Kettle Corn vs. Caramel Corn – What’s the Difference?

  • Author: Sue Dorrens
  • Published: November 10, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

If you’re looking for a sweet popcorn treat, kettle corn and caramel corn may come to mind. They’re both caramelized, but when it comes to kettle corn vs. caramel corn, what’s the difference?

There are fundamental differences, although they’ll satisfy that unconscious need for something crunchy, sweet, and slightly salty.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Is Caramel Popcorn and Kettle Corn the Same Thing?

No, caramel popcorn and kettle corn are not the same things, the same way that kettle corn and popcorn aren’t the same. They’re both sweet popcorn versions but have several marked differences.

These two varieties of popcorn differ in texture, taste, and technique.

Texture

Regarding texture, caramel popcorn and kettle corn are pretty different. Kettle corn is made with granulated sugar and salt added during the popping process, creating a light crunch that’s almost more crispy than crunchy.

On the other hand, caramel corn is made with a caramel sauce, so it creates a harder crunch with a bit of stickiness. It’s a heavier texture than kettle corn. That stickiness (the caramel is crunchy but not rock-hard) also sets caramel corn apart.

Taste

Both caramel and kettle corn taste sweet, but the flavor is different. Kettle corn has a light sweetness, like a little flavor accent. It’s subtle. Kettle corn leverages sweet and salty flavors with sugar and salt. This creates an addictive combination.

Caramel corn is also sweet but doesn’t have that salty component to offset it, so it tastes sweeter than kettle corn in most cases. The sweetness is more decadent thanks to the caramel sauce, which is caramelized sugar and corn syrup.

Technique

The technique to make kettle corn versus caramel corn is similar but not the same. To make kettle corn, you add sugar and salt while it’s popping to create a gentle crunch that tastes sweet.

To make caramel corn, the technique involves caramelizing the sugar with corn syrup and other ingredients first, then adding it to the popcorn after it’s popped. This technique is more involved than kettle corn. Making caramel corn involves baking to set the caramel as well.

Caramel Corn vs. Kettle Corn Availability

Both caramel and kettle corn are widely available, although there are differences depending on what type of popcorn you’re looking for. Both are generally easy to find in grocery stores, specialty stores, and public venues such as fairs.

Looking for microwave popcorn?

You’re not going to find a microwave popcorn variety of caramel corn, but there are many different types of microwave-ready kettle corn.

If you’re looking for something pre-popped, you’re in luck. Both caramel and kettle corn has many delicious pre-popped varieties ranging from basic to specialty.

Both are more involved when making popcorn from scratch at home than regular popcorn, although neither is particularly difficult. Caramel corn is made via a longer process because the caramel sauce needs to be made first. Kettle corn is seasoned while it pops, making it quicker and easier.

Nutritional Values – Caramel Corn vs. Kettle Corn

So, we know the differences when eating caramel corn or kettle corn, but what about the differences under the hood?

When it comes to nutrition, caramel corn and kettle corn have a lot of similarities. They both have a popcorn base, which includes those beneficial polyphenols and a healthy amount of fiber.

They’re also both sweetened with sugar, but there are a few differences in each variety’s sugar and fat content.

Caramel Corn Nutrition

caramel popcorn

The nutrition facts of caramel corn are pretty much what you’d expect. It’s high in carbohydrates and sugar yet low in fat and cholesterol. It’s by no means a healthy snack, but it’s not bad in moderation.

Here are some key points (measured per serving, about 28g):

  • Total fat – 3.6g (6% DV)
  • Cholesterol – 0mg (0% DV)
  • Sodium – 58mg (2% DV)
  • Carbohydrates – 22g (7% DV)
  • Dietary fiber – 1.5g (6% DV)
  • Sugar – 15g
  • Protein – 1.1g

Popcorn also contains a decent amount of other nutrients, such as iron and polyphenols (antioxidants). As long as your diet doesn’t consist of a lot of sugar, caramel corn can make a delicious snack (in moderation).

Kettle Corn Nutrition

kettle corn
Kettle Corn

Kettle corn also serves up some nutrition stats that aren’t surprising. It’s high in carbohydrates but only moderate in sugar. Like caramel corn, it’s low in cholesterol and moderate in fat.

Here are the highlights (also measured per serving, about 28g):

  • Total fat – 8.7g (13% DV)
  • Cholesterol – 0mg (0% DV)
  • Sodium – 0.6mg (0% DV)
  • Carbohydrates – 16.5g (6% DV)
  • Dietary fiber – 1.8g (7% DV)
  • Sugar – 7.5g
  • Protein – 1.4g

While lower in sugar, kettle corn is higher in fat than caramel corn. They’re both a decent source of dietary fiber (for a snack) and a low-calorie carb source.

Depending on your dietary goals, caramel corn or kettle corn might be a better fit. If you don’t want to consume too much fat, you might be better off choosing a caramel corn snack, whereas you’d be better off choosing kettle corn if you’re watching your sugar intake.

While these differences can help advise the most optimal snack time decision, they’re both great snacks to satisfy your sweet tooth without much adverse effect.

Eaten in moderation, they’re both excellent options to keep cravings at bay. You might be interested to check out 5 tasty popcorn alternatives next.

Sources

https://kettleheroes.com/what-is-kettle-corn-vs-caramel-popcorn/
https://www.nutritionix.com/food/caramel-corn
https://www.nutritionix.com/food/kettle-corn

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