Let’s Get Old Fashioned: Homemade Kettle Corn Recipe

Kettle Corn Made with Ghee

I know that not many people make popcorn the old-fashioned way anymore, even Kettle Corn can be made in the microwave these days.  But please, please give this stove top kettle corn a try.  It’s easy, and it seriously blows the microwave stuff out of the water.  Trust me.  Make this popcorn.

I made a discovery a couple years ago that I really have been meaning to tell you about.  Honestly, I can’t believe I didn’t write about this before now.  But here it is:  instead of popping your corn in oil, use clarified butter or ghee.  While regular butter would burn if you tried to use it for popping corn, ghee has a much higher smoke point and works perfectly as long as you pop the corn over medium heat and watch it closely.

I love making Indian food, so I almost always have a container of ghee stashed in the pantry.  But for those of you who are new to using it, ghee is easy to find at ethnic markets or on the shelves of well-stocked supermarkets.  It’s also easy to make at home. If made properly, ghee can be stored at room temperature just like cooking oils.  But if storing at room temperature, be sure to keep moisture out of the container and never dip into it with a wet spoon, as moisture will cause the ghee to spoil.

The ghee in this recipe adds a richness to the sweet and salty kettle corn that just can’t be replicated using oil.  You can substitute oil for the ghee in this recipe and still end up with some tasty kettle corn, but I hope you’ll give my version a try at least once.

Kettle Corn

1/4 cup ghee*
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup sugar
fine grain sea salt

Heat ghee over medium heat until melted.  Add three popcorn kernels, cover with a lid and wait and listen until all three kernels have popped.  Add the rest of the popcorn kernels, shake to distribute then sprinkle sugar evenly over the kernels.  Cover with lid and listen for popping.  As soon as the kernels start to pop, shake pot gently back and forth over the burner, lifting it up and shaking from time to time, until the popping slows to every 2 to 3 seconds.  As soon as the popping slows, remove pan from heat and immediately dump kernels into a large bowl.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and toss with a wooden spoon.  Taste, and add more salt if desired.  Serve immediately.

*you may substitute vegetable oil for ghee, if desired.

Yield: approximately 4 servings

  1. Sandi

    This sounds wonderful. I only recently found your site, but already I have a list of recipes to try!

    1:25 pm  Nov 24th, 2009
  2. Sarah

    Why do you do just three kernels first?

    1:29 pm  Nov 24th, 2009
  3. Nicole

    Sarah: So you know when the oil/ghee is hot enough to pop the corn 🙂

    2:40 pm  Nov 24th, 2009
  4. The Teacher Cooks

    Just made your pumpkin cheesecakes for my family get together. They were absolutely fabulous. I want to post them on my blog with a link to yours and write about how great your blog is.. I only took a photo of the end product. I loved using the mini pan too. .

    2:52 pm  Nov 24th, 2009
  5. Rebecca

    Yum! I can’t wait to make this! i love kettle corn and love making popcorn on the stove!

    6:10 pm  Nov 24th, 2009
  6. Alyssa

    This will be fun to try this holiday weekend! I hadn’t thought to use ghee before and look forward to experimenting with it. I love making stovetop popcorn and discovered that olive oil also imparts a fantastic, rich flavor.

    7:00 pm  Nov 24th, 2009
  7. Frieda

    I’ve made kettle corn before, but never with ghee. Can’t wait to try this version for a comparison~

    9:00 pm  Nov 24th, 2009
  8. Heather Peskin

    This brings back wonderful memories – quite the best and simplest way of getting great popcorn.

    5:06 am  Nov 25th, 2009
  9. Alta

    I think I haven’t commented a lot lately – but this has me craving kettle corn like you would not believe. I think I’ll make this tomorrow to tide the kids over until it’s time for the big dinner!

    7:23 am  Nov 25th, 2009
  10. Lemony Renee'

    I completely lost my taste for microwave popcorn when I was pregnant (10 years ago, now), so we make popcorn the old-fashioned way or no way. I’m definitely going to try your way with ghee. I may even make this kettle corn today since I have my urchins at home today with very little constructive use . . . the ghee will have to wait until next time, though, because I have pies, breads, and oh so many other things to create today. Thanks!

    7:47 am  Nov 25th, 2009
  11. Shelley

    We love popcorn here — so much better than the microwave version, which tastes like sand compared to the old-fashioned stove-popped kind.

    Your recipe for kettle corn sounds easy and do-able! Think we’ll give it a try this afternoon when we’re all pining for a little snack…

    8:50 am  Nov 25th, 2009
  12. Amy

    We love homemade kettle corn. I will have to try it with the ghee. Thanks for the recipe!

    11:53 am  Nov 25th, 2009
  13. Monique

    Looks and sounds great. Perhaps I am missing this but when do you add the sugar?

    7:21 am  Nov 27th, 2009
  14. Monique

    Never mind, I do see it.

    7:21 am  Nov 27th, 2009
  15. Kristen

    This is going to sound so silly, but I make popcorn on the stovetop often, but have refrained from making kettle corn because I thought a regular pan wouldn’t do… that I needed a kettle! lol
    Making this ASAP!

    3:56 pm  Nov 27th, 2009
  16. Claire

    I love kettlecorn and have always wanted a good recipe to make it at home, thanks!

    7:58 pm  Nov 29th, 2009
  17. The Runaway Spoon

    Ah, memories! Old fashioned kettle corn at the fair. I have made many batches of Thanksgiving popcorn from my site in the last week. But I have never tried to make kettle corn, but now I know I will. It will probably make me crave pronto pups and funnel cakes!

    4:51 pm  Nov 30th, 2009
  18. Aimee

    Oh yum! Do you have a recipe for cheddar or caramel popcorn? I’m getting a craving now!

    5:20 pm  Nov 30th, 2009
  19. Jill

    Hi Nicole, I love popcorn…never tried making this way…it looks delish!

    4:34 pm  Dec 1st, 2009
  20. cheffresco

    I used to eat kettle corn all the time in college – I need to try to make some homemade kind – looks yummy!

    6:59 pm  Dec 1st, 2009
  21. Lisa

    I don’t know how you do it because every time i try to add sugar to my popcorn while it is still in the pan it burns.

    1:55 pm  Dec 2nd, 2009
  22. Melinda

    I just bought some kernels and been looking for a way to use them – this sounds perfect. Do you have a brand of ghee you recommend though? I’ve never used it before.

    2:22 pm  Dec 3rd, 2009
  23. Lisa

    I LOVE kettle corn and always wondered how the heck to make it so the butter and sugar wouldn’t burn. I will give this a try for sure, as I already do my popcorn on the stove (microwave popcorn is just wrong). I learned about ghee in school (IIN) but have yet to try it. Now I have the perfect motivation. Thanks!

    10:02 pm  Dec 3rd, 2009
  24. ch

    is the title inspired by the frightened rabbit song? if so, awesome. if not, listen to it!

    11:50 am  Dec 4th, 2009
  25. Mama JJ

    Have you tried using coconut oil? It also has a high smoke-point and works very well for popcorn. The popcorn stays crisp for a longer period of time, too.

    2:51 pm  Dec 4th, 2009
  26. Nicole

    Lisa: The trick is to monitor the heat, shake the pan repeatedly, lifting it up from the heat every once in a while, and taking it off the heat as soon as the popping slows. You have to dump it into a bowl immediately, or it will start to burn in the hot pan. It really does work!

    ch: Yes, the title was definitely inspired by Frightened Rabbit. Great song, great album!

    Mama JJ: Yes, I’ve made this exact recipe using coconut oil a few times. It works great and tastes great, too! I just like the flavor of the ghee a bit better 🙂

    3:41 pm  Dec 4th, 2009
  27. Jeff

    Thank you for making a post helping save popcorn. I love popcorn and the microwave stuff makes me cry. All preservatives and nasty fake butter. My favorite way is the wok and shaking violently method.

    Oh yeah good idea on the ghee…(insert homer drool here)….

    p.s. bba updates???? hehehehe don’t worry we have been slacking too.

    7:56 am  Dec 8th, 2009
  28. Lisa

    First time: made it w/coconut oil (no ghee available at the time) and raw sugar. Turned out really good.

    Second time: made it w/grapeseed oil (again, using what was available) and brown sugar. BUT, I also topped it w/melted butter before eating. It was really good as well.

    thanks again for this recipe and hope to try it w/the ghee one day.

    11:21 pm  Dec 19th, 2009
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  30. Bharathi

    Thanks for the recipe.. I want to try it. I’m also a fellow San Diegan.

    For those who dont have ghee, it is easy to make ghee from the butter. Just google for the ghee recipe. My way of making is:
    I put a pound block butter in a heavy bottom pan, and simmer it for about 20 min watching closely, stirring once in a while. (if you dont watch closely, it might overflow). The butter boils and clarifies to ghee, and brown particles settles down in the bottom of the pan. The texture of ghee looks like the golden color oil. You strain the liquid from the solids in the bottom to a clean container.

    3:46 pm  Jan 20th, 2010
  31. Sophia

    This looks like a great recipe for kettle corn! One question: will it still taste like kettle corn if I coat the popcorn with sugar et al after I pop the popcorn?

    6:23 pm  Aug 2nd, 2010
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  34. Sharen Lyttle

    I just made some kettle corn in my new air popcorn machine…. and it was better than awesome! I added butter and the sugar in the butter melting cup and poured over the popcorn after it popped. I used Splenda “baking blend” and it tasted just like regular sugar!

    2:00 pm  Dec 21st, 2010
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  36. Peanut Butter Eggs

    Wow what a great recipe. We love kettle corn and usually buy the microwave kind. However, with this recipe it seems as though we can upgrade to our own homemade kind! Thanks.

    1:25 pm  Feb 4th, 2011
  37. Kristi Rimkus

    I can eat an entire bag of kettle corn all by myself from the local fairs. I had no idea it was so simple to make myself!


    10:24 pm  Feb 5th, 2011
  38. TheOtherWoman

    This is the only way I make popcorn now but try it with a little paprika when you sprinkle the sugar on. It awesome if you like a little spice.

    4:28 am  Feb 7th, 2011
  39. Michelle

    I just made this with extra virgin organic coconut oil. I can’t even tell you how good it is! The coconut oil gives it a slight coconut flavour. It is so delicious!

    9:07 pm  Feb 25th, 2011
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  41. Glenna

    All it took to get me off microwave popcorn was to read an article pointing out the ingredients in each bag which elicited a big “Ewwwwwwwww.” Our penchant for faster and easier has definitely led to the more unheathly. Stove-top ever since! I’ve wanted to make kettle corn homemade for a while now so glad I came across your recipe. Thanks!

    7:21 pm  May 31st, 2011
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