Grilling Essentials

Best Popcorn Kernels 2020 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

If cinema popcorn leaves you hankering for more, why not enjoy this quick, delicious, and low-calorie snack at home?

Homemade food is almost always better and more affordable!​

Don’t let the literally hundreds of popcorn brands scare you. In this article, we’ve tasted and reviewed numerous brands, and we believe we’ve found 5 of the best popcorn kernels for amazing homemade popcorn!​

Also, you’ll learn a lot about popcorn, how it pops, what “old maids” are, and what to look for in a popcorn brand. Read on for tasty, fluffy, and tender popcorn!​

A Quick Look at Our Popping 5​

**Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.


A Guide to Popcorn Kernels

Guide to Popcorn Kernels

I’ve always loved popcorn. However, my appreciation for it soared, even more, when I learned more about this legendary snack. What I found out has also helped me make better popcorn at home and find the brands that carry the best popcorn kernels.

Let me share with you what I’ve learned so far and how we here tasted and found our number one popcorn kernel

Pop Culture

Great popcorn is all about fresh popcorn kernels turning into bowls of big tender clouds cooked perfectly white and unburnt. Also, there should be a high ratio of flakes relative to old maids.

This basic guidelines helped us a lot when we tasted our top 5 best popcorn kernels.​

​The term “flakes” refer to the kernels that successfully popped, which people also refer to as popcorn flakes.

​What about “old maids”? “Old maids” are what the industry and popcorn lovers call the kernels that refuse to pop after cooking. I shudder to think of this term’s history or connotations, but I’m no “popcorn-noisseur.”

Pop Culture

Specially Corny

I remember trying to make my own popcorn kernels at home but drying out some leftover sweetcorn.

They never popped when tried to cook them. Although I attributed my botched attempt at bad drying process, I eventually learned that I was doomed from the beginning. Why?​

​Popcorn is a whole different species of corn or maize! In fact, it’s just one of four different farmed corn namely, flint corn, dent corn, and the more popular sweet corn. Among all these types of corn, only popcorn (Zea mays everta) pops.

​Popcorn is a whole different species of corn or maize! In fact, it’s just one of four different farmed corn namely, flint corn, dent corn, and the more popular sweet corn. Among all these types of corn, only popcorn (Zea mays everta) pops.

​Here’s what popcorn looks like on the cob:

Specially Corny

​Obviously, popcorn is markedly different from sweet corn:

Fresh corn

Finding the Pop in Popcorn

What then, makes popcorn so unique from its kin? Well, dried popcorn kernels contain just the right amount of moisture and starch.

​Each kernel contains about 13% - 14% moisture. Incidentally, It’s usually the lack of moisture in old popcorn kernels that cause old maids.

​As you cook popcorn kernels, the moisture inside builds up pressure while the starch turns gelatinous. When the kernel’s outer layer or hull finally ruptures, the gelatinized starch bursts out and cools into the familiar popped corn mien.

Types of Kernels

There are two main types of popcorn – rice and pearl. You’ll distinguish these two, apparently, by their overall shape.

On the one hand is rice popcorn, whose pointed kernels resemble that of rice, having two pointed ends. On the other hand, Pearl popcorn are round at the top.​

Rice popcorn typically pops into bright white flakes that are slightly smaller than the flakes from Pearl popcorn which are slightly off-white or yellowish in color.​

Types of Popcorn Flakes

When the popcorn has popped, we can also categorize the resulting popcorn flakes into two types: Mushroom and butterfly.

​Similar to kernel types, shape and form distinguish popcorn flakes. Mushroom flakes, for instance, are typically ball-shaped and more compact than butterfly flakes. They’re also firmer and will give you more of a bite.

​These traits are why mushroom flakes are popular in packed corn, confectionaries, or kettle corn.

pieces of caramel popcorn

Meanwhile, butterfly flakes are generally tenderer, fluffier, and have a better overall mouthfeel. Most likely, the favored mouthfeel is due to the distribution of the hull. Consequently, popcorn with butterfly flakes is popular in cinemas and ballparks.

​Although kernels from the same popcorn can produce both of these flakes, popcorn hybrids that produce mostly one kind of flake are also available.

Popping the Question: Which is Best?

Now that we have a good understanding of popcorn let’s look into how we can determine the best popcorn kernels and their respective brands. For us to find the best, there are several elements and factors that we’ll need to inspect.


The most important factor to consider when buying popcorn kernels is freshness. Fresh popcorn kernels will yield tasty and fluffy flakes with minimal old maids.

​However, popcorn kernels that have gone stale or are not as fresh will be almost tasteless, or worse; they won’t even pop at all, leaving you with a pile of burnt old maids.

​Therefore, always factor in both the packaging and the best-before date of any popcorn kernels that you will be purchasing. Additionally, if you’re buying online, take into account how logistics will affect the kernels. How long will their delivery take?

corn in burlap bag

​Keeping consistently fresh popcorn kernels also means buying only a sufficient enough amount, so you won’t risk leftovers going stale.

​Hence, you might need to reconsider buying or ordering in bulk if you’ve no plans to consume all of that popcorn for a given period.


Closely related, if not directly responsible for freshness, is the packaging that carries your popcorn kernels. Some companies keep their popcorn kernels in bags while others will use jars or plastic containers.

​Whichever brand you choose to buy into, make sure that their packaging is robust and air-tight. Anything less will give you stale and tasteless kernels.

​Another reason to consider the packaging of your popcorn kernels is storage. Popcorn kernels in plastic bags will be okay if you will consume its contents in one go. However, if you’re buying a larger container, or you plan to eat popcorn in daily servings, that a re-sealable and still air-tight container will be best.

maize corn in a glass container


Last, but not least, you should also consider the brand that carries your popcorn kernels. Only buy from reputable, reliable, and respected brands, most especially if you will be buying online.

These traits are one of the biggest factors for our top five popcorn kernels.​

​Remember though that despite strict adherence to this buying guide, you’ll still at times encounter bad batches of popcorn kernels.

​This point is true whether you buy popcorn kernels at the market or online. Fortunately, reliable markets and online sellers like Amazon are often quick to replace the stale batch of popcorn for fresh ones.

Cook and Taste-tested: The 5 Best Popcorn Kernels

Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popcorn Kernels


Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popcorn Kernels is one of the most popular and most-loved popcorn brands around. You might even say it’s a staple in the American cupboard and no list of the best popcorn will be complete without it.

​This large 5-container carries natural, non-GMO, whole-grain kernels – a sure winner for any health nut. Upon cooking, we found out why Orville’s is a household name.

The popcorn was fresh, delicious and had a satisfying crunch! You can enjoy this popcorn with your favorite seasonings or even on its own! The ones we had, with the classic salt and butter add-ons, reminded us why we love popcorn in the first place.

​Another positive is the popcorn kernel’s packaging: a robust, sealed yet easy to pour plastic container which will keep your kernels fresh for longer periods of time.

​One downside though is the number of old maids we got after cooking several batches.

​We’re unsure though if this is a general issue or specific to the batch we ordered.


  • Easy pour container
  • Natural non-GMO kernels
  • Fresh and great-tasting kernels with excellent mouthfeel


  • Pricey
  • Partially un-popped at times
Country Harvest Popcorn Portion-Pack for 4-Ounce Poppers


Don’t let are rating fool you, we absolutely loved the popcorn from Country Harvest! Tasting one batch felt like we were transported straight into the theater or cinema!

​So if you love the popcorn you get at your local movie house, these are the popcorn kernels to get!

​Additionally, we loved the convenience of the prepackaged ingredients! Country Harvest pre-packages the popcorn kernels, as well as the oil and seasonings for each batch!

​Hence, you won’t need to measure anything while also minimizing the utensils to clean afterward.

​However, there is one minor drawback. Country Harvest’s greatest strength can also be a weakness. Since the seasonings and oil are pre-measured, some may find the overall flavor either bland or too strong.


  • Tastes like classic theater popcorn
  • Convenient pre-measured and pre-packaged ingredients for quick as well as hassle-free cooking.
  • Minimal old maids


  • Pre-measured seasonings may be too oily or salty for some.
Bob's Red Mill Corn Popcorn


Another healthy %100 whole-grain option comes from Bob’s Red Mill. Also, their popcorn kernels are high in fiber and are natural.

At first glance, and taste, Bob’s Red Mill Corn was pretty similar to Orville’s, especially their gluten-free and non-GMO traits. In fact, in a blind taste test, it was difficult distinguishing which was which!​

​This brand also tasted fresh with a satisfying crunch, perfect plain or with your favorite toppings!

​However, as we continued to feast on Bob’s Red Mill Popcorn, it was quite clear that it was nearly as tender or fluffy as Orville’s, or many of the other brands on this list for that matter.

​Despite this difference, Bob’s Red Mill will still be adequate for anyone who needs a quick popcorn fix without any harmful additives or chemicals!


  • All – natural, Non-GMO, as well as high in fiber
  • Crunchy, fresh tasting popcorn


  • Less fluffy or tender when compared to the others on this list, to varying degrees
  • Plastic bag may easily tear so you’ll need to use a different container for storage
  • Quite some old maids
Paragon Bulk Bag Yellow PopCorn


If you’re one to consume several pounds of popcorn a week, then the 12.5-pound bag of yellow Popcorn Kernels from Paragon is for you! The large size also makes Paragon popcorn one of the most affordable on our list!

Upon cooking the yellow kernels, we were surprised to get larger-than-usual butterfly flakes! We happily munched on these fluffy bright white flakes! These were decidedly softer and fluffier than others on our list!​

A drawback though, to the bigger flakes is that the flavor is, of course, less intense as it’s probably distributed for a larger surface area. Sadly, though, there were select flakes that were tough or un-popped that were mixed in.​


  • Large butterfly flakes
  • Fluffy and tender


  • Old maids are high
  • Some flakes were tough and chewy
Snappy White Popcorn


Lastly, we have the Yellow Popcorn from Snappy! Again, don’t let our rating fool you. Snappy’s popcorn is one of the best tasting ones that we’ve tried!

These affordable kernels had minimal old maids, were almost as large as the Paragon flakes, and are healthy too!​

​However, we couldn’t ignore the fact that Snappy’s popcorn burned quite easily in the microwave or stovetop. Additionally, its small kernels made it impossible to use in an air popper!


  • Classic corn and nutty popcorn taste
  • Large flakes
  • Fluffy as well as tender
  • Small popcorn kernels make the large container very cost-efficient


  • The small kernels will be difficult when used in air popper
  • The kernels as well as the flakes quickly burn


When it comes to taste, you really can’t go wrong with any of our top five. However, considering all the relevant popcorn kernel factors, we went with the unbeatable Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popcorn kernels! They perfectly embody the classic taste of American popcorn. Truly, it’s the best popcorn kernels you can get!


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