The Different Types of Popcorn Kernels

If you have ever driven across the country it is apparent that corn is everywhere. Corn is just corn, right? Wrong. There are actually many different types of corn that are grown in the United States. One variety is specifically grown for popcorn kernels because not all corn can be popped. Within this variety of corn, there are many strains with kernels that pop differently and are therefore used in different styles of popcorn.

There are two common shapes of popcorn when the kernels are popped, a mushroom shape or a butterfly shape.


  • More hardy
  • Denser
  • Used mostly with coated popcorn flavors


  • Softer
  • Airy
  • Used for simpler flavors

When popcorn kernels are popped they are one of two colors, yellow or white. The variation in color indicates other traits that relate to flavor. White popcorn is a more subtle flavor and is often used if adding flavors and seasoning. White popcorn usually pops a bit smaller than the yellow popcorn. Yellow popcorn has a yellow tint and a distinctive “nutty” flavor associated with it. Yellow popcorn is most commonly used for movie theater popcorn.

There are also certain varieties that have a thinner outer layer of the popcorn kernel, known as hulls. These varieties are referred to as hulless. Hulless popcorn kernels are favored by those who prefer a smaller number of hulls to get stuck in their teeth. Their downside is that they are smaller kernels and therefore smaller popcorn.

Hopefully, next time you eat popcorn or decide to purchase popcorn kernels you will start noticing these subtle differences and enjoy America’s favorite snack a little bit more.