Did you know that all corn is not the same? There are actually many different types of corn and each one has its own special purpose. Some kinds of corn are best for eating, other types are good for making popcorn while other varieties of corn are really only used for animal feed. So, while all ears of corn look pretty similar, they are actually very diverse. 

We are going to talk specifically about the difference between regular corn and popcorn. They are quite different. So let’s dive right in and see why these whole grains are so unique. 

What Are the Main Differences Between Corn and Popcorn?

Regular corn and popcorn are actually very different. Yes, they are both the same kind of plant at the core, but they both grow and perform in unique ways. 

The popcorn plant is known as Zea Mays Everta. It is a specific type of popcorn that has dense kernels. Those kernels pop under pressure, turning into the popcorn snack you know and love. Popcorn kernels are much drier than regular corn kernels. You wouldn’t want to take a bite out of an ear of popcorn. It lacks the moisture levels and flavor of sweet field corn.  

Regular corn also has a different type of endosperm which is on the inside of the kernel. This is what makes the popcorn pop when put under enough pressure. You need to have the right kind of corn if you want to make popcorn.

Types of Popcorn Plants

There are a few different kinds of popcorn plants. Each one will make fluffy, white popcorn, but each one has its own characteristics. The plants may vary in size and color and even th popcorn it creates will be a little different. Most popcorn plants are grown in the midwestern United States. You can find fields of popcorn plants in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio and Missouri. The popcorn is harvested in these states then distributed around the world so everyone can enjoy a delicious snack. 

Pearl Popcorn

Pearl popcorn is a type of popcorn plant that has a large, round shape. It is slightly yellow and keeps that yellow hue even after it pops. This is the kind of popcorn that is usually found in movie theaters since the kernels are very durable. The starchy, popcorn can hold up under even the heaviest movie theater butter seasoning. 

The pearl type of popcorn will expand quite a bit when cooked. The unpopped kernels grow to be about 45 times their original size. This is definitely a popular kind of popcorn for good reason and one you have probably enjoyed already. 

Rice Popcorn 

Rice popcorn has elongated kernels that are a little bit smaller than pearl popcorn. This is the kind of popcorn you usually find in pre-bagged or microwave popcorn bags. 

When rice popcorn pops, it has a very white color. The popcorn kernels grow about 40 times their original size. The popped popcorn is light and fluffy with a slightly crunchy texture. Rice popcorn is softer than pearl popcorn and can only hold lighter seasonings like a little salt or butter. 

Different Colors of Popcorn

Popcorn comes in a variety of colors. You may be surprised by how colorful popcorn can be. You can find popcorn in blue, yellow, red, white, and even pink. 

The color of the popcorn does not affect the texture of the popcorn but it can have an impact on the taste. Colored popcorns tend to have a stronger corn-like taste while white or yellow popcorn is more neutral. The corn taste can be quite delicious, but, if you want your seasonings to really shine, choose types of popcorn that are just white or yellow. 

Types of Corn Plants

There are quite a few different types of corn plants. Every plant will produce corn that varies in taste, texture, and even color. A lot will depend on where the corn is grown and also what it was planted for. 

Field corn, sweet corn, and flint corn are a few of the most common types of corn plants. These plants create kernels that do not dry out as much as popcorn kernels. They are best for eating or using as animal feed. But let’s take a closer look at each kind of regular corn.

Field Corn

Field Corn is the most common type of corn grown in the United States. It is the corn you likely envision when you think about corn. It has tall green stalks and bright yellow cobs. 

Field corn can be broken into two categories: flint corn and dent corn. Dent corn has a high starch content and is often used as animal feed or in food manufacturing. Dent corn is often used to make corn syrup, an ingredient in a lot of processed foods. 

Flint corn, on the other hand, is known for its unique colors. You may have heard this kind of corn called Indian corn. It comes in reds, blues, and pinks. It may just be the prettiest corn out there. 

Sweet Corn

Sweet corn is mostly enjoyed in the summertime when it is in season and irresistible. This is the kind of corn you see in the grocery store and at roadside stands. It is grown primarily for human consumption. Not only do people enjoy it in the summer, but sweet corn is also canned and shelved so you can eat it all year long.

Sweet corn has a very high sugar content which makes it taste sweeter than other corn. It is much sweeter and tastier than starchy field corn. Sweet corn is the king you want to slather with butter and eat.

Corn vs Popcorn: Frequently Asked Questions

Can regular corn pop like popcorn?

No, regular corn does not pop like popcorn kernels. Popcorn kernels have a lower moisture content than regular corn. The endosperm on regular corn will actually not pop under pressure as it does on popcorn. You can try popping regular corn but you will likely just end up with a bowl full of burner corn kernels. 

Do you dry popcorn before or after you harvest it?

Popcorn kernels need to be dried on the cob before it is harvested. One way to tell if the popcorn cob is ready to harvest is to check the husk. When the husk is dry and all the kernels in the corn are dry, it is ready. The drying process can take from one week or longer depending on the weather. 

Are corn and popcorn healthy?

Corn and popcorn both provide some health benefits. However, they are not always healthy. Field corn is very highly processed before it is ready to use. This can lead toward the unhealthy side, especially since it is often turned into sugary syrup. 

Sweet corn can be a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Popcorn, on the other hand, is not inherently unhealthy. It is the seasonings that people add to their popcorn that can take away from the beneficial carbohydrates and decrease the nutritional value of the corn. So, on it’s own, popcorn is pretty healthy. When seasoned and processed, it can start to change. 

Is popcorn considered a vegetable?

Popcorn is considered a whole grain, not a vegetable. All corn is a grain however many grains are considered to be fruit. But, despite what you may have thought before, corn is not actually a vegetable. 

Learn More Popcorn Fun Facts with Popsmith

We hope you learned a lot about the difference between corn and popcorn. They are definitely not the same. If you are interested in learning more about popcorn, be sure to check out our other articles. We have a lot of info on your favorite snack and we are always writing more. Stick with us and you’ll be a popcorn pro.