Rainbow popcorn, a colored popping corn with gel food coloring and white sugar, is the delicious basis for what is commonly known and enjoyed as Kettle corn. The sweet and salty flavors, dressed up in rainbow colors, are a fun tasty popcorn treat that feels like the county fair but can be made at the home stovetop.
Originally viral on TikTok #FoodTok, the Skittles trend died a sugary burned brown death on the skillet (and along with it our hopes and dreams), so here is a better way to actually make stovetop rainbow popcorn without failure.
Read below for expert tips for kettle corn success!
Let’s Chat about Viral Rainbow Popcorn
Let’s go ahead and get one thing straight. Skittles mixed with popcorn does not make Rainbow Kettle Corn. Or at least as easy as *that viral video* looked.
However, if you still want to make a sugary-sweet rainbow popcorn treat, do not despair! We are here to help.
You can make kettle corn as a colorful treat pretty easily with the right ingredients.
A super important note is that the hot sugar and popping corn is HOT! While I always encourage fun in the kitchen, this viral recipe is left to the adults to make and the kids to enjoy once cooled. Working with sugar and the surprise of an unpopped popcorn kernel is not a child-friendly cooking experience.
Colored popcorn is great for birthday parties, movie nights, party tables, and spirit with school colors. The popcorn color depends entirely on the dye, and the sweet flavor is derived directly from the sugar. This lovely buttery and delicious popcorn is just as much a feast for the eyes as it is a fun snack.
- White sugar – white sugar is the granulated sugar that is easy to dye. Substitutions of sugar are not recommended.
- Food coloring – The colored popcorn mixture depends on the added gel food coloring. We used a typical rainbow spread for our kettle corn: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple gel food coloring.
- Vegetable oil – There are many other types of oil out there, but vegetable oil is the best taste and closest to what most would consider a traditional taste.
- Popcorn kernels – Get a jar of unpopped and loose popcorn kernels.
- Salt – Kosher salt or table salt is acceptable.
Where did the Rainbow Popcorn Trend come from?
We always love to give love to where we saw this one hit our FYP. The Rainbow Skittles video absolutely started the rainbow trend, but there are so so many better ways than Tiktok is showing you. Make the popcorn without the trouble!
The original tiktok user that this started from is showing as banned so here is another one we found.
Best Food Coloring for Dying Popcorn
It is important to use gel food coloring like Americolor Soft Gel Paste Food Color. If you use liquid food coloring, it will make the sweet popcorn too saturated and sometimes soggy.
- 119 Red Red
- 111 Leaf Green
- 107 Lemon Yellow
- 113 Orange
- 112 Violet (plus one dollop of 119 red since the color is very blue-violet)
How to make Colorful Popcorn
Please note: Kettle corn is not hard to make, but making each color can be time-consuming with any rainbow items, so plan ahead.
- Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Place two tablespoons of sugar into six separate small bowls or one bowl for each color you use.
- Dye each bowl a different color, placing two dollops of gel food coloring into each bowl.
- Use a fork to mix and stir the color until it’s fully incorporated as colored sugar.
- Add two teaspoons of vegetable oil and a few popcorn kernels (They are the testers). This lets you know when the pan is ready. Heat the oil and popcorn over medium-high heat.
- Once the tester kernels pop, reduce skillet heat to medium and add two tablespoons of popcorn kernels and one bowl of sugar.
- Cover and cook, leaving the lid cracked just a bit so some steam can escape and continue to shake so the sugar doesn’t burn. As a note, crack the lid in the back away from you.
- Once the popcorn pops are more than 1-2 seconds apart, which tells you that most kernels are done, remove sugared popcorn from heat to prevent burning. Keep the lid on until all popping stops, or a stray may surprise you!
- Once the popcorn is done popping, remove the lid (facing away from your face or body) and pour colored popcorn onto a baking sheet.
- Immediately sprinkle with salt. Let the popcorn cool completely.
- Repeat with remaining colors. Once all popcorn is cool, break apart any large pieces of Kettle corn and serve.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag at room temperature for up to a week.
- Makes about 2-gallon size resealable bags of popcorn. Approximately 10 cups of popcorn.
Expert Kettle Popcorn Tips
- I always rinse out the lid and skillet after each color. The lid especially had hardened color sugar splatter on it.
- Do not overuse food dye. A little goes a long way, and too much can change the flavor of the popcorn itself.
- Burned sugar happens! There will be times you burn kernels and burn sugar; it’s, unfortunately, a part of the process of figuring out your pan and heat. Do not be tempted to make the kettle corn done faster by turning the heat way up. Medium heat is the perfect temperature.
- Do not use too small of a pan! You need room to pop the popcorn and shake the colored sugar. Use a considerable skillet or at least a 3-quart size pot (the kind you would cook pasta in).
- The food dye does mix in but may take a few minutes. Use a separate fork for each color and keep mixing until all incorporated. This may take 3-5 minutes to get the dye lumps to adhear to the sugar.
- Do not serve unpopped kernels by accident. They do not taste great and can also present a choking hazard or a breaking a tooth hazard.
What is Kettle Corn?
Kettle corn is uncooked popcorn kernels that are popped with sugar. It can be eaten plain or sprinkled with additional flavorings such as chili powder, cayenne pepper, cheese, bacon bits, salt (like the fair), and other toppings, which brings the savory into the sweet.
How to store leftover Colored Kettle Corn.
Popcorn is always best fresh, but it can usually be served up to 1 week in an airtight container.
Can Rainbow Colored Popcorn be made with Skittles?
No! Skittles will so so quickly burn in the pan.
You can add skittles to the popcorn as a fun candy treat or mix, but adding skittles to the pan itself while the popcorn is cooking is a hard no. We all saw that viral TikTok video, but it’s not as great as the video makes it seem. Spare yourself the burned pan and frustration.
Dumping all the rainbow colors together basically makes brown and more often than not, burned brown. If you had time to use only one color, Skittle, and very, very slowly melt down the sugary Skittle, you MIGHT have some basic results.
Overall, make kettle popcorn with actual dye and natural sugar for the BEST results.
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