Can all corn be popped? (+5 corn varieties)

In this article, we will answer the question “Can all corn be popped?”, and what makes the corn kernels pop along with the health benefits and risks of popcorns.

Can all corn be popped?

No, all types of corn cannot be popped. Only Zea mays everta can explode when heated. Other grains or even the rest of the corn varieties do not pop because they lack an impermeable hull to create enough pressure for an explosion. Read on if you have ever wondered why does the maize pop like that when heated.

What is the science behind corn popping?

To understand science, there are three things to know that are responsible for the popping action

  1. Popcorn has an impermeable outer hull
  2. Popcorn has a hard starchy endosperm
  3. Corn kernel has oil in its germ part

When popcorn is exposed to heat, the temperature of oil and water inside it rise resulting in the formation of steam inside the kernel. In the presence of steam, the starch takes a soft and pliant form due to its gelatinization. 

The steam continues to develop inside until a pressure of 135psi and a temperature of 180°C is achieved. At this point, the hull breaks open, resulting in a sudden pressure and temperature drop and releasing the endosperm into a foamy mass. The foamy mass cools down and the starch and protein set and become crispy.

Health benefits of popcorn

  • Popcorns are rich in polyphenols, a type of anti-oxidants that potent the body cells against oxidative damage.
  • Popcorns have high levels of dietary fiber. 100g of popcorns provide 15g of dietary fiber. This helps promote digestive health, reduces the risk of diabetes and obesity.
  • A cup of corn has about 31 calories, thus making it a perfect healthy snack option, especially if you are watching out for weight gain.

Health risks of popcorn

  • Pre-packaged microwave bags of popcorns are lined with Perfluorooctanoic Acid(PFOA) that is linked with ADHD and thyroid problems.
  • Diacetyl present in these bags damages lungs.
  • These pre-packaged bags have high levels of trans-fats.

What are the different types of corn?

Sweet corn

As the name suggests, this variety has a higher sugar content than other varieties. It is picked at the milk stage and must with eaten fresh on the cob or either canned or frozen to preserve its freshness or else the corn loses its sweetness and toughens.

Field corn

Field corn is also called dent corn and has two types namely dent and flint. This variety of corn has a tough shell and could be white or yellow in color. It is used as livestock feed or refined foods.

Flour corn

This variety is soft and has a higher starch content in the endosperm. It is ground to make corn flour and has wide applications in the baking industry.


A kind of flint corn having a tough hull and a soft starchy endosperm. Popcorn has a moisture content of 14-20% and it explodes when exposed to heat.

Flint corn

This variety is used for the same applications as field corn. Flint corn has a hard exterior(hence the name) and a soft endosperm tissue.

Why some popcorns do not pop?

There could be two reasons why your popcorns are not popping.

  1. Too much moisture that keeps it from exploding
  2. Too little moisture to create enough pressure inside the hull

It is recommended to test the moisture level of popcorns before buying. For this, you could use a moisture meter or a hygrometer. Another method to find out the moisture is grinding the kernel and weighing it. Bake the ground kernel until becomes dry. The difference in the weight gives you the moisture.

Other kernels that pop 


Sorghum is widely used as a staple grain, especially in developing grains. It is nutrient-dense and pops when exposed to heat just like corn. the crispy popped sorghum grains have a very nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness. It can either be eaten plain or seasoned with your flavor spices and top it off with cheese. Use it to garnish soups or salad bowls.


Amaranth is a rich source of protein and iron. Amaranth puffs up when cooked and develops a sticky and mushy texture much like cereal. Therefore, often referred to as pseudocereals.


Quinoa is another pseudocereal that is densely packed with complete proteins, folate, B vitamins, and minerals. When puffed quinoa develops a rich nutty flavor. This gluten-free puffed grain can be added to granola bars, baked products, or used as a breakfast cereal.


In this article, we answered the question “Can all corn be popped?”, and what makes the corn kernels pop along with the health benefits and risks of popcorns.


Sana Ameer

Hello, I'm Sana Ameer. I'm a student of Food Science and Technology at UVAS. I like to bake and I aspire to become a Food blogger.

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