Who doesn’t love Kettle Corn – crunchy popcorn that is slightly sweet and slightly salty? Halloween Kettle Corn is the perfect homemade treat to dazzle trick or treaters both young and old. If you can make popcorn, you can make Halloween Kettle Corn!
I used the following ingredients: Unpopped popcorn, peanut oil, granulated sugar, salt, and gel food coloring. You could also use vegetable oil here. I haven’t tried using the liquid food coloring, but I suspect that it would work. However, there may or may not be an issue with adding the liquid food coloring to the hot oil.
Halloween Kettle Corn – The Experiments:
Before getting into how I made this fun treat, I have a confession. I have never actually had Kettle Corn. Therefore, before starting my experimentation, I bought a small bag from a local popcorn store to see what the Kettle Corn was supposed to taste like. The bag held about 2 cups, and cost almost $6.00! I thought “WOW”!
For my initial experimentation, I scoured the Internet for basic recipes for Kettle Corn. As you might imagine, there were quite a few variations. Because I wanted to make three different colors, I settled on using 1/4 cup of unpopped popcorn per color. That seemed to make the perfect amount.
I tried different combinations of sugar, salt, oil, and food coloring, and also different methods of introducing the color.
First, I tried coloring the sugar by combining it with some of the food coloring. Maybe it was because I was using gel coloring, but the sugar consistently clumped around coloring, making it difficult to actually introduce the color into the sugar. I was able to achieve a somewhat colored sugar, however, by mashing the clumps with a spoon, and stirring vigorously. My conclusion here was that there must be a better way – and there was which I’ll get to in a minute. Also, I tried different amounts of the food coloring and concluded that 3 drops of the gel coloring was all that was needed.
Second, I tried different amounts of salt, before concluding that the perfect amount, given the amount of popcorn and sugar, was 1/4 teaspoon. Any more and the Kettle Corn tasted too salty. Any less, and there really wasn’t any salt taste.
Third, I had read that to achieve the optimum temperature at which to add the popcorn, one should start with three kernels in oil, and not add the rest of the popcorn until those kernels had popped. This was a keeper!
Fourth, some of the recipes that I looked at called for adding the sugar to the oil before adding the popcorn. Others recommended adding the sugar after adding the popcorn. I tried both methods. While they worked somewhat, the coloring of the popcorn was not very good, and both the popcorn and the sugar tended to burn somewhat. Therefore, I wondered if I could combine most of the oil, the coloring, the salt, and the sugar in a small bowl, and then mix in the popcorn. Once everything was combined, then I could add it to the heated pot. This was a definite keeper!
Fifth, I wanted to ensure that neither the popcorn nor the sugar burned while the popcorn was popping. To ensure that this didn’t happen, I tried shaking the pan at different intervals. What worked the best for me was lifting the pan off the burner (I have an electric stove) and giving it a good shake every five seconds.
Finally, without thinking much about it, I left the first batch of Kettle Corn on the counter for several hours while I went to the store. When I came home, the Kettle Corn had already become stale. Therefore, I put the next batch into a ziploc bag as soon as it cooled enough. The result – stale popcorn. Then, I remembered that the key to a good caramel corn was thoroughly “drying” it out in a 250° F oven. Therefore, before storing the Kettle Corn in a ziploc bag, I spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet, and baked it in a 250° F oven for 30 minutes, with a good stir half-way through. Another keeper!
Making the Halloween Kettle Corn:
For Halloween, I made three separate batches of Kettle Corn using green food coloring for one batch, purple food coloring for another batch, and orange food coloring for the final batch. You could use whatever color combinations you wanted!
I started by adding three drops of the gel food coloring to 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a small bowl. Then, I added the salt, and gave the oil a stir. Next, I added the sugar, and stirred to combine all of the ingredients. Finally, I added the popcorn to the sugar mixture, and stirred until the popcorn was well coated. The pictures here show me making the orange Kettle Corn,
I set the popcorn/sugar mixture aside, and added the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to a large pan with a lid. I added 3 kernels of popcorn, covered the pan, and heated it over medium heat. When the three kernels had popped, I removed the lid and removed the three pieces of popcorn. Then, I dumped in the popcorn/sugar mixture, spread it evenly over the bottom of the pan, and put on the lid. I placed a folded dish towel over the top and side handles of the pan, and started lifting the pan from the burner and shaking it in 5-second increments. I wanted to ensure that neither the popcorn nor the sugar burned.
After the popping had greatly subsided, I removed the lid, and dumped the colored popcorn onto a wire rack set inside of a rimmed baking sheet to cool. The reason for doing this was to allow the unpopped kernels to easily fall onto the baking sheet, leaving the popped corn on the wire rack. The last thing that I wanted was to have unpopped kernels left in the Halloween Kettle Corn. This worked like a charm!
Once the Kettle Corn had cooled, I transferred it to a rimmed baking sheet, and baked it in a preheated 250° F oven for 30 minutes, turning it half-way through.
I repeated this process with green and purple gel food coloring, and ended up with three perfect batches of Halloween Kettle Corn. I stored the colored Kettle Corn in ziploc bags to keep it fresh.
The Halloween Kettle Corn was delicious! It had just the right amount of sweet and salty crunch, and stayed fresh for about a week in an air-tight container. Yum!
If you would like some more Halloween sweets, you should try these amazing recipes:
- Halloween Push Pops
- Spooktacular Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Treats
- Spooky Spider Pops
- Monster Munch
- Halloween Nutella Cinnamon Roll Ring
Halloween Kettle Corn
- 3 Tablespoons peanut oil, divided (See Note 1)
- 3 drops gel food coloring (See Note 2)
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup unpopped popcorn
- Preheat oven to 250° F.
- Place wire rack inside of rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a small bowl. Add gel food coloring and salt. Stir to combine. Add sugar; stir to combine. Add popcorn; stir well to coat kernels. Set aside.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to a large pan with a lid set over medium heat. Add 3 kernels of popcorn. Place lid on pan.
- When the 3 kernels of popcorn have popped, remove the lid; remove the popped corn.
- Add colored popcorn/sugar mixture to pan; spread evenly on bottom of pan. Place lid on pan. Cover top of pan and handles with a dish towel.
- Shake pan in 5-second increments removing from heat while shaking.
- When popping noise subsides, remove pan from heat. Carefully remove lid and pour popped corn into prepared wire rack. Spread in an even layer.
- When Kettle Corn cools, transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 250° F for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.
- Cool completely. Store in airtight container.
- Yield: About 5 1/2 cups. Repeat with other colors if desired. (See Note 3)
Chula's Expert Tips
- Can use vegetable oil in place of the peanut oil. However, avoid using olive oil or butter. Neither can withstand the high temperature needed to pop the corn.
- You can try using liquid food coloring with the same technique. However, a caveat - I haven't actually tried using liquid food coloring.
- You could follow this technique of producing colored Kettle Corn for other holidays. For example, you could make red and white Kettle Corn for Valentines Day; green, purple, and yellow Kettle Corn for Mardi Gras; green Kettle Corn for St. Patrick's Day; red, white, and blue Kettle Corn for the 4th of July; and red and green Kettle Corn for Christmas. Use your imaging to produce distinctive treats!