Butterfly vs Mushroom Popcorn

We've been seeing a lot of questions lately about the different types of popcorn. So we thought we’d elaborate on the subject! But before digging into the details of popcorn itself, here’s a broad overview of the grain we know collectively as “CORN”.


“Corn is a human invention, and cannot exist naturally in the wild. It can only survive if planted and protected by humans. Scientists believe people living in central Mexico developed corn at least 7000 years ago. It was started from a wild grass called teosinte.”  – from The Story of Corn (Footnote 1) 


In the modern world, there are primarily 3 major types of corn being grown: Dent Corn, Sweet Corn and Popcorn.


 Dent Corn

Dent Corn.

Dent corn gets its name from the dimple (or dent) that forms on the top of each kernel as it dries. High in starch, dent corn is used for animal feed, and is also used for making corn syrups, bio-fuels and bio-plastics. Although not particularly good for eating, dent corn is an incredibly versatile crop.


Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn.

Higher in sugar than dent corn, sweet corn is the “corn on the cob” variety that Americans know and love. It is harvested in its immature stage, and enjoyed as a fresh food, rather than being left to dry. According to a National Geographic study, there were once 307 individual types of sweet corn cultivated on the planet. (Footnote 2)


Popcorn Kernels


Popcorn is a special type of corn possessing a very dense, moisture-resistant shell or hull. The strong hull allows pressure to build up inside the kernel when heated, until the whole kernel literally explodes! Although there are other whole grains including amaranth and sorghum which can also pop, popcorn is the most impressive! For a super-slow motion video of a popcorn kernel popping, click here.


 Hominy, Grits, Masa, Tamales, Tortillas!


Here's a little known fact: Hominy is really just sweet corn that has been alkalized in a mineral lime bath! The soaking process softens the kernels, loosens the hulls, and also causes the kernels to double in size! Hominy has many uses. It can be coarsely ground to create grits, or mashed to make the masa which is a Mexican staple used to make tortillas, tamales, and even the beverage known as atole. (Footnote 3) Imagine that without hominy, there’d be no tacos!


But I digress. Let's get back to POPcorn!



“Butterflies, Snowflakes and Mushrooms? I thought you guys made POPCORN!”

Broadly speaking there are two types of popcorn: Butterfly and Mushroom. The main distinction between the two is the shape of the popped kernel, but the differences don’t end there!


Butterfly Popcorn

Butterfly Popcorn.

Also sometimes referred to as “snowflake popcorn”, butterfly is well known for its use in theater-style and home-popped popcorn products, usually offered-up with nothing more than a little salt and perhaps some melted butter. Its relatively delicate shape means butterfly popcorn is best consumed fresh-popped for maximum crunch and freshness.


Mushroom Popcorn

Mushroom Popcorn.

is perfect for confection-coated applications such as Popcornopolis Caramel Corn. Its sturdy baseball shape (without those fragile butterfly wings) withstands the processes of candy-coating, and because of its exceptional surface area, accepts other flavors (like cheddar cheese!) very well too. The resulting products are less prone to crushing, and once coated, will  tend to stay fresh and crispy much longer than their uncoated butterfly popcorn counterparts.


Within each variety of popcorn, there’s an extremely wide range of quality, flavor, color and size. There are white butterfly strains and yellow ones—and some pop better than others. Believe it or not, no two strains look, taste, and crunch exactly the same when popped.


With that said, Popcornopolis has sourced an incredibly delicious strain of white butterfly corn to make our Nearly Naked Popcorn recipe. It has an unusually tender and crispy crunch, and once popped in our coconut oil and gently salted, it requires nothing more to deliver an amazingly sublime popcorn eating experience. We highly recommend it, and you can try it here.


When we make a recipe that calls for the properties of mushroom popcorn, here again, we choose only the finest strains from the most reputable popcorn growers. Properly popped mushroom popcorn coated in our family caramel recipe is another one of those exceptional popcorn experiences.


Organic US-Grown Popcorn

US-Grown Organic Popcorn.

In 2015, American farmers proudly produced approximately 37% of the global corn supply. (Footnote 4) Recently, Popcornopolis established a network of American farmers to supply top-quality certified organic popcorn, furthering our commitment to organic products and ingredients.


1. http://www.campsilos.org/mod3/index.shtml

2. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/07/food-ark/food-variety-graphic

3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/23/hominy-what-is-it_n_5515126.html

4. http://www.worldofcorn.com/#world-corn-production