Until fairly recently, I didn’t realize the popcorn I usually make is yellow popcorn, and that there was another, similar but different variety known as white popcorn. I wanted to know more so I did some research and here’s what I found.
Yellow popcorn is the most common variety. It’s a light yellow when popped, has a strong popcorn flavor and thick hulls. White popcorn is white in color, smaller when popped, has a mild sweet flavor and small hulls.
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What's the Difference Between White and Yellow Popcorn?
One of the main and most obvious differences between white and yellow popcorn is the color.
Yellow popcorn kernels can be identified range from yellow to a bright orangey color. Once popped, the flake (this is what popped popcorn kernels are called) has a yellowish tinge that almost looks like it has butter on it.
White popcorn kernels range from a dusty white to bright white. When popped, the flakes are a white to bright white.
Another main difference between white and yellow popcorn is size.
Yellow popcorn is much larger and sturdier than white. The kernels are generally larger than white popcorn, more of a medium to large size, and are shaped like small pearls. It’s the popcorn used in movie theaters because it pops into large flakes and is sturdy enough to hold lots of butter and seasonings without getting soggy.
White popcorn flakes tend to be smaller and more delicate than yellow. Light seasonings work best on this smaller sized flake. Kernels are generally smaller and thinner than yellow popcorn and shaped like grains of rice.
Yellow popcorn has more of a nutty, corn flavor to it. White popcorn tends to have a mild, sweet flavor.
Both taste pretty much the same when paired with toppings. The flavor of the yellow popcorn doesn’t over power any seasonings you may add to it, and white popcorn is like a blank slate that will take on the flavor of whatever you add to it.
This is one instance where size matters. Hulls are those hard bits that get stuck between your teeth and gums, and sometimes don’t resurface sometimes not to be seen again for days.
Personally, I prefer popcorn with smaller hulls because it really bugs me when thick hulls get stuck between my teeth and gums. If you’re like me then this will be an important distinction to pay attention to.
In general, yellow popcorn has large, thick hulls and white popcorn has small, thin hulls.
Most white varieties are labeled as hulless, however truly hulless popcorn doesn’t exist. What’s labeled as “hulless” actually refers to hulls that are smaller and lighter than non-hulless varieties. While not completely hulless, they really do make a big difference in the number of hulls that get stuck in your teeth. For a deep dive into hulless popcorn, see my article here.
|Characteristics||White Popcorn||Yellow Popcorn|
|Color (Kernels)||Dusty White to Bright White||Yellow to Bright Orange|
|Color (Popped)||White or Bright White||Light Yellow|
|Size||Small to Medium||Medium to Large|
|Flavor||Mild and Sweet||Stonger Corn Flavor|
|Shape||Mushroom or Butterfly||Mushroom or Butterfly|
Are White and Yellow Popcorn Shaped Differently?
The only difference in shape between yellow and white popcorn is the size. Yellow kernels popcorn is generally larger than white popcorn.
Popcorn typically pops into two different shapes – mushroom and butterfly. Both yellow and white kernels can be either mushroom or butterfly shaped when popped.
Read my article about the difference between mushroom and butterfly popcorn for more details.
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.
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.
The texture of mushroom popcorn is firmer and chewier than butterfly popcorn. It won’t shrink or melt when a wetter topping like butter is poured over it.
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, and has thinner, lighter hulls
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.
Which Is Healthier, White or Yellow Popcorn?
The nutritional profile of white and yellow popcorn is almost identical. There are negligible differences in calories and carb content. Livestrong provides a detailed nutritional breakdown of yellow and white popcorn.
Price Difference Between Yellow and White Popcorn
Yellow popcorn generally costs less than white popcorn. You’ll find yellow popcorn in the grocery store and it’s very reasonably priced. White popcorn is not as readily available, but you can find it online, at farmer’s markets, or even a local retailer. It tends to be more of a specialty item and has a higher price point.
Where To Buy White and Yellow Popcorn?
How To Make White and Yellow Popcorn?
Making white or yellow popcorn is easy. You can pop either variety in an air popper, in the microwave or on the stove.
Here is the technique I use to make my perfect stovetop popcorn.
- Put a couple tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot.
- Turn the heat to medium.
- 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.