Yellow kernels coated in oil

Types of Popcorn: Differences in Taste, Nutrition & Preparation

Popcorn has been a beloved snack for centuries, enjoyed at movie theaters, carnivals, and in the comfort of our homes. But did you know there's a wide variety of popcorn kernels available? Let's explore the key differences between yellow, white, red, and blue popcorn kernels, including their taste, price, and nutritional value.

You’ve been eating popcorn your whole life, enjoying it at movie theaters and carnivals, and having an always-present stash in your pantry. 

But did you know there are different types of kernels you can use to make popcorn?

It’s actually really cool how these kernels can affect the taste and texture of your popcorn. 

In this post, we’re going to go over the things that make the different types of popcorn unique. We’ll talk about the contrast in taste, price, and even nutritional value

Now read on:

Most Common Types of Popcorn Kernels

mom and daughter smile while eating popcorn

You've probably seen a bunch of kernels lining the shelves of your local grocery store — some the classic yellow; others an interesting blue. 

Let’s take a look at the seven most common types and what sets each apart from the other. We’ll also talk about what each type of popcorn is good for so you can choose the best kernels for snack time.

Yellow Popcorn

Yellow popcorn is probably the most common type of popcorn kernel around. This is the one you know they’ll always have available at the groceries, and it’s the least expensive, too. 

Just because it's common and affordable doesn't make it inferior, though. 

This type of popcorn has large kernels and a yellow-orange tint. Yellow popcorn kernels pop to be about 45 times their original size — way larger than other varieties. This makes it a top choice for movie theater popcorn, microwave popcorn, and for making at home on a stovetop popcorn popper.

White Popcorn

The second most common type of popcorn is the white variety. White kernels aren't as big as yellow popcorn, popping to only 40 times their original size. Since they're smaller, they've got a crisper texture that's great for caramel popcorn, kettle corn, and other types of gourmet popcorn.

White popcorn is often considered one of the healthiest types of popcorn. It has a neutral flavor and a compact size. You’ve probably already enjoyed it many times since it's so popular.

Blue Popcorn

Blue popcorn is more common than you think. You can find this type of popcorn in many health food stores and specialty grocery stores since it's considered to be one of the healthiest types of popcorn around. 

This popcorn is high in antioxidants, which is one of the reasons why it has a deep blue color. The blue tint does go away when it's popped, turning into a bright white piece of popcorn. 

You can use blue popcorn for pretty much any popcorn recipe. It pops well in home popcorn makers and on the stovetop. Its neutral flavor also makes it a perfect base for all kinds of seasoning and flavoring.

Red Popcorn

Red popcorn kernels have — you guessed it — a reddish tint to them. The kernels are a deep red, almost crimson color, but still pop to be white. The red color comes from anthocyanin and cyanidin, compounds found naturally in food like grapes. 

Red popcorn is smaller than other types of popcorn, so it's a little crunchier. It's similar in size to white popcorn kernels and used for many of the same gourmet applications. 

Red popcorn is considered to be a hulless popcorn kernel since the hull on the kernel is so small. This makes the popped popcorn soft and lacking those pesky pieces that tend to get stuck in your gums.

Popcorn Kernel Shapes

smiling woman with three bowls of popcorn

Popcorn doesn’t only come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. It also comes in different shapes — butterfly and mushroom.

Now popcorn shape isn’t exclusive to one type of popcorn. One kind of kernel may pop into two different shapes. However, the shape can affect the texture and taste of your popcorn kernels.

Butterfly Popcorn

The shape of popcorn you typically see in movie theater popcorn or in microwave popcorn bags is the butterfly kind. It has an irregular shape and tends to be softer and fluffier than mushroom popcorn. 

Butterfly-shaped popcorn breaks easily but its light, crispy texture is part of the appeal. You’ll love using it for butter popcorn.

Mushroom Popcorn

Mushroom popcorn is big, round, and puffy. It looks like a round mushroom with small speckles. Mushroom shaped-popcorn is stronger and sturdier than butterfly popcorn. Because of this, it’s typically used to make sweet popcorn. 

Mushroom popcorn is great for recreating gourmet popcorn flavors at home. You can experiment with chocolate, marshmallows, or try your hand at caramel corn. The big, round shape is perfect for holding those sweet, heavy toppings.

What Type of Corn Is Popcorn Made From?

Many people think popcorn can be made from any type of corn. This isn't actually the case.

The sweet corn you see in the produce section and the field corn used to feed livestock will not pop under pressure. Popcorn pops thanks to its hard outside shell and the high quantity of moisture inside the kernel. Only a few types of corn really have the perfect setup to pop into popcorn.

Popcorn kernels are made from a type of corn called flint corn. Flint popcorn is typically found in the Midwest. It comes in a variety of colors and each type of popcorn you see in the grocery aisle is from a different variety of flint corn.

Related: Popcorn vs. Field Corn: What Is the Difference Between the Two?

Hulless vs. Hulled Popcorn: Which Is Better for You?

The hull of a popcorn kernel is the crunchy part on the inside of the popped kernel. It’s the part that gets stuck in your teeth. Some people believe the hull is unhealthy, but the truth is that it has lots of disease-fighting antioxidants. It’s an important part of the popcorn kernel. 

The hull can also never be completely removed or absent from the kernel. Completely hulless popcorn doesn’t exist, just kernels with smaller hulls. 

No matter what kind of popcorn kernels you buy, don’t worry about them being unhealthy. Plain popcorn is a whole grain and makes a healthy snack. Melted butter, sugar, salt, and similar seasonings are what give it more calories. But since you’re not going to eat that all the time, there’s nothing wrong with indulging.

Related: Hulless Popcorn: What Is It & Is It Better Than Regular Popcorn?

More Snacking Inspiration for Popcorn Lovers

Hand grabbing popcorn from a bowl next to a blue popper [42324529479873]

There are a surprising number of popcorn types on the market. From variations in color, texture, and shape, each popcorn is unique. We can’t wait for you to try them all and see which kind you like best!

While we have delicious pre-measured Oh Sooo Buttery and Classic Kettle Popcorn Kits to make cooking with our Popper simple, you can definitely experiment with your own kernels and ingredients.

If you need some inspiration, be sure to check out our recipes! We also have a ton of information about popcorn that will teach you more about your favorite snack.  

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