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 pretty amazing how these various kernels can affect the taste and texture of your popcorn.
In today’s 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. By the end of this, you’ll likely want to experiment with all the kernels and see which one’s your favorite.
Most Common Types of Popcorn Kernels
You’ve probably gone to your local grocery store and seen a bunch of kernels lining the shelves — 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 your snacking needs.
Yellow popcorn is probably the most common type of popcorn kernel around. This is the one you know they’ll always have in stock at the groceries, and it’s the least expensive, too.
However, just because it’s common and inexpensive doesn’t mean it isn’t great.
In fact, yellow popcorn is a fantastic type of popcorn. The kernels are large and have a yellow-orange tint. Yellow popcorn kernels pop to be about 45 times their original size, which is much larger than other varieties.
White kernels are the second most common type of popcorn.
They aren't quite as big as yellow popcorn, popping to only 40 times their original size, but that’s not a bad thing. Its smaller size gives it a crispy, crunchier texture that is great for making caramel corn, kettle corn, or other types of gourmet popcorn.
White popcorn is often considered one of the healthiest types of popcorn. It has a neutral popcorn flavor and a compact size. It’s definitely popular and a type of kernel you’ve probably already enjoyed many times.
Red popcorn kernels have a reddish tint to them, hence the name. The kernels are a deep red, almost crimson color, but still pop to be white. The red color comes from anthocyanin and cyanidin, compounds that are found in other red fruits like grapes and onions.
Red popcorn is smaller than other types of popcorn which makes it a little crunchier than the rest. They’re 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 teeth.
Blue popcorn kernels are more common than you may think. You can find this type of popcorn in many health food stores and specialty grocery stores since they’re considered to be one of the healthiest types of popcorn.
Blue popcorn is high in antioxidants which is one of the reasons why it has a deep blue color. That blue tint does go away when the popcorn is popped, turning into a bright white piece of popcorn.
Popcorn Kernel Shapes
Popcorn doesn’t only come in a wide variety of colors and sizes, but it also comes in different shapes — mushroom and butterfly.
Now, popcorn shape isn’t exclusive to one type of popcorn. One kind of kernel may pop into two different shapes. However, the shape does affect the texture, taste, and appearance of your popcorn kernels.
Mushroom popcorn is big, round, and puffy. It looks like a round mushroom with small speckles. Popcorn that pops into a mushroom shape is stronger and more sturdy than butterfly popcorn. Because of its durable shape, it’s often used in sweet varieties of popcorn.
Mushroom popcorn is great for recreating gourmet popcorn flavors at home. You can experiment with chocolate, marshmallows, or try your hand at caramel popcorn. The big, round shape is perfect for holding those sweet, heavy toppings.
The shape of popcorn you typically see in movie theater popcorn or in microwave popcorn bags is the butterfly variety. 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.
What Type of Corn Is Popcorn Made From?
Many people think that popcorn can be made from any type of corn. However, this isn’t true.
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.
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.
Also, the hull can 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 seasoning are what give it more calories. But since you’re not going to eat that all the time, there’s nothing wrong with indulging.
Get More Snacking Inspiration for Popcorn Lovers
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 popcorn kits to make cooking with our Popper simple, you can definitely experiment with your own kernels and recipes.