The Big Difference Between Kettle Corn and Popcorn

Does popcorn instantly "pop" into your head when looking forward to a cozy night at home with Netflix and your favorite humans? Whether you've got a box of microwave popcorn in the cupboard or you prefer to plug in the air popper, popcorn is top of the list as a tasty and fairly healthy snack food. But in addition to the classic salty and buttery style of oil or air-popped popcorn, kettle corn is another way to enjoy crunchy kernels. But what's the difference between kettle corn vs popcorn anyway?

Popcorn Vs Kettle Corn

Kettle corn made its debut thanks to inventive Pennsylvania Dutch settlers in the mid 18th century. People loved this sweet variation on the more common savory type of popcorn. The kettle corn frenzy eventually fizzled out but there's been a strong comeback in the last 20 years. Kettle corn is now easy to find in supermarket snack aisles, carnivals, and street fairs, and even at some trendier movie theaters.

Did you know that you can't put corn on the cob kernels in the microwave and expect them to pop? Popcorn kernels are specially grown and treated so that they pop over high heat. Kettle corn uses the same popcorn kernels. So kettle corn and traditional popcorn start on even footing with the same type of corn. But in what ways are they different?

Popcorn Is Like Switzerland...Neutral

The flavor of popcorn is basically what you add to it. Whether you stick with the traditional salty snack made in an air popcorn machine or you add sugar while popping in oil to create homemade kettle corn, the kernels take on the flavor of what you add- or don't add- to it. That neutral flavor is perfect for cinnamon, parmesan cheese, or- my favorite- celery salt.

Kettle corn is always made in a cast-iron kettle or Dutch oven on your stovetop. Sugar, oil, a hint of salt, and popcorn kernels are heated all together. You'll notice at carnivals the mixture is being stirred constantly. That's because the sugar will burn quickly and taste bitter instead of sweet if left still. Plus, the stirring adds to the excitement of this sweet flavored popcorn.

Is kettle corn or traditional popcorn better for nutritional value?

Popcorn kernels are whole grains that contain fiber, antioxidants, and low sugar. BUT- and this is a big but- the saturated fat sneaks up fast when you add butter, oil, and sugar. So kettle corn is not just "popcorn" if you're watching calories and fat intake. The health benefits of plain air-popped popcorn are pretty straightforward. Minimal to zero oil is needed to make the kernels pop making the cholesterol level non-existent. But if you just need that sweet flavor of kettle corn, it's still better than demolishing a half-gallon of ice cream alone by the tv's light of a Lifetime movie. But I digress.

Kettle corn has a much higher sugar content than regular popcorn but is usually not as high of fat content as movie theater popcorn. So if you're craving a sweet treat that doesn't require utensils, try out a kettle corn recipe at home and play around with the amounts of sugar and oil for this very American snack.

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