Planning your next creative movie night snack and wondering what the deal is with mushroom popcorn vs. butterfly popcorn?
They look the same as kernels but pop into different shapes. Both have properties that work well with different toppings, so it is handy to know which works better for specific recipes.
Which is Better: Mushroom or Butterfly Popcorn?
Neither type of popcorn is better or worse than the other, but they have different properties. This means one might work better in certain applications or based on specific preferences.
Both kernels look the same, so if you’re going for one or the other, check the food labels before purchasing. Especially with pre-popped or microwave popcorn, this might not be readily evident; you may need to check the ingredients list.
What’s the Difference?
Mushroom popcorn has a round shape, and its kernels are large. They’re named for their shape, which looks like a mushroom when popped. These kernels hold together better since they have a larger surface area.
Why does this matter?
This makes them an excellent choice for heavier toppings such as caramel sauce, chocolate, or cheese powder. You get more coverage, and as a bonus, the kernels don’t fall apart into small pieces that end up in the bottom of the bowl.
Butterfly popcorn (also called snowflake popcorn) has a less uniform shape, with wings sticking out all over the place. This makes the kernels fluffier, airier, and more delicate.
Toppings to Use With Mushroom Popcorn
When using thick, sturdy toppings, the large surface area of mushroom popcorn works best.
Here are some examples:
- Caramel corn
- Chocolate popcorn (or s’mores!)
- Cheese popcorn
- Candy-coated popcorn
- Peanut butter popcorn
- Pizza popcorn (anything with melted cheese)
- Nutella popcorn
Toppings to Use With Butterfly Popcorn
When you’re using light toppings, butterfly popcorn is the best. It absorbs light sauces better, and there are more nooks and crannies for seasonings to hide, providing more flavor.
Here are some examples:
- Good ol’ butter & salt (movie-theater style)
- Cinnamon sugar
- Ranch popcorn
- Salt alternatives
- Hot sauce
- Protein popcorn (adding protein powder)
- Lemon pepper
Is Mushroom Popcorn Better?
Mushroom popcorn is better suited than butterfly popcorn for holding heavy toppings such as caramel or chocolate (anything thick or heavy). The sturdier, larger surface area holds these toppings better without causing the kernel to break apart.
Does this mean it’s always better?
Butterfly popcorn works better for lighter toppings because they get caught in all the little nooks and crannies. Buttery, salty popcorn is an excellent fit for this type of popcorn because of this reason. This is why movie theaters use butterfly popcorn.
It’s also a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer the airy, light texture of butterfly popcorn to the more dense chew of mushroom popcorn, regardless of toppings. That said, some people prefer the tighter structure of mushroom popcorn.
Is Mushroom Popcorn Chewy?
Yes, mushroom popcorn is chewier and more firm than butterfly popcorn. The hulls are thicker, and the kernels contain more moisture. This means you need more heat for them to pop, which results in a chewier popped kernel.
This isn’t a bad thing!
That chewiness works well for heavier toppings, providing a snack you can sink your teeth into. The kernels don’t fall apart, so you get whole kernels instead of a million tiny pieces.
And another bonus?
Mushroom popcorn stays fresh longer. If you’re making a large amount of popcorn and worry about it going stale, mushroom popcorn makes a better choice for its longer shelf life. This is why most specialty popcorn makers use it in their pre-made popcorn.
Cooking Mushroom Popcorn vs. Butterfly Popcorn
Is there a particular cooking method for each type of popcorn?
There isn’t a specific cooking method for either type, although there are a few tweaks you might want to make when cooking mushroom popcorn.
Nearly all of the popcorn you purchase in the store (kernels or microwave popcorn) is butterfly popcorn, so you’ll likely only need to remember this if you’re specifically seeking out mushroom popcorn. Likely, you need to find it through an online retailer like Amazon.
Here are a few tips & tricks to make mushroom popcorn the best it can be:
- Use higher heat. A good rule is to heat your oil to at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit or more to get good mushroom-shaped kernels. Remember, they have a higher moisture content and need high heat to pop efficiently.
- Choose your cooking method wisely. Using your stovetop will yield the best results because you can leverage that higher heat. Using an air popper or microwave won’t give you that same heat blast, so you’ll end up with smaller, denser kernels.
- Give them some space. The kernels need space to pop into that big, beautiful ball shape, so be sure not to crowd the pot and lay them in a single layer. Choose one that’s got plenty of space for the kernels to pop and have room to breathe.
- Be sure to vent the lid while the kernels are popping. This will prevent extra chewiness that can happen due to excess trapped steam.
- High heat is the most important thing to remember. If you don’t use a high enough heat, the kernels won’t pop into a full mushroom shape. They’ll be somewhat deflated and look more like butterfly popcorn. Their texture also won’t taste right; they’ll be too chewy.
Wanna learn more about these different kernels? Check out our mushroom popcorn guide.
Next time you make your nana’s famous caramel corn, extra-buttery movie theater-style popcorn, or some other crazy recipe, take a minute to think about which type of kernel would work best.
Knowing the difference and making an informed decision about which to use can elevate snack time or movie night to a new level (without broken, soggy, or unpopped kernels).