Growing up, my family always put butter and salt on popcorn. I didn't know that adding sugar was a thing until my exchange student from Belgium sprinkled sugar instead of salt on her bowl of popcorn. But it turns out popcorn and sugar—otherwise known as kettle corn—is a fairly popular combination and has been around since the 1700s. If you're a popcorn lover like me, you're probably wondering what the pros and cons of kettle corn vs popcorn are. 

Before we delve into the nutritional aspects, lets take a look at the main differences between the types of popcorn.


rice, salt, butter, sweet, kettle corn, cereal, corn, popcorn
Sara Carte

When popped, kernels fall into one of two shape categories—snowflake/butterfly or mushroom. The next time you’re at the movie theatre, take a minute to look at the popcorn. Chances are, you’ll see mostly snowflake-shaped kernels because they pop larger and have a fluffier texture. The “wings” help trap the butter and seasonings are more prone to breaking off.

In contrast, mushroom-shaped kernels are more common when coatings like chocolate, caramel, or cheese are added due to the larger surface area. This makes it the preferred shape for kettle corn because the sugar has the ability to form a sweet outer shell.


Regardless of where you find the recipe, kettle corn recipes use the same four ingredients: oil, mushroom kernels, sugar, and salt. The oil is heated in a pot on the stove with a few kernels. Once the kernels pop, the rest are added along with the sugar. Salt is added after transferring the warm kettle corn to a bowl.

Classic popcorn is either air-popped in the microwave or oil-popped on the stove. Popcorn toppings vary, but butter and salt are the most popular.

Which Is Healthier?

Popcorn itself is the perfect healthy snack due to its relatively high fiber content. A three-cup serving provides one serving of whole grains. In addition to fiber, popcorn also provides folate, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamins B6, A, E, and K. It’s the perfect snack for celiacs, vegans, diabetics, and university students alike.

Most people would argue that plain, air-popped popcorn is the healthiest because it contains the fewest calories (approximately 30), little fat, and no cholesterol. Adding a light sprinkling of salt, cinnamon, chili powder, or cocoa powder adds some extra flavor without excess fat, sugar, or calories. 

Personally, I prefer my popcorn popped in coconut oil on the stove so my body can absorb the fat soluble vitamins. As long as you're using heart-healthy oils like olive, canola, corn, or sunflower, you don’t need to worry much about the fat content.

In actuality, sugar is more likely to cause weight gain due to its addictive nature and high calorie count. As a simple carb, sugar doesn’t make you feel full; you continue eating and taking in more calories. This leads to excess weight gain. Fat, in comparison, promotes satiety. 

Kettle Corn vs Popcorn?

butter, milk, wheat, sweet, caramel, kettle corn, cereal, corn, popcorn
Andrea Kang

I would recommend choosing homemade oil-popped popcorn over kettle corn. But remember, having kettle corn every once in a while is totally okay because all foods can fit in a healthy diet as long as you enjoy them in moderation.

Popcorn is the go-to snack for every situation. Going to the movies? Eat popcorn. Visiting a summer festival? Eat popcorn. No time to make dinner during finals? Eat popcorn. All popcorn is good popcorn.