Yellow Popcorn vs. White Popcorn: What's the Difference?

By: Bob's Red Mill | November 4 2020

At Bob's Red Mill, popcorn is one of our favorite snacks. Not only is it incredibly simple to make, but it's also easy to customize. Additionally, depending on the toppings you add, popcorn can be a healthy treat. As a whole grain food, popcorn can be incorporated into nearly any diet plan—just make sure you don't add too much butter! When making healthy kernels, choosing the right popcorn toppings is crucial in keeping the recipe light.

Whether you purchase your popcorn in pre-made bags or cook it at home on the stovetop, the chances are you'll need to choose between yellow or white popcorn kernels. Though yellow and white kernels look very similar, they are two different types of popcorn. Continue reading to learn more about the differences and which kernel you should choose the next time you are faced with this decision. 

The Different Types of Popcorn

Yellow Popcorn vs. White Popcorn: What's the Difference? | Bob's Red Mill Blog

While briefly touched on the two types of popcorn above, it's crucial to learn all you can about the variety in kernels so that your popcorn turns out just as expected. Simply put, white popcorn has a more tender texture than yellow. This is because it pops into smaller, more fine bright white shapes. Conversely, yellow popcorn tends to produce a much larger and sturdier form than white corn, and the popped kernels hold a yellowish tint to them.

If you're on a mission to recreate your favorite movie theater popcorn, we recommend using yellow kernels. Because these kernels produce larger, sturdier popcorn, they'll hold up to more decadent toppings. 

To better understand the different types of popcorn kernels, let's take a closer look at each.

White Popcorn (a.k.a Rice Popcorn)

White popcorn, also known as rice popcorn, is produced by small kernels that look similar to rice granules. Upon popping, the seeds have a soft, crunchy grain that is nearly 40 times its original size. While this popcorn can be enjoyed in countless ways, most people prefer eating it with a touch of salt and butter. Because the grains are smaller, a pinch of seasoning goes a long way. White popcorn allows you to create a flavorful snack without requiring numerous additional ingredients. Many people consider white popcorn to be the healthiest variety because of its minimal preparation time and ingredients. 

Yellow Popcorn

Unlike white popcorn, yellow popcorn comes from medium to large kernels. These kernels grow significantly when popped—forty-five times their size, to be exact. When fully popped, yellow popcorn takes on a fluffy, durable texture. These popcorn kernels are often the ones found at movie theaters as their durable nature allows them to hold multiple toppings without turning into soggy mush. Butter, cheese and even peanut butter can be served atop yellow kernels without weighing it down. However, it's important to remember that the toppings you add can turn this healthy treat into a not so healthy one. When eaten alone or served with light toppings, yellow popcorn is a good source of vitamin A due to the carotene, which gives it its yellow color.

White Popcorn vs. Yellow Popcorn

Yellow Popcorn vs. White Popcorn: What's the Difference? | Bob's Red Mill Blog

So, what is the main difference between white popcorn and yellow popcorn? Simply put, the size and the color of the grain. Small and more delicate kernels are often an indicator that you're using white popcorn. If you're searching for yellow popcorn, look for kernels that are larger and shaped like pearls.

How Do You Tell What Kind of Popcorn It Is Once It's Been Popped?

Curious to know what kind of popcorn you're being served? When popped, white popcorn will be much larger than its kernels; however, it is still slightly smaller than yellow popcorn and is white in color. Yellow popcorn is larger when popped and has a faint yellow hue to it—before adding butter, of course! 

Are Yellow and White Popcorn Shaped Differently?

While different popcorn kernels are shaped differently, the shape is not an effective way to tell which kind of kernel you've cooked. While you might not be able to tell what type of popcorn it is, examining the shape of your popcorn will tell you how sturdy your kernels are. There are two different shapes when it comes to popcorn:

Mushroom-Shaped Popcorn

Mushroom-shaped popcorn derives from kernels with thick hulls. To pop, these kernels need extra moisture for the steam to enter through the kernel's thickness. The result is a sturdy popcorn that can hold up to toppings like chocolate and caramel. 

Snowflake-Shaped Popcorn

Snowflake shaped popcorn has a much more irregular shape than mushroom-shaped popcorn. It is usually larger and has a more tender texture. Due to its size, snowflake-shaped popcorn is the kind you'll typically find in movie theaters as it's able to hold more toppings.

When it comes to the type of kernel, both yellow and white popcorn can make either shape of kernel. 

How to Use the Differences Between White and Yellow Popcorn to Your Advantage

So, why does knowing the different popcorn varieties matter? If you're searching for smaller, more delicate popcorn, we suggest using white kernels. Conversely, if you'd like larger, fluffier popcorn that can hold up against thicker toppings, choose yellow kernels. We wouldn't worry about the different popcorn shapes, as it won't have much of an effect on the end result. 

Popcorn Nutrition Facts

Yellow Popcorn vs. White Popcorn: What's the Difference? | Bob's Red Mill Blog

Now that you know the differences between white and yellow popcorn, you might be wondering if there is a nutritional difference. In most cases, without toppings, the nutrition of each variety is the same. The truth is, the butter, salt and heavy toppings commonly added to popcorn provide the bulk of the caloriesRemember, popcorn is an easy-to-make, whole grain food. Popcorn, on its own, is naturally high in several essential vitamins and nutrients that are essential for your health. When topped with other natural ingredients, the popcorn nutrition can be great for you. 

How to Make Stovetop Popcorn

What you'll need:

  • Bob's Red Mill Yellow Popcorn or White Popcorn
  • Olive oil (or coconut oil)
  • Seasoning
  • Cooking vessel ( a sturdy stockpot or a large Dutch oven) 

Making the Popcorn

Step 1: 

Begin cooking your popcorn on the stovetop by adding oil to the pan. You'll want to add just enough oil, so the kernels of your popcorn are fully coated. This will help produce steam that will eventually help your kernels pop. If not enough moisture is produced, your popcorn kernels will remain kernels. 

Step 2:

Next, place your well-oiled pan over medium heat and start to add the popcorn kernels. Once the kernels have been added, stir them around until they are fully coated with oil. Stir periodically until the kernels begin to sizzle. 

Step 3:

Upon noticing that the kernels are sizzling, place the lid on the pan. Within a minute, you should begin to hear your kernels popping. Close the lid and shake the pan up and down to make sure all kernels receive enough heat to pop. 

Step 4: 

Once the popping begins to slow down (about 3 seconds between each pop), you'll want to turn off the heat. 

Step 5:

Open the lid slightly so that the steam is released, and your popcorn does not get soggy. After removing the moisture, pour your popcorn into a bowl and add toppings. 

Now that you better understand the difference between yellow and white popcorn, it's time to decide which you'll choose. No matter which kernel variety you end up deciding on, you're bound to love how it turns out! Do you have a preference for kernel variety? We'd love to hear which type you choose and why. Let us know in the comments below. From the Bob’s Red Mill Family to yours, have a healthy and happy day.


  1. michele croce
    Hi!! what about a combo... using white and yellow kernels together popping!?Ideas? Thoughts? We have been micro waving our popcorn....what is a better way!? Is there one....would like to try stove top....Thank you for your ideas....topping ideas would be appreciated too!!!
    1. Elisabeth Allie
      Elisabeth Allie
      Hi Michele! Popping white and yellow kernels together sounds great. I personally like to use an air popper, but we also have a great stovetop recipe on our site. Here are our topping ideas (click the Recipes tab)!
  2. Paula M
    As someone who has issues with gluten and dairy, does a buyer of popcorn kernels need to be concerned about cross contamination from inside a manufacturing plant? Thanks.
    1. Elisabeth Allie
      Elisabeth Allie
      Hi Paula! Our White and Yellow Popcorn are packaged in our dedicated gluten free facility, and that facility is also dairy free (and considered vegan).
  3. Allan
    There's a typo in your popcorn preparation instructions:
    Step 4. Once the popping begins to slow down (about 30 seconds between each pop), you'll want to turn off the heat.
    The time should be '3 seconds between each pop'.
  4. Alicia Turnour
    I love yellow popcorn it's crunchy and more flavor than white popcorn !
  5. Stephen Link
    This was my first bobs red mil popcorn and what a difference. This is by far the best popcorn I've had ever. Beats that nasty microwave junk.
  6. Fred Guldbrandsen
    Fred Guldbrandsen
    Delicious Yellow Popcorn!
    Can I plant Bob‘s RedMill yellow popcorn in my garden and expect to get a harvest of popcorn?
    1. Elisabeth Allie
      Elisabeth Allie
      We get better results popping it in the microwave or stovetop!
  7. kevin
    Are the previous comments real? Maybe people who purchase from Bob's Red Mill are much, much different than me. I have lived in medium to larger City's all my life. Maybe these comments are from people in small towns? I just don't get the vibe. It is so foreign to me

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