and fun consumable holiday gift! Make up a huge batch, package it up in cute bags or containers, and share the joy of this sweet and salty snack with all of your loved ones. Popcorn gifts are so easy, even kids can make them to give to their friends and family. Let’s get popping!

Close up of a handful of kettle corn held over a full bowl.

What do I need to make kettle corn?

You only need four ingredients to make a big, tasty batch of kettle corn: unpopped popcorn kernels, granulated sugar, salt, and coconut oil.

What type of popcorn kernels works best?

You can use any unpopped popcorn kernels to make this kettle corn recipe. If you’re a bit of a popcorn aficionado, the best popcorn kernels will be white popcorn that is hulless and winged. But honestly, any unpopped popcorn kernels will work for homemade kettle corn!

Close view of perfectly popped sweet and salty popcorn kernels.

What type of coconut oil should I use?

Coconut oil is the standard for popping popcorn (it’s what we use in our movie theatre popcorn recipe, too). Coconut oil comes in both a refined and unrefined version. Here we’re using unrefined coconut oil (AKA virgin coconut oil). Not a coconut fan? No worries, you won’t taste coconut in the end. 

Can I use another oil, or does it have to be coconut?

Coconut oil is really the gold standard for popping popcorn—it gives popcorn a classic rich flavor that you are used to.

If you can’t use coconut oil, you need to make sure that whatever oil you substitute for it has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor. We recommend avocado oil in a pinch.

A hand holds a full, single-serving popcorn tub.

Can I add anything else to this kettle corn recipe?

Yes! This kettle corn recipe is just the beginning. Mix this kettle corn with peanuts, raisins, or M&Ms for a fun snack mix!

And if you’re looking for additional flavor options, I recommend trying my sweet and crunchy caramel corn. If you prefer a little savory with your sweet, you can use your caramel corn to make Chicago popcorn. Chicago popcorn mixes caramel corn with cheesy popcorn for a delicious munchable snack!

Overhead of homemade kettle corn in a big black bowl.

Help! My kettle corn keeps burning.

There are a few things that could cause your kettle corn to burn on the stove. The first thing you want to check is how frequently you’re shaking the pan. Once those kernels start to pop, you need to constantly move the pan around; otherwise, your kernels will stick and burn.

Another thing you might want to check on is the type of pan you’re using. A shallow, wide pan works best for this kettle corn recipe because it allows more kernels to pop at once, cutting down the popping time. This means that you won’t have popped kernels sitting in the hot oil burning while you’re waiting for new kernels to pop.

You should also make sure to wash out your pan in between kernel corn batches. If the sugar is still stuck to the bottom of your pan when you start a new batch, it’s going to burn and transfer that flavor to your next batch of kettle corn.

Close up of fresh popped kernels piled high in a single serving popcorn tub.

Why do I have so many unpopped kernels in the bottom of my pan?

Two things could cause tons of unpopped kernels in the bottom of your pan. The first is heat. You might not have had your stove set to a high enough temperature. The second is the age of your kernels. The older your kernels are, the less water they contain, and the harder it is to get them to pop. If your stove is up high and you’re still getting lots of unpopped kernels, you might want to get a newer bag of popcorn.

How do I store kettle corn?

Once kettle corn is cool, store it in an airtight container (like a zip-top bag or food storage container) at room temperature to keep it crisp.

Overhead of a popcorn tub overflowing with kettle corn.

How far in advance can I make kettle corn?

Kettle corn is shelf-stable, so you can make it weeks in advance and still have tasty, crunchy kettle corn as long as you keep it in an airtight container.

Tips for gifting kettle corn

Kettle corn makes an easy and delicious gift. Whether it’s that impossible-to-buy-for parent, your co-workers, or your kid’s teachers, kettle corn is sure to be appreciated by all.
A red and white striped popcorn tub filled with a cellophane package of homemade kettle corn.
If you want to turn your homemade kettle corn into a gift, there are only two things you need to do: make it and package it. You should aim to make this kettle corn recipe right before you package it so that your kettle corn stays fresh.

When it comes to choosing packaging, anything airtight will do. However, if you want to jazz it up a little, you can try one of the following options. The only limit is your imagination!

  • Mason jars: This can be as simple or decorative as you’d like. Tie a festive ribbon around the top with a cute little tag, and you have an easy, delicious present.
  • Paper bags: Brown paper bags—you know, the kind you used to pack your lunch in—make great gift packaging for your popcorn. You can decorate them by doodling right on the bag, or you can print a decorative tag and attach it to the bag. If you choose this option, be sure that you’re gifting your popcorn on the day you make it or place it in a plastic bag inside your paper one to ensure freshness.
  • Cellophane treat bags: you can grab these in the cake decorating section of your local craft store. They look adorable when stuck inside a popcorn box!
  • Metal tins: Stores often sell decorative metal tins around the holidays, and they’re the perfect airtight option for gifting kettle corn.
  • Popcorn bag: These can easily be found online. They’re little bags that come in a variety of themes, colors, and patterns. If you don’t feel like DIYing your gift bag, this is a great option. Just like with the plain paper bags above, either gift your popcorn on the day you make it, or put it in a plastic bag inside the popcorn bag to keep it fresh.

Want more delicious popcorn recipes?

  • Our Chicago mix popcorn is a delicious blend of cheesy cheddar popcorn and sweet caramel corn, and also makes a great gift!
  • If you want to gift just the caramel popcorn and skip the cheddar, we’ve got you covered there too!
  • For your next family movie night, try our movie theater popcorn technique!
 

 

Top view of a black bowl piled high with sweet and salty popcorn.

Kettle Corn Recipe

Yield: 4-5 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Looking for a sweet treat that's great for gifting or snacking? This Kettle Corn Recipe is the sweet and salty snack you're looking for!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste

Instructions

    1. oIn a large stock pot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat until completely melted.
    2. Add in the sugar and popcorn kernels, shaking or stirring until all the kernels are coated.
    3. Cover the pot and continue to cook until the first kernel pops.
    4. Once the kernels start popping, continuously shake the pot while listening for a break in popping. When you count 2 seconds between popcorn pops, remove the pot from the heat and take off the lid.
    5. Pour the popcorn onto a large baking sheet or into a large bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat.
    6. Let cool for a few minutes to allow the sugar to harden, then enjoy.

Notes

Important safety note: because of the stickiness of the sugar, unpopped kernels tend to stick to popped pieces instead of falling to the bottom. To protect your chompers, you can pick out unpopped kernels or just keep an eye out for them while you enjoy.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 175Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 272mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 0g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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