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Kettle Corn

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kettle corn, sweet and salt popcorn, homemade kettle corn

Now you don’t have to wait for the carnival to come back to town!

What is kettle corn?

Kettle corn is popcorn that is cooked or mixed with sugar and salt instead of just salt. The combination makes for an addictively sweet treat that’s perfect for movie night, an afternoon sugar craving, or on the snack table at your next picnic or barbecue.

Where did it originate?

Despite corn being a native crop to North America, kettle corn first popped up (ha!) in the US, courtesy of Dutch and German immigrants in the late 18th century. They used large Dutch ovens over open flame and lard to create light and crispy popcorn, seasoned with sugar for flavor and preservation.

What kind of pot should I use?

We used a 4-quart Dutch oven. Cast iron is the traditional choice for kettle corn, but those tend to be heavy and aren’t ideal for the last step in our process. As an alternative, you can also use a wok with a handle and cover it with aluminum foil. Poke a few holes in the aluminum foil to allow steam to escape. The most important thing is that you choose a pan that is wider than it is tall.

What kind of oil should I use?

Coconut oil is 100% the way to go with kettle corn. Since we’ll be cooking over medium heat, there’s no real need for a high smoke point oil and the coconut give the popcorn a subtle coconutty and floral scent. If you’re really craving extra butter flavor, try butter-flavored coconut oil before turning to clarified butter.

What’s the difference between caramel corn and kettle corn?

If you absolutely have to use butter, caramel corn may be what you’re really craving. Caramel corn is typically made with butter and brown sugar, while kettle corn sticks with oil and white sugar. This kettle corn uses raw sugar instead of traditional white sugar. Raw sugar still contains a bit of molasses which gives this kettle corn a slightly more complex and toasty flavor.

How can I keep the popcorn from burning?

While cooking, it’s important to occasionally agitate the pot and keep the lid slightly cracked. Shaking the pot will allow the kernels to heat evenly as the pot begins to fill with popped popcorn. The kernels will shake to the bottom and have a chance to pop while bouncing the popped kernels away from the bottom.

How can I make sure my popcorn is crispy?

Too much steam will lead to soggy, chewy popcorn. To keep it light and airy, be sure to keep the pot lid cracked until the final step. Angle the lid away from you so that the steam and rogue popcorn kernels don’t hit you in the face.

What else can I add?

Whatever you like. Mix up the seasoning blend (try the optional allspice) or check out our list of popcorn hacks for more fun ways to turn your movie night up a notch.

How to store it

Popcorn is best eaten fresh right after it’s popped, but the beautiful part about kettle corn is how long it can last. The added sugar acts as a preservative and allows the salty-sweet treat to keep for up to 3 weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.

Have you made this yet? Let us knowhow it went in the comments below! 

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Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 0 hours 5 mins
Total Time: 0 hours 10 mins
1/4 c.

turbinado sugar

1 1/2 tsp.

kosher salt

6 tbsp.

coconut oil, or canola oil

1/2 c.

unpopped popcorn kernels

1/4 tsp.

ground allspice (optional)

  1. Add sugar and salt to a spice grinder and blend until the mixture is powdery, about 10 to 15 seconds. Pour into a small bowl and set it next to the stovetop. 
  2. In a 4 qt. Dutch oven with a lid, add the oil and 3 of the unpopped kernels. Turn the heat to medium, cover, and shake the pot gently to cover the kernels in oil. Wait for the 3 test kernels to pop, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid, add the remaining kernels, and gently shake the pot to coat all of the kernels in hot oil. Replace the lid, tilting it open slightly to allow steam to escape, and continue cooking the popcorn, shaking it occasionally, until the kernels start to pop. 
  3. Once almost all of the kernels have popped and new pops are about 2 seconds apart, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Sprinkle the salt and sugar powder evenly over the popcorn, cover with the lid, and shake for a few seconds to completely coat the popcorn. Transfer the popcorn onto a parchment-lined sheet tray to cool slightly before serving.

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