Kettle Corn vs. Popcorn side by side

The Difference Between Kettle Corn and Popcorn

Sep 19, 2023Thad Paul

Kettle corn vs popcorn – what is the difference? Popcorn and kettle corn have a lot in common. For one, sweet kettle corn and classic buttered popcorn have been the staple snack for mindless munching and movie watching in America for hundreds of years. They also share many core ingredients like salt, oil, and of course popcorn kernels. Although it is understandably assumed you the two treats are virtually the same thing, there are some surprising differences! So, what makes kettle corn different than popcorn? America’s Favorite Gourmet Popcorn is here to break down for you the key differences in origin, preparation, and flavor between popcorn and kettle corn.


While the exact origin of popcorn is unknown and could date back thousands of years, the popcorn we know and love today burst into life during the 1800s. Traditionally popped by hand on a stovetop, popcorn quickly became America’s favorite snack in the early 1900s and could be found at festivals, carnivals, movie theatres, and virtually any kitchen cupboard. By then it was being distributed across the country and sold by street cart vendors. People could not get enough of the crunchy, airy, and salty treat!

Popcorn fun fact number two - believe it or not, kettle corn predates popcorn in America by about 25 years, as it was brought here by Dutch settlers. Probably why it’s commonly cooked in a Dutch oven! Kettle corn was commonly sold at fairs and festivals, and despite falling out of popularity in the 1900s, it has a made a resurgence back into our hearts and kitchens across the globe!


Classic popcorn nowadays can be made using multiple cooking methods. Aside from your classic microwave popcorn bag, you can either oil-pop or air-pop your popcorn on a stovetop. Oil-popped popcorn involves heating oil in a stovetop and adding kernels with a lid covering. Air-popped popcorn replaces the oil with a small splash of water, and it is a healthy alternative to oil-popped popcorn.

Now, kettle corn is a little more complex! Kettle corn gets its name from its preferred method of preparation, which is in a cast-iron kettle. Another key difference is kettle corn’s use of sugar. Along with oil and salt, sugar is added to the kettle and requires constant stirring to avoid burning the sugar. A little bit more work for a little sweeter treat!

Resealable Medium bag of small batch, cookies and cream kettle corn from Popped! Republic