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Mushroom Popcorn vs. Butterfly Popcorn

by klarsen28@gmail.com
mushroom popcorn vs butterfly popcorn

Popcorn comes in two basic shapes – butterfly and mushroom. These are terms used to describe the shape of the popped kernels, not where the kernels come from, or the flavor. But doesn’t mushroom flavored popcorn sound interesting? It might actually be pretty tasty! I’ll have to work on a recipe for that. But I digress….

Most of us are familiar with butterfly popcorn. That’s the kind of popcorn you make at home and get at the movie theater. Mushroom popcorn is not as common, but it’s commonly used by gourmet popcorn makers because of its sturdiness and ability to hold its shape under heavy popcorn flavor coatings.

So, let’s dive into the details.

Butterfly popcorn gets its name from its wing-like protrusions. It’s light, airy and delicate, and great for holding butter and other light seasonings. Mushroom popcorn pops into a round, ball shape with a rough surface. It’s stronger and denser and well suited for thicker coatings such as caramel or chocolate.

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What Is Mushroom Pocorn?

Mushroom popcorn pops round in shape and is much sturdier and hardier than butterfly popcorn.  The kernels don’t look any different than butterfly popcorn kernels, but when popped they turn into a ball-shaped popcorn with a rough surface.

The kernels have thicker hulls and a higher moisture content. More moisture is needed to create enough steam and pressure for the thick hulls to explode.

Because of mushroom popcorn’s shape and its sturdiness, it’s ideal to use with heavier coatings and glazes like caramel, chocolate or cheese. It won’t shrink or melt when a wetter topping like butter is poured over it. It also holds its shape better and doesn’t crumble or deteriorate during the stirring and coating process.

The texture of mushroom popcorn is firmer and chewier than butterfly popcorn. It takes much longer to go stale than butterfly popcorn, so it’s ideal for popping in large quantities. You know how the tins of popcorn you get seem to last longer than the popcorn you make at home? It’s because they’re made with mushroom popcorn.

butterfly popcorn

What Is Butterfly Popcorn?

Butterfly popcorn, also known as snowflake popcorn, is the type of popcorn that probably comes to mind when you think of popcorn. It’s the most common and most popular type of popcorn. It’s the kind of popcorn you have in your pantry and make at home. You’ll find butterfly popcorn at movie theaters or stadiums.

Butterfly popcorn gets its name because it pops into an open shape and has little appendages that resemble wings which are perfect for catching and holding butter and seasonings. It also absorbs the butter better than mushroom popcorn. 

There’s more surface area and nooks and crannies to hold the yummy butter and salt. Thicker coatings, like caramel or other glazes, may cause this popcorn to break apart or disintegrate.

Butterfly popcorn is delicate, light, airy and fluffy. Because of this, it tends to go stale quicker than mushroom popcorn.

Butterfly and mushroom popcorn.

Mushroom Popcorn

  • Round, ball-shaped with rough surface.
  • Firm and chewy texture.
  • Thicker hulls.
  • Best for heavier coatings like caramel or chocolate.

Butterfly Popcorn

  •  Most common type of popcorn.
  • Light, airy, and delicate.
  • Has appendages that resemble “wings”.
  • Best for butter and light seasonings.

Which Type of Popcorn Is the Best?

Whether you should use mushroom or butterfly popcorn really depends on what seasonings or coatings you plan on using.

If you’re making a recipe that calls for a gooey, thick topping, then mushroom popcorn will work best. Mushroom popcorn won’t break apart as easily when covered with thicker toppings.

If you’re making a buttery popcorn recipe, butterfly popcorn is ideal because the wings give it more surface area for the butter to coat. Try it with other seasonings like garlic powder, nutritional yeast (nooch), or cinnamon and sugar.

  • Butterfly popcorn is light, delicate, airy and crispy and great to use with lighter seasonings and butter.
  • Mushroom popcorn is round, dense and chewy and works best with heavier toppings and glazes.

Both types of popcorn are delicious, so it really just comes down to what toppings you want to put on the popcorn.

popping mushroom popcorn on the stovetop

How to Make Mushroom Popcorn

Mushroom popcorn is easy to make. I use the same technique to make it as I do when I make stovetop butterfly popcorn.

  • Put a couple tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot.
  • Turn the heat up almost to high.
  • Add 2-3 kernels to the pot.
  • Once they pop remove the pot from heat.
  • Add in the rest of the kernels.
  • Swirl the pot around so the oil covers all the kernels.
  • Let it sit off the heat for 30 seconds.
  • Put the pot back on the heat and tip the lid a bit to allow steam to escape.
  • Shake the pan every so often.
  • Continue to pop until the popping slows to a pop every few seconds.
  • Pour into your favorite popcorn bowl and season.

Tips for Making Mushroom Popcorn

  1. Make it on the stovetop. This type of popcorn doesn’t pop as big and fluffy in the microwave or air popper.
  2. Don’t crowd the pot. The kernels need space to heat up so they can pop to their full potential. Only put a single layer of kernels in the pot to give them the room they need.
  3. Make sure the oil is hot. Mushroom popcorn needs the oil to be hot to pop into its round, ball shape. If you use oil that isn’t hot, you may get popcorn that has more of a butterfly shape rather than the ball shape. Oil needs to reach 400 degrees or more to achieve the mushroom shape. 
mushroom and butterfly popcorn

Where To Buy Mushroom Popcorn

 You can buy mushroom popcorn online or in some grocery or retail stores. Amazon has a selection of mushroom popcorn (that’s where I buy mine) but you can also find it on other online retailers.

I haven’t seen mushroom popcorn at any of my local grocery stores. Perhaps if you live somewhere near a popcorn producer, you may find some stocked at your local grocery store.

I’ll also be looking for it at my local farmer’s markets this year. Hopefully I can find some new popcorn varieties to try out!

Here are a few you can find on Amazon:

1. Amish Country Mushroom Popcorn Kernels – This is the kind I use and are pictured in this post.

2. Wabash Valley Farms Extra Large Mushroom Popcorn – These over-sized popcorn kernels pop into a round, ball shape, perfect for toppings such as caramel, chocolate and cheese. Their kernels are non-GMO and gluten-free. 

3. International Popcorn Mushroom Kernels – These kernels are organic, Kosher and non-GMO. They’re a bit pricier than the others because they’re organic, but a good option if buying organic is important to you.

Now you know the difference between mushroom and butterfly popcorn. Both types are easy to make and work great to hold different toppings and seasonings. Which type do you prefer? And what are your favorite toppings? Let us know in the comments!

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