Kettle Corn {Fast + Easy + Healthy}

Kettle Corn-7You can make a healthy version of kettle corn, at home, in your microwave, in less than 3 minutes.

There. The secret is out.

But backing up a bit, let me start with confessing that I find the smell of microwave popcorn to be quite off-putting. The stuff that comes in the pre-measured, pre-sealed bags – hate it. I blame my first job, where I had the cubicle by the office microwave. I did manage, at that job, to stay out of the escalating tiff between the woman who would microwave fish and the woman who would try to mask that smell with Lysol – aren’t zany colleagues fun? – despite my front-row seat, but microwave popcorn has always been too strong for me. Maybe it even goes back to my college dorm. Maybe even the beginning of time.

I like the taste of popcorn, and love that it can be an easy whole grain snack, but that thick, buttery, fake microwave smell is such a turnoff.  So few foods have that effect on me that I generally follow my instincts and I don’t indulge. That’s not what food that is good for you should smell like!

Kettle Corn-5And kettle corn, a snack that is both sweet (from sugar) and savory (from salt), seemed to me like a good way to go and make a healthy snack unhealthy. At the farmer’s market by my work, which you may recall from my Breakfast Brownies post, there is a kettle corn vendor, and people stand in a line that stretches around the market for a fresh bag – or bucket. Federal government personnel are always walking around with painter’s buckets full of the stuff. Those not carrying a bucket will see a bucket around the office and say “SHOOT! I missed the kettle corn guy on Friday!” – no fail. That’s the reaction the buckets elicit. And I will eat it handful over handful when it’s offered to me, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t imagine how much sugar they put in it to make it so addictive.

That’s why I was so thrilled by the results when I finally decided to try to microwave popcorn in a plain old lunch bag.

Kettle CornI had seen the paper bag tip online a handful of times, but never got around to trying it. Finding a recipe for microwave kettle corn was the push I needed. And three minutes later…Kettle Corn-3

… four cups of hot, light, fresh, salty, sweet kettle corn.Kettle Corn-4Just mix the few ingredients together in a bowl and be sure to coat all of the kernels, pour it into a brown paper lunch bag, fold it over a few times, and pop it in the microwave. Like with all microwave popcorn, wait until the popping just starts to slow down to remove the bag from the microwave – if you wait until the popping stops, you will more likely than not scorch the heck out of your snack.

This Kettle Corn is just the right balance of slightly salty and slightly sweet to serve as the perfect Netflix or OnDemand binge series snack, with no regrets. I mean, other than regretting where your day has gone.

3.5 from 4 reviews
Kettle Corn {Fast + Easy + Healthy}
Homemade, hot, fresh kettle corn in under 3 minutes? It's yours!
Recipe type: Snack
  • ¼ c popcorn kernels
  • ½ t oil {I used canola}
  • ½ t vanilla
  • 1½ t sugar {the finer, the better}
  • ¼ t salt
  1. Stir the ingredients together in a small bowl, coating all kernels as best you can.
  2. Pour the coated kernels into a brown paper bag.
  3. Fold the bag over a few times.
  4. Set the microwave for 3 minutes, but don't walk away.
  5. As soon as the popping slows, remove the bag, shake and tear open above a bowl.


Kettle Corn-8

Kettle Corn-6

Adapted from:


  1. Kat says

    After realizing that it’s the sugar mixture that caused the popcorn to burn… Because I zap it all the time in a bag like that with no problem… I pop the popcorn separate, and then next the other ingredients together and Zaped them till melted and poured it over and started up and it worked.

  2. Katrin says

    I tried it and mine also turned out very burned and with a lot of unpopped kernals. The flavoring also soaked through the bag and stuck it to the microwave tray.

    Flavoring is okay though. Next time I think I’ll add a small amount of butter and coat it after the popcorn is popped. And I’ll try rubber banding the end as someone mentioned

    It is very crispy and I know adding the vanilla later will dull that but I don’t mind less crispy popcorn

    Despite the sticky microwave tray I think the cleanup is slightly better then the pan method I was using.

  3. Anna says

    Have to say I was a bit disappointed. Even though I stopped the popcorn before there were 1-2 seconds between pops, it still had burned all over. From the unburned pieces, they tasted flavorless and without any hint of the sugar or salt.
    I know this is the quick and healthy version, but I have to say I’ll be sticking with my laborious and unhealthy homemade kettle corn!

    • says

      Hi Anna!

      I guess healthy and fast aren’t for everyone! Microwaving popcorn takes a little practice, so I encourage you to try a few times before giving up.


    • margarida curtis says

      I usually tie up the paper bag at the very top with a rubber band. The air inside the bag concentrates and pops the kernels faster, usually in 1 minute and 36 seconds.

  4. Tracey says

    I was craving something sweet, but not calorie-laden, and came across your awesome popcorn recipe! I have my sweet tooth satisfied in 2 minutes! This is a keeper! I used a little butter flavor extract instead of vanilla just because I was out of vanilla, but the butter extract gave it a really rich flavor also! Thanks so much!

  5. Nancy says

    Lightly sweet with a salty bite! Nice and crispy and eliminates the need for butter! Would be great with a little spice added in, will try next time! Thank you!


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