Join us on January 19 as we celebrate National Popcorn Day! Buttered, salted, kettled, drizzled with caramel, popcorn is one of those snacks perfect anytime, anywhere. It’s great on the go, in the theater, or in your living room! Just be prepared to dig some of it out of your teeth.
History of National Popcorn Day
Did you know that the corn we eat and the corn we pop are two different varieties of maize? In fact, the corn you’d find on your dinner table is most likely unable to pop at all! Only one variety of corn is able to become popcorn: Zea mays everta. This particular corn variety has small ears, and the kernels burst when exposed to dry heat.
In 1948, small heads of Zea mays everta were discovered by Herbert Dick and Earle Smith in the Bat Cave of west central New Mexico. Ranging from smaller than a penny to about two inches, the oldest Bat Cave ears were about 4,000 years old. Several individually popped kernels were also discovered, which have since been carbon dated and shown to be approximately 5,600 years old. There’s also evidence of early use of popcorn in Peru, Mexico, and Guatemala, as well as other places in Central and South America.
Aztecs used popcorn to decorate their clothes, create ceremonial embellishments, and also for nourishment. Native Americans have also been found to consume and utilize popcorn in their day to day lives. In a cave in Utah, thought to be inhabited by Pueblo Native Americans, popcorn has been found that dates back to over 1,000 years ago. French explorers who traveled to the new world discovered popcorn being made by the Iroquois Natives in the Great Lakes region. As colonists moved around North America, and as the USA came to be, many people adopted popcorn as a popular and healthy snack.
National Popcorn Day timeline
- Early 1980s
A simple snack
Microwavable popcorn became available in the marketplace.
Get with the times
Many theaters refused to sell popcorn because they believed it was too messy.
Padre Bernabé Cobo wrote about Peruvian Natives, and noted, "They toast a certain kind of corn until it bursts. They call it pisancalla, and they use it as confection."
Don Hernán Cortés got his first sight of popcorn when he invaded Mexico and came into contact with the Aztecs.
National Popcorn Day FAQs
Is there a National Popcorn Day?
There absolutely is! National Popcorn Day comes around every year on January 19. Put on a movie, get nice and comfy, and dig in to your favorite bag of buttery popped goodness!
Why do we celebrate National Popcorn Day?
Popcorn has been around forever and has been used for everything from a delicious snack, to jewelry, to art! It’s about time that popcorn got its credit for being so versatile, convenient, and reliable.
Why does corn pop?
In the middle of popcorn kernels is a tiny droplet of water surrounded by a hard shell called a hull. As the popcorn comes into contact with dry heat, the water turns into steam which builds pressure inside the kernel. When the hull can no longer contain the pressure, the kernel explodes — essentially turning inside out to expose and inflate its soft, starchy interior.
National Popcorn Day Stats
15 Billion Quarts
There’s no doubt about it, Americans love popcorn. So much so, that we consume over 15 billion quarts of popcorn annually — which is about 45 quarts per man, woman, and child. It’s one of the most wholesome and economical foods available to Americans and considered a healthy snack to indulge in. 70% is eaten at home with un-popped popcorn accounting for approximately 90% of sales for home consumption, and about 30% is eaten outside of the home (theaters, stadiums, schools, etc).
13.5% moisture content
Factors influencing popcorn quality include kernel moisture and expansion ratio, processing procedures, home storage, and home handling. To achieve the best pop-ability, the moisture content for popcorn should be from 13% to 14.5% — 13.5% is considered ideal. A moisture content over or under these percentages greatly reduces pop-ability. Processors consider the minimum expansion ratio for good popcorn to be 35 to 38 to one. However, some of today’s improved hybrids will expand over 40 times.
31 cals per cup
On a diet and looking for the perfect low calorie snack? Well, we hope you like popcorn. Compared to most snack foods, popcorn is extremely low in calories. Air-popped popcorn only has 31 calories per cup, while oil-popped popcorn has only 55 calories per cup. Popcorn is the perfect go to snack for trying to meet those weight loss (or gain) goals healthily while keeping your body nourished and your tummy happy!
National Popcorn Day Activities
Make Popcorn Jewelry
Why not make a long necklace for you, friends, family members—even strangers. It will definitely make you the most popular person at the office happy hour.
Plan a Movie Marathon
Three weeks into January? Chances are you just want to hide and eat comfort food—but, your resolutions. There's a win-win! Tee up your favorite Star Wars Trilogy (Pro Tip: not the prequels) and pop a big bowl of popcorn. You can enjoy the wisdom of Yoda and keep to your diet. (A little olive oil and salt with the carb-y goodness of the popcorn may just hit the spot!)
Put on the Popcorn Olympics at Your Office
Popcorn basketball, popcorn air hockey, popcorn relay race? Burn off the pent-up energy gathered from sitting in a chair all day and get competitive with your coworkers. And when you're feeling a little peckish, munch on some popcorn and keep the fun going!
Why We Love National Popcorn Day
It's Easy and Fast to Make
Whether you're cooking on the stovetop or in the microwave, popcorn takes a matter of minutes—and you can personalize it with your own favorite toppings: classic butter, spices, and even sriracha! Yum.
Popcorn is a whole grain—the starchy inside of the grain has been fluffed with heat and air. The carbohydrates and air add up, making a wonderful snack alternative for those watching their waistline.
It Comes With Good Memories
Think of the morning matinee with your dad or that sweet (and awkward) first date at the movies. Popcorn tends to be part of festive occasions and meaningful moments.