When it comes to a comparison between caramel corn and kettle corn, there are no losers. Both treats are delicious, sweet, and crunchy. But that doesn’t mean they are the same. In fact, there are many differences between traditional kettle corn and Homemade caramel popcorn.
Are Kettle Corn and Caramel Corn the Same Thing?
Before digging into the differences, let’s discuss the similarities between these two popular treats. Both are made from standard popping corn. And both can be enjoyed when they’re freshly made and still warm or days later with proper storage. Also, both corn snacks are found at fairs, carnivals, and other special events. Lastly, if you have the right equipment, you can make kettle corn and caramel corn at home in your own kitchen.
The main difference between the two snacks is, of course, taste. While both types of candied corn are sweet, they have very different flavors.
Traditional Kettle Corn: A Sweet and Salty Tale
The invention of kettle corn is commonly attributed to Dutch settlers living in Pennsylvania during the late 1700s. They combined popping corn, oil, sugar, and salt in large cast-iron kettles—typically referred to as Dutch ovens. The result was a super crisp and crunchy popcorn with a sugary crust on each kernel. The addition of salt creates a nice balance to the sweet flavor. Just as it is today, kettle corn was popular at street fairs and carnivals back then too.
A hot iron kettle is the secret to perfect kettle corn. Since not everyone owns a large cast-iron kettle these days, making authentic kettle corn at home can be difficult, but there are many delicious recipes for those who’d like to try.
Though there are some varieties, kettle corn usually comes in one flavor: sweet and salty. The use of honey or molasses in place of plain white sugar does add a slightly different flavor, but when most people crave kettle corn, they want to traditional sugar and salty flavor combination.
Homemade Caramel Popcorn
The tradition of combining crunchy popped corn with a caramel covering dates back to the late 1800s. Cracker Jack, with its strong flavor of molasses, was the first commercial brand of caramel corn. The most traditional flavor of caramel corn includes little or no salt. Instead, the mouth-watering taste comes from cooking butter and sugar into a caramel sauce and stirring it over corn that’s already been popped.
Caramel corn can be ooey and gooey with a soft caramel coating or made crisp with a thinner type of caramel sauce that dries into a crunchy shell around each kernel.
It is common to add other ingredients such as nuts or bits of candy to caramel corn. Amped-up flavors are also available. For example, shops like Gary’s Gourmet reports that specialty flavors such as their s’mores flavored caramel popcorn are among their most popular.
Which One is Your Favorite?
Some people have strong feelings about their sweet, crunchy treats. But for others, it is difficult to choose between the two. Snackers who prefer to keep things a little lighter might go for kettle corn. But those who love the full buttery flavor of homemade caramel popcorn say there’s no contest. Caramel popcorn wins every time.