Close-up of kettle corn popcorn

Kettle Corn vs. Regular Popcorn: What Is The Difference?

Looking for a delicious twist on traditional popcorn? Discover the world of kettle corn, a sweet and satisfying snack that offers a different flavor profile than its savory counterpart. Learn about the key differences between kettle corn and regular popcorn, including their unique tastes and preparation methods, and find out how to make your own mouthwatering kettle corn at home.

Ah, kettle corn and popcorn. One reminiscent of county fairs and carnivals, the other synonymous with movie theaters.

Now, the two are popular snacks with irresistible flavors.

But how do the two stack up against each other? In this post about kettle corn vs popcorn, that’s exactly what you’ll find out:

What Is Kettle Corn?

Kettle corn popcorn is a sweet type of popcorn that’s made by mixing kernels with sugar, salt, and oil. It’s a familiar favorite at festivals and county fairs.

Traditionally, folks used a huge cast iron kettle to cook it (that’s how it got its name), but now you can make kettle corn at home using other pots and pans.  

Where Did Kettle Corn Come From?

If you think kettle corn is made using a different corn from regular popcorn, that isn’t the case! Only one type of corn has the popability to burst into fluffy clouds — a special flint corn called Zea mays everta.

So if you don’t use another kind of corn to make kettle corn, what’s its origin story? 

Well, we can’t exactly pinpoint it to a specific date, but history shows that kettle corn has strong Germanic roots. As revealed by diary entries from early settlers, the first German and Dutch settlers brought kettle corn to America in the 18th century. 

Kettle corn popcorn was pioneered as a sweet alternative to traditional popcorn. It was one of the most popular snacks of its time because it was easy to make in large batches, inexpensive, and widely accessible. Today, it still reigns supreme as a sweet snack. 

What’s the Difference Between Kettle Corn and Popcorn?

Put kettle corn vs popcorn head to head and you’ll find out that while both come from the same type of corn, everything else about them is different — from the kernels used down to nutritional value. 

Let’s go over each one:


There are two common shapes of popcorn: butterfly and mushroom.

Butterfly popcorn, also known as snowflake popcorn, is light and resembles the wings of a butterfly. You can typically see this in microwave, bagged, and movie theater popcorn. 

Mushroom popcorn is rounder and looks like a mushroom cap. Its shape holds seasoning really well, which is why it’s perfect for kettle corn. If you want homemade kettle corn, though, it’s up to you to pick the type of kernels you’ll use. 


Mint Popsmith Popper with freshly made kettle corn popcorn

You can easily make popcorn using a microwave, air popper, or a nifty stovetop popcorn popper.

Making kettle corn, on the other hand? It’s a little trickier to get right. 

The traditional way to make kettle corn was to cook it in a cast iron kettle over a live flame. You’d use lard to oil the kettle, throw in molasses for flavor, and then stir everything together with a long wooden paddle. 

These days, while you don’t need a giant cast iron cauldron and can switch lard for oil, it can still be challenging to make homemade kettle corn. You need to figure out the right time to add the kernels, perfect your stirring rhythm, and when to take the pot out from the heat. 

You might end up burning sugar during your first attempts and be left with clumps of inedible kettle corn like others have in the past. But it gets easier the more you practice.

PRO TIP: If you want hassle-free homemade kettle corn, grab yourself the Popsmith Popper and a box of our Classic Kettle Popcorn.  


Flavor profile is an obvious difference between kettle corn and popcorn. Classic popcorn is salty and often butter or cheese-flavored — just like that popcorn bucket you munch on at the movie theater. Meanwhile, kettle corn is distinctly sweet with a dash of salty.


Because it uses butterfly kernels, regular popcorn is crunchy and airy. 

Kettle corn’s texture is more complex. The exterior is crispy and slightly sticky, thanks to its layer of caramelized sugar. But the inside is tender. This contrast is what makes this snack so addicting! You can’t stop after only one bite. 

Nutritional Value 

Popcorn is a healthy snack.  

That is, if we’re talking about the plain, air-popped variety. Being a whole grain, popcorn is naturally low-calorie and full of antioxidants. 

How healthy it is ultimately depends on how you flavor it. A light sprinkle of salt won’t alter its nutritional value too much, but since you can’t enjoy kettle corn popcorn without sprinkling sugar in it, expect kettle corn calories to be higher. There’s nothing wrong with eating it every now and then, though.

Read More: Is Popcorn Healthy? Here's the 411

Better Snacking Starts Now

And there you have it — the lowdown on kettle corn vs popcorn

The main difference between the two is preparation, but the good news is that you no longer have to wait for the annual county fair to enjoy real kettle corn. 

With the Popsmith Popper, you can whip up a big serving of kettle corn (or any popcorn your tummy desires) in under 5 minutes. 

It’s even easier when you use our Classic Kettle Popcorn Kit. With pre-measured popping corn, coconut oil, and sugar 'n salt mix, you’re guaranteed perfect stovetop kettle corn every time. 

Choose our Bundle 'n Save option today! You get a Popper and your choice of ready-to-make popcorn kits. 


What makes kettle corn different?

Kettle corn is traditionally made in a cast iron kettle, which is how it got its name. This sweet treat is a combination of kernels, oil, salt, and sugar. 

Is kettle corn healthy?

Popcorn in general is a good source of fiber since it’s a whole grain. But as kettle corn has sugar added to it, it has more calories than plain popcorn. Don’t worry — it’s still healthier than other snacks. One serving is around 120 calories. 

Is kettle corn just caramel popcorn?

The two get mixed up a lot because they’re sweet-flavored, but they’re not actually the same. Kettle corn is more sweet and salty, while caramel popcorn is on the sweeter side. The sugar and salt in kettle corn are also mixed in during popping. With caramel popcorn, the sugar is coated after.    

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